See Prey’s trailer, film poster and new film images: ‘Prey’ stars Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers, directed by Dan Trachtenberg and executive produced by Jhane Myers
This article is a combination of production notes provided by 20th Century Fox and editorial writings by Native Viewpoint editor and founder Vincent Schilling
Prey, to be released on HULU on August 5, will release an English and Comanche Nation language-dubbed version, period-accurate regalia, and Native lead actors Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers. The film was directed by Dan Trachtenberg and executive produced by Comanche Nation citizen Jhane Myers.
There is much to be excited about regarding the latest film in the Predator series titled Prey.
Prey, set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, features Amber Midthunder (The Ice Road, Roswell, New Mexico) as Naru, a skilled female warrior seeking to prove herself to her tribe, including her brother Dakota Beavers, a musician and acting newcomer to the film industry that portrays the character Taabe.
What it’s like to be a journalist covering a film, in this case, Prey
As a journalist and film critic for Rotten Tomatoes, it is a pretty exciting experience to cover a film, especially in the case of Prey, which stars a cast of Native actors, the impressive director Dan Trachtenberg and Comanche citizen Jhane Myers.
The media team at Disney coordinates interviews with the cast and crew, and I even get to preview the entire movie before it is released to the public. Exciting stuff, isn’t it? As a journalist, there are embargos — which means you can’t release certain details until a specific date.
You receive a lot of press materials (photos, production and cast details) and have times scheduled to interview people. In my case, I was able to speak with Myers, Trachtenberg, Midthunder and Beavers. It was a wonderful experience to speak with the actors and crew, who were all collectively excited about such a big movie.
So I will share details about all of this now, and in the coming days will also share my interviews with the four individuals above. They were fantastic interviews. Jhane Myers and Dan Trachtenberg talked about the exciting process of bringing Prey to life, Amber Midthunder told me how exciting it was to be selected as the lead role in the movie, and Dakota Beavers spoke of his sincere appreciation for such a significant role.
I left all of the interviews feeling excited as well as enlightened. I am lucky to do what I do. I am equally thrilled to share all of the details with the readers of Native Viewpoint. Stay tuned for a great journey over the next few articles.
I was also given some fantastic photos I will share as well.
Details given to me from Disney / HULU about the cast and a summary of the film (These notes come directly from the press materials)
An all-new action-thriller from 20th Century Studios directed by Dan Trachtenberg (“The Boys,” “10 Cloverfield Lane”), “Prey” is the latest entry in the “Predator” franchise. The film will stream August 5, 2022, as a Hulu Original in the U.S., Star+ in Latin America, and Disney+ under the Star banner in all other territories.
Set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, “Prey” is the story of a young woman, Naru, a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so she sets out to prove herself a worthy hunter when danger threatens her camp. The prey she stalks and ultimately confronts turns out to be a highly evolved alien Predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries.
Cast and crew
“Prey” stars Amber Midthunder (“The Ice Road,” “Roswell, New Mexico”), newcomer Dakota Beavers, Stormee Kipp (“Sooyii”), Michelle Thrush (“The Journey Home”), Julian Black Antelope (“Tribal”), and Dane DiLiegro (“American Horror Stories”) as the Predator. The film is directed by Dan Trachtenberg and written by Patrick Aison (“Jack Ryan,” “Treadstone”), with a story by Patrick Aison & Dan Trachtenberg based on characters created by Jim Thomas & John Thomas. It is produced by John Davis (“Jungle Cruise,” “Predator”), Jhane Myers (“Monsters of God”), and Marty Ewing (“It: Chapter Two”), with Lawrence Gordon (“Watchmen”), Ben Rosenblatt (“Snowpiercer”), James E. Thomas, John C. Thomas, and Marc Toberoff (“Fantasy Island”) serving as executive producers.
The “Predator” franchise began with the 1987 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by John McTiernan. The story of an elite team of mercenaries sent to the jungles of South America on a recovery mission who find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior with an arsenal of high-tech weapons, the film was a hit and spawned five subsequent films.
