Glenn Triggs: finding a door to yesterday
by: Anne Richey
Monday 5 December, 2011
Glenn Triggs has been operating his production company, Dark Epic Films for the last ten years and is nearing completion on his latest feature film, `41`, a time travel drama where a hole in the floor leads to yesterday.
He started making movies in high school, and “it escalated to a career out of that I guess.” A friend got a video camera for his birthday and “all of a sudden just something in my mind clicked and I saw the infinite possibility of creativity come out of that idea.”
They started making films together, then his friend went on to do other things while Glenn stayed with it. He did a year at the VCA as well as studying film, television and media in high school. He started making independent feature films from about 2001 onwards.
41 is his third feature. Cinemaphobia was the one before that. He’s also made a lot of short films as well – he estimates that he’s made about 50.
They’ve all been self-funded. He worked in a video store for a long time, and he runs a wedding video business as well. A lot of the money from the business just goes straight into his own productions.
He made a short film a few years ago, shot on 16mm, and that cost just as much as a digital feature. He estimated that the features cost around $10,000 to $12,000 each. “They’re not too expensive,” he said. “A lot of the people who worked on it worked for free.” Most of the money is spent on equipment at the start of the production.
While there are some people he tends to work with a lot, the crew tends to change between productions as “people go on with their own careers and to travel all over the world and stuff. They’re not always available.” A friend that he first worked with in 2004 on Lunar does a lot of the VFX for the film, and has been a part of most of Glenn’s films.
His latest project is “a time travel drama film” called 41. He explains the premise as being about “a young man who discovers a hole in the floor of a local motel that leads to yesterday.”
A few years ago, Glenn had a list of movies that he wanted to make and had three or four different ideas. One was a 2001: A Space Odyssey-type film which was a massive production, and another was a smaller time-travel type film. He decided that this would be the best one for him to work on next and hit the keyboard.
The script took about a year to write. He knew from the outset that it would be quite complicated as it involved time travel, with different versions of reality appearing at different times. He was also aware that it was going to be even more complicated to shoot it.
When the script was completed, they wanted to test it on an audience. The first assistant director on 41 runs the Cold Reading series in Melbourne where scripts are read in front of an audience. Glenn was very pleased that people seemed to like the story he presented, but it also pointed out some issues and he made some changes.
The casting took place across three of four months, and they then shot for about 30 days across a year. They’ve just finished now.
Glenn finds that the biggest challenge in independent filmmaking is the organisation. Although many people are very passionate about filmmaking and there’s a huge talent pool, the downside is that “because it’s an unpaid job, they obviously have to make a living so their availability isn’t always as free as you may wish it to be.” Fortunately, it hasn’t been too much of a problem on this particular film due to the length of the shoot.
The upside of independent filmmaking is that “there’s quite a lot of freedom. There’s not heaps to be worried about if you know what you’re doing.”
Much of the film was shot around hotels and motels, and it was mainly night shoots. One of the biggest challenges about this was that the main actor was from Geelong and Glenn is in Pakenham, so he was travelling about two hours each way every time they shot.
He was after a particular look for the motel, and they ended up shooting at five different locations for the one motel that’s in the film. While some people “were not that interested and didn’t want to listen to us, others were really helpful and they’re the people that we worked with.” According to the script, the hotel would have had to be in existence for about 70 years, and unfortunately a heritage-listed hotel in Oakleigh that they wanted to use was pulled down just two weeks before they were due to start shooting. Glenn was distraught, but they were able to find ways around the problem.
They made sure that that they got permissions and permits where they could. The opening sequence of the main character riding a bike at the start was filmed around the Berwick/Pakenham area. They also filmed a university lecture scene, and a scene in a hospital for which they were able to use a nurses training centre, and at cafes and diners. They also made use of friends’ houses as locations, and for the montage chase scene at the end they used their friends’ backyards. “There wasn’t much difficulty trying to get locations,” he said.
He did the editing himself and admitted that he’d feel strange handing it over to someone else. With all of the roles he’s filling, it is a lot of work. The sound mixing is the hardest element, and he finds that “sound is just as important as the visuals.” They had a great sound recordist though, and only had to ADR one scene.
