Exclusive Interview: Creating Female Led Bad Ass Action Films- A Conversation with Trace De La Torre of PREY OF WRATH with Cynthia Rothrock

Interview Conducted by david j. moore

Media relations expert and author david j. moore recently sat down with indie producer Trace De La Torre of the upcoming action film Prey of Wrath starring celebrated martial arts action superstar Cynthia Rothrock and Tatiana Neva. In this exclusive chat, De La Torre goes in depth into her career, past movie projects, future ones as well as talking creating action for the indie market.

Trace De La Torre

1) You’ve been producing for some years now, but what was it that ultimately put you in the producer’s chair? What decisions led you to that career path, and why not directing or screenwriting?

“Equity?! Assets?! Skillset?!”, she says with a laugh. “It’s only been 6-7 years since I started my journey into indie filmmaking with my first short film, Luna, which I actually wrote, produced, and co-directed in 2016. Frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just dove right in because I had a story to tell. It was literally BAPTISM BY FIRE – and I loved it! I very quickly realized filmmaking is super Darwinian but was determined to persevere and survive. Survival all comes down to the relationships you build with your crew. On Luna, I had the most amazing crew of young filmmakers from the Inland Empire. Fresh out of film school, they loved me and carried me every step of the way. They now run their own indie shingle, Wild 7 Studios, which I partner with from time to time in the heart of downtown L.A. We just completed an action crime short called Skrilla. The fact that I come from Warner Bros. has opened every door in my post-studio career, which is half the battle. The other half is sweat, toil, and delivery. I may be an indie filmmaker (for now) but I always carry the Warner standard into everything I do.

2) D-Railed was a film I saw (mainly as a fan of Lance Henriksen), and I was curious how you became an associate producer on that one. What’s the difference (for our readers) between an associate producer, a producer, and an executive producer?

Thank you so much for buying the DVD! I was super impressed to see an actual physical copy! Haha! Glad you enjoyed it. Director Dale Fabrigar and I first worked together on our award-winning short horror, Lullaby. It was filmed at my house and I executive produced from a script written by prolific horror author, Marc Paoletti. You’ve heard of Leonardo da Vinci, right? Well. Dale Fabrigar is a next-level master. Insanely talented. One of the best directors in the industry. We worked so seamlessly together with an amazing full crew of 30+ that he pitched me D-Railed and I jumped on. We’ve won 100+ film awards to date. It was my first feature film and it was one helluva ride! Lance is pretty great. He loved our script and was particularly intrigued by the element of time travel in horror and how it unfolds in our narrative. To answer your second question: I think our readers are genius enough to hop on the “inter-web” and let their fingers uncover the mystery. But since you did buy a physical copy of my movie, I’ll give it to you in layman’s terms: Equity. Assets. Skillset. Repeat.

3) I’m sure the independent feature world has tons of challenges, but can you tell me a little bit about your climb from producing short films to producing features, with something like D-Railed?

I’m very pragmatic and strategic, so I followed the clear path of doing 3 shorts –Luna; The Protégé’: Chapter 1; Lullaby — and by natural progression fell into producing my first feature film, D-Railed, followed by my second feature, Todd, to my current and third feature, Bezos. Between features, I produced a few other shorts/proof of concepts, which I am completely enamored with. The delivery challenges are next-level. I’ve been so blessed with opportunities from the very beginning so the climb has not been too thorny.

4) A film you recently executive produced called Bezos: The Beginning just became available on VOD. That feels like a huge step up for you in so many different ways. Talk a little bit about how your role as a producer might have changed a bit working on a biopic versus working on a genre piece like D-Railed. How different is the work atmosphere on set on two totally different genres like that?

Bezos: The Beginning is my third feature film, so not really. You may be thinking that because it’s my first biopic, but the filmmaking process and physical production are all in the same canon. Biopic versus genre piece is a moot point because indie films are their own genre, and Bezos is essentially an indie. The natural next progression for me will be mainstream/studio films. Pretty sure that will be a whole new beast! Let’s huddle back when I cross that bridge.

5) What I really wanted to talk about with you is your upcoming movie Prey of Wrath, starring Cynthia Rothrock and Tatiana Neva. How did this project come to you? How much creative input or casting choices were you able to make or contribute to? What was it about the project that appealed to you?

