One of my favorite films of the year is undoubtedly the psychological/mystery thriller, Perception. Ilana Rein is a genius director and I loved her vision and creativity with this film. I was lucky enough to chat with her about her career, the inspiration behind this film, upcoming projects, and more!
Perception is now available on VOD and will be debuting on Blu-ray and DVD August 20! Please check out my review – HERE.
PopHorror – Hi Ilana! How did you get involved with filmmaking business?
Ilana Rein – My dad was a director in New York. I grew up going to his set during school breaks. I especially loved being in the editing room, seeing creativity channeled through a methodical and disciplined framework—people working in a flow state. I knew I would be a visual storyteller. I began my career as a photographer. I have been making films since the 90s, starting with super-8 and then mini-dv—mostly art films and shorts. After 9/11, I shifted fully from photography to filmmaking in order to express with sound and images what it was like for regular New Yorkers to have witnessed the attacks and to have lived in the lock-down zone like I did. I kept going from there. I made several films by myself and gradually moved towards larger productions with cast and crew.
PopHorror – That’s amazing. What was the first film you were involved with?
Ilana Rein – The first film that took off for me was We Are All Cylons, a documentary about our relationship to A.I. and tech seen through the fandom of Ron Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. Except for the music, I made Cylons by myself. After that, I went on to a commission for a sci-fi short at the Royal Observatory where we had a crew of over 50 and shot in the U.K. That was a great experience.
PopHorror – Sounds like so much fun! I loved your new film Perception. What inspired you to write this story?
Ilana Rein – Thank you so much! My writing and producing partner Brian Smith and I were trying to get our sci-fi feature, Out of the Everywhere, through development and encountering so many obstacles—and bizarre characters—along the way. We met several people who were not the type of people they said they were, or the people they thought they were. It was like a Philip K. Dick novel. That experience would make a movie in itself. This inspired us to switch up the genre and make a film on a smaller scale, one that deals with the notion that reality is not always what we see: sometimes it’s what we want to believe it is.
PopHorror – I love that notion and it’s so true! Can you tell the readers what Perception is about?
Ilana Rein – Sure! Perception is about an ambitious real estate developer who must evict a mysterious, small-time, psychic struggling to provide for her young son and her mother. He develops an obsession to reconnect with his dead wife and he urges the psychic to channel her. Their lives become intertwined and certain…unpleasant things happen.
PopHorror – Yes, yes they do! How did the casting process come about?
Ilana Rein – We hired casting directors in Los Angeles and in Louisville, KY, which is where we filmed. We told them we wanted to have classically trained actors and Wes Ramsey (Daniel) and Meera Rohit-Kumbhani (Nina) fit the bill. Caitlin Mehner (Maggie) and Meera —the two female leads—were good friends with Brian and had worked with him in theater before. After watching their reels and meeting them in person to discuss the roles, I couldn’t imagine two women more perfect for the story. When we told all three we would be having character meetings and rehearsing extensively, they were all thrilled. It really paid off in their performances.
PopHorror – They all delivered such phenomenal performances! Out of all the scenes in the film, are there any in particular that stick out to you or that you love more than others?
Ilana Rein – Interesting question. The scenes where Daniel, the developer, is with his dead wife Maggie are my favorites. I think they are the most visually compelling as well as the most complex in terms of the performances and the way film itself organizes the narrative. This goes back to my earliest experiences with the editing process. They weren’t easy scenes to film because of the emotional intensity. Wes and Caitlin gave us everything we wanted and more.
PopHorror – Yes! I loved the imagery and just following their uniques story. Perception is a mystery thriller. Do you enjoy this genre and if so what is your favorite thriller/horror film?
Ilana Rein – First off, I love the genre. Several films have been touchstones for me. All of them proceed with this sinister clockwork, with the characters caught in this narrative machinery. There is The Wages of Fear by Henri-Georges Clouzot and its American remake, Friedkin’s Sorcerer, Bresson’s A Man Escaped, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Antonioni’s Blow-Up, and its offspring Blow Out by Brian De Palma. All of them are so beautiful to look at as they build this brutal tension. My palms are sweating even thinking about these films. We wanted to make a film appealing to the eyes that had solid pacing and allowed people to have different ideas of what was happening.
PopHorror – I love how passionate you are! As a filmmaker, are there any directors who inspire you?
Ilana Rein – There are so many. Aside from the above: Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Lucrecia Martel, Christopher Nolan, early Kathryn Bigelow and of course Agnes Varda for her persistence, prolific output, and tenacity in a male-dominated business.
PopHorror – Yes!!! Beyond this film, do you have any other upcoming projects?
Ilana Rein – I am working on a screenplay adaptation of a science fiction novel my father wrote in the 1950s. It was popular at the time and ended up being translated into seventeen languages. We’re also focusing again on my sci-fi film Out Of the Everywhere, which we plan to move out of development and into pre-production.