TRIGGERED is an exciting, new thriller-comedy from South African filmmaker Alastair Orr. The film tells the story of a group of friends on a camping trip in the wilderness who awaken to find themselves locked into suicide bomb vests. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear they are victims of a crazed lunatic who ensnares the friends in a twisted survival game. Only one of the friends will survive the night, and each individual is awarded extra time on their bomb for eliminating the other competitors. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to talk to the director of the film to learn more about what went into making TRIGGERED.
Alastair Orr is an accomplished filmmaker from South Africa, who has co-written and directed several high-octane thrillers. His style is frenetic, humorous, and very entertaining.
Films like Saw are an obvious influence on this story. Beyond that, are there any other films or real-life stories you drew inspiration from for TRIGGERED? It feels like there’s a lot of influence from other films, and society in general. The film says a lot about current young society.
Alastair Orr: Well, my writing partner and I always thought there was a bit of a missed opportunity with the Saw franchise. If I wake up in a room with a stranger, and I have to kill that stranger to survive, I feel like I would do that pretty quickly. That’s not really conflicting for me, you know? If it’s me or a stranger, the stranger’s dead. So we thought wouldn’t it be cooler if we did Saw, but with friends? Isn’t that a horrible decision to make? What if you had to kill your cousin, or your sister? That makes the concept much more dramatic. It also allows you to reveal secrets—do you really know the people close to you, you know? And yeah I think the social commentary comes through. Millennials haven’t been targets enough, we thought their time has come. So we’re poking fun at them a little bit. And we couldn’t have made this kind of movie without referencing Battle Royale. We wanted to do something a bit more edgier, and make it our own.
That’s very cool. From what I understand you shot the film entirely on location, in the wilderness. The film also was entirely shot at night. What challenges did you face shooting in the woods at night? Was it easier being on location as opposed to a soundstage?
Alastair Orr: The location was tough, man. You storyboard ahead and plan out shots, but everything changes once you’re actually there. There’s slopes where you didn’t expect them to be, a lot of uneven land. We had a crewmember break his knee on the first night of shooting. He slipped in some mud and fell down a ditch. Of course the woods are great for the feel of the film, but you still want it to be safe, and you need to be responsible as well. It was really difficult at times, and we got a lot of rain which wasn’t a part of the script. On the good side of things however the woods are cheap to do on location, and if things weren’t looking good we could dim the lights a bit and let the natural darkness help us.
Given that you don’t know your set until you arrive at the location, how much of it were you able to storyboard versus what you had to improvise in the moment?
Alastair Orr: We actually storyboarded all of the fight sequences, but then we realized on the first night it just wasn’t going to work. We couldn’t realistically commit to those shots, so instead we just made shot lists of what we needed to get for each night. We’d sit down and figure out the minimum number of shots we needed. That kind of helped, but it was mostly just shot listing it. We very seldom strayed from that. My dream would be to do a film that is entirely storyboarded where there’s no surprises, but I’m told that doesn’t exist.
One element that helps keep the film’s intensity levels high is the bomb vests. The stakes are constantly rising because the characters are always running out of time to live. I loved the idea of the characters having to buy themselves more time through eliminating each other. Did you have a hand in designing the vests? How did you decide on the look and style of the vests? They have a lot of character.
Alastair Orr: We didn’t want to make the vests too ordinary, so we thought if we’re making a fantastical film, why not add a little bit of flair to it? So we used laser tag vests for reference, and hired a prolific American cosplayer to design and build the actual vests. He did a fantastic job with it, and we added little bits of kevlar and tape to make them a bit sturdier for the shoot.
Lastly, if you were in TRIGGERED, playing this game with your friends, how well do you think you’d do?
Alastair Orr: I would probably cry in a corner until I exploded. I won’t give you a list of friends that I’d like to kill, but I would probably lose badly. I’ve got a few friends who I think would want to kill me.
For more on TRIGGERED, check out our review here. TRIGGERED is now available On Demand and Digital.