A veteran back home from Afghanistan is faced with inner demons and a brutal murder spree in a drug treatment facility in Recovery, and with the new horror film out now on DVD, Digital, and VOD platforms from SP Releasing, we caught up with director/producer/co-writer John Liang in our latest Q&A feature to discuss the making of his feature-length directorial debut, working with lead actor Stephanie Pearson, the importance of believably portraying PTSD among war veterans, and he also talked about his upcoming vampire film that is expected to start filming in 2020.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, John, and congratulations on Recovery! When did you and Scott Rashap first come up with the idea for this film?
John Liang: Thank you very much for taking the time to cover the film! Scott and I came up with the idea of doing a horror film in 2013. We wanted to explore PTSD as well as addiction and withdrawal in a claustrophobic, isolated location, and when we decided on setting the film in a rehab facility, everything just clicked.
You’ve directed several short films, but Recovery marks your feature-length debut. What are some of the biggest things that you learned from directing your first feature?
John Liang: Two things: to be patient and to be adaptable. Some things on set will always take longer than you want them to, and some things will always go wrong. That’s just the nature of production. The important thing is to stay cool, keep your head on tight, and know that no matter what challenges you face at any given moment, you WILL make your way through them, and one way or another, you will make your vision a reality.
In addition to a deadly external threat, main character Ronnie Price (Stephanie Pearson) also has to fight her inner demons as a veteran grappling with PTSD—a very real issue that many veterans deal with on a daily basis. How important was it for you to incorporate and believably portray PTSD and the challenges faced by veterans in this story?
John Liang: My mother’s father fought in WWII, and so it was very important to me to portray veterans’ PTSD both realistically and respectfully in this film.
What was it like working with Stephanie Pearson, and what made her the right fit to play Ronnie Price?
John Liang: Working with Stephanie Pearson was an amazing experience. She has been acting since high school, so she knows her way around a set, and she’s a total professional. When I met her for the first time, I knew right away she was Ronnie Price. Ronnie has a lot of different, somewhat conflicting emotions within her character, and Stephanie was able to embody and express all of them. We spent a lot of time working together on developing the character together in pre-production, and so when we shot, Stephanie and I were on the same page about who her character was, her arc, her motivations, everything. We did all the heavy lifting in pre-production, so when we got to set we didn’t have to.
Were you influenced or inspired by any films, TV series, or books while making Recovery?
John Liang: Our characters are trapped by a blizzard, so obviously The Shining and The Thing (1982) were huge inspirations. And I’m a huge fan of Bryan Fuller and David Slade’s Hannibal TV series, which was helpful when developing the look of the film as well as crafting the character of Ronnie, since she does not fully trust herself and has a difficult time telling the difference between what’s real and what’s not.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or memorable moment that stands out?
John Liang: Very late in the production, our permit to shoot overnight was rejected. As a result, my team and I were forced to shoot an entire 12-hour day in only half that time. To make matters worse, we had to film several of the most pivotal scenes of the film on that day. I was very upset, but I put my feelings aside and did everything necessary to make sure we made our day. In the end, thanks to my amazing production team, we shot an entire 12-hour schedule in only six hours and not only did we stay on schedule, but we got some of the best scenes of the movie in the can! It was amazing! I give all the credit to my amazing team and my DP Olivia Kuan and her crew!
Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from Recovery?
John Liang: The message I hope viewers take away from the film is that we need to take better care of our veterans.
With Recovery out now from SP Releasing on DVD, Digital, and VOD platforms, what other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about, and where can our readers follow your work online?
John Liang: I am preparing a vampire thriller film entitled We Only Come Out at Night that will shoot in 2020 and I’m very excited about it. It has a lot of the same DNA as Recovery, but it’s its own film, as well. You can follow me on Instagram at @johnliangisevil!