Quotes from the director and producer
Director Dan Trachtenberg was a big fan of the original film. “I was in third grade when the first one came out, and I have a very vivid memory of not being allowed to see the movie and being in the car on the way to a karate tournament with all the boys who had all just seen the film and described the entire movie to me on the way to the tournament,” he explains.
He continues, “One of the things that stuck out as they described it to me was a scene where Billy, the Native American scout, stood his ground on a bridge over a waterfall and fought the Predator. Eventually, when I saw the movie, that scene didn’t happen. He cuts himself and then screams, and it’s all off-camera. That bit that I had imagined wasn’t actually in the movie but is very much the genesis of this movie, ‘Prey,’ now.”
Producer Jhane Myers, Comanche and Blackfeet, agrees. “The fact that I’ve been able to work on this film…it’s amazing to me. And more importantly, when I saw the very first film — I would have never thought that I, as a full-blooded Native American and enrolled Comanche — my culture could ever collide with such a franchise in a film.”
Native elements in the film had exceptional attention to detail
According to lead actors Midthunder and Beavers (stay tuned for their upcoming interviews in Native Viewpoint,) there was an earnest effort to ensure everything was culturally accurate. Midthunder stated how Jhane Myers saw a cradleboard on the set, then realizing it was not accurate to Comanche culture, took the cradleboard home to adjust it to be culturally accurate.
“It was so cool to have Jhane Meyers, an enrolled Comanche tribal member there every day,” said Midthunder. “There’s a scene in the movie where a baby (and mom) walk by in front of my character. It’s funny, because now I know that baby in my real-life experience. I’m watching that baby grow up. I get videos of him all the time. He’s the real star of the movie. But he was in a cradleboard. And I remember, Jhane being like, ‘No, no, this isn’t how it is.’ She took it home. And she literally made the cradleboard (correctly.) It’s (that) attention to detail, that level because it’s important.”
Dakota Beavers noted that each of his fellow male actors wore culturally relevant regalia that was special to each of them and an honor to their Native heritage.
“We had all of these different guys; each of them had their own warpaint that was unique to each of them. Some of the guys also brought things from their culture — they were Cree boys and had certain ways of doing things that they wanted to keep legit for themselves,” said Beavers in an interview.
“You bond together, but you also have certain parts of yourself that you hold onto.”
As described in the press release, actor Tymon Carter, who plays Huupi, wore a makeup design similar to that of his grandfather, with three horseshoes. Rumball incorporated the horseshoes on his arm and body makeup. “Ancestry was brought into the movie, and I believe all of the cast were proud to wear the warrior makeup we designed with them,” says Rumball.
The filming process of Prey, a ceremonial start and a land acknowledgment
According to the 20th Century Studios press announcement: ‘Principal photography on “Prey” began in June 2021 at the Stoney Nakoda Nation near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Additional filming took place in and around Calgary over the next several months, including Moose Mountain and Elbow River.’
The creative team behind the beautiful cinematography included the following: Director of photography Jeff Cutter (“10 Cloverfield Lane”), production designer Kara Lindstrom (“Dear John”), film editors Angela M. Catanzaro, ACE (“Friday Night Lights”) and Claudia Castello (“Black Panther”), music by Sarah Schachner (“The Lazarus Effect”), and costume designer Stephanie Porter (“Free Guy”).
Further, on the first day before filming began, director Dan Trachtenberg, producer Jhane Myers, and cast members Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Stormee Kipp, and Stefany Mathias participated in a private pipe ceremony on the Stoney Nakoda Nation.
Indigenous leaders gave a blessing — granting permission to film on their ancestral land. Executive producer Myers shared a land acknowledgment recognizing and respecting the area where filming commenced:
“The 20th Century Studios, the Production and our parent company Walt Disney Studios would like to acknowledge that we have gathered on the ancestral lands of the Stoney Nakoda Nation which are the Bands of the Bearspaw First Nation, the Chiniki First Nation and the Wesley First Nation. We acknowledge them as the First peoples of this land on which our production cast and crew community proudly works and creates,” shared Myers.
