When most students finish film school, they immediately set their sights on moving to Hollywood to start making movies. For director Patrick Rea, as well as the entire group behind SenoReality Pictures, it wasn’t a hard choice for them to take on the industry straight from the heart of the Midwest.
Lawrence, Kansas, to be exact.
“SenoReality made the conscious decision to not be working in Hollywood,” Rea explained. “We are spending the same amount of money to make movies here in Kansas as we would there. But being where we are allows us to feature some really great locations and do more with our budgets. I think we also have more of a presence by being here and not being swallowed up in Los Angeles.”
For Rea the dream of being a filmmaker came at a very early age. “I feel like I always knew I wanted to make movies, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t obsessed with Steven Spielberg as a kid. I used to act out movies in my backyard, and it all got started from there,” said Rea.
While attending University of Kansas, Rea met up with a group of like-minded film creatives, and SenoReality Pictures soon became an actuality. Rea teamed up with both Ryan Jones and Josh Robison in March 2002 to officially launch their production company.
“We all met during college and went right into SenoReality right after that,” explained Rea. “We worked together on short films for class and then went on to keep working together for our own stuff. While in college we even had two of our student films make it onto the first Fangoria ‘Blood Drive’ DVD. From there we just knew we had to keep on making short films.”
Rea put his education to good use while building the reputation of SenoReality Pictures by working at a studio in Lawrence to help finance their short films. Even though SenoReality had earned its place as a production company with distinctive filmmaking sensibilities through their short films, Rea and his partners were eager to set their sights on the full-length feature format.
Rea said, “A lot of our films have a ‘Twilight Zone’ feel to them, but it was never something that we really intended to create with our style of storytelling. I love the short film format because I think it’s a powerful way to tell a story, but we’re now looking into making feature-length films at SenoReality.”
SenoReality’s first foray into feature films is called Nailbiter (database here). The story is centered around a mom and her three daughters that teases some creature feature elements set within the realm of the unpredictable weather of the Midwest. The director, who co-wrote the story with Kendal Sinn, gave a bit of an update on the project.
“We shot Nailbiter for five weeks last summer, and it’s 80 percent in the can right now,” explained Rea. “We took a bit of a hiatus and will be shooting the rest of the film this upcoming summer. Filmmaking can be a frustrating process when you have a delay like this, but sometimes you have to just roll with the punches.”
Now that his production company is making the leap into the full-length feature game, I asked the writer/director his thoughts on how the current remake trend in horror films can be a good thing for independent studios like SenoReality Pictures.
“I actually think remakes can be great. Look at The Thing or even The Crazies, which came out recently. When they are done right, they really work. Then there are some where you are left wondering what the point was, like with Psycho,” Rea said. “I think that the remake trend is a good thing for independent filmmakers,” Rea went on to discuss. “It opens up the playing field for original horror films to get out there because fans are at the point where they seek them out because they aren’t getting what they want in theaters.”
Even though most filmmakers dream of the day where they can work with a big studio budget, Rea was quick to point out that sometimes getting to do bigger work can be a creative hindrance when you involve the studio system. “Once you start working for studios, there is a definite trade-off when you start to work on someone else’s time,” explained Rea. “With SenoReality’s films we have 100% control of what we want to do, and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.”
“Working independently means you don’t always feel like every little decision has to go through a committee before you make it, and that’s one of the major issues with studios. Suddenly everyone has their own thoughts on something, and you can lose control that way. Even though I do enjoy doing things on my own terms, I would one day like to work with a studio just so I could challenge myself in a different way,” Rea added.
Rea went onto to discuss the difficulties some directors face when they move on from working independently to working for Hollywood studios.
“Everyone wants to succeed at what they are passionate about; that doesn’t make anyone a sell-out,” explained Rea. “I don’t think it’s wrong for a director to go back and forth between making independent projects and studio projects. Look at [David] Cronenberg. He’s done great things on both sides of the fence. Besides, you’ll never hear anyone say that he sold out when he created The Fly. I definitely think it’s possible to keep your independent spirit even if you’re not doing your own project.”
With almost ten years of filmmaking under his belt now, Rea talked about how those years of experience have brought him this far.
“You have this fear when you leave school that you will end up doing something you don’t want to do and then your dream will die. It’s nice to finally have some security so that no matter what, I know our work with SenoReality is going to be okay going forward. I finally feel like no one can stop me but me, and that’s given me a lot of confidence and ease as a filmmaker,” Rea said.
For more check out the official SenoReality Pictures website.
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