Interview with Silent Retreat director Tricia Lee

Silent Retreat tells us the story of a troubled young girl named Janey, sent to a silent meditation camp to help her and to avoid jail time. She soon discovers that the doctor who runs the retreat is using the camp to brainwash girls into subservient women. What makes it worse is that there’s something in the woods waiting for those who don’t embrace the silence.

Recently, I spoke with director Tricia Le about her upcoming film (which has already taken home Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival) about some of her inspirations for the movie, difficulties in filming and more.

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Scotty Floronic: To start this off for those not in the know, who are you and what do you do?

Tricia Lee:I’m Tricia Lee. I produce and direct elevated genre feature films. I am a filmmaker trying to carve a space in the genre world to tell stories that I am moved by through film.

SF: What does Silent Retreat bring to the table that genre fans need to see?
TL: Silent Retreat is a film that plays with the scares, suspense, tension and gore that is expected from genre films with a strong story, resonating themes and a strong female lead. We made this film with a very tiny budget. I wanted to do something a little different. I feel like this film is more than just survival; Silent Retreat is a visually, intellectually and emotionally stimulating movie that is full of tension and some bloody gore moments too!

SF: The premise for Silent Retreat is unique in that it takes place at a silent meditation retreat. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for this movie?

TL: I went to a 10 day silent meditation retreat in December 2011. My writing partner Corey Brown told me to think of a thriller while I was there. I said “Corey, I’m supposed to be clearing my mind!”. I had carpooled with a few people up to the retreat. On the last day, I was looking for one of the girls who I had driven up there, but couldn’t find her. I eventually found out that she was sent home early. This got us thinking … if you wanted to set up a place where people could disappear without question, what about a silent meditation retreat where there was no talking, no eye contact, no communication with the outside world, no gestures, nothing. You don’t get to know the people you are with and if they were “sent home”, you wouldn’t even know their name to look into the matter. And this was the genesis of this film.
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SF: As with all art, there are usually difficulties in its creation. Did you encounter any such issues while filming Silent Retreat?
TL: Working with a low budget, we had to shoot for long hours over night in the cold. Luckily, I had a great dedicated cast and crew who stayed with me through the 13 day shoot and encouraged me to “get the shot” even at the 16th hour.

We did have one actor who dropped out of playing the creature. I received the email 7 hours before we had to begin filming the creature scenes. So we scrambled to find people to play the creature. Believe it or not, we had 5 different people play the creature in the film. My husband, who is not an actor, offered to be the creature and he did a fantastic job! He’s now been type-cast and I’m thinking of putting him in my next creature feature.

SF: It’s really encouraging to see such great genre films coming out of Canada in the last few years, yours included. Are there any Canadian film makers or actors you want to work with in the future?

TL: I am very excited about the Canadian Horror community and the great films that are coming out of our country. The Soska Sisters are paving a path not only for horror filmmakers, but female genre filmmakers. I would love to meet them and maybe even work with them one day.

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SF: With Silent Retreat already receiving loads of praise, do you have any plans in place for your next film?

TL: Always have lots of films in the works. Our next film is another creature feature elevated genre film called One Drop. We are currently raising financing for it and trying to attach a name actor (or two). I hope that the amazing recognition that we have received from Silent Retreat will help us get our next film made.

SF: As one can tell from the name of our site, inebriation and film viewing often go hand in hand for us. Any recommended drink of choice when viewing Silent Retreat?
TL: So, I’m actually allergic to alcohol … sad I know. So I don’t really have a specific drink to recommend. However, I hear that when you put lychee into a drink, it looks like an eyeball. LOL.

SF: As a final question, we always like a peek inside the head of those who take the time to talk to us and see what makes them tick and inspires them. With that in mind, what are some of your favorite horror movies or books?

The Descent, Attack the Block, Let Me In

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