CONFESSIONS OF A PRAEY GIRL: Star/Director Tiffany Sinclair Tells All by Owen Keehnen

PRAEY Is the tale of a kidnapped prostitute junkie named Sarah Brown who Is beaten, locked in a trunk, witnesses a murder and THEN is taken to a rural area where the real action unfolds. She is delivered to the urbane Charles who has a sick desire to rid the world of prostitutes one at a time. Charles turns Sarah loose in the expansive woods surrounding his land and tells her if she can escape he will let her live. But Charles has no Intention of letting her live. Instead he hunts her down. PRAEY is wonderfully thrilling with the suspenseful horror of the hunter/hunted combining seamlessly with a supernatural edge and a spicy dash of vengeance. It is an amazing vehicle for the directing and acting talents of Tiffany Sinclair who stars as Sara. I was very impressed. This is a great lesson on how to make a solid and engrossing film on a shoestring budget.

It has more thrills and solid payoffs than most big studio flicks. Kudos!

Recently I was fortunate enough to talk with Tiffany for a few moments about her career and about the making and selling of PRAEY for this exclusive Interview.

Hi Tiffany, let's start this off with a graphic for the readers.  Would you describe the room where you are answering these questions?

Well, I’d like to say that I’m in a large den filled with a huge collection of hardbound books, artifacts, and classic film props, like the original Alien costume etc. But that’s my imagination running…

Alas, I’m in a small second bedroom that has been converted into the office of carSINogenic candy. I’m surrounded by editing equipment, photos, movie posters, my XL1s that is begging to be put back on my new glide cam for more practice, a small resin collectors Alien right next to my monitor, my dogs who are begging to go for a walk, and a window showing a pleasant (70 degree) but grey day. Oh yeah, and a coffee cup with Michigan J. Frog on it.

Well I just watched PRAEY (which you direct and star in) last night and was so impressed.  You did an awesome job!  Why not begin with telling us how the film came about?

I had just come back from performing a role in another film, and was out of a day job. Rather than just starving, I thought it would be better to continue my title of ‘starving artist’. Really, I thought this was a good time to jump in and make my first film. I spent a month or so on the script. I knew I wanted to have a killer, and that I wanted him or her to seem like the nice respectable, neighborly type. I also wanted the killer to have some sort of psychological reason to kill, not just be an undefined monster. So I found myself reading the case files on to try to get inside what makes a killer tick. I found a couple of cases that interested me, and combined that with one of my favorite Poe short stories, and that was the base of some key scenes. From there, I started to see scenarios for the characters in my head, and wrote around those images. I pictured the characters interacting first, and wrote in the dialog after.

Can you give a quick teaser that will make seeing the movie irresistible to the racks and razors readers?

Praey relies on story, emotion, and suspense for its fright factor. It’s not just blood and gore. There is actually very little blood and gore. There is a lot of well-choreographed action (choreographed by Brain Sheridan) and for the women out there; Sara comes back with more than a little vengeance (I personally like that part!). For the record, I can tell you that there is at least one spot when, at all three theater screenings during the premier weekend, just about everyone jumped! It was really fun to sit up in the balcony and watch 75-100 people pop in their seats!

So did you choose the spelling of PRAEY to refer to it both as "praying for survival" and the "hunting of human prey"?

Yes, you got it! I was going back and forth on whether to call it ‘Pray’ or ‘Prey’. I can’t take credit for the brainstorm. Andy Alexander, who wound up playing The Puppet Man, made the suggestion of using that dictionary symbol that looks like a combination ‘a’ and ‘e’, thus, the play on words. I loved it and it stuck.

Your role looks to be so physical.  Did you sustain a lot of injuries or poison ivy or whatever as you were beat up and slapped and punched and fought and locked in a trunk and fled and fled and hid and fled in that small dress (and barefoot) through the woods?  That looked like torture!  What was the worst of it?

Everyone asks about my poor bare feet!

It was pretty physical, and I was lucky to be working with people I could trust to beat me up without really hurting me! I had a blast with it, but I did get a few boo boo’s here and there.

Here’s a quick run down:

1) Thorns in the bottoms of my feet from unseen thorn brush. They looked like just little weeds, so I mistakenly ran right through them a lot. It was months before I found the last thorn in the bottom of my foot.

2) A nice gash on the bottom of my foot from a root in the dirt that I stumbled over during a fight scene. We filmed it actually, but we ended up using the fake wound in the film. It looked better than the real one.

3) A bruise bigger than a softball on my butt from sliding down the hill. That was pretty!

Other than that, just a few little cuts/scraps/bruises here and there. Not bad considering what Sara goes through in the film.

But none of that was the worst of it! The water Sara goes into may look inviting, but it was actually freezing cold snow water running off the mountains. Going under that water literally took my breath away. Sara was supposed to swim up stream more in the script, but we had to cut it short, as I just couldn’t swim in it at all. And my DP, Brian Gurnett, had to be knee deep in that water the whole time. I know he was numb! He is a real trooper. He wanted to get the scene as much as I did.