My childhood friend, (Action Director/Stunt Coordinator) Benny Tjandra called me up one day saying, “Dang! Trace! I’m doing a badass female-revenge action movie with Cynthia Rothrock. I need a badass female producer. Are you in? Oh. And by the way, can we film at your house?!” Hahaha! Benny and I had previously worked together on Luna, and The Protégé’: Chapter 1, so of course, I jumped on for Prey of Wrath. I love and respect Benny a lot. He’s literally my brother from another mother. He really is family. In fact, he’s the one who I credit most for not throwing in the towel early on this frenetic journey. You cannot survive in this Darwinian industry without a loyal crew who love, support and respect you 24/7 on every project. As a female producer, what appealed to me most about Prey of Wrath was the story. Benny and I had been talking about making a female-led action film in the vein of James Bond for a long time. Prey of Wrath sort of morphed into ANNA meets Kill Bill and La Femme Nikita. Benny consulted me quite a bit on basically every level. He highly respects and values my input. It’s such a blessing.

Teaser Poster for Prey of Wrath

6) The project looks like a vehicle for Tatiana Neva. Tell me some things about her. What projects would you recommend I watch of hers as an action fan?

Prey of Wrath is straight up, a Cynthia Rothrock action film. Director Benny Tjandra first met Cynthia at Dragon Fest a few years ago and pitched her the script. She loved it and jumped on board. Cynthia was our very first casting and we built the crew around her. Tati plays one of the protagonists and does an absolutely brilliant job in her role as a strong, fearless female with a few scores to settle from her dark past. It was essential for us to cast an actor in this role that could physically deliver and perform at Cynthia’s level. We cast Tati after viewing her audition tape, which blew us all (and the competition) away! Oh my gosh! I cannot say enough about her. I LOVE HER SO MUCH!! She’s a stunning Russian glamour model/brand ambassador with a huge social media following who’s looking to cross over into acting. Prey of Wrath is her first big break-out role in which she plays an elite special forces operative sent by Russian Intel to eliminate former teammates who hijack nuclear warheads. As an action fan, I highly recommend you watch her in Prey of Wrath. She absolutely masters the role at every level, exceeding all expectations. She even helped us translate a good chunk of the Russian dialogue in the film, which earned her a writing credit! We have a lot in common and share similar character traits. We are both very strong, focused, driven, professional women and bonded quickly during the three long years it took us to complete this film. We became not only close friends but family. We protect and support each other, which is rare in this industry, as women. Tatiana Neva is just brilliant. Top of her game. I have absolutely no doubt she will be a huge cross-over star. You can watch her next in my upcoming neo-noir short film, Luna, a vampire origins story inspired by the Greek myth of Ambrogio – the first vampire in recorded time – and the moon goddess, Selene. Tati plays Selene. Luna is projected to release in the Fall of 2023.

Martial Arts Star Cynthia Rothrock

7) Cynthia Rothrock is obviously huge in the action and martial arts world. What can you tell me about her character in the film? What’s your best Cynthia Rothrock story from the making of the film?

In Prey of Wrath, Cynthia plays a badass CIA Agent in the vein of Jessica Chastain in 355 with Rothrock’s fierce and signature martial arts moves. Best Cynthia Rothrock story from the film…wow. There are a few, but one standout would be when the entire cast/crew first came back together during the summer of Covid. We were doing a photoshoot and BTS cast interviews for marketing. Benny asked me to do the interviews, so I drew up questions for everyone. Cynthia was first up. When Benny said, “Action!” and the camera was rolling, I just froze realizing in that instant, that I was sitting directly across from THE GOAT: CYNTHIA ROTHROCK! I started perspiring and got tongue-tied. I was a hot mess. And the thing is, I had been in the trenches with Cynthia on this film for three years, so it wasn’t my first rodeo with her. But there I was, perspiring in the hot seat of a very humid dojo in the valley, completely star-struck. She noticed it right off the bat and quickly commanded the interview until I gathered my composure. She gave me a big hug after. Cynthia Rothrock is THE BEST. It was such an honor to have worked with her on this film.

8) What are the biggest challenges you had making an action picture? Can you talk about the plot a little bit and how you worked with the film’s director Benny Tjandra? Tjandra has a list of interesting looking films to his credit. What can you tell us about him and what he offers in terms of exciting action?

