David A. Prior and Ted Prior are the brothers behind such movies as Future Zone, Sledgehammer, and Deadly Prey. The brothers have created over thirty feature films together. David A Prior, writer and director, along with his brother Ted Prior, actor, have produced stories set in a myriad of genre. They’ve created everything from horror films to action pictures to scifi romps.
The brothers produced most of their body of work in the 1980’s. Since then their films have gone on to attain a cult status.
I was lucky enough to catch up with the two gentlemen and ask them some questions about movie making, writing, and fighting the Green Ranger.
FIMO: First off I’d like to get a little bit of background of the two of you. Where were you born? What was your childhood like? Where do you guys go to school?
David A. Prior: We were both born in Newark, New Jersey but primarily grew up in Baltimore, where I went to EVT High School and Ted went to Kenwood. Our childhood was about as normal as a lower middle class childhood could be, really.
Ted Prior: Dave and I were born in Newark, New Jersey then soon after moved to Baltimore city. That was a nightmare!! The early 70s was so racially charged that most of my memories are of either getting my ass beat, running, or beating someone else’s ass. I remember getting my first switch-blade knife so I could go to school and feel safe… My parents decided to move to Baltimore County after a stabbing went down in my sister’s class room. The move was great. I lived in an area called Essex and had a great child hood from that point on…..
F: When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue filmmaking?
DP: I was a late bloomer in this area. It wasn’t until I was about 21 years old, walking around an unemployment office in Los Angeles, looking for job, when someone approached me and asked me if I would like to do some extra work, and I said sure, as long as it pays. Well, it did pay and it was for “Logan’s Run”. And it was while working on that picture and watching the director and others, that I decided I could do that. It was very naive of me at the time, but that is what happened. So I started by writing.
TP: Truth is, it was always my brother that wanted to wright scripts and make movies. I was way too busy chasing girls and going to the gym. I ended up in Dave’s movies because I was there! It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the process and Ive been doing it ever since. To be honest my favorite position on a film crew is as the 1st A.D. (assistant director). I’ve been doing it for so long now that I don’t even have to think about it.. that’s when a jobs fun!!
F: If you’d be so kind, I’d love for you to talk about your first film together, Sledgehammer. What was that creative experience like?
DP: The overall concept of this was to get a movie made, one way or another, just to prove that my screenplays were worthy of being made. That really was my motivation here. I only directed because there was no money to hire someone who might know what they were doing, because I certainly did not. In effect, you could call “Sledgehammer” my own personal film school.
For Ted, it was a much different expirence as he came into primarily as an actor, though he did help a lot with the special effects.
TP: It was a blast. It felt like a bunch of friends camping out. Other than a few exterior shots, we shot the entire movie in our small apartment in Venice beach. What I remember most was being exhausted.. I was working at night and shooting in the day. The apartment was torn up with film equipment everywhere and everyone involved stayed with us. To this day, I can’t remember half of the stuff I did in that movie… Jack Denials might have had something to do with it… Of course, I never realized it was going to lead to a life time of film and fun.. It’s been a great ride.. I’m a lucky guy.
F: Let’s skip ahead a few years and discuss Deadly Prey. How did Deadly Prey come about?
Myself, David Winters and Peter Yuval were in the sound mix for “Aerobi-Cide” AKA “Killer Workout” when we decide to start our own production and distribution company and we decided that we would specialize in low buget action pictures. This became Action Films which shortly afterward was changed to A.I.P., or Action International Pictures. The first film of this company was left up to me and I cam up with the Deadly Prey idea as a way to keep a movie moving with action while being super cheap to shoot.
We had almost no money, even though it was more than what people are spending today but people today don’t have to buy 50 to 80,000 feet of 35mm film and pay all the lab fees for the developing and printing of that film. A huge expense which has been virtually eliminated by the new Digital Media of today.
We had so little money that we could not afford to get production insurance, so we forged the papers and faked the insurance and if anything woul have happened to a person or a piece of equipment, myself and Peter Yuval could have been put in prison for this, so I do not reccoment it to anyone.
And 13 days later we had a movie shot.
TP: I remember that we saw the film “First Blood” and we got the idea from that. But Dave says no, it came from a book he read as a kid.. ( I could be suffering from the Jack Daniel’s effect again.) But in any case, the story was all Dave’s idea..
F: I’m always curious about how long a feature script takes a writer. It varies so widely. How long did the script for Deadly Prey take to write?
DP: Two or three days at the most. Except that the roles played by Camera Mitchell and Troy Donahue, were written just a few days before we started shooting.
In fact, David Winters called me and said we’re having thee two guys in the movie and I said, there aren’t any roles for them and he said, thee guys have some name value so write some roles and put them in the movie, and it made sense so I did. And this is why those characters have a bit of a fish out of water thing going on in the movie.
TP: Dave used to pump out scripts like a machine! The way it would work is he and I would brain storm and talk about the concept for any given script then at some point the dots would start to connect and he’d be off and running..
F: Deadly Prey feels like a movie that could have only been made in the 80’s. How do you think Deadly Prey would have changed if it had been produced in the 90’s?
DP:Not too sure except that it would have probably been made digitally and it would not have that natural grit that you get with film. Real H.D. that you get from the RED Camera, is so sharp that it has a way of looking unreal. So now people who use it, then go back after the movie is cut and add grain to it to make it look more like a true film.
TP: That’s a good question.. I have no idea to be honest. Or maybe we would have spent a little more money and made things a bit bigger.. but really.. what makes it a fun movie is that it is simple basic and non-stop.. I mean, who needs a story line when you have the woods filled with booby- traps!!
F: You two work together quite frequently. Did working as a team of brothers help or hinder the production of Deadly Prey?
