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Interview: Joe Reegan Talks Alien Outpost (Exclusive)

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Interview: Joe Reegan Talks Alien Outpost (Exclusive)

Ambitiously and courageously embarking on an emotionally and physically daunting challenge can be a frightening experience for anyone, no matter how much time and effort they’ve put into mentally preparing themselves for the process. Not only did actor Joe Reegan fearlessly take on the social and emotional responsibilities of playing a soldier who’s actively in service in the sci-fi action film, ‘Alien Outpost,’ but he also boldly performed his own stunts to showcase his character’s terrifying predicament of defending Earth against alien invaders. His gripping portrayal of the soldier is enthralling presented in the thriller, which is now playing on VOD, including iTunes, and was co-written by Blake Clifton and Jabbar Raisani, the latter of whom also directed the film.

Set in the year 2033, ‘Alien Outpost’ follows a group of American soldiers who are still fighting and dying in the deserts between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But instead of tracking down lethal terrorists, the troops are now battling alien invaders. The soldiers are still persisting on their crusade 10 years after Earth was initially invaded by alien fighters, who were eventually defeated by the planet’s unified military forces. The soldiers are still on active duty because some of the aliens, who are referred to as the Heavies, were left behind during their comrades’ retreat from Earth. The soldiers’ raid led to the creation of the title military locations around the world, in an effort to track the remaining invaders.

Filmed in a faux-documentary style, the sci-fi thriller focuses on Outpost 37, where such soldiers as Omohundro (Reegan) offer on-camera confessional interviews about their experiences in the fight against the aliens to two cameramen who are embedded with them. The documentary not only showcases the soldiers’ social interactions with each other in the outposts, but also their fighting with the Heavies and local combatants, during Earth’s continuous struggle to rebuild governments and societies, even a decade after the invaders left the planet in disarray.

Reegan generously took the time to talk about his role in ‘Alien Outpost’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was drawn to portray Omohundro in the sci-fi action thriller, as he liked how Raisani and Clifton showcased how the effects the alien invasion forced the film’s military characters to live in a post-apocalyptic world, which was showcased in a unique docu-style found footage film; how he prepared for his role for several months before he arrived on the movie’s set in South Africa, which included creating a detailed backstory for his character and speaking to military veterans about the time they served in Iraq and Afghanistan; and while he has never performed in such an action-driven role and film before, how performing his own stunts as much as possible helped build the authenticity of his character’s reactions.

ShockYa (SY): You play Omohundro in the sci-fi action thriller, ‘Alien Outpost.’ What was it about the character, as well as the script and film overall, that convinced you to take on the role?

Joe Reegan (JR): As an actor, I read a lot of scripts. But this story about a post-apocalyptic world after an invasion was unique. Obviously, there have been sci-fi films that have covered the topic before. But when I read this script, I liked how the writers, Blake Clifton and Jabbar Raisani, decided to portray the topic. I found it to be so interesting, particularly in the docu-style in which they wrote it. I also liked how they interspliced the story with character interviews. I was also drawn to how the story was written in a first-person video game perspective, which I found to be intriguing.

I hope when everyone watches the film, they’ll be surprised that it’s not just about aliens. It’s more of an exploration into men who are in war, as well as their psyche, and their process of coming together. The film also explores what war is, and the process of deciding to do the right thing during those circumstances. It’s a much more compelling human story than people would initially expect from a film in this genre.

SY: Speaking of Jabbar, what was the overall experience of working with him on ‘Alien Outpost,’ particularly since he also made his feature film directorial debut with the movie? Did you collaborate with him about your character’s backstory and arc before, or while, you were filming?

JR: I did collaborate with Jabbar on the character, and working with him was great. There are certain directors who you click with, maybe more so than others. Jabbar and I spoke quite extensively leading up to, and during, the pre-production of the film. We discussed the character’s backstory during that time. Jabbar wrote the script, as well as my character’s backstory, to be very sparse, so I constantly had tons of questions. He gave me complete freedom to write my character’s backstory, and a lot of that actually shows up in the film.

I’m not necessarily comfortable in an improv setting when it comes to acting; I much more prefer to work with scripted material, because improvising isn’t my background. Jabbar allowed me to really take the time, which was about two or three months before we went on location in Africa, to build the life of this character. I also took the time to ask him questions, so he probably got sick of me calling him all the time. But that process helped me feel comfortable once we started shooting. A lot of the improv that took place during shooting came from Jabbar allowing me to have 100 percent free rein of creating what I wanted in the movie.