Once the film is finished, his plan is to approach festivals rather than aiming for distributors straight away. He hopes that it will have a broad audience appeal.
He’s still deciding who project he should focus on next. He’s still focussed on getting the film 100% completed, and he has some other ideas up his sleeve.
He’s found that with technological advances, the same budget will buy more each time. The camera which they used for Cinemaphobia for example is now being used as the behind the scenes camera on 41. While he’d love to get a big Hollywood production at some point, “at the moment it’s just heaps of fun and really creatively rewarding to be able do something exactly as I want to do it. I may not always have that freedom so I’m enjoying it while I can I guess.”
A no-budget wonder, CINEMAPHOBIA is a slasher flick set in a cinema during a horror fest that's haunted by a hooded killer with a mirror for a face. CINEMAPHOBIA had a premiere at the cinema it was largely made in at the end of last year.
26 year old Triggs, who is looking to securing some festival play for CINEMAPHOBIA along with some local distribution, submitted himself to all the hard questions…
|Michael Helms: How did CINEMAPHOBIA come about?|
Glenn Triggs: Well, I've been making films for many years and had the idea that I should make a bigger sort of film, a feature. I'd only been making shorts. I was working at a call centre at the time and I'd been working on the script in between phone calls. CINEMAPHOBIA happened because it could be shot indoors and if you could find a cinema then that's your set. I started with that and the ideas just kept coming. I developed it over 8 or 9 months.
MH: Where did you get your cast?
GT: Got actors through the internet. I'd met a lot of actors through previous films, so just put out casting calls on the internet for an unpaid job and probably auditioned about 100 people. Different actors were harder to find but eventually we found them. The internet was the biggest thing for that.
MH: Your co-producer also plays Mirrorface.
GT: Adrian Straton is a good friend of mine and he worked on the last film, a short film set in the '60s. He loves horror films and once he knew this was a horror film he was really keen to do it. He did all the make-up effects, all the blood and all that sort of stuff. It's mainly a lot of camera tricks because we wanted to get away from CGI. We didn't really have the people to do that anyway. He played Mirrorface as well. He wears a mirror and he couldn't actually see out of the mirror.
MH: What went into the development of Mirrorface?
GT: I love killers. I love movies like HALLOWEEN and I thought, what was the last thing that no one's done yet, something that no one had thought of. Like, we thought of animal heads and all that sort of stuff and then I thought ' what about a round mirror?' If you were getting killed you'd actually see yourself dying in the reflection. So I'd stick with that. That could work. Greg Hunt and Adrian put together the cloak and it worked out fine. The mirror itself only cost $3 or something like that and we got the frame from one of the actors.
|MH: What's your favourite gore gag in CINEMAPHOBIA?|
GT: I'd never seen that in a film before, where someone had their head cut off and they're still urinating while the head falls down. That was the joke, I guess. We took weeks and months on that, working out how to shoot it and never actually got the idea of how we could pull it off. And then it got to the night and I was going through the script and thought that we need a shot where you see the head and his feet at the same time. A simple effect where you shoot the background of the urinal and then his head could be lying down and then we could move the rest of his body so it looks like chucking his head to the ground. We did that on the night, hoping it would work and luckily, it all came together.
MH: What's the movie playing that all the horror film fest attendees are watching?
GT: Originally we actually wanted about 3 different movies that they'd be watching on the screen, to go with it, but we only had the time to do one because it would take much longer than we thought. I was talking to Adrian and he said he had the scuba costume and I thought SCUBA DIVE and tried to make a play on words, take the V out of dive to become DIE. It was as simple as that. We got one of the actors who had originally auditioned for the film and we just went down to the Dandenong Creek and ran around for about 2 hours, shooting B-grade horror movie gags and cut them together, whatever worked the best. We had the idea that we could get an actual film but then thought it would be more fun if it was totally original. There is actually a lot more footage to that, that I'm going to put on a DVD eventually; make a very short film of SCUBA DIVER. May do that, would be a laugh.
MH: How did you get the cinema location?
