“What Death Leaves Behind” is a captivating new thriller produced by Rachel K. Ofori about a man starts receiving frightening nightmares – leading him to believe his donor was violently murdered – after receiving a kidney transplant.
Co-writer and producer Rachel K. Ofori recently explained how a frightening real-life incident inspired one of the most unique new films of 2019 via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How long have you been in the filmmaking game, Rachel?
Rachel Ofori (RO): Since 2004 off and on. I focused on Event Production for several years to make more money while still building the same skill set. It’s been full-time film for just over 4 years.
MM: Is What Death Leaves Behind a personal story?
RO: It is. Our Executive Producer, Chad Morton is a friend of mine–his cousin went through 7 years of dialysis and started having repetitive nightmares after finally receiving a kidney transplant. How he originally explained those dreams to Chad gave us the basis for the story.
MM: You co-wrote the script, as well as produced. Were there certain elements of the script that you were responsible for?
RO: We didn’t plan it, but after Chad and Nico Giampietro wrote the original draft, Scott Hamilton (the director) and I settled into a groove that made sense for us. We planned out scenes together. Then even in independent writing Scott would alter my words and vice versa. For example, I wrote an emotionally charged scene between Jake and his wife Lisa (Shaira Barton) then Scott adjusted Jake’s voice to better fit the character. The way it all came about was organic.
MM: Where do you think the film’s strengths lie?
RO: Our biggest strength is with the people who made it. We care about this story and each other and I believe it shows.
Beyond that, movies you can’t figure out in the first 10 minutes are a dying breed but our film is a psychological thriller that twists minds in ways we are proud of. Also, it’s a film about relationships, how they motivate us, how they can fail us, and how we react. And that’s something we can all relate to.
MM: Had you worked with any of the cast and crew before? Is it easier, working with people you already know?
RO: When Chad first approached me, I sought out certain people like Scott Hamilton and Colin Passman (Camera Operator & 2nd Unit Director) since we worked so well together in the past. There’s strength in that. But we also found some gems along the way like Khadir Cade (Production Designer) and Diamond Holland (Wardrobe Designer). I think it’s less about familiarity and more about establishing a culture and finding people with the “right stuff” that fits that culture. We all respect each other and I’m a firm believer in servant leadership. I’m not here to manage you, but to serve in a way where you can be your greatest self. So, if a person is hardworking, self-motivated, and lives in a space of humility rather than ego, they fit in this culture. They fit on our set.
MM: How much of the movie was on the page and how much of it just came together, on the day, through improvisation or a fresh idea?
RO: The nonlinear part was not on the page. Scott Hamilton came up with that during production and we altered the script to make that possible. Erin O’Brien and Johnny Alonso had a base script but improved most of their dialogue to build to the emotion necessary to achieve the wordless dream sequences that send chills down everyone’s spines. There were improvisational moments with Vincent Young (who plays Andrew in the film) that were just better than we could have ever envisioned. So, we plan and write like the film depends on it but then it’s really just trusting the actors to bring their magic. I can’t cast a Vincent Young, or Alexandra Tydings or Christopher Mann to read a script. They’ve been acting since before we were in the industry. We just trusted them enough to let any changes happen–and when it happened it was beautiful.
MM: Tell us about the release plans for the movie?
RO: The theatrical premiere is set for 9/11/19 in LA at the Cinemark 18 XD at the Promenade, Howard Hughes Center, followed by a 17-city limited theatrical run. Artist Rights Distribution is still adding more dates but we post them on our website – whatdeathleavesbehind.com. There’s an afterparty for the premiere if you’d like to come. Details on our Instagram @whatdeathleavesbehind!
MM: Have you any other projects in the works?
RO: Yes, 2 unscripted series in production, with a narrative dramatic series at the script level and our next feature film set to go into production in 2020. The first unscripted is a lifestyle series that has a very Anthony Bourdain feel to it but with a woman–Aviva Stanoff– that lives life with the same vigour as Bourdain, with her own unique beauty. Instead of food, her vehicle is the world of home design and textile travel adventures. We just returned from filming Thailand which was amazing. The other is called “The Iron Ceiling” which features a different celebrity in each episode. It documents their road to success despite obstacles all minorities face–especially women. We filmed the pilot episode with actor Kym Whitley–who was wonderful to work with.
MM: Where do you hope to be in the coming years? A grand plan…?
RO: I could buckle down and just keep producing films, but I rather help others reach their potential. I plan to grow our company ‘The Audacity’ to be big enough to need its own production lot. That way as many creatives as possible will have the resources needed to create their content while being in an environment that caters to and cares about the person just as much as their work. I want to be what the industry is lacking… A Harvey Weinstein with integrity. And I believe we are audacious enough to grow even bigger on “the inside” than the success we will attain on the outside–and in that we can’t lose.