The Revenant's writer-director D. Kerry Prior on how going back to undead basics made his movie work
The Revenant trailer
You have a background in practical effects, right?
Yeah, exactly. I started working years and years ago. One of my first jobs was effects animation for a TV show. Then I moved from that onto model making and miniatures and motion control photography and that sort of thing. I cut my teeth working on big budget projects doing little minute tasks.
Was that a good learning process? Did it contribute toward making you a better director?
No, not necessarily. I'd say I learned more about directing from literature classes in college. It's all about storytelling. Certainly all those technical skills are a huge asset to have when you get on the set. You've got to know what you're doing so you don't let your crew push you around. But in terms of storytelling, you don't learn that sort of thing doing visual effects.
What's next now that The Revenant has finally got a proper release? Are you working on something?
I'm midway through a script right now called Merry Christmas from Me and Bubbles. It's a story about a guy who's forced by his shrink to adopt a dog, but he hates dogs. He decides he's going to get an old decrepit dog so it dies soon and he doesn't have to worry about it. But as fate would have it, he falls in love with the dog. He's so in love with the dog he feels he needs some kind of further level to talk to this dog, to deepen their communication. He goes to a pet psychic and one thing leads to the next and he decides to try ESP and he learns that trepanation can increase your mental state and possibly increase your ability for ESP.
If you're not familiar with trepanation, it's the oldest known surgical procedure. It's where you drill a hole in the skull to release pressure on the brain. He tries this first on the dog, then on himself, and sure enough it not only increases their telepathic connection, but it also transports him into a parallel universe where he meets his other dimensional self. It kind of leads to a whole series of conspiracy, world takeover plots, a terrorist cell, and finally meeting his ex wife... anyway, that's what I am working on now.