SY: What type of research did you do, particularly in regards to serving in the military, while you were preparing for the movie?

JR: Well, it’s tough to find anyone who has survived an alien invasion, who could give me first-hand insight into that experience. (laughs) But I was able to spend a decent amount of time with several men who had served in Iraq, and one who had served in Afghanistan. I was not only able to hang out with them, but I also asked them so many questions.

One of the guys had made a scrapbook of his time during one of his tours. He let me take it home, and it was remarkable. I was drawn to the pictures he took, as well as his story, which was incredible. There were also notes that he wrote on any random pieces of paper he could find. But that really helped me understand what it would be like to be in a set location in those types of high stakes circumstances, where you’re not only trying to protect other people, but you’re also trying to stay alive yourself. That process, and how afraid he was to die, was very present in the notebook.

So by the time I got to the set, it wasn’t necessarily a genre film about aliens; it became more about honoring those who have served in war, and being as authentic as possible in showing their experiences. So it became very personal in that capacity.

SY: What was the process of building your on-screen relationships with your co-stars, including Adrian Paul, who played General Dane, and Reiley McClendon, who portrayed Andros? Were you able to have any rehearsal time with the rest of the actors before you began filming?

JR: We were on a very short timeline. I was able to do as much preparation as I could on my own before arriving onto the set. But then when I traveled to the set, I literally jumped on a plane, landed and was already in boot camp. So it was a pretty extreme initiation into the world of this movie.

But there really wasn’t any time to develop our relationships on the initial onset of the shoot. But the five or six of us main actors spent so much time together, and the film focuses so much on our relationships, there was an immediate camaraderie built in. We were all put into this world that we couldn’t really prepare for. You can’t prepare for carrying around 75 extra pounds of weight, especially when you’re diving, jumping and running with it. You also can’t prepare for knowing how to fire an automatic weapon, or how to change mags, while you’re on the run, diving from explosions and crawling under barb wire.

So I think that experience, once we were put through boot camp, helped form a bond between all of us that was very real. To this day, I’m still close with some of the other actors. Some of them are international, some are based in South Africa and some are here (in the U.S.), where they’re in New York or Los Angeles. I made some really great friends while I was shooting the film, and I hope that comes across in the story.

SY: With ‘Alien Outpost’ being a sci-fi thriller, how involved were you in the action sequences while you were filming? Do you prefer performing stunts in your films whenever possible?

JR: Yes, performing my own stunts helps 100 percent. I’ve never done an action film, and for lack of better words, an action role, of this capacity before. When the guns are real, and you’re shooting real blanks, and the big explosions and debris are 100 percent real, the adrenaline is real. The scenes have to be so specifically choreographed, because there’s the danger element of people getting hurt. So that ups the stakes.

But that gives actors less work to do. If something’s exploding in front of you, and your ears are ringing, there’s no need to act your reaction out. You’re naturally reacting to what’s happening in front of you.

SY: ‘Alien Outpost’ was shot independently on location in South Africa, like you mentioned. How did filming the movie independently influence the way you approached the physical and emotional elements of the story? Did filming independently pose any challenges on the set?

JR: Since the film was made made independently, and shot in a foreign country, I felt like there was a huge amount of pressure. There wasn’t just pressure placed on me and the other actors, but also everyone behind the camera. We didn’t have the luxury of doing 10 takes for each scene.

A lot of times, there were situations where it took three days to set up explosions, so we were only going to get one chance to film those sequences. We couldn’t mess up the take, because someone had taken three days to set up the pyrotechnics. So the pressure that created, from me to the camera person to the director to the DP (Director of Photography), was intense. Everyone had to set up the explosions for so long, we only had one take, and we had to get them as quickly as possible. So the process of only having the chance to film explosions and other stunts once, or sometimes twice under certain circumstances, was very similar to the pressure the characters were feeling. While the indie process put us under pressure, it also enhanced the film.

I also thought the docu-style of filmmaking was helpful and unique. This is the first time I had ever acted in a medium where I would literally turn to the cameraman, grab him and have him run with me. It was also the first time I broke the fourth wall, in essence, and I really was acting with the camera guy, since the story follows the documentary film crew. As the explosions were going off, and guns were being fired, there were times in the scenes where we had to fire our own weapons and be aware of our surroundings.

