Interview: Director Jenn Wexler and Stars Chloe Levine and Jeremy Holm Talk THE RANGER

Authentic punk rock and the nostalgia of eighties slashers converge in The Ranger, Jenn Wexler’s directorial debut. Written by Giaco Furino and Jenn Wexler, the movie stars Chloe Levine (The Transfiguration) as Chelsea and Jeremy Holm (Mr. Robot, House of Cards) as the ranger. The film tells the story of a group of punk rockers who try to hide out in a cabin in the woods, but learn about ranger danger when they cross paths with a ranger who takes his job very seriously. Punk music, fashion, and blood blend wildly as the ranger tries to teach the teenagers a lesson about obeying the rules in the most twisted ways imaginable. Dread Central spoke with Jenn Wexler, Chloe Levine, and Jeremy Holm about The Ranger, eighties horror, punk rock, and more! Read on to find out what we talked about.

The Ranger is screening at Fantasia Film Festival on July 23rd at 9:30 pm.

Dread Central: Jenn, The Ranger is your directorial debut and you co-wrote the story with Giaco Furino. How did you come up with the concept for the film?

Jenn Wexler: Giaco and I went to school together where we studied screenwriting and this was his senior screenplay. So, he came up with the idea and I was just a total fan of it. I just thought it always sounded so cool. Punks versus a park ranger alone feels like a movie that should have already been made. It brought all these visuals to my mind so I just always thought it was a cool idea. We graduated college and we both did our own thing. A couple of years later I started working for Glass Eye Pix and learning how to make movies under Larry Fessenden, as a producer, and I was thinking about what I wanted to direct for my first feature. I remembered Giaco’s script and I called him and asked him if he could find it. Then we started updating it together with the goal of making it.

Jenn Wexler

DC: Chloe, I loved you in The Transfiguration. The character of Chelsea in The Ranger is very different from that role. Why did you want to play Chelsea and did you do anything special to get inside her head? Also, how did you feel about having pink hair?

Chloe Levine: Thank you! Having pink hair was so rad (laughs). I was excited to have pink hair. Chelsea is a bit different from Sophie in The Transfiguration. Part of the reason I love acting is exploring different parts of myself through different characters. With Chelsea specifically, she’s this badass punk rocker. I didn’t know a lot about punk, but she also has this really haunting past that affects her in these pretty cool ways. I thought it would be interesting to dive into that. She has a lot going on and I’m really attracted to characters as complex as real people.

Chloe Levine (photo by Joshua Sarner)

DC: Jeremy, the ranger is obsessed with enforcing the park rules, which gives him some great lines and adds a comedic element to the film. Where did you draw your inspiration for the ranger?

Jeremy Holm: I had the luxury of having the script for quite some time before we started filming, so I would read the script every day. After reading the script in the morning, I would take one scene to sort of work on and think about. In terms of archetypes and things like that, I was thinking about this one particular guy who lives down the road from me. One night I got home and the door to my house was wide open. My first thought was “I’ve got to get Tom.” So, I went down and I got Tom and he came up here with a shotgun and we searched the house. Sure enough, he chased somebody out of the house. This was a tough dude who lives in a rural cabin in the woods. His face kept entering my mind when I was thinking about who this ranger guy was. The rest of it really just came from Jenn’s lookbook that she made and from the costume designer and when we were on set everything gelled into place. It was pretty easy to do actually to be honest with you.

Jeremy Holm

Jenn Wexler: In our first meeting, Jeremy started getting into character while we were sitting there, which was really cool. Also, that was the first time he mentioned “The Most Beautiful Girl” song.

Jeremy Holm: Yeah, I kept hearing that song every time I would work on it. That song I remember because my mom used to drive us down these high mountain roads and that song would come on. I don’t know why, but I kept hearing that song, so I actually listened to it a lot while I was working on the script. I don’t know, it just all seemed to make sense somehow. The ranger just cares about her and he’s trying to do a good job and everybody thinks he’s psychotic. He’s just really good at his job.

Jenn Wexler: What was important for me was making sure that he’s our bad guy of course, but also making sure there is something relatable about him.  Jeremy and I talked about that and he just really wants to connect with other people.