GT: That was probably the hardest thing to do. That was the most difficult part of the filming. I wrote the script before we found the cinema. That was probably the biggest mistake. I'd started auditioning people before actually knowing the location. We came very close to getting one cinema that I really wanted to film at—I had everything in my head—but they wanted to charge so forget that one. I went to a family cinema one night. Then sent a letter, copy of the script, my last film... got a call the next day to say it would be fine. So we were really lucky to get that one.
MH: There's a poster for BLOOD HOUSE 4 in CINEMAPHOBIA.
GT: Yes, all the posters in the background are fake. Adrian did them on Photoshop and got them printed up. Because there's always a worry about copyright issues we decided to make it all original. Yes, the posters kind of fill it up and give it a bit more colour in the background.
|MH: What was the biggest challenge?|
MH: What have you made in past?
GT: I've made things for about 50 minutes or so and I'm not quite sure if some are features or not. Yeah, there have been a lot of films. I've been making them since I was in High School. That's when I started and it's slowly escalated and the next thing is always better than the last thing. You keep moving forward. I just love it. It's good fun.
MH: Initial motivation to pick up a camera?
GT: I was always into making like David Copperfield illusions, circus and magic stuff etc when I was really young. It got to the point where I liked entertaining people with those sorts of illusions and I realised you can do almost the same effect with film and have more emotional impact on people. At the same time you can perfect it with film. With a magic trick you are in front of someone and if you stuff it up, you stuff it up, but with a film you can take your time to perfect it and then show it to people. So just a matter of progression I guess. A friend and I got a camera and just started making films and I haven't stopped. I just wasn't to keep going because I guess I never feel I've got everything right. I always think I can do better next time. I just want to keep going, making bigger films and better films, different genres, which I love. I don't know exactly what direction. I've got a few scripts on the go at the moment. I'm not sure which one will get made next but, yeah, just keep pushing it.
MH: Where does the title CINEMAPHOBIA come from?
GT: It just came. I don't know how I thought of it. I just thought CINEMA PHOBIA It almost sounded like a real word. I've actually come to realise since then that there's another CINEMAPHOBIA a short film.
MH: There's no denying CINEMAPHOBIA sounds great?
GT: I'm a huge fan of film soundtracks. I composed all the music for the film myself but I also wanted that real band sound in the background. Again, I used the internet, which is such a powerful tool. I just put out calls for bands and I got calls from bands from all over the world, the States, Scotland. People sent me heaps of demo tapes, probably about 100 or so and I just chose 10 or 11 for our film. I just went on what suited our film and the quality of the sound as well. So we were very lucky that there are a lot of people out there who want to get their stuff out. It took a long time to do because I composed some too and, with the programme I was using, I could never watch the film and compose at the same time. I could lay it over the top of the film to see if it worked and then edit it together. I had to make changes in the score many times, going back and forth.
MH: What do think about CINEMAPHOBIA now?
GT: I think it's a real fun sort of horror film. It doesn't take itself too seriously but it has a bit of heart in it. It's got some memorable moments, I guess. It's a real sort of fun, gory comedy, something that you won't forget too easily. People will walk away feeling a bit different from when they walked in, in a good way, not a bad way.
MH: Do plan to make more horror films?
GT: Yeah. I've actually got 3 scripts at the moment and the one that seems to be getting finished quicker is this other horror film. It will be a feature but a very quick kind of handicam movie. That will more than likely be the next one. And then I've got one about time travel and a science fiction film. That's a few years off yet I think, as it's a bit more of a budget. I have ideas all the time. It's just getting scripts finished really.
BUDDING film director Glenn Triggs may just be Beaconsfield’s answer to Steven Spielberg.
Mr Triggs, 26, will fly to Los Angeles next to week to promote his feature film ‘Cinemaphobia’.
The 90-minute movie is a horror extravaganza set in a cinema, where 12 characters have settled for the night to watch an all-night horror-movie marathon.
“It’s about a guy called Joshua – he sets out to make a film during the movie marathon but he’s oblivious that a real life killer will exploit, inspire and dramatically alter its outcome,” Mr Triggs said.
“The majority of the film takes place in a cinema, where an ensemble cast are picked off one by one.”
