Ahead of the UK premiere of TRIGGERED, his cat-and-mouse slasher, Alastair Orr talks about being inspired by old console games and why he loves working in South Africa.
We last saw you at FrightFest with FROM A HOUSE ON WILLLOW STREET, how’s life been treating you since that time?
It’s been great. I got married, had a kid, got into massive amounts of debt with Bitcoin – I’ve made a lot of great life decisions since FrightFest 2016.
How did David D. Jones’ TRIGGERED script end up in your capable hands?
I was working on a bigger film with David that we couldn’t raise the money for. So he pitched something way cheaper that we could do. It’s eleven characters in the woods, so it seemed super easy on the page, but was quite a nightmare to shoot.
Was the script really inspired by retro video games from the 1990s?
Yes, it’s definitely inspired by the old console games where you get to steal time from your opponent, there were a couple out there back in the day. Then to some extant even your Street Fighter and Mortal Combat games had the element where you have to kill your opponent before your time runs out. Things have come full circle now with Battle Royale games like Fortnite, but we wanted to make something with old-school graphics and sound effects and music, so we feel our film is definitely a throwback to our childhoods as opposed to the new wave of these type of games.
What do you think you brought to the project or was everything very much in place in the final draft?
David did an awesome job getting it over the finish line and shoot ready. It was only on set when things bombed out that I was able to step in and make decisions on the set. If he was down in South Africa I’m sure he would’ve been right there next to me making those decisions. Script-wise…his original idea was to have you get rewarded with time by doing certain activities like helping your friends out, or getting closer to solving the murder mystery that runs throughout the film. We decided to simplify the gamification a lot once we got closer to shooting.
Give an insight into how you assembled the cast: what qualities were you mainly looking for?
We were looking for actors that just wanted to be there and didn’t bring a plethora of demands and attitude. We knew it was going to be a tough shoot so we looked for kids that had a great attitude and were up for anything. We also tried to cast the actors as close to the characters as possible so that we could improves if necessary.
Just like with your past four movies you edited the movie yourself. Do you direct knowing in your mind how exactly you want to cut it together, or is it a more organic process than that?
I edit my movies because there isn’t money to hire an editor, so it’s definitely not a control thing. The editing on Triggered was harder because we had less footage. While we were shooting at night, I would do a rough cut of scenes during the day, so there wasn’t a lot of sleep going on. The pros of editing your own film are that you get to do things your way, but a serious con that worked against me on this one was that some insecurities that festered with me on set made their way in to the edit suite. I had to constantly get reassurances from the producers that this was the right way to go – where as if I had an editor, he/she probably would’ve convinced me straight away that things weren’t as dire as I thought.
And just like your past four movies TRIGGERED is once more in the horror thriller fantasy arena. Why is it you gravitate towards the genre?
These are just the kind of films Ariye (my producing partner) and I want to make. We’re just not drawn to stories that don’t have some kind of genre spin on them
What was the hardest aspect of making TRIGGERED?
I know every filmmaker says time and money, but we really were in short supply on both on this. We got so tired of waiting for investors and finding distributors to invest in us that we decided to fund it ourselves. We (Ariye Mahdeb and I) just had to make a film. We shot for fifteen days, four of which were probably completely lost to rain, but the crew and cast never once dropped the ball. Our vests were pretty problematic also, we had to keep bringing our buddies with electrical engineering degrees onto set to keep wiring them and programming them. You really get a sense of who your real friends are when you ask them to come out and help you at midnight on your indie film.
How is working in South Africa and what do you see as the future for genre filmmakers in the country?
Working in South Africa is the best. People are so willing to help out and jump on board that you really do get to play with awesome tools even if you don’t have the budget your overseas contemporaries are playing with, and the government really helped us with some funding on this one also. South Africa is really exploding with Genre films now. When I started with my first film in 2010 it really was a lonely club, but now South African genre films are popping up at festivals around the world and guys are making some really awesome stuff. It’s really exciting and a lot of the directors who would usually only make drama films are now seeing how commercial Genre fair is and what an appetite the rest of the world has for it.
Finally, what’s next?
We’re busy with a big action movie that was scheduled to shoot this year, but with Covid hitting that doesn’t look likely. It’s a way bigger budget to what I’m used to and I’m loving the freedom a bit of extra money allows. I’m also really digging the way my horror background can tie in with the action scenes and how the two can play nicely together.
TRIGGERED is showing online on Friday 28 August, 9.30pm in the Horror Channel screen, as part of the Arrow Video FrightFest August Digital event.