Now as a filmmaker was it a major challenge to direct yourself or were you able to be fairly objective about your performance?  

It was a huge challenge and I think it’s extremely hard to be in character and still be objective as a director. There are scenes in Praey that I don’t find to be my best acting or directing as a result of trying to wear both hats at once. It was never my goal to give myself the lead in a film. In other words, I didn’t make a film so that I could star in it. But I’m living in a small town here, far away from the huge number of actors I worked with in NY. After seeing what Sara had to go through, you can also see where it would have been hard to find someone to do all that. I was particularly concerned about the stunts. I’ve had some professional training and still got banged up. I would have been very uncomfortable casting another actress and putting her in a position where she could hurt herself. I don’t plan to even have a role in our next film. I want to be able to focus better. I have a role in the upcoming film ‘Take Away Spirit’ from One Shot productions. I can satisfy my acting bug there.

Ultimately what do you want the viewer to come away from PRAEY feeling or thinking?  What do you want their experience to be?

I generally write for entertainment value. If anyone walks away having been entertained, I’m happy. There are some messages in Praey, but none that I wanted to force down anyone’s throat. Sara has a deep and true mothers love for her daughter. If anything, I would hope that people see how far one can go to fight for the people they love. And how strong the will to survive is. Same for Charles, really. His psychotic actions are out of love and hurt. I think the power of human emotions is intriguing to say the least.

So ethically where do you stand on hunting...obviously not humans, but is this a statement as well as animal hunting as sport?

I wasn’t trying to make a statement about animal hunting. Personally, I could never shoot an animal. I like to fish, but I don’t even keep the big ones, I let them all go. I have a huge soft spot for animals. But it’s not my place to tell someone else that they can’t shoot and eat a deer. I have heard that the deer are over populated and if people didn’t hunt them, they would only end up starving to death. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Killing an animal just for fun, disturbs the hell out of me. I just don’t understand it. But really, many of the animals in slaughterhouses are treated far crueler. So I guess if someone is going to hunt for food, they have the right to do so. You won’t see me doing it though. I actually eat more soy products than animal products.

PRAEY is a great testament to your capabilities as a filmmaker.  Now that this is out there and being distributed by SRS Cinema and destined to find a solid audience what is next on the agenda for you?

We are working on two scripts in house right now. One is written by Brian Sheridan and is cool vampire story called ‘Devil at the Door’. The second is a curse story that I’m working on with the working title ‘Inborn’. We intend to shoot both of them this year.

For the record, we have signed the foreign contract with SRS, but are in the final stages of working out the domestic contract. I just don’t want anyone to run to the SRS Cinema site looking for Praey this week and wonder why they don’t see it. But it should be out there soon.

I also want to hear what would be your advice to anyone out there looking to film their own independent movie project.  What was the biggest lesson your learned from the experience?

Get a lot of sleep before you go into production!

Really, what I learned is that all the planning I did was never enough and even some of my best plans got thrown out the window. Its’ not easy, it’s a lot of fun, but it’s not easy. I think you have to have a very deep understanding of your script and characters, but then be willing to make it work in less than perfect conditions. You will have problems. You will have to problem solve on the fly. It is both mentally and physically exhausting. But if you take time to laugh and enjoy the process, it’s more than well worth it. We laughed a lot on the set.

I actually recommend that any one who wants to direct learn to edit. I can’t imagine not editing my own work. And I’ve learned a ton from the editing process.

Oh yeah, and pay a lot of attention to sound.

Okay we are pulling the car into the Tiffany Sinclair Drive In.  What three horror flicks are on the triple bill and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

I only get to pick three! Oh geez. I’m going to go with the first three that pop into my head here, as I love too many.

Aliens (Directors Cut)

The Masque of the Red Death (1960’s Vincent Price)

May (I love Angela Bettis)

For snacks, traditional movie popcorn, the kind that is really bad for you and has lots of butter and salt on it! Pepsi, not Coke. And sour gummy worms.

What makes you go psycho in real life?

Apathy and Ignorance.

What scares you in real life?

Your going to laugh after seeing Praey, but here goes…

Water: I can swim well and love a pool, but can not stand to be in water with other living things. Like rivers or oceans or lakes, etc. I don’t care what anyone says, if there is something living in there that can bite me, it can surely swim faster than I can.

Snakes: Scared to death of them. Again, hey, they bite!   Of course, so do dogs and I love dogs. My puppy is biting my big toe right now. I dunno, I just don’t dig snakes AT ALL.

The out takes of me and that snake in Praey are a riot. There is no doubt about it, I scream like a girl!

Thanks for the chat, it’s been really fun!

All the best with the film Tiffany.