Most of the action takes place inside the Metro Cinema in Boronia, but the opening and closing sequences were filmed in Berwick.
Mr Triggs said the plot was dramatic, with the occasional comedic moment.
“At the start the characters don’t know each other, but by the time the movie gets under way they have little connections. They are all different people, thrown together – kind of like The Breakfast Club,” he said.
The film was completed on a relatively tiny budget of $10,000.
Mr Triggs is hopeful that it will be picked up by an international DVD distribution company and he has entered the movie, which took two years to complete, in about 15 film festivals across Australia and the US.
Mr Trigg, who funds his projects through his wedding video business, said he loved the horror genre.
“I love horror films. I actually collect VHS horror films, even though most are on DVD now – just like the artwork,” he said.
Copies of Cinemaphobia can be ordered online at www.darkepic.net.
KNOX LEADER ARITCLE - METRO CINEMAS BORONIA - 2009
A scary movie was filmed at the Boronia cinema this year and its set to screen at the Sundance Film Festival next year. Managing Director Tom Schouten said he was a sucker when it came to helping people.
So when director Glenn Trigg asked him if he could film a B-grade scary movie based in a cinema at Metro Cinemas, Mr Schouten couldn’t say no.
The horror plot involves 13 people going to watch a movie, with most in the audience getting killed.
The Dorset Square cinema is run by Mr Schouten, with his business partner Jane Taffigiannakis and their families.
Mr Schouten has worked in cinemas since 1973.
He started in Geelong, which had drive-in theatres at the time.
He then worked at most Village cinemas around Melbourne, even meeting his wife Cynthia through work. She worked for Hoyts.
Mr Schouten said of all the venues he’d worked at, Boronia was his favourite. In the ’90s he swapped the movies for real estate. But the lure of the silver screen was too great, and in 2004 he bought the Boronia cinema.
‘‘It was not a dream. I thought it would be out of reach for me.
‘‘I never thought for a moment we could do it,’’ he said.
It is one of the smallest cinemas in Melbourne and has four screens.
By Joel Curran
Two different generations of filmmakers talk about their influences, their film making experiences and the way they work.
Greg Mclean is an AFI nominated director (for Wolf Creek) who runs his own production company located in Melbourne, Australia. He has experienced both critical and financial success with his films (a tough feat in the Australian film industry) and has been able to pick his own projects because of this.
Glenn Triggs is a young filmmaker who has won numerous film festival awards and quit his full time job to focus on making films, while shooting wedding videos to help cover the costs of his films.
Both are at different stages of their careers, both with different levels of experience. And both took the time to answer questions about their passion of filmmaking.
Who are the filmmakers who influence you?
Greg Mclean: I really love a wide range of filmmakers, from Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola to directors from much earlier periods, Howard Hawks, Fellini, Tarkovsky, and currently I am really into Tarantino, Michael Haneke, PT Anderson, Wes Anderson and the Wachowskis. There are so many amazing directors, and I try to learn from all of them. Even the bad ones.
Glenn Triggs: I would say probably John Carpenter, Peter Jackson and Mel Gibson, even though he’s more of an actor than a director. I think peter Jackson was good, because he just did it from his home, that’s what it seems like, he made these really huge films from his house, or at least that what it seemed like. He didn’t really sell him self out in the States. I like the mood of John Carpenters film, they seem really simple, almost like anyone could do it, but heaps of people have tried and failed.
Like Halloween and Assault On Precinct 13. He just sets things over one night, keeps it simple and that’s what I really like about his movies.
It seems both are influenced by filmmakers responsible for large Hollywood films - Jackson, Spielberg - as well as those who remain more independent - Carpenter, Tarantino. It’s interesting that they both have diverse influences.
Was there a particular moment when you realized you wanted to become a filmmaker?
GM: It kind of crept up on me. I was completing a fine arts degree and realised I was getting more and more interested in how mass ideas were being communicated in our day and age, and cinema just seemed to me to be the most powerful tool any one person could get their hands upon, so that's really how I came to it. Cinema is still, in my view, the most incredible art form ever invented.
