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Interview with Alastair Orr, director of Triggered
By James Whittington, Friday 28th August 2020
Alastair Orr

One of our favourite movies showing on Horror at the moment is Alastair Orr's superb shocker From a House on Willow Street. For FrightFest 2020 he has a new film for us all to enjoy, Triggered. Here he chats about both movies.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

AO: I always loved films but it wasn't until my teens when I realised I could actually do it as a job. Growing up in a small town in South Africa, filmmaking was always seen as something that Americans do as a job - not us. We were very sheltered under the apartheid government in the late 80s so content was limited, if not censored. The video store was basically a Holy Grail where every week new stuff would arrive, sometimes it wasn't even that new, our latest releases could've been five years old. I would just watch these video tapes and didn't really pay much attention to how these films were made, but just watched out of utter enjoyment. My dad was cool with letting us watch whatever we want, he didn't really care about the age restrictions. It was only in high school, through an English class, that I started dissecting films and realised, hey, there's a lot of people that work on these movies and I could absolutely be one of them. My parents supported me with that decision and I got myself a student loan and went to the only film-school in the country at the time.

HC: We broadcast your movie, From a House on Willow Street on Horror Channel, what do you recall from making that movie?

AO: When I think back to that shoot all I remember is how cold it was. That threw us all. We're used to making films in the heat down in South Africa, but we wanted to avoid the rain with this one so we decided to shoot in winter. We could see the frost forming on our clothing as we were shooting. Everyone moves slower when they're cold so we were always running against the clock. It was an absolutely horrible process!

HC: What lessons did you learn as a director when making that film?

AO: I learnt that the director is going to get blamed for whatever decision gets put forward by producers, financiers anyway, so you might as well be an asshole and just do it your way anyway.

HC: How did you become involved with Triggered?

AO: I own a commercial production house and we wanted to do a film on our own terms. Every person that you go and ask for money from comes with their own set of rules and requirements on how that money should be spent. We decided to make a film with less money but something that we can completely control (well control as much as you can). We were working with the writer, David D. Jones, on a bigger film that we were trying to get off the ground when he pitched this low budget Battle Royale style film that we thought we could do with the money we had saved up.

HC: It seems to have been entirely shot on location, if so, how difficult was that?

AO: We shot on a horse farm that had these out trails that we could use. We only had budget for limited lights so it's basically the same 30m stretch of forest that we kept using. We found that if you lowered the lights and adjusted the angle the entire forest would change shape, so that allowed us to shoot the whole film in around 15 days. The biggest issue we had was the rain, as it poured down at least once every night. There were times when we were literally flooded out, with our lights being damaged and our vests breaking down constantly. I don't want to complain too much, but some people don't understand how hard it is to even make a crappy movie. There were at least 4 times while shooting Triggered when I got together with the producers and said, "There's no way we're finishing this movie." But the crew and cast always pulled themselves together and figured a way out of the holes we were in.

HC: What did the cast think of the shoot as it's a very physical movie set in a hard terrain?

AO: This was the first movie for a lot of our actors and that really worked to our advantage because they had no idea what they were getting into. They all became such great friends and were really up for anything.

HC: The technology used seems so cool, who designed that?

AO: There's this cosplay superstar called Brian Cargyle (Two Horns United) and he modelled and built the vests for us. They were a nightmare to shoot with because they kept breaking down with all the rain. We called an engineer buddy of ours out one morning at 2am to come over and supercharge them. He rewired them and set them up to remotes so we could control them. We had a TV remote mapped to all the vests so we could control whose vest is what colour and that they can change on screen.

HC: It's a sort of Hunger Games, meets slasher flicks meets Battle Royale, would you agree?

AO: Oh absolutely. We wear our references on our sleeves and poke fun of the films that came before. There was some dialogue that was cut from the film how this is essentially the same plot as Battle Royale. We always pitched it as SAW meets American Pie.

HC: There's a lot of effect shots, were they all done in camera?

AO: There was no way to shoot with real timers ticking down. That would be a logistical nightmare. So, we added all the timers in post - which in itself wasn't easy. We added some very small CG enhancements on the explosions. It's a very hand stitched film made by people that were really passionate about it.

HC: Are you just as nervous the movie is getting its UK premiere at a virtual event as opposed to a physical one?

AO: We all just wish we could be at FrightFest this year and have a great party with the audience. We were there in 2016 for Willow Street and it really is just the best festival experience in the world. There certainly is an energy at FrightFest in the cinema when you're watching these films and I don't know if that can be replicated with a digital version. We're glad that it can be seen though!

HC: Alastair Orr, thank you very much.


Related show tags: FROM A HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET
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