The story of a group of criminals breaking into an unsuspecting heroine’s house isn’t anything new, but director Randall Okita’s vision makes this See For Me a worthwhile endeavour.
Former skier Sophie – a character with her own cunning, thieving side – is a young blind woman cat-sitting in a mansion far from the suburbs.
When three men break into the home to get into a hidden safe, Sophie must rely on help from a woman on an app to know what’s going on and how she can escape the situation unscathed.
“This story really came from our writers Tommy Gushue and Adam Yorke, and them seeing a new trend with apps,” said Okita. “They can match volunteers with the visually impaired via cell phone, and help them do day-to-day activities.”
But the film was able to take a well-worn formula and throw it on its head, thanks to some creative storytelling and intense visuals.
“These writers thought about teamwork, autonomy, vulnerability, and put it in the context of a worst-case scenario. There were all these elements, and then it was about what could complicate matters,” said the director, also known for films The Lockpicker and lauded 2020 documentary short The Book Of Distance.
“When I read the script, I just thought it was such a fun, tight thrill-ride. It was a new take, and at the heart of it was a representation of a differently-abled character often underrepresented or misrepresented.”
Traces of See For Me can be found as far back as 1967, when Audrey Hepburn received an Oscar nomination for her role as a young blind woman up against criminals – including a young Alan Arkin — who break into her apartment looking for drugs.
But director Okita was up for the challenge of taking the home invasion film in another direction.
“It was like a puzzle and I was trying to figure out a new approach. It was a pleasure to try to solve. It takes place overnight, so there were so many levels to play with in a dark setting,” he said.
“In the history of home invasion thrillers, they play on that primal fear of our safety being compromised. It was so interesting to dive into that.”
The film introduces us to the fantastic, committed Skyler Davenport, a non-binary, visually-impaired thespian who takes on the lead role.
“The way the character is treated and the way she evolves into a complex, bad-ass character is amazing,” he said. “This movie combined my love for telling stories with making art. It’s amazing to do something like this.”
“We searched high and low for a lead, and when we found Skyler, it was like lightning. Skyler was the key around which we built our constellation of stars.”
Among those stars is Jessica Parker Kennedy, who plays army veteran Kelly. She serves as Skyler’s eyes to try to help her get out of the potentially fatal situation.
“This is a film about relationships, and themes around perception and perspective. It’s all about what each character sees, and who knows what is happening in the house. The teamwork and relationship building between our characters Sophie and Kelly is so important,” he said.
“It’s about building that sense of trust and comradery across technology. Their relationship is truly the emotional anchor of the film, and it’s so powerful.
Okita also had a great time with his villains in the film, and the character arcs they all had.
“They’re all a bit different. We tried to treat them as such in terms of cinematography and they way they’re treated,” he said.
Among them is Kim Coates – best known as fan-favourite Tig on the long-running FX show Sons Of Anarchy – and Okita was grateful to have him on board.
“To have such a great big bad at the end of the film was amazing. Kim just does such an incredible job, and it was such a pleasure.”
Filming fell smack-dab amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the country in 2020, and Okita is mostly grateful he was able to finish the film. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and is now going on-demand.
“We were chomping at the bit to get back after the shutdown. We were shooting at night with a visually-impaired lead, so safety and processes were a huge concern,” he said. “Another big thing was it was winter when we began shooting, and we came back in the summer. We couldn’t tent off, so we only had that limited time to shoot before the sun came up.”
However, he says it was important everyone felt safe and taken care of, and everyone felt lucky to come back and finish the film.
“I am just so excited people are going to get to see the film. We are so happy to get it out, and it’s nice to share this wonderful thing we got to finish, even in a time of separation and isolation,” he said.
You can find See For Me now to buy or rent on AppleTV+, GooglePlay, YouTube, Amazon and more. To learn more, visit their website at https://www.seeforme.movie/.