THE RANGER is a 90’s style punks vs park ranger slasher film directed by Jenn Wexler, written by Giaco Furino and Jenn Wexler, and produced by Heather Buckley.
In THE RANGER, we follow Chelsea (Chloe Levine) and her band of punk friends as they get into some trouble with the police. On the run, the group hides out at Chloe’s uncle’s cabin on the edge of a national park run by a park ranger who takes the rules very seriously. Nightmarish Conjurings recently had the chance to sit down with Jenn Wexler while at the Boston Underground Film Festival to talk about the film.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I’d like to start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed your film.
Jenn Wexler: Oh cool. Thank you.
Nightmarish Conjurings: As far as I know, this was your directorial debut. Did you have any trouble stepping into the director role?
JW: I’ve directed a couple of shorts, so I was used to it from that. I’ve also spent time producing films for other filmmakers, so I think working on a set, for people that want to become filmmakers, is really important whatever the role is. Film sets have their own language, subtleties, and nuances. When you spend a lot of time on sets you pick those up, and you watch the directors and see what they kick ass at and whatever production things that might not work out as well, and you see how the team reacts to it and fixes to it. So certainly all that prepared me for directing THE RANGER.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Did you have any rough patches on set when starting shooting THE RANGER?
JW: Well, we work with a lot of the same people, so we all have our own language. The DP on THE RANGER was the same DP that I worked with on LIKE ME last year. The AD and co-producer on [THE RANGER], Chris Skotchdople, is one of my really good friends. We all work on this stuff movie after movie. Abby Killheffer, my key grip on THE RANGER was also my co-editor. So we are basically a community of artists in Brooklyn that work on each other’s stuff.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I noticed that when looking at your past work that you all would trade places and work on each other’s projects and I thought that was neat. Is that all through Glass Eye Pix?
JW: Yeah. So Glass Eye Pix is run by Larry Fessenden. He is a director, producer, writer, and actor. He has been in a lot of movies that have been in Boston Underground. He played the Uncle in THE RANGER, and pretty much every time we have a new movie we’re like, “OK. Which character are we going to ask Larry to play?”. Larry has been killed so many times that he has a death reel.
I wanted Larry to play the Uncle for THE RANGER because he is, emotionally, all of our uncles. In our movie LIKE ME, Larry is one of the stars of the movie and that movies gave him much more things to do. He also made a movie called HABIT in the mid 90’s. It’s a vampire movie that he stars in, and it’s so fucking good. It’s amazing you should watch it. Larry has ranged in all kinds of movies. A lot of indie horror films. Ones we make at Glass Eye Pix, and other’s like to get Larry killed.
Nightmarish Conjurings: THE RANGER first debuted at SXSW. The screening at Boston Underground Film Festival was the second screening. What are your plans for future screenings or a theatrical release?
JW: We are playing a new festival in New York called What The Fest next week (interview conducted on 3/25/18) which is at the IFC Center. After that, we are going to the Chattanooga Film Festivalwhich I haven’t been yet, but I’ve heard is amazing, and I’m so excited. There’s going to be a THE RANGER themed party with punk bands. Then we are playing at Filmadelphia which is really special to me because that’s where me and my co-write first met when we lived there and went to college together where he wrote the first draft of the script. One of our producers went to school at the University of the Arts too. So that screening will be an extra special awesome screening. And there’s more stuff, but I can’t talk about it just yet.
Nightmarish Conjurings: You mentioned that your co-writer came up with the initial script. How was the process of development between you two and how long did you work on the script?
JW: So we took a couple of years. We graduated school, and both didn’t know what to do with our lives. So I moved to LA, and he stayed in Philly for a while. We both worked for Fear Net, which is a horror tv channel. When I moved to LA, I did marketing for a few years. Anyway, we took a few years off to figure out how to be adults and pay our rent. After I started working on movies and understudying film sets, I asked him to find the script because I was always into the concept. That was around 2015, and we worked on it for a year or two off and on as we worked on other projects. In 2016 I submitted it to this really cool thing called Frontières at the Fantasia Film Festival. They have you pitch to industry people. So we met Andrew van den Houten who is a producer on THE WOMAN and JUG FACE, some of my favourite horror movies, and he responded to the movie, so his company and Glass Eye Pix teamed up. We worked with his producer Ashley Snead and Heather Buckley, and we shot [THE RANGER] last year. Overall it was a three-year process.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I’m glad you both developed it. It’s a great concept.
