Richard Gabai‘s indie supernatural thriller InSight is an atmospheric tale with shades of a modern film noir detective pic. It stars Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints) and Natalie Zea, and is set to hit theaters in a limited release on September 2nd.
Gabai took some time to discuss his new film and answer some of our questions, mentioning that he couldn’t put down the script for InSight when he first read it. He also discussed how he feels about working in the thriller/mystery genre (his past work ranges from erotic thrillers to literary adaptations), and his techniques for building atmosphere in the film.
We Got This Covered: How/why did you choose Sean Patrick Flanery and Natalie Zea for the lead roles?
Richard Gabai: Natalie was introduced to me by a friend and I already was a fan of hers because of Justified, it’s such a great show. We met for a coffee after she’d read the script and I think about five minutes into the conversation we kind of both knew we wanted to work together. Sean Flanery is just a great actor and I knew he’d make a great Peter Rafferty. Lucky for us he agreed to come aboard. I think the film is really a showcase for both Sean and Natalie–they both play such strong layered characters. They’re also both easy on the eyes…There was a running joke on set about who was more beautiful Sean or Natalie? Natalie got my vote but the crew was evenly divided!
WGTC: What tools/techniques did you use to build the effective tension and atmosphere in the film?
RG: That’s a great question because those elements are key. Early on I had conversations with my director of photography Scott Peck and production designer Gabor Norman about how I wanted the film to look. So locations, design and lighting were key. We wanted to create dark and moody imagery that really accented the story. The real challenge was maintaining that high level of production value on our restricted budget and schedule, so we kept the camera moving and made sure the lighting and locations were right. Equally important is the music and sound design. We got so lucky in getting Golden Globe winner Lisa Gerrad and Marcello De Francisci to write the score. It is just perfect, and our sound designer Otis Van Osten (a two-time Oscar winner) really gave the film the audio atmosphere we were going for. A movie is really an equally divided experience–audio and visual.
WGTC: What thought went behind Detective Canto’s retro look/style? Was that on purpose or something written in the script?
RG: Well both. I wanted the film to feel modern and contemporary but with that classic noir vibe. Max Perlich, who plays Canto, is a modern retro guy; he drives like a 1955 Buick or something but listens to all the latest tracks. When we met we looked at some clothes and that look just seemed to work. It suits him (pun intended), the role, and the overall look of the film.
WGTC: How do you like working in the supernatural/thriller genre? What is your favorite movie genre to work in?
RG: I just love it. Some of my favorite films are Hitchcock thrillers and my favorite vice is watching original Rod Serling Twilight Zone episodes over and over. Hopefully some of that rubbed off on InSight.
WGTC: What have you taken from your past directing experience to use in your directing process in InSight?
RG: Probably the most important thing is being efficient. I always try to stay one set up ahead of myself so I know what I’m doing next. There isn’t too much time for indecision on an independent movie.
WGTC: Do you prefer acting or directing? And what kind of project would you like to work on next?
RG: This has always been a business of opportunity for me. The fact that I’m still earning a living over 20 years after I started out amazes me. Acting, directing, writing songs; it’s all good. I hadn’t done much acting lately and then out of the blue I got an offer to star in a horror film called Serenity Farm, which I just wrapped a few weeks ago. I have to say it was a blast to just focus on a character and not sweat all the logistics of directing, but I’ve found another thriller and I’m looking to get that into production before the end of the year.
That concludes our interview with Richard Gabai. We’d like to thank him for his time, and check back here for the review of InSight when it hits theaters on September 2nd.