The entire production of “Prey” was filmed outdoors, with all exterior shoots utilizing the magnificent terrain of the Calgary landscape. “We only used natural light,” says Trachtenberg in the press announcement. “I think every place in the world has its own quality of light, and Calgary just looked phenomenal. Not many places in the world have a special physical setting and a quality of light that is incredibly special, too. Shooting in Calgary gave us incredibly grand landscapes and a special, long-lasting golden hour. We could shoot a lot of the movie to feel like dawn or dusk; even its broad sunlight looks unlike any other place in the world.”
Cinematographer Jeff Cutter added, “Our approach to capturing these images was to respect nature, natural light, and place everybody in a very grounded environment. We wanted to keep things as untouched as they were so that we didn’t feel like a movie crew that just came in and intruded on this environment. It was really inspiring to get into that mindset of embracing nature, being one with nature as much as possible, and respecting it.”
An accurate portrayal of Comanche regalia, body decorations and paint (including duck poo.)
As described in the announcement, Trachtenberg and Myers worked closely with costume designer Stephanie Porter and makeup department head Samantha Rumball to accurately portray the Comanche.
The Comanche colors are black, red, and white, which are earth pigments that are historically correct for the 1700s. According to Rumball in the release, “The colors are produced from crushed rock, with flowers and grasses being used to make pastes, and while traditionally they were applied with bear grease, we matched the colors and came up with a consistency that was similar to bear grease. We also wanted it to look like something they had worn for days, like they slept in it, ate in it, hunted in it.”
The color palette for the wardrobes came from what would have been available in the Wichita Mountains in the 1700s to turn into color pigment. Porter explains, “We wanted to make sure that every color put on, especially the Comanche people on the buckskin, was something that could be made from the earth, from rocks, from berries, from… duck poo. Yes, that was a pigment that was used. It was a beautiful blue color, so that’s where our color palette came from.”
There were many differences between the makeup and regalia of the Comanche people and the fur trappers. The Comanche people used every part of the animal, making everything beautiful and as an embellishment and/or useful to their livelihood. This is in direct contrast to the fur trappers’ costumes and look, who were filthy and hunting animals for commercial gains, and to be disrespected, wasted, and destroyed.
Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beaver’s wardrobe
Also described by the filmmakers regarding Midthunder’s character Naru, Porter needed something authentic to the period but also practical for filming.
“Naru’s costume is made from buckskin, which is basically deer leather, and we’ve given it a traditional Comanche shape,” Porter explained. “We wanted to have Amber able to run and jump and fight, and we wanted to make sure that her action was accentuated with her costume, and vice versa.”
Director Dan Trachtenberg added, “Our producer Jhane Myers worked for hand in hand with Stephanie to make all the costuming. We wanted what Naru wears to be traditional and feel authentic, representing who she is as a character. We needed to find a way so that she could look like an action figure, that she could really look like a superhero while not breaking authenticity.”
Amber Midthunder said that her favorite aspect of her wardrobe was the twisted fringe, which is traditional to the Comanche people.
Taabe’s wardrobe accentuated Dakota Beavers’ physique while also supporting his character’s stunts and action, which includes a good deal of horseback riding. Fighting on horseback was significant for the Comanche people.
Porter shared another interesting aspect about Taabe’s regalia: “One of the cool things about Taabe’s costume is that the last Comanche chief was a man called Quanah Parker. Quanah Parker wore a hair pipe and chest piece, and we used elements of that chest piece, which is on display in a museum in Oklahoma, to create Taabe’s hair pipe and chest piece that he wears.”
A 4-week boot camp for the actors before facing the Predator
The production notes from Prey described an intensive regimen of physical training:
To get the cast into a predator state of mind, the production scheduled high-intensity strength training, or “Boot Camp,” wherein the actors physically built up their cardio levels, learned stunts, choreographed fight scenes, practiced weaponry, and learned horse-riding skills. They also participated in scenario training to prepare for filming, which director Dan Trachtenberg describes as training to become a SEALs team from the 1700s. The 4-week “Boot Camp” also allowed the cast, particularly the native cast members, to bond and develop a close camaraderie before filming.
“Boot Camp” was led by stunt coordinator Steven McMichael (“Abducted”), fight coordinator JJ Park (“Skyscraper”) and Indigenous tactics and movement coordinator Kevin Starblanket, who worked closely with the cast to incorporate Native and First Nations traditions. Starblanket, a member of the Ahtahkakoop Band of the Cree Nations, explained in the press announcement.