Jeremy Holm: If you’re driving down the road and you see someone litter, I mean come on. Tell me you haven’t imagined a way to make their car swerve off the road into a tree or at least get pulled over and get a ticket for littering. (laughter)  So, it’s just an expression of that wish that we all, at one time or another, for various reasons have had.

DC: Jenn, You’ve been involved with some fantastic indie films as a producer with Glass Eye Pix, so you’ve worked with Larry Fessenden before The Ranger. What is it like working with an indie icon? I’m also wondering what it was like for Chloe and Jeremy.

Jenn Wexler: I was a total fan of Glass Eye Pix before I started working there. Just from being a total fan, I moved to New York City and stalked them until they hired me and gave me a job. Working at Glass Eye has been totally amazing. Larry is such an amazing mentor. He’s so supportive of new filmmakers and helping them get their voices out there, especially for their first film. It’s been really cool to work with him in terms of producing, to work with him side-by-side as a producer. He’s such a creative mind and if you’re in a bind he always seems to know the right thing to say to inspire you to realize the right way to go. That’s such a magical quality he has and makes him an amazing producer and he’s also an amazing director and writer. He’s an artist first and foremost which allows him to really bond with artists that he wants to work with in that way.

Chloe Levine: Larry is just a really sweet person to be around. I was kind of bummed that we didn’t have a scene together. He’s also in The Transfiguration, too and so this is our second movie together, but we don’t have a scene together (laughs). I think he’s just a real artist. Whatever he produces, writes, acts. I think he’s just really talented.

Jeremy Holm: We were able to be around his house when we were shooting The Ranger. His home is basically like a museum of horror and art. Jenn nailed it. This man is an artist. He’s a world class artist. I was kind of nervous to meet him. I’ve worked with lots of famous people and I don’t really get too nervous, I just do my job. I was a little nervous to meet him because he’s basically the father of horror, especially in New York City, so it was pretty exciting. I didn’t talk to him much, I was a little nervous, but just to stand next to him and watch Jenn and Chloe work and we chatted a little bit. Yeah, he’s amazing. What an artist.

DC: This question is for everyone. The film has a great eighties slasher feel to it. Are any of you big fans of eighties horror movies?

Chloe Levine: I am (laughs)!

Jenn Wexler: (laughter) I was waiting to see if Chloe was going to jump in with enthusiasm. I definitely am. I grew up on that stuff. It’s part of my soul. It’s the kind of thing that I can’t just let go of it. It works its way into everything I do. Giaco and I really wanted to create this world that pitted eighties punk movies against eighties slashers with a little bit of late nineties slasher teen dialogue thrown in, and all centered around a cool final girl.

Jeremy Holm: What were you calling it, Jenn? You had a name for it.

Jenn Wexler: I was calling it eighties dreamland. On set, everyone would be like “Oh, it’s supposed to the eighties, but what year is it exactly?” Everybody from cast to production to costume designers, everybody wanted to know so that they could be as specific as possible in what they were doing. And it was important for me to kind of clarify for everybody that it’s the eighties, but I’m calling it eighties dreamland and we create this fake drug, Echo, as a symbol that this world is just to the left of reality. This isn’t the real eighties. This is slightly surreal, slightly over-the-top, dreamland, fairytale eighties. Another big influence was Lisa Frank, if you’re familiar with her art of the early nineties. We wanted to make an eighties horror movie with the color palette of Lisa Frank (laughs).

DC:  Can you each tell me what new projects you are working on now?

Jenn Wexler: I just produced Larry Fessenden’s new movie Depraved, which I’ll let Chloe answer in a moment. It’s really cool. It’s a modern day Frankenstein movie and we’re in post-production right now.

Chloe Levine: I have a part in Larry’s movie Depraved which is pretty cool. I just wrapped on this secret Netflix show about two weeks ago, so that should be coming out soon.

Jeremy Holm: I also just wrapped a secret Netflix show. (laughter) They make us sign these Non-Disclosure Agreements and they scare the hell out of you. They put you in a room and they bring a bunch of lawyers in and they say a bunch of stuff, so I have to keep it on the down low. I got the privilege of doing a movie for the McManus Brothers with their sister Michaela McManus called The Block Island Sound, which is in post-production now. Then hopefully Mr. Robot starts up in the fall. I don’t know if I’m going to be in it or not. I might be dead and I might not be dead. Nobody knows. Those are the things I’m focused on now.






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