So the primary goal was to keep the cameraman in that part of the story safe. So we would pull the camera and speak into the lens, almost like a first-person video game experience. So that process was unique, and I also thought it enhanced the storytelling, and made it that much realer.

SY: ‘Alien Outpost’ follows a documentary film crew that’s sent to record daily life in Outpost 37, the most hostile place on Earth, after a deadly alien invasion, like you mentioned. With many films in recent years, particularly in the sci-fi and horror genres, having the main characters document their experiences on video, how does ‘Alien Outpost’ visually and stylistically differentiate itself from other movies that use the found footage element?

JR: Well, I spoke to Blake, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jabbar, and he explained how they wanted to get as intimate with the actors as possible in each scene. There were times when that posed to be very challenging, because we weren’t used to including the camera in our acting. I haven’t had any other experiences where I included the cameraman in my scenes.

What I think really differentiates this film from some of the other found footage movies is that this isn’t really a true found footage type of film; it has more of a documentary style feeling. I think what it allowed for, and what Blake and Jabbar really strived for, was to include the intimacy you acquire after being part of a real documentary. The subjects begin to trust, and almost embrace, the cameraman as part of their family. I think you get that sense and arc as you watch the film. The cameramen became more involved, and have more of an intimate experience with each character, as the film progresses.

SY: IFC Films released the sci-fi movie in theaters and on VOD. Are you personally a fan of watching films On Demand? Do you think the platform is beneficial for independent films like this one?

JR: I am actually a fan of VOD. I think the first time I watched a same day VOD release was another film IFC distributed. When I first heard about where the medium was headed, I was a little hesitant about it, because I am a fan of going to the theater. But at the same time, months before I found out this was going to be the way the film going to be distributed, I did play the higher premium to watch films on VOD the same day they were released in theaters.

But there are certain films I would only watch in theaters. However, 80 percent of the movies I want to see aren’t playing in theaters. But if all the movies I want to see were released on VOD on the same day they were distributed into theaters, I would watch them On Demand, in the privacy of my own home. I think technology like flatscreen, HD and streaming has gotten so much better, even from two or three years ago. You can also invite your friends to your house, and easily pick something out and watch it. It’s just about embracing a different platform, and I think VOD is equally as enjoyable and appropriate as going to the theater. I also think people will enjoy watching this film on VOD, as streaming it into their homes also adds to the intimacy of the experience.

SY: Besides films, you also have starred on several television series, including your current recurring role on ‘Chicago PD,’ as well as ‘CSI,’ ‘Cold Case’ and ‘Without a Trace.’ What is it about acting on television that you also enjoy working on? How does working on TV shows compare and contrast to starring in movies?

JR: I actually quite enjoy the pace of television. I’m one of those actors who do all their preparation work before showing up on the set. I rehearse in the kitchen, and grab a friend of mine and rehearse with them. That way I’ll be ready to go when I arrive on set. With television, the biggest assumption is that it moves quickly, and most of the time it does move fast. One of the things I’ve been able to learn from all the television work I’ve done is how I show up on set and be efficient as possible, and the best that I can be.

I think a lot of times when people think of pace, and not having a lot of time, than the quality is compromised. But I think having done all of the work on TV that I have parlays into how indie films are being shot these days. Some of the films that were up for Oscar nominations this year didn’t have huge budgets. That doesn’t allow for a lot of on-set rehearsal, but we have to be ready to go when the cameras were there. But I enjoy working in both mediums, and I don’t prefer one over the other. I think they’re bleeding into each other. The further you go into any project, getting to know the director and their style of work is imperative.

Television and its storylines are getting great, as they’re much more character-driven than they used to be. So I think there’s a great way to move back and forth between television and indie films, because they’re very similar at this point, particularly in their style of shooting.

SY: Besides ‘Alien Outpost,’ do you have any upcoming projects lined up that you can discuss?

JR: I do have a spot coming up with Patricia Arquette on ‘CSI: Cyber,’ which will probably air later this spring. My focus right now, though, is branching out into the producing side of filmmaking. I have a project that I hope to have go into production this spring. It’s been a passion project of mine for about three years. But in independent filmmaking, one day everything’s set, the next day it falls through. But my intentions are to move forward with the project sometime this spring.

Interview Joe Reegan Talks Alien Outpost-Poster

Interview Joe Reegan Talks Alien Outpost (Exclusive)

Written by: Karen Benardello

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As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.

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