GT: It was a hole bunch of things really, not just one particular moment, if anything it was just me thinking, I wanted to do heaps of things as a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, I wanted to go on adventures, I wanted to do all these different things and you couldn’t do them all in one lifetime. And I thought what’s one way you could do it? You can make films about it, because you can do anything in a film, and you get to experience those things. So that’s one of the of thing s when I was a kid I remember thinking that.
(I find it interesting that Mclean originally wanted to be a painter, and was completing a fine arts degree, and slowly realised the potential for film. With Triggs, it seems like he was keen to make films from a very young age, possibly because film technology has advanced so much and is accessible to everyone.
What roles do you usual take on when you’re making a film? And what do you find most challenging?
GM: I write, direct and produce all my films. It's all a challenge but I guess anything is easy if you are doing what you love. And I've always loved doing this, being creative, working with people, trying to achieve goals together and keeping inspired. I have lots of really good people I work with also that make my job/s easier. Having people you trust is very important.
GT: Usually all them I guess, to start off with. So I usually produce and direct and write. Probably producing is the most challenging. The organising stuff I don’t particularly like as much. I would love to get someone to do that for me. I enjoy directing, because of the control it gives you. Casting is really fun, writing is fun to a certain degree. Editing is usually the better part, because you have the film shoot and its basically putting it together with one hand on a mouse, whereas if your out on location shooting there is a lot of physical work and mental stress, sometimes.
Both take on the role of writer/director/producer, which I found interesting, but because Mclean is working on larger, professional films, he can afford to have other people take care of certain aspects of the production, whereas Triggs, who works with little to no budgets does not have that luxury yet, has to cover a range of jobs, some of which he would prefer not to do.
How do you go about funding your films? And what difficulties have you experienced?
GM: With Wolf Creek, I had been rejected by every agency in Australia at some point, so I was getting pretty desperate to make a movie. I knew how conservative the bodies were, and how hard this kind of movie would be for them to understand, so we set the budget very very low, had a very committed crew and cast, prepared incredibly well, and we raised some private money, which gave the government bodies some confidence and that’s how it got started. Massive preparation, giving them no excuse to be able to say "no". And then also knowing you have the team that can pull it off. You have to put yourself in their shoes (the funding bodies) and understand what they are looking at and for in order to get through that system. Once you get that, it should be easier. And remember they are not the enemy, they are just looking for the most prepared, most exciting and most doable movie to fund!
It’s interesting that both have had problems obtaining government funding, and have looked elsewhere to finance their films. It looks as though the funding bodies are as tough on experienced directors as they are on first time filmmakers. But neither gave up when they couldn’t find the money.
How much do you like to plan what you shoot? Do you like to storyboard and plan every single shot, or do you like to make decisions on the day, or a mix of both?
GM: Since I'm a huge Hitchcock fan, I always wanted to be like him, as in storyboard and work out every detail before you get to set, see the finished movie so then you can actually focus on making the movie instead of panicking. Also, planning ahead means you can actually be spontaneous on the day because you can relax and be open and look for little surprises.
GT: Well, I storyboard everything, and then I never look at them again. Bet then when I watch then finished film and look back at the storyboards, they’re almost identical. I guess storyboards would be useful on much bigger films because you have a lot more people working on the one shot, not just you and one other person.
Do you like to work with the same crew on each of your films, or do you prefer to start fresh with new people on new projects?
GM: Most of the crew on Wolf Creek were brought back on Rogue, because they are the best around. And they performed so well on my first movie so there was no reason not to. Having said that my next movie is going to be very different and will largely have a new team attached. It's part of evolving creatively and keeping excited.
GT: I prefer to work with people I get along with obviously, but those people aren’t always available. If I had the choice, there would be people I’d love to work with all the time, but it doesn’t always happen. And it always small crews anyway when I’m doing films, it tend to be only three or four around anyway. But I’m always building up contacts with people who are good to work with.
Similar to before, Mclean can afford to bring his crew with him because they are getting paid, which is a luxury Triggs doesn’t have yet.
Every film requires years of commitment, how do you decide what the next project will be?
GM: Um…good question. I don't Um…good question. I don’t know. I think it's about reassessing what is really interesting for you, what you really believe in and passionately want to say to an audience, and that keeps changing. Right now I'm in the process of working that out so when I work it out, I will let you know.
