Cochrane-based stunt coordinator Steven McMichael and his team have won an award for their work on the locally shot film Prey.

Prey won the Prime Rib award from Dead Meat Horror Awards 2023 for Best Stunt / Choreography from a list of nominees that also included Fresh, Nope, Dashcam, Scream, and Werewolf by Night.

The accomplished stunt coordinator and assistant director says it was a total team effort and gives a shout-out to his dedicated stunt team, whose selfless sacrifice during those long days of filming paid off. They had the added challenge of producing the film during the height of the pandemic.

mcmichaelSteven McMichael with the award earned by his stunt team on Prey. (Photo/StevenMcMichael Twitter)

"I was taken aback, truly, truly taken back," says McMichael. "I never imagined it in my wildest dreams, especially in the horror genre. That made it all the more special."

The stunt crew of about 40 people participated in an intense boot camp leading up to the filming, including the Indigenous actors and those portraying French fur traders. In the film, both are determined to hunt down the Predator.

"It was fun, and, you know, the Indigenous aspect is what made it really cool. It wasn't just the French trappers that we were looking at. Most of our indigenous actors did a bunch of their own stunts, which was due to a four-week boot camp before filming, so it was quite an intensive boot camp to train everybody up, men and women."

He says working on the film for about five months was a fulfilling experience.

"Dealing with Dan Trachtenberg (director) was awesome. Jeff Cutter, you know his direction of photography was awesome, and Marty Ewing, the producer, gave me sort of carte blanche of what I needed to do."

Above all, working in Alberta and showing off its beauty remains special to McMichael.

"We would be sitting at the top of Moose Mountain, or you'd sit at CL Ranch, or in Stoney Nakoda and you just look around at the awe-inspiring beauty. That stands out a lot."

How the actors and stunt team brought the characters to life also stood out. For one, he points to the hard work of leading female actor Amber Midthunder (Nuru) to portray a fierce and highly-skilled warrior. One scene stands out in particular, where she goes into a camp and fights four French trappers.

"We did that in one shot. There were no cuts, and we had rehearsed it for about a month and a half, so when we saw that one come to fruition, on that day we did 19 takes of it, and we literally spent the entire day just filming that one scene. Other than looking at the natural beauty of Alberta, that was probably a standout point."

In an interview on the film, leading male actor Dakota Beaver (Taabe) talked about his determination to do as many of his stunts as possible.

"He's a phenom. That guy is an incredible human being first and foremost, but he is just talented as all hell and extremely athletic, so it made it easy. And it's funny, in the interview he actually said the boot camp wasn't that hard for him, which for everybody else it was, but not for him."

The $65-million production was largely shot on the Stoney Nakoda Nation and other nearby locations. The fifth installment of the Predator franchise is set on the Great Plains 300 years ago and tells the story of the Predator's first visit to Earth in search of a worthy hunt.

Prey has had the best reception of all of the films in the series since the original in 1987. It is available for viewing in Canada on Disney+.

The film The Revenant was also shot in part on the Stoney Nakoda Nation, and shares some of the wilderness settings.

"What's funny is some of us we're calling it the "prevenant" during production, because we did film at a lot of the same locations as The Revenant."

McMichael has just returned from Germany, where he was working on the film, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, expected to be released on Nov. 17, 2023.