On set photo-Filmmaker Jimmy Henderson-‘The Prey.’ (Credit: Dark Star Pictures)

Fighting their way through the crowded maze of people who are determined to achieve their goals, no matter what they have to do to others in the process, is a powerful motivator for many fearless leaders. That’s certainly the case for both the lead actor and character in the upcoming action-adventure film, ‘The Prey.’ In his first acting role, up-and-coming performer, Gu Shangwei portrays undercover Chinese cop, Xin, a protagonist who isn’t afraid to use his physical skills to fight back against the men who kidnapped him, in order to save his life.

The Prey‘ is set to release ‘The Prey’ in American Virtual Theaters this Friday, with a national VOD release on all major platforms to follow next Tuesday, August 25. The movie’s VOD platforms include iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Direct TV and Dish Network. The drama’s official distribution by Dark Star Pictures comes after it played at the Busan International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival and Fantasia Film Festival.

The adventure movie is loosely based on Richard Connell’s popular 1924 short story, ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ The feature was co-written by Michael Hodgson, Kai Miller and Jimmy Henderson, the latter of whom also served as the director and editor, as well as one of it’s producers. The drama is presented in Cambodian and Chinese (Mandarin) with English subtitles.

‘The Prey’ follows Xin, who’s working on a secret international mission, as he’s caught in a surprise raid, which puts him in a remote Cambodian jungle prison that plays by its own rules. In the jungle, the ruthless warden (Vithaya Pansringarm) sells prisoners as human prey for rich hunters looking for thrills.

After years of hunting down ruthless criminals, Xin suddenly finds himself running for his life. If Xin manages to survive this sadistic game, he’ll walk out of the jungle the same way he came in: as a free man. If Xin fails, he’s just another hunting trophy.

Henderson generously took the time recently to talk about writing, directing and editing ‘The Prey’ during an exclusive interview. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed that the movie features a high degree of improvisation, because as the scribe and helmer, he felt it helped infuse the drama’s characters and story with a sense of naturalism. He also shared that he cast Shangwei as the feature’s protagonist because out of all the performers he auditioned, he felt the actor would be able to bring the police officer to the screen in the most authentic way.

ShockYa (SY): You co-wrote the script for the upcoming action adventure film, ‘The Prey.’ What was the inspiration in penning the screenplay, and what was the scribing process like for the drama?

Jimmy Henderson (JH): Initially we develop a different concept for the film. It was more like a character study of three wealthy hunters and their relationship with greed and money. (The story also explored) their insecurity as “Men,” and how each of them reached their breaking point throughout their journey in the film, (as well as) the loss of masculinity.

The story had no real heroes. It was pretty bleak and I thought we needed to add more elements in order to not alienate viewers. So with Kai and Michael, my co-writers, we went back and took a more traditional approach designing the overall arc of the story and building up the character’s personality. We then added the themes and messages we wanted to tell.

SY: Besides writing the script, you also directed the movie. How did working on the screenplay influence the way you approached helming the drama? How would you describe your overall directorial style on the set?

JH: I normally don’t open the script on set that often. I take a look at what scene we need to do on the day and let it play out when we shoot. There is a high degree of improvisation. Unless there is a particular difficult stunt or a fight scene, I don’t usually prepare storyboards. I go on set and feel the space, run a few rehearsals with the actors on the set to see how they react with the environment, and move the camera around, based on what makes sense with their action.

It can be frustrating for my assistant director because he doesn’t really know how that scene is going to end. But at the same time, I am very aware of time, and if I see things are not working out, I’ll find a solution.

SY: ‘The Prey’ stars Gu Shangwei, Vithaya Pansringarm, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Byron Bishop and Nophand Boonyai. What was the process of casting the film?

JH: I knew Vithaya from a film I helped produce in Cambodia years before. We waited for the right opportunity to work together again, and it happened (with ‘The Prey’). I asked him if he had some other actors to recommend, and I got to meet Sahajak, Byron and Nophand. I flew to Thailand a few times and we did extensive rehearsals together to find the right articulation for each character.

As for Gu, I asked a casting director from China to find someone for me. There were a few options but I had the impression that Gu was the most reliable of all. I don’t speak Chinese and he doesn’t speak English, so we communicated with a translator or through WeChat and Google Translate.

SY: Once the actors were cast, what was the process of collaborating with them to create their physicality and stunts for their characters?

JH: Most of the actors that had to do stunts or fights already had experience. For the smaller scenes, we designed the choreography around the physical attributes to each actor. With Vithaya, we designed an action piece relevant to the theme of the story, so it made sense it looked that way.

SY: In addition to writing and directing the drama, you also served as the editor. What was the process of editing the drama?

JH: It’s at the editing stage that you really discover what the film is about. It took around four months to get it all together for color and sound. When I went with my sound engineer to the post studio in Thailand to do the mix, I realized there was something that wasn’t working, and I re-edited on the spot with a couple of scenes. With sound and color you discover other possibilities that can make the film stronger.

At the same time, I was careful with the length of the film, and I cut a couple of major scenes that helped define more the arc of the villains. I decided to prioritize the action instead. In retrospect, I wished I kept them in.

SY: Dark Star Pictures is set to release the film in virtual cinemas in New York, Los Angeles and major cities on August 21, with a North American VOD release to follow on August 25. Why do you feel the digital release is beneficial for this type of movie?

JH: I believe for a distributor of an independent title, that’s the way to go. For independent producers and directors like myself, a digital release often means a wider reach than just a theatrical release.

Photo ofJimmy Henderson
Jimmy Henderson
Job Title
Writer-director-producer-editor of the action-adventure film, 'The Prey'

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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