Every film I’ve done has had an element of action but what sets the genre apart is the amount of time spent in pre-production. That can fall anywhere from 3-6 months prior to principal photography depending on the level of fight choreography, physical training, and stunt coordination involved. Although every action sequence is designed and rehearsed down to the minute, filming is highly unpredictable given that anything can go wrong in the blink of an eye, especially with numerous takes where actors are prone to exhaustion and risk injury. There’s also taking out bigger insurance premiums because everything costs more when you’re doing an action film, and the stakes are higher. And finally, there is a complex editing process that can take quite a while to complete given how involved the action sequences are. Plotwise, Prey of Wrath follows a female Russian elite operative code-named Snow Wolf, (played by rising star, Tatiana Neva) who Russian intelligence sends to eliminate a group of former colleagues who double-cross her and hijack nuclear warheads. The story is inspired by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the world’s deadliest female Soviet sniper in the Red Army during WWII with 300 kills by the age of 25. Benny Tjandra is an Indonesian filmmaker who followed his Hollywood dream by coming to America as a child. He got his start in the biz as an actor and stunt performer where he quickly climbed the ranks in the industry wearing every hat in production. Excelling with no formal film training, his martial arts skills propelled him up to stunt choreographer where he was able to easily leap-frog into the Director’s chair on Action films. What I love about him as a filmmaker is his fearless pursuit of excellence. Every day. Every take. His signature trait is creating exciting, plot-driven, relentless action. Among his biggest influences I’d say would be, Bruce Lee, Cynthia Rothrock, Steven Seagal, Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Chuck Norris, and Jackie Chan. I think his best film to date is Prey of Wrath. The action he’s created is SO next-level! I think this will be a game-changer in his career.

9) When might we get a chance to see Prey of Wrath?

We hope to complete post soon for a summer 2023 release.

10) As a producer, what do you look for in projects to work on and put your name to? Is there a genre you prefer to work on, now that you’ve done a variety of genres?

For me, it’s all about the story. I am not beholden to any specific genre. I love them all. But my heart bleeds most for any good Supernatural/Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller that has monsters or creatures.

11) What’s your dream project, and who are your dream actors and filmmakers to work with? I have no doubt whatsoever that you’ll get to work with them soon.

So many dreams, so little time. My dream is to crossover to mainstream studio films and to have the opportunity to work with as many actors, filmmakers, and genres as possible. I once told someone that even bringing coffee to Guillermo del Toro on set would be a dream come true and they just laughed to my face saying, “Good luck with that. Never gonna happen.” Obviously, all the great Hispanic masters such as Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Guillermo del Toro, Andy Garcia (The Lost City – which he directed, is brilliant!) are on my wish list. Also actors like Salma Hayek, John Leguizamo, Danny Trejo, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Lopez, Diego Luna, Eva Mendez, Cheech Marin, Michael Pena, Ana de Armas, and Eva Longoria. My favorite American Director is hands-down David Fincher. Every film he’s directed has been absolute perfection — except The Social Network, which I hated. The only memorable parts of that film for me were the cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth and the music ‘cos Trent Reznor is a frickin’ genius! Having lived in London and growing up highly influenced by British cinema and television, it would also be a dream come true to work with any of the great talents across the pond. My Brit list is ENDLESS…but topping it, male/female, filmmakers or actors are: Danny Boyle, Kenneth Branagh, Amma Asante, Steve McQueen, Andrea Arnold/Sarah Gavron – KINDRED SPIRITS! — Sam Mendes (should make a POE THRILLER!), Chris Nolan (should make a CREATURE FEATURE!), Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Richie, Mark Strong, Jeremy Irons (LEGEND!) Robert Pattinson (should direct or throw his hat into music producing for a film), and finally, I would die a very, very, happy girl if I ever got to work with Timothy Dalton or Mads Mikkelsen (technically NOT a Brit but who cares?!) whom I have harbored superfan crushes on since, like, forever! Ok. Seriously, bringing coffee to ANY of these industry giants would be a dream come true. Cheers to that. Thank you.

About the author: david j. moore is the author of The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly: Action Movies and Stars” and a contributing writer to Action-Flix.com


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