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An Interview with Jeff Renfroe

Jeff: "These are all myths that we know as fiction".

Jeff Renfroe
Interview conducted by John Townsend
24 September 2013

Jeff Renfroe is an acclaimed and experienced director whose new film The Colony stars Lawrence Bill Paxton and is a survival horror set against the terrifying bleakness of the next ice age.

Hi Jeff, thank you for talking with me today.
Hi there. No problem.

The Colony is your new film, please tell us a little about it.
Sure, itís a story of the last known group of survivors in the next ice age who have to defend themselves from a group of people who have essentially run of resources and run out of food, and who have gone feral and cannibalistic. What really drove me was that, despite it being a great rock níroll popcorn movie underneath weíre really playing with some cool themes such as sustainability and climate change, themes of what we could become in desperate times.

How important was it for you to maintain a sense of believability in the story, working on an idea that this could really happen as opposed to aliens or monsters or something more fantastical.
I was really focussed on that. Early drafts of the script before I came on board were really centered on the supernatural aspect. Not only has that been done to death but wouldnít it be great to be more grounded and strip away all that? What we made is essentially a monster movie based on the thought that if we ran out of food you or I could be the monster rather than some farfetched supernatural, alien, vampire thing. These are all myths that we know as fiction. I just felt that there was something grittier and more tangible in that the monster could be you or I if we cross that line.

Jeff: "I really believe that film should be for a wide audience and those are the type of films that I like to watch".

The Colony seems to fall between traditional genres; there is disaster movie and sci-fi and horror and this makes the film different. I just wondered if this was in your mind at all when you began making the film, to combine these influences.
I really believe that film should be for a wide audience and those are the type of films that I like to watch. It was a balancing act as there was one desire to make it more of a horror movie and another to make it more of a sci-fi movie but in the end what you see is what you get.

The setting for The Colony is hugely atmospheric. How fundamental to the feel of the film was the location and Iím curious to know if you needed to ďdressĒ it up at all?
Iím a big advocate of location shooting, especially for any kind of thriller where the setting and the environment is one of the main characters. Really we went with the NORAD facility because it was underground and was actually a survival bunker. Every little piece of that world was amazing. It always informs your actors more than when theyíre just on a set. We also used locations like water sewerage treatment plants and one of the oldest coal plants around. We didnít dress anything up really so what you see is really what was there.

Jeff: "Of course Bill Paxton was awesome, the quintessential Wildman both on and off screen!".

With the huge growth in the number of independent films being produced and with studios financing remakes or franchises do you think itís easier or more difficult to get new and original ideas made?
I think itís great that the technology is at a place where you can just get out there and shoot something. With science fiction it can be more challenging but there are some great examples around. We had a modest budget but one that's quite large for independent film in Canada. Of course thereís never enough money but we had enough to make what I think is an impressive science fiction movie.

You call it a popcorn movie but you have two iconic actors in Lawrence Fishburne and Bill Paxton on board.
It was definitely by design as this was how we were going to justify our ďmediumĒ sized budget and as a director you always want to work with great actors. Lawrence is just fantastic in that he brings such heart and gravitas to the movie. The same with Kevin Segers. He pulled off a really understated, honest and empathetic role as the hero which goes against the machismo you get in a lot of movies these days. Iím really proud of what they did in their performances. Of course Bill Paxton was awesome, the quintessential Wildman both on and off screen!

As a final question what your favourite horror films are?
Well number one would be The Shining for sure. Rosemaryís Baby would be right in there too. Funny Games maybe, that was frightening. Iím not sure you can call it a horror movie but it scared the shit out of me!

Thank you very much for your time today Jeff.
No problem, thank you.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Jeff.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

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