GT: I remember someone said ‘making a film is like having a baby’. When you go through it, there’s so much pain, the actual birth process to make it. And you think ‘I’ll never do that again’. And then a few years later the instincts kick back in and you want to have another baby. That was a really good analogy. Because you get so over it by the end, especially when you don’t have much money and it takes ages to make and your doing most of it yourself. So I guess it’s just what interests you, and it’s always good to take a break between each film. But just a good idea, that’s what makes me want to make something. Its not much else than that, its just starts with that initial idea, and if it interests you enough to think you can make something out of it, And when you bring more things in to it, like actors and location and crew, it comes to life more and it becomes more interesting as it goes on.
It would seem it’s a passion for filmmaking that inspires both to move onto new projects, and they need some kind of connection to the project.
Greg, after the success you had with Wolf Creek, were you tempted to go over to the US, and what made you decide to stay in Australia to make Rogue?
GM: Not really, because I knew that most of my heroes stay outside the system, intentionally (Lucas, Peter Jackson, Rodriguez) because there's something great about levels of independence. It keeps you sharp, honest and working for the right reasons - because hopefully you are able to focus on the work, making great stories. Plus I knew that, for better or worse, I had to complete a project I'd started years ago, Rogue, to get that out of my system. So it was a combo of those reasons.
With the experiences that you’ve had making your films, what advice would you have for film students like myself?
GM: My advice is to understand that you ARE the film industry. There is no big bag thing out there called the industry. Just individuals who do things, and some of those things that are really powerful and well done, become what we call 'the industry". So, if you can make a good film, tell a story, and have the determination to get off your butt and get it happening, you can pretty much do anything you can possibly imagine. It's all in your hands and the how far one develops your talent is also totally up to you. It's just about taking control, not being afraid to get started by writing a script, making a short film, hell, just make a low budget feature film, and very soon you'll see what you need to work on and before you know it, you'll be an industry leader! It's all about just doing it and saying, F*&%$ IT! All those people I admire just got out there and did it! Every success story is the same. So I would encourage anyone who wants to make films to just start!
GT: I think don’t plan too much, just do things, don’t think ‘I have to do this the right way’. There’s nothing more fun than just grabbing a camera and filming whatever, it doesn’t matter what it is, because you learn from that. And even if your learning the long way, and not going to school and learning how to set up a shot and all that, you’re still learning in a different way. And it’s cheaper! Just film a lot of things, and learn as you go.
In a round about way, both seem to offer the advice of just getting out there and giving it a go. Everyone needs to start somewhere and the sooner you get out there and get experience, the more chance there is of achieving success.
So there you have it, two unique takes on film-making and the film making industry. And while age and experience offers different perspectives, especially in regards to film financing and the industry as a whole, it is clear that both have a love for what they do.
Glenn Triggs hopes to soon move from his movie-postered room at his Doncaster home to a pad in Los Angeles.
"I love the process of making films and bringing something to life," Triggs said.
"There are so many different stages to making a film, it is great when you see it all come together in the end."Triggs said the process of making a film gave him a sense of control."Although many things can change and go wrong in the filming, that's what makes it interesting," he said. It was through the Leader that Triggs came across co-director Adrian Straton, who takes care of the costumes and special effects for his films."I read about Adrian in the local paper and now we make every film together," Triggs said."We always get compared to the two guys who directed Saw, which we don't mind."
Once completed, Cinemaphobia will screen for a week at the Metro cinema at Boronia.
NEW TRAILER DETAILS ON CINEMAPHOBIA - FANGORIA WEBSITE - ARTICLE - 2009
FANGORIA just got word that production on the Aussie indie CINEMAPHOBIA has almost wrapped. First-time feature director Glenn Triggs is currently in post on the film, which follows a "young filmmaker shooting his ‘perfect horror film’, oblivious that a real life killer will exploit, inspire and dramatically alter the outcome of his movie."
Triggs gave FANGO a look at the new trailer for the film, which will premiere on March 31, 2009 at the Metro Cinema in Boronia, Victoria, Australia - which also doubled as the filming location for much of the film.