“I taught them how to move, how to use their weapons, how things are done traditionally…everything from learning how to light a fire from a traditional way to making shelters. Growing up in a traditional way in Northern Saskatchewan, I was able to bring some of the skills that I was taught by my ancestors and my grandfather.”
McMichael and Starblanket, along with Park, choreographed the different styles of fighting among the Comanche people, the French fur trappers, and the Predator. Their fighting styles differed based on their motivations.
Starblanket recognized the importance of teaching the Comanche fighting style to the all- Indigenous lead cast and says, “On the first day, we set the tone to explain that we are representing the Comanche warriors. The Comanche were an amazing people. They were called the Lords of the Plains for a reason. They were the best there were at the fighting. They were called Lords of the Plains for almost 150 years, so in order to honor them, they needed to be fit. They needed to be good with weapons because it’s not only the general public who will be watching. It will be Comanche people watching us depict them as well.”
Despite inconsistent weather, extreme sun, clouds, rain, wind, and other inclement weather conditions during production, filmmakers, cast, and crew worked efficiently and seamlessly to bring “Prey” to the screen.
Prey’s Predator faces the Comanche Nation in a film 35 years after the original; Midthunder, Myers, Cutter and Trachtenberg offer comments
It has been 35 years since the Predator first targeted Arnold Schwarzenegger and other actors, including Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura.
Regarding the alien predator, Trachtenberg said, “One of the things we wanted to do with the creature in this movie was to make it look much more creature-like. I adore the design of the original Predator and think that’s one of the reasons this franchise still exists, but I wanted our Predator to feel much more alien and a little scarier.”
“There was a very tricky balance in needing to make this movie feel like it is 300 years prior to the original, but also still feeling like it’s very technologically advanced. They devised this bone mask that feels more ancient and archaic and more brutal, but still interweaving organic and tact to feel cool and imposing.”
Actor Amber Midthunder, Director of Photography Jeff Cutter, Director Dan Trachtenberg and Producer Jhane Myers all offered comments in the production notes on how they hoped viewers would receive the film Prey.
Actor Amber Midthunder said, “This particular ‘Predator’ film is a unique entry to the franchise because we get to see the Predator in a different light. We’ve only ever seen him in modern stories. Just the same way that this is a period piece for Indigenous people, we see Indigenous people in urban ways because we’re living in urban times. Here, we get to see the Predator in an older and more traditional environment.”
Director of Photography Jeff Cutter adds, “I hope viewers will have an exhilarating thrill ride. It is exciting and scary, and I hope they are entertained from start to finish. And I really hope that they appreciate this new version of the Predator and a new version of a ‘Predator’ film and a version of the film that still excites them, but that opens their eyes to a slightly different version or a different way that a ‘Predator’ film can be told.”
Producer Jhane Myers agrees, saying, “Dan did amazing work. You know his job is not only to make this film look correct but to have it be a visually beautiful film as well. He is a master of suspense and excitement. So when you see this film, you may think, oh, we’re just watching this Comanche camp, and then something unexpected happens, right? Then you jump, and that’s why we go to see these types of movies…for the excitement.”
Director Dan Trachtenberg adds to the excitement by saying, “I cannot wait for audiences to fall into a time and place and invest in these characters the way that they would in any sports movie. That’s the engine of this movie for me. I’m not an athlete, I don’t play sports, and I don’t watch sports, but I love sports films because they are visceral, warm, hopeful, and aspirational. I love the idea that this movie could be aspirational, as well as intense, suspenseful, and terrifying.”
Stay tuned for interviews with Jhane Myers, Dan Trachtenberg, and actors Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers.
Also, stay tuned for a #NativeNerd review on Prey.
Where to watch
Prey, the newest entry in the “Predator” franchise, will stream on August 5, 2022, exclusively on Disney’s direct-to-consumer platforms: as a Hulu Original in the U.S., a Star+ Original in Latin America, and a Star Original on Disney+ in all other territories.
This article is a combination of production notes provided by 20th Century Fox and editorial writings by Native Viewpoint editor and founder Vincent Schilling
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