The newest action film to set in Cambodia is getting help — from the dogs. Director Jimmy Henderson and his team returns from their successfully international action film, Jailbreak, to create The Prey.
The film revolves around a man who must survive a hunt on his life on an isolated island. After years of tracking down international criminals, a trip to a remote jungle prison will force Chinese cop Xin to become human prey to fight for his freedom – and to save his own life.
Returning to another action-packed adventure are Cambodian stars Dara Our and Dy Sonita, writers Michael Hogdson and Kai Miller, Franco-khmer lead stunt choreographer Jean-Paul Ly and producer Loy Te with Altered Vision Films and Kongchack Pictures. They will be joined by an international cast and crew, adding Argentinian cinematographer Lucas Gath to their crew and will be starring Chinese national boxing and dual arms champion Gu Sheng Wei (Bloody Destiny) alongside Thai mega star Vithaya Pansringarm, Byron Bishop, Sahajak Boonthanakit (Bad Genius) and Nophand Boonyai.
Cambodian American Rattana Hin never expected to be training the next action star when he opened Raymond’s K9 Academy in Cambodia three years ago, but he jumped at the chance when he received the call for a trained canine to fight alongside an international cast in the new film. Barking his way onto the production is a three year old Belgian Shepherd Malinois dog, named Tommy. Hin auditioned Tommy for a role of a guard dog after being introduced the to Henderson by a mutual friend.
Tommy’s job is to help the guard leader secure the prisoners says Hin. “I had him bark on command and walk with the guard leader during a search,” Hin explained with a smile. “He is there to give a badass look in my opinion.” Hin beamed with pride as he described one scene when Tommy pursued and attacked a runner. Playing a small role in it as the sniper himself, Hin himself has caught the acting bug and hopes to see more of his trained dogs on productions as Cambodia’s fledging film industry seeks to attract international markets.
A typical day for Tommy and Hin is just as crueling as for most actors in the Cambodian jungles of Koh Kong. “Typically we are not on set until 3 hours prior to being needed,”Hin stated. “I have a huge responsibility with him –making sure he is not too hot in the jungle, caring for his well being, preparing his toys, food and water bowl and cool towels for when he get overheated.” In between filming takes, Hin would also train Tommy to follow the lead actor of the scene. They barely rested. The trick to training a dog for a film production is to do so in public, Hin advised. He claims that by doing so, public distractions will desensitize the dog to everything as much as possible.
Although training dogs may come easy to Hin, working on set is a different story. One obstacle was opening actors to work with Tommy’s ferocious appearance. “At first everyone was mostly standoffish of him because of how he looks,” Hin said. Before shooting Hin and Tommy would explore the jungles and mingle with all the crew encouraging people to pet him. “Petting a dog helps release stress and calms people down — It’s really satisfying. Once he(Tommy) gets to know the people he becomes super friendly.” Stating that everyone on set — from the international cast of Khmer, Chinese, Thai and even French, would often pet or give belly rubs to the friendly pooch by the time production was nearly over.
The Prey is set to be release in Cambodia and internationally next year. To learn more and follow the dog star, check out #TommytheBelgianMalinois.