Interview with “The Dawnseeker” Filmmaker Justin Price

Justin Price’s The Dawnseeker is both a homage to classic sci-fi alien films, as well as an original take on the always-entertaining Predatory monster tale. We spoke to Justin for the film’s VOD release.

-PH: Why this film? Where did it all begin?

-Justin: “The Dawnseeker” begin when my producing partner Khu and my entire Pikchure Zero Entertainment team : Deanna Grace Congo, Lisa May, David Cazares, J.D. Ellis, and Melissa Vega gathered around the round table and asked what sci-fi film can we make. It begin with an idea we wanted diversity and strong female leads because we have built our company working on projects that promote those ideals. When you have a distributor like Uncork’d Entertainment on board then it makes it easier. It didn’t take long for us to find the perfect location Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Working closely with Tava and the film commission allowed us to find the perfect spots to film and from there we begin pre-production. Seriously film Oklahoma!

-PH: And did you go through several drafts before ending on your final shooting script? Much change along the way?

-Justin: The first draft centered around following Fenix played by Franziska Schissler and her dealings with Nemean Corp. We focused on this dystopian society that surrounded her and zeroed in on the destruction of mankind. The final version of the script took us off-world a lot sooner and I think that helped us keep the pacing going.

-PH: Was it an easy movie to get up? Can you talk about the process involved in getting this film ready?

-Justin: I think every film has it’s challenges and it takes a strong team. This film was greenlit to take advantage of the Oklahoma City film rebate program and we had dealt with the tax incentives in Georgia and New Orleans and Florida but never Oklahoma. So we had to not only prepare a lot of legal documents but also clear a lot of financial barriers to ensure we could pull this film off and meet the deadline. It was crazy difficult and we were shooting during Spring break and we also lost the locations that had agreed to allow us to film. That changed how we pieced together the script. We have been working under so many different circumstances as a company and we have mastered adapting. When you are producing 4-5 films a year it become imperative to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team and how to ensure to make the best project under any circumstance. I mean we were writing scenes night before or adjusting how to execute scenes that we had written to new locations. Big thank you to Turner Falls! And also thank you to the cast Franziska Schissler, Alexander Kane, Alex Giuffreda, Jason Skeen, and Leonard Jackson.

-PH: Do you know what the inspiration for the script was? Predator, I assume?

-Justin: I think every film from the 80’s that had the mystery of the unknown alien and distant planet was a draw for us. I think was happened in cinema is the studios were making films based off folklore and fables and tales and so they covered a lot of our greatest fears. So if we were afraid of an alien invasion then Orson Wells War of the world is essentially the base for every invasion film so usually whatever people relate to the latest it what everyone assumes is the thing someone is influenced by. Stranger things has usurped E.T. and years from now and even now I hear pitches and people say “its like Stranger Things”. When we looked at writing the script we really wanted to tell a story about the worse of humanity because we felt that was the crux of the story. We wanted to take the worse of us and infuse that into our idea of what it would be like to discover new creatures and to survive on foreign terrain. Seeing as how this is a sequel to “Alien Reign of Man” it was really important that we continued the journey of the characters into this world.

-PH: They don’t make movies like these anymore do they? That original Predator was bad-ass!

-Justin: They do not! I mean shit its hard. People judge independent films on the same scale as Avengers Infinity War. Everyone became a critic. Remember when the only time you could critique a film was in the theater sitting next to the guy or girl in the movies with you! Now its become almost customary to come home and log into imdb or fb and blast a movie. I mean people are offended if the hair is straight or curly or if the shade of skintones are dark or too light or if the action film had too much action and no story or too little story and no action. I can’t stress this enough, people have to realize the greatest stories and inventions have come when we are allowed to express as artist. The best songs were created when the chittling circuit had Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and Sam Cooke and Otis redding all making 20.00 a night to perform to segregated arenas in gymnasiums across the country. That music is timeless. As up and coming directors and actors people are quick to dismiss my work and films we have created as mockbuster or low-budget. Take your favorite director and give him my dollars and give me his and lets see how the films turn out! We would eat his\her ass alive in this arena. Its really crazy to me how art has gotten lost in the fray and it is up to us to continue to strive towards greatness even at this level. So yeh, as long as we keep trying and striving to be better I think great films will always speak. Ex-Machina didn’t kill it at the box-office but found and audience later and its one of my favorite sci-fi films of past 10 years. So I think audiences are clamoring for great content and its our job to keep digging deep to discover where we can take more risks!

-PH: Thoughts on the upcoming The Predator?

-Justin: Shane Black is really talented and I think the cast looks amazing. I believe that what makes those films work is the relationship with the characters. “The Dawnseeker” focused on that and not so much on gore and death because again its 2018 how impressed would we be with a laser canon blast? So I think the new film is trying to bring back that enclosed feel. That sort of primitive vibe. I dig it. I know its difficult to execute especially with a franchise such as that looming over your head. I am excited when I get the opportunity to get studio resources to see how I would handle that script. Its so fking exciting! I mean we just did an opening scene that looks like Blade Runner the 1980’s version with 20 grand so I know we can kill it.

-PH: Did you have much say in casting?

-Justin: Yes Khu and I casted Franziska Schissler as Fenix and from there we were golden. That woman is a force to be reckoned with, mark my words. She has that rare combination of beauty and strength. Khu also has the same combination , I feel that when they find their voices…sky would be a stepping stone. Then we discovered great actors in Alexander Kane and Alex Giuffreda and Jason Skeen later in the casting process. What I like about Kane is his willingness to collaborate and be an artist. He wanted to jump head first into the stunts and to grapple with the creature. I mean the entire Oklahoma City crew Matt and Cait and Wayne. Just great people really. That’s what made casting a breeze. I try and have my hands in most of the final decisions because I know how important it is to have people who want to take risks! Not just people who want shit for a reel.

-PH: If one of the actors ends up a breakout star as a result of the movie, who do you predict it’ll be?

-Justin: Khu and Franziska Schissler…no doubt in my mind. Alexander Kane could be an action star he has right height and look. Alex has a phenomenal look… Franziska Schissler and Khu are two rare finds that combine a unique energy its hard…when they are on screen you can’t take your eyes off of them. Franziska combines old Hollywood and new Hollywood unlike anyone I have ever seen. If she isn’t leading a show or a big budgeted film by next year, I would be shocked. Kane could easily take Tom Cruise’s spot or at very minimum follow alongside him in a MI8 film. Just through Alex into a period piece like The Handmaiden’s tale and she wont miss a beat. Leonard Jackson can be in a Tyler show.

-PH: And what do you hope the film does for your producing career?

-Justin: I have been on this Netflix bender lately. Because I know the majority of my family in the south of Ga are sharing Netflix… lets get “The Dawnseeker” there please. I hope it showcases the amazing talent in front of the lense and show that they deserve to be in the mix for upcoming projects. I want to helm those projects as well. Not a lot of opportunity for African American’s and minorities to create in this genre so I think it will be a great challenge. I think this film is another stepping stone highlighting our mastery of this independent multi-hyphenate creator’s space.

-PH: What’s the best piece of independent filmmaking advice you can offer others reading this article?

-Justin: Don’t get discouraged, you are needed. The majority of those that are gate keepers are looking for people like you! People with vision. When you make it, hold on to your heart and your family and those who help you because this industry is fleeting and you will have the memories you created and relationships you have made. Be kind. Even though you may have had the talent to be doing what you love the entire time, it will still take an opportunity from someone …so don’t miss it! Stay prayed up!

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.