JW: I was really attracted to developing the character of Chelsea and also adding this pink Lisa Frank element to the film. James Siewert, our DP on [THE RANGER], is fucking killer and has such a cool approach to filmmaking. He’s like this crazy artist guy that makes his own rigs; just such a smart, awesome dude.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Some of my favourite parts of THE RANGER are the park regulation jokes. How many of those did you end up creating that did not end up in the film?
JW: Actually, one of our executive producers, Darryl Gariglio, runs a touring company in Nevada and they do tours around the Grand Canyon so he came and worked on the movie. He’s like the best executive producer in the fucking world. He brought all these guys, and they helped us paint the van and light things on fire, but he wrote out all these pages of [park] codes. Actual codes, so while we were on set we were writing them in, and there are some weird things you can get in trouble for in a national park.
And while Jeremy Holm was in costume on set, he would absolutely ad lib and come up with ways to kill people. He is very creepy. You’ll just be standing there, getting ready for a shot, and he’ll be there standing behind you asking “what are you doing?” (inflexion was of creepy “are you up to no good?” vibe). Very creepy. And he was singing that song that’s in the movie to Chloe while she was eating breakfast. He was in character a lot.
Nightmarish Conjurings: For that choice of song, did you have that one in mind from the beginning or did you try a few out?
JW: So that song was a song Jeremy Holm used to get into character. Me and one of the editors, Kyle Mumford, decided to drop it in and try it and we were like “Oh my god this is perfect”. So after that, everyone was like “we have to get this song”. We were obsessed with it. And regarding the soundtrack, Heather Buckley, our producer worked with Middagh Goodwin, our music supervisor, who was a promoter back in the day, so he’s friends with all these bands. So they got all these fucking awesome bands on the soundtrack. We also worked with a composer Andrew Gordon Macpherson, Alexis on Fire, and Gallows did our score, and they wrote some original songs for the movie, and we have The Avengers, The Authorities, and The Grim. Rotten UK is in the warehouse scene in the beginning. There are so many bands on the soundtrack for THE RANGER.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Before the screening last night, you mentioned you made this film because you were sick of people telling you not to party. How much of your personal experiences or influences made their way into the film?
JW: Oh man. Well, I pretty much make movies for the parties. The rap parties, premiere parties, theatrical release parties. I just really love throwing parties and going to parties. So that’s what really drew me to filmmaking I think. Before I was 18, I used to go to shows in basements, and after I turned 21, I started going to clubs. I lived in Philly and LA before living in Brooklyn, and certainly, I got to know those scenes really well. And I don’t know; it’s something I like to do. And I like treating film sets, even though no drugs or alcohol are allowed for professional endeavors, we still like to have the enthusiasm of partying while we’re making movies.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What made you choose the location you did for THE RANGER?
JW: It was up near Woodstock. Larry [Fessenden] has a house up there, so we shoot a lot of things there.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Was the cabin from the movie Larry’s house?
JW: No, it wasn’t. I worked closely with the Hudson Valley film commission on finding cabins, but we do shoot a lot of things at Larry’s house. His house has been in a couple of Glass Eye Pix movies. It’s in the movie WENDIGO, and it was in a short we did by Glenn McQuaid. We use it a lot.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I like the wolf ring you have on today; Feels very fitting for [The Ranger].
JW: Oh, thank you. Chloe has one too. We wear them to screenings.
Nightmarish Conjurings: You’ve directed a few shorts and now that you’ve wrapped THE RANGER, do you have plans for the next film you’re going to direct?
JW: Yeah. I’m working on a couple of scripts and projects right now, and I just finished producing Larry’s movie, DEPRAVED, which is a modern telling of Frankenstein. We wrapped that three days ago. They had the wrap party, and I had to choose: do I go to Boston Underground or do I go to the wrap party?
Nightmarish Conjurings: That’s about all the questions I had planned for you.
JW: Cool. Thank you so much.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking with you.
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