Randall Okita talks about new thriller See For Me, works with visually impaired actor Skyler Davenport

Thriller lovers will be in for a treat with the next film See for me. Directed by Randall Okita, this spooky home invasion film follows its main protagonist, Sophie (Skyler Davenport), in a fight for her life. The visually impaired young woman is first presented as cold and contemptuous. She chooses to live an independent life, keeping her friends, family and clients at bay.

Working as a cat sitter, Sophie finds herself in a beautiful, separate mansion in the middle of nowhere. But, her workplace doesn’t go as planned as a group of thieves raids the house trying to find a safe full of riches. The young adult uses an app called See For Me to connect with Army veteran Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), who is helping Sophie over the phone in her search for safety. Set against the stunning backdrop of a winter forest, Okita brings heartwarming images of snow-capped trees and cold weather as the suspenseful story continues. He masterfully plays with his art to deliver a solid and well-paced film.


Related: This Home Invasion Thriller Subverted The Familiar Genre

In a conversation with Rant, Okita shared his experience working with visually impaired actor Skyler Davenport, the See for me character he’s the most excited viewers come across, and how he shakes nerves after working on such an intense project.

Game Rant: What struck you the most when you first read the script?

Randall Okita: Great question. You read a lot of scripts in preparation, in development. First of all, it was very tight. Raise the tension during a thriller like this, in a genre space that we might have seen in this world – do it in an original way – and do it with good timing and unexpected twists and turns. is difficult. Writers Tommy Gushue and Adam Yorke have really done it. That’s what initially attracted me, just the quality of the work and the time they spent thinking about the space and trying to give it an original twist. Which included this element of representing someone whose point of view we don’t often see. A character with a visual impairment. And in a story that included aspects of those experiences and challenges, but that wasn’t the main thing. It wasn’t the main part of the story, it was just part of this character’s life course.

But they were also like a bada ** outsider who must live this heroic experience. Those two elements – to be able to incorporate aspects of representation and authenticity – and, of course, working with Skyler Davenport, who is a visually impaired person. [They] have this lived experience in [a] genre space where you can have fun and run around the house and chase the good guys and the bad guys. The combination of those two things was what turned me on.

GR: When you were casting for the role of Sophie, were you intentionally looking for a visually impaired actor to achieve that authenticity? Or did it just happen that Skyler appeared on the radar and was amazing?

Okita: No, it was absolutely intentional. And we searched high and low. That was a big part of the formula for the team to be able to represent those experiences in an authentic way and involve someone who could bring those experiences to the table. So we looked up and down and we were lucky enough to find Skyler. To then be able to talk about those parts of the story, talk about those moments ahead of time, and sort of tweak some of the dialogue and character trajectories within the story. And then on the set, when we talk about navigation, you know, I don’t have that experience. Skyler was able to indicate how we would move around these spaces in a very specific and physical way. So, it’s not only more authentic, but that authenticity has also created opportunities for different kinds of thrills and different kinds of shots and ways to visually reflect how they actually move around the world. It was a huge opportunity and a huge part of the fun to develop the visuals and the script itself.

See for me
via IFC

GR: Is there a character that you can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction to? For me, it was the cop. She was so cool and phenomenal that she only had 10 minutes on the screen.

Okita: We were so lucky that these characters came out. I think you are absolutely right. Emily Piggford, as a police officer, does an amazing job in this very short space. And to get out of this tension and this balance of suspicion and investigation … so as not to reveal too much. I think each of the characters have their own flavor, especially the villains. I love how Adam and Tommy were able to create these different personalities who all have a little different space and the sequences have a different result. I think people could come and see Kim Coates, who plays the big bad, or Laura Vandervoort, who came and plays a role for us. I think Jessica Parker Kennedy as Kelly does an amazing job in this partnership between her and Sophie. It’s really strong. I think this is where people will fall in love with their partnership and pull it off as the big transforming coin. But I really think it’s Skyler. Viewers will remember Skyler’s performance. At least that was the experience for me. Skyler playing Sophie and taking on their first role as a leader, over-delivered.

GR: Here’s a funny one while we’re on the subject of casting. So where was the cat all the time? Was it intentional?

Okita: You have to wait until later to find out the backstory of what was going on with the cat. [Laughs] People have been asking questions on the chat. I will say this: the cat is fine. Much has been said about how to tie the cat piece. But we had to focus on the other characters.

GR: Since you made this little joke on us about a possible sequel, what are your hopes for the future of See For Me?

Okita: I can’t wait to release the movie. And for people to experience these characters. Obviously, there is a feeling of isolation that runs through the film. But there was also this reflection of the making of the project because Sophie walks around the house trying to survive, calling and interacting with these other characters, often from a distance. Her primary relationship with Kelly takes place through this app. And we made this movie during the pandemic. So there was a lot of pause and separation, and a lot of it was edited on Zoom. A lot of the actors weren’t in the same space, or they had different schedules. I think of the actors themselves, as well as the audience, to be able to see the whole piece together. And having people experience it as this constellation of performances as a whole, that’s really what excites me.

See for me Kelly
via IFC Films / YouTube

GR: I want to congratulate you on the amazing lighting. The visuals, the photography, this sequence towards the end … Fantastic. What made you want to be a little advantageous?

Okita: This space, again, is this opportunity to really look into that stuff. If you shoot something that happens at night, you have these different levels of darkness. And you talk about confidence, awareness, movement, through space. About the proximity or distance of people and how the danger may be represented differently in some of these sequences during its course [Sophie’s] interactions with different types of villains, I have worked with two cinematographers, Jackson Parrell and Jordan Oram, both of whom are these incredibly talented artists. They were able to really take that tongue and make it terrifying, yet beautiful. A little poetic, but also very shocking at times. It was a visual language that we really had fun exploring. A lot of things were very difficult to achieve. But, I think it was worth it.

GR: How do you recover at the end of the work on an invasion scenario? Does it follow you home?

Okita: It’s really funny because every time that sort of thing happens – you know, that feeling like I left the door open or someone is coming for me – what happens is that I begins to design the sequence. I’m starting to think what it would look like. So it goes into a fun space and it becomes a movie. It’s my thing. If you’re scared, hear a noise and start walking this road, just make a movie of it. Sometimes that helps. Not always, but it will usually help. i would be like ok what lens would that be and how much cart track would we need to take this pic.

GR: I love it. Do you have an invasion plan? Are you the ‘run straight ahead’ type or would you just like to hide and hope that goes well?

Okita: Well listen, I can’t disclose too much publicly. But I definitely have a go-bag handy. I have an escape plan. I have a bag with some money and some necessities, a change of clothes, water purification. And, I definitely have nunchucks tucked away in three or four different spaces around the house that I can always access.

See for me opens in select theaters, digital platforms and VOD on January 7.

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