Jason Tobias headlines FEAR, a new action-thriller he crafted with filmmaker Geoff Resiner. The film, set in the Pacific Northwest, tells of a young family that faces a group of bandits who steal the last of their supplies; with time running out, they must form an alliance with the outlaws to protect their children.
Take us back. What was the first horror you remember seeing?
It would have to be ‘The Omen’, by Richard Donner. It was in the late late 80’s when I was really enjoying films like “Star Wars”, “Indian Jones”, The Goonies” and “The Neverending Story”.
And how did it affect you at the time?
It made me re-evaluate the way a story could affect me and be told. I hadn’t seen a lot of horror films to that point and I was still relatively young, too. The films that I enjoyed as a kid were all these grand spectacles in space or far-off places, with larger than life characters, but when I saw The Omen it felt completely different. From the performances to the score and even the question of ‘what’ Damien could embody.
Was it a horror film, or another type of film, that motivated your decision to pursue a career in the arts?
It was a combination of film and comics. Since we’re talking film, I’ll elaborate there. I was absolutely awestruck by “Star Wars” as a kid. The moment Luke fires up his lightsaber in Obi-Wan’s hut and I saw this sword-thing, made up of light… I was hooked. I loved the deep, rich universe of characters and the stakes it dealt with. From the aliens in Mos Eisley, to the space battles and Darth Vader, I couldn’t stop thinking about the film. I had the Drew Struzan ‘Style D’ poster in a play room as a kid and I would stare at it picturing I was Luke Skywalker. Don’t know how many other kids were in the same boat, but it was such a fun film and it inspired me to dream big.
Did you have any mentors coming up?
Not in film. A lot was learned via trial by fire. I love storytelling and films, so like most – I had the audacity to pack the car to the brim and move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in it. For art, it was a different story. I was fortunate to have met an amazing artist named Terri Torquato, mentor me for a time. She was an excellent drafting artist and graphic designer. She taught me so much about composition, defining line work, and just ‘seeing’ shapes in composing a piece of work. Her help and guidance was highly influential in my artistic development. I’ll be forever grateful for her guidance.
How did this latest flick come about?
In 2017, Lucas Solomon (Executive Producer) and I founded Action Figure Entertainment and had been discussing shooting our first feature. Things ramped up in 2018 when I booked a commercial in Colorado for Blair Pennington’s company: Restaurant Solutions Incorporated. Blair (Executive Producer) had his own production company (Fortnight Pictures) and had made commercials and shorts, but wanted to shoot features. So, I introduced Blair and Lucas to one another and the two hit it off. After that, I put together a pitch deck, a budget and pitched them the script and concept. Both liked it. We began discussing the logistics at TIFF that fall. By October, I’d reached out Marci Miller to have her read the script in the hope that she’d play ” Joe”. Geoff Reisner – who’s a long-time friend and collaborator, agreed to come on and co-direct with me. In November we’d moved into pre-production. Shortly after we started casting and found the amazing cast of Susan Harmon, Cece Kelly, Danny Ruiz, Justin Dray and Ivana Rojas. December was a mad dash to find the location needed to tell the story and Anna Bradley (Producer) found amazing locations up in Frazier Park, CA. We went to camera in January of 2019 and the rest as they say; is history.
Was it a long shoot?
Not at all. All in, we shot it in 13 days. Including one pick-up day.
Any on-set anecdotes or stories you can share?
Well, one that comes to mind is a discussion Geoff Reisner (Co-Director) and I had with our fantastic DP (Jimmy Matlosz) about the scene where I’m helping Marci up from having just been shot in the shoulder. Geoff and I are talking about the blocking of the scene and a pathway for our 1st AC (Laura Jansen) to carefully be able to navigate the terrain. I’m looking around and saying: “We can’t shoot this way- this tree over here is in this shot (I turn) and we can’t shoot this way, cause the ridge is similar over here.” And I glance at Jimmy and Geoff, and they’re smirking. I shoot of a ‘what?’ and Jimmy says: “This is a the forest- I can point the camera anywhere and it’ll look like a completely different part of it- and besides, if people are picking up on the ‘trees’ that are similar, then they aren’t watching the movie.” Simply said, and problem solved. Sometimes when you’re overthinking something, it helps to have talented people around you that can give you perspective… and not care about tree patterns you’re fixating on.
If you had to compare it to another movie, what would it be?
“Maggie”, by Henry Hobson. When I saw it I was immediately enamored by the ‘heart’ that it carried. Albeit, they had Arnold Schwarzenegger as the father dealing with his daughter changing into a zombie, it held my attention and kept me thinking about how a family would deal with these extreme circumstances? What were they like before all this? How did it all ‘decay’? It was a major inspiration for “F.E.A.R.”.
Do thrillers, like this, have a place in the pandemic, you think? Do you think they’re a fun
That’s really a personal question for whoever would be interested in watching. Some may find it’s a bit ‘too real’, or hits a little ‘too close to home’ – whereas others can disassociate from their current circumstances and go along for the ride. I fall into the latter, so I don’t mind seeing something that’s reflecting the times. No matter how extreme, or loosley accurate it may portray. But overall, we all had a rough year and were desperately in need of some ‘escapism’. If you find it in our film, thank you very much for watching… and if not, I hope whatever the choice was helped you along your path through it.
FEAR is on DVD and Digital in North America June 15 from New Era Entertainment