DP: We’ve always worked well together. We’ve had minor creative disagreements but nothing ever major.
F: Ted did you do anything to really delve into the character of Mike Danton? Did you study with some marines or take a wilderness survival course?
TP: No, I wish I did.. I studied my scenes and plowed forward the best I could. Remember I had NO acting class or technic under my belt. I was very interested in acting process and read a few books but at the end of the day I was winging it the best I could. I remember thinking the coolest part about it was shooting scenes out of sequence and trying to find my place from scene to scene.
F: Since its release Deadly Prey has taken on cult status. Was this something either of you foresaw?
DP: It took me completely by surprise.
TP: No, I wish I did.. I studied my scenes and plowed forward the best I could. Remember I had NO acting class or technic under my belt. I was very interested in the acting process and read a few books but at the end of the day I was winging it the best I could. I remember thinking the coolest part about it was shooting scenes out of sequence and trying to find my place from scene to scene.
F:What were your goals for Deadly Prey when it was originally released?
DP: My goal was simply to make a few dollars and launch A.I.P., both of which it accomplished.
TP: The only goal I remember was that it did well enough to be able to continue making movies. I have a lot of friends who have made one movie then nothing really popped for them after that. That’s a rough way to go.. Once you live the movie making experience it’s tough to go any other way!! Dave and I are incredibly lucky guys… My son comes with me on movies now and it’s a father son experience like no other… He plays my son (Mike Danton jr.) in The Deadliest Prey!! I mean come on.. how cool is that shit!
F: How has Deadly Prey impacted both of your careers?
DP: Other than getting A.I.P. started, it really hasn’t impacted my career, at least not yet. We are both hoping, of course, that this sequel will make a few dollars so we can continue to make fun movies for the small group of fans we do have around the world.
TP: Well, the most obvious was it lead to another and another and another movie.
F: You’ll be releasing Deadliest Prey, the sequel to Deadly Prey, soon. You don’t often make sequels. You made Future Zone, the sequel to Future Force starring the late great David Carradine, but other than that you’ve predominantly constructed standalone narratives. What is it about Deadly Prey that has called you back?
DP: I decide we had to do this after Ted had been invited to a number of Deadly Prey screenings and we discovered that there was at least a bit of a following out there. Now,I suppose, we’re going to find out how much of a following.
TP: It’s a long story but I’ll make as quick as I can.. I got invited to a screening of DP in Hollywood a few years ago.. I decided to go thinking it would be a blast to take my son… The Theater was packed and I was blown away… I called my brother the next morning and told him what had just gone down.. of course he couldn’t believe what I was saying.. Next thing I know I’m invited to a screening in Austin Texas and the same thing happened.. it was insane… Everyone was asking why we’ve never made a sequel?? Of course I replied “Don’t worry It’s on its way”…. So Dave and I brain stormed as we always do and came up with a story… Then it hit me.. Holy shit! Does this mean I have to join a gym.. I’m 53 for shits sake!!!
F: Ted, what was it like stepping back into the role of Mike Danton? Has your approach to the character changed with time?
TP: Well, after seeing the original DP a few times at these screenings I had a good feeling on what to do with this guy.. I tried to remember my mind-set back then. Remember it was 27yrs and many brain cells ago. But the truth is, I’m not the star of that movie.. The action and fast pace are the true stars. That’s what makes it work!!.. So, realizing that… rather than doing the big “actors process” (Character breakdowns/who am I? What do I want? Why do I want it? And.. How do I get it?) You know.. Actors stuff.. I decided to make it a race.. I figured if I come out of the blocks running in a full sprint and never look back the ACTION and PACE would take care of the rest..
F: As we talked about before, Deadly Prey is such an artifact of its time. From the fashion to the haircuts to the over the top nature of the narrative. How have the two of your altered that to fit into a 2013 context?
DP: I really didn’t alter anyting. I wrote The Dealiest Prey to be an almost direct continuation of the first movie, minus the 27 years between them. But obviously everybody is much older so things were tamed down a but just by that fact, but we certainly did not tame things down for the shooting of the picture. The best way to explain it might bve like this, a guy on facebook asked me how many people Mike Danton kills in this one and my answer was simply, “all of them”. And that says it all when it comes to The Deadliest Prey.
TP: To be honest, the only change in regard to that is we added the Element of the internet technology that plays a role in the story.. We actually got our hands on real squibs (which are illegal by the way)… And used all real explosions.. We didn’t want to go down the digital world road .. to me that would have turned into something else… its straight forward and no bull shit’n around!!
F: What future projects do the two of you have brewing?
DP: I have lot of them. Action pictures and horror pictures both, but we need to prove to ourselves, through the release of The Deadliest Prey, that there is in fact some kind of a market out there for what we do. And if that is the case we will be able to keep making them.
TP: We’ll, Dave’s been super busy writing a few scripts for David Winters (oddly enough his old partner with AIP and executive producer of the original DP).. And I’ve been hustling a scrip I wrote called GOD ANAYMOUS.. not an action film.. it’s something I’d like my brother to produce and I’d direct..
F: On a side note: David, you wrote a film titled The One Warrior or The Dragon Warrior starring Jason David Frank. Was this film written with Frank in mind? He seems like one of those actors that should have had a bigger action career. I’d love to see Ted and Jason David Frank duke it out on the big screen.
DP: I did not write that for Jason. He was casted while we were putting the movie together.
T: I’m in!!
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Tagged: action movies, action pictures, cult action movies, David A Prior, Deadliest Prey, Deadly Prey, dragon warrior, Future Zone, Jason David Frank, Sledgehammer, Ted Prior, the Prior Brothers
Posted in: Cult Movies, Featured (Film), Film, Movie Rumors