INTERVIEW: Director Jenn Wexler on Bringing ‘The Ranger’ to FrightFest

The Ranger will be playing at Frightfest London 2018.

The screening will take place on Thursday 23rd August at 6pm on the Arrow Video Screen at Leicester Square Cineworld.

Tickets are available here!

The Ranger is the directorial debut of horror veteran Jenn Wexler and is undeniably the product of a true passion for horror films. Jenn’s producing work on movies, including Darling and Most Beautiful Island, give her an expert position from which to approach her latest release.

The Ranger is currently being screened at film and horror festivals around the world and is coming to FrightFest in August. It’s due for a wider release later on this year, and Jenn has high hopes for its future.

We spoke to Jenn to find out more about how the film came into being and where she sees it going.

Kirstie: Tell us about your film.

Jenn: So, The Ranger is about a bunch of punks and they get in trouble with the cops so they go to the woods to hide out. There in the woods they come up against a killer park ranger who starts taking them out one by one.

Kirstie: What inspired the story?

Jenn: I went to college and I studied screenwriting. One of my classmates, Giaco Furino – this was actually his project. He had to write these senior screenplays and this was his concept. I was always such a fan of it. It immediately brought to mind all these comic book-esque visuals, like very colourful visuals of punks versus a park ranger. And I thought, man, that’s such a cool idea.

A couple of years after we graduated, I started working for a production company, learning how to make movies, learning how to produce. I was starting to think about a movie that I wanted to direct for my first feature and I remembered his screenplay.

So I called him and I asked him if he could find the screenplay and if we could work on it together. I asked if we could update it and make the movie.

Kirstie: Has the story evolved very much from its initial conception?

Jenn: Yeah. I think originally it was more of a body count type of movie, a very heavily slasher flick. The focus was on the idea of killing these kids one by one. And then when Giaco and I were working on it, we started to build out the relationships and the back story with the main girl, Chelsea, really diving into the movie’s themes.

Kirstie: What are the key themes that you explore in the film?

Jenn: Well, it’s all about this figure of authority who is trying to stomp out individuality. So, a lot of the film shows that, even in the colours alone. The film starts off in the world of the punks. It’s really colourful in this warehouse that they hang out in. When they go into the woods, they bring the colours with them, except it’s more of a vintage style parkland woods.

So even in the way that we shot it, in the cinematography and the production design, we really explored its clashing of youthful rebellion against authority. Meanwhile, there all these outrageous ’80s horror and ’80s punk movie type characters, which sets the sense of humour and that tone.

But at the core of it is this girl’s story as she’s trying to discover herself and discover who she really is, while all these other characters are telling her who to be.

Kirstie: You mentioned the ’80s and slasher films and punk movies as influences on The Ranger. Were there any other significant influences you brought into making this movie?

Jenn: Yeah, punk movies like Clash of 1984 and Return of the Living Dead and Nightmare on Elm Street, in terms of slashers, and Friday the 13th and Halloween, all the classic slashers for sure. And then Smokey the Bear PSAs and I was also really inspired by the idea of making a slasher movie that had lots of Lisa Frank colours, so pastels and neons, mashing up glitter and gore. I just wanted to blend all of my favourite things together.

Kirstie: You’ve produced a lot of horror films in the past, but this is your first time directing. What was it like making the move from producing to directing?

Jenn: It was great. By producing films, I’d had a lot of experience being on set, working with different departments. All that really prepared as I moved into directing. It was cool because my first experience with a feature where I was interacting with the different department heads from more of a creative perspective than a producing perspective.

All that was really exciting and it was something that I was looking forward to and thinking about while I was producing and working with other directors and helping them with their visions. In the back of my mind I was always kind of thinking, I can’t wait until I can explore this with The Ranger.

Kirstie: What would you say are the most important things you’ve learned from previous projects that you’ve brought into making this film?

Jenn: I think communication is so important. And that seems kind of trite to say because, you know, of course communication is important. But when you’re in the middle of a film set, really, communication is so important. You have to over-communication everything, even sometimes when you think that you’ve communicated it.

There’s just a lot going on. People have a lot of different things that they’re doing. So over-communication is really important.

Kirstie: Having worked in horror for quite a while now, from your experience, what would you say makes a good horror film?

Jenn: I think it’s really important for film to be true to what it is, which is to say that I think that sometimes movies get watered down. I think that sometimes people think a lot about trends and about the marketplace.

For instance, I’ve had people ask me things like, weren’t you concerned that there are so many ’80s throwback movies right now? And, truthfully, that wasn’t something I was really thinking about. Of course, I watch horror movies all the time and I’ve noticed that trend. But I wasn’t focussed on that or worried about it because there were so many specifics in The Ranger that I felt that, regardless of whatever other ’80s style movies were out, I needed to bring this specific thing into the world.

This is a story told in this way that wasn’t being told yet. Truthfully, even if I’d wanted to stop it, I couldn’t I went years after graduating school where I was still thinking about this concept and I couldn’t turn it off.

So I think it’s important to turn off the noise and turn off other people’s opinions and really listen to the project and the concept and listen to what it wants to be and just see it through.

Kirstie: What are the most important things you’ve learned from making this film?

Jenn: It’s kind of a cohesive thing. Every time I make a movie, I feel like someone has drilled a whole in my head and poured knowledge and information into my brain. Definitely that was the case with The Ranger. There is an overall feeling of, cool, now I know how to approach different things, I know how to communicate certain ideas and I have more of a toolkit for how to execute and convey my ideas to my teammates.

Kirstie: What are your plans for getting the film out there?

Jenn: We’re playing festivals all over. We’re playing Fright Fest, of course. We’re playing Fantasia. There are many festivals, we’re trying to play all over the world. We’re going to release later in the year and we’ll have more details about that soon.

Kirstie: How has your experience been with festivals so far?

Jenn: It’s been absolutely amazing. It’s cool because I’ve been able to attend a lot of them. After we premiered, every week I was going to a different city, which was such a cool experience. I’m going to Montreal next week and I’m really excited to go to London for Fright Fest.

Kirstie: What are your hopes for the film?

Jenn: I hope that it is a movie that people come back to in the future. I hope that someone some day makes a theme park ride out of it. I want there to be a Ranger rollercoaster.

Kirstie: What would the rollercoaster be like?

Jenn: You go through something a bit like Splash Mountain, and through all the different areas. First you’re in the punk club, with different punks dancing on the side, like they do at Disney World and Haunted Mansion and the It’s A Small World ride. So there are punks dancing and then the cops are after you so you go into the woods. To say more would be a spoiler movie, but I want it to feel like you are experiencing The Ranger fully.

Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Jenn: I would say, spend as much time on set as possible. I think that that’s so important to watch other directors and see the kind of things that they’re facing and how they’re overcoming through challenges. Really pay attention to those things. Through those kind of jobs, you just start to meet so many people. I think that having those relationships is so valuable as you move onto your first film.

We’d like to say a massive thanks to Jenn Wexler for taking the time to speak with us! You can keep up to date with Jenn and The Ranger on Twitter.

Check out the teaser trailer for The Ranger below:



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