Jon Stevenson’s Rent-a-Pal has turned out to be one of the best horror dramas of 2020, with a stunning performance from Brian Landis Folkins as haunted adult carer David.
We got a chance to quiz Brian all about the role, here’s what he had to say –
Tell us how you got involved with Rent-a-Pal?
I reached out to Jon to see how he was doing and to get his advice on a personal matter and he emailed me back and said, funny that you contacted me. I’ve been thinking about you for this script of his which was to be his directorial debut. He sent it to me and I was 8 or 9 pages in and was like, I have to be a part of this and Further more, can I come on as a producer. Then we were off to the races.
What was it that drew you to the project?
It was unlike anything I had read before. I was so drawn to all the characters. I cared about the journey and the story. I imagined myself as David and saw an opportunity to do some great character work. I also had worked with Jon and Scott (the DP) before and wanted to be apart of anything they were collaborating on because their work is very good.
The script tackles issues regarding mental health and the lack of support for home carers, are these issues you explored during research?
I did. I have dealt with mental health issues in my family. And know friends that have been home caregivers and how hard they have struggled to do it. I reached out to some friends and had conversations with people I knew that had taken care of their mothers. I also watched some docs on dementia. And most all of us knows what it feels like to be lonely and sometimes lost.
Did you look at any characters or real-life figures to inspire your portrayal of David?
A lot of David was on the page in the script. Jon had given us so much to work with. Some of David was spawned from costume and environment. The house we shot in was this older lady neighbor of Jon’s and a lot of what you see on screen was in the house already. It smelled like my grandparents house. When we got David’s glasses and hairstyle, that helped a lot as well. And the rest just came naturally I suppose.
How much interaction did you have with Will Wheaton during filming?
Wil was only here for one full day. I watched his work and had lunch with him on set. We had a great conversation about characters and just chatted about being actors. We took some photos the next morning and he flew back to LA. He really did some incredible work given he shot everything out in a day! Then the producers and Jon made what we called the Andy tapes which I studied to prepare for all the interactions with Wil’s character on screen. A very unique and fascinating process. I had never done anything quite like it.
Your relationship with Kathleen Brady’s Lucille is one the main narratives of the film, how did you approach that relationship?
Ok, so I had grown up since High School watching the immensely talented Kathy Brady on stage at The Denver Center Theatre Company. She was a company member there for 25 years. So when I asked Jon who was playing mom and he said he hadn’t cast the role yet, I immediately recommended Kathy. She had never done a feature film before but luckily was into the script and accepted the role. I asked her to lunch and we sat at the location home and slowly went thru the script and bonded very quickly. We also worked very well together and had a lot of fun on set behind the scenes. Working with her in that way has been a highlight of my career. And we still have lunch together every couple of moths.
How have you found the critical response to Rent-a-Pal so far?
People have responded very strongly for a number of reasons. First, it’s a good movie. I think it turned out very well. That’s been rare in my experience. Secondly, the themes of the film have really hit home because of the pandemic. Isolation with quarantine. Loneliness and depression. Caregiving and mental illness. And the big surprise, people’s relationships with screens these days is very real. We are surrounded with devices and spend large chunks of the day interacting with them on some level. And most critics have responded pretty well to the film particularly with performance which has been very humbling.
Do you consider this as your best work to date?
Luckily, yes. Which is not always the case. It’s always the hope that your most recent work is your best but there are so many things that can go wrong in the process of making a movie. With Rent-A-Pal, everything seemed to line up every step of the way. All of our team showed up and delivered their best work each day. And it felt like a family. I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of this film. Coming largely from 20+ Years working primarily in the Theatre, I hadn’t had a lot of opportunities to work on feature films. And I can say confidently that I’m thrilled with the work I did on this film. And I cannot wait to get back to telling more stories.
Rent-a-Pal is available now on Digital Download.
Read our review of Rent-a-Pal from Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition.