Written by Renae Geerlings and Tyler Mane, Compound Fracture pins two horror stars up against each other while smashing two horror sub-genres into one, yielding a supernatural home invasion film starring Tyler Mane (X-Men, Troy, Halloween) and Derek Mears (Friday the 13th, Predators, Holliston).  Muse Watson (I Know What You Did Last Summer, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Prison Break) also stars with Renae Geerlings, who also serves as producer along with Mane.  

    Mane stars as, Michael, a man who fights to protect his family in a secluded compound from supernatural forces trying to break in.  Geerlings plays his fiancé,  Juliette, who he tries to defend along with his nephew Brandon, played by Alex Saxon.  Muse Watson is Gary, Michael’s estranged father, who throws some drama into the family with his intense overprotectiveness against the supernatural horror that threatens them all.  Tearing the family apart with his over-shielding, Gary is very well justified in his extreme behavior.  The film also features Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy’s Lt. Debbie Callahan), Daniel Roebuck (Project X, The Late Shift, Lost) and Todd Farmer (Jason X, My Bloody Valentine 3D, Drive Angry).

    Shooting an hour northwest of Los Angeles in Piru, California, the film’s set in a single location, an abandoned compound up on a foresty hill that requires little to no set dressing to maintain it’s natural creepiness.  Wanting to shoot in the Santa Clarita Valley, the compound location was found by searching through a locations database of the area before Mane and director A.J. Rickert-Epstein (also the editor and cinematographer) scouted the property themselves.

    It’s a simple and contained story, of a broken family barricaded in their home, Gary going over the top in safeguarding it with extreme security measures, going so far as to employ a 22 camera sphere, reminiscent of the multieye, floating Madball like Guardian in Big Trouble In Little China, except more grounded in reality as such spherical multicam units supposedly exist and are used in the Israeli armed forces.  Gary then delves into supernatural security methods as the house gets booby trapped with mythical symbols drawn on it’s surfaces, a superabundant number mirrors attached to walls and posts all over the property and borders made of salt that will ideally act like supernatural force fields protecting one side’s occupants from the other’s.  

    With Geerlings’ background in theater and graphic novels (she began at Top Cow comics answering phones and eventually worked her way up to Editor-In-Chief) and Tyler’s background in horror, she focused her strengths in the script on character and story while Tyler contributed conceptually, providing visuals, the kills, etc, for this horror film with a supernatural backstory rooted in Scandinavian mythology.  It took them 6 months to churn out a first draft, then began the rewrites.  They would do notes, come back for a page one rewrite, outlines, then more notes, another page one rewrite until eventually locking down a script that was ready to shoot.  

    Securing financing from investors in North Carolina and bringing A.J. on board to direct, who also contributed ideas of his own to the script, the production was scheduled for a 19 day shoot in January, a tight and rigid schedule but one that’s doable, as A.J. also shoots the film himself, grabbing multiple takes, shots and setups in one roll, reseting and going back to one without cutting, squeezing in as many takes as possible and cutting out that delay between takes that occurs on higher budgeted, more departmentalized productions.  As the director confers with the cinematographer who in turn confers with the camera operator, A.J. eliminates all those layers of communication, saving time and money by serving all three roles himself, shooting fast, sometimes up to nine and a half pages a day, running through sixty to seventy camera set-ups daily, going through several setups in a single take.  It’s an advantage that keeps the actors in character and helps everyone make their day, which he estimates has saved about half a day of the 19 day schedule.  His multi-role duties provides him full control as director/cinematographer/editor which in turn contributes to the loose vibe on the set, a tight crew shooting on a low budget yet still professional as they race towards picture wrap.

    Shooting primarily on the RED Epic camera, the make/model camera used to shoot films such as David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network, Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire and Contagion, as well as the films District 9, MacGruber, Drive Angry and Hatchet II, the look of the film is that of a highly budgeted studio film as A.J. color grades the footage in camera then edits it in Final Cut Pro 7.  Several cameras are being employed for the shoot, including a GoPro cam that will (if time and money permits) be attached to a Quadrocopter, a remote controlled helicopter like device, sporting four propellers and able to support camera units that weigh up to 200 grams.  It was day 17 of the 19 day shoot and the Quadrocopter was on set for that day only, being tested with iffy results, unclear if A.J. would make his day and get to actually use it.

    Having wrapped a few days earlier, Muse Watson visited the set that day with his wife and daughter.  Cast in the role of Gary, Michael's estranged father, the intensity of his performance comes through even in the sizzle reel that had been prepared to show the investors.  With an appropriate resemblance to Tyler, who plays Muse’s on-screen son, Michael, this should end up being one of the better father/son castings.  

    While Tyler’s character’s name is Michael, matching that of his most famous role to date, it was by no means its namesake.  In writing the script, Renae had gone with the name Michael in homage to comic book artist Michael Turner who had worked with her at Top Cow before passing away in 2008 from cancer.  The name Michael however was used as a placeholder in the writing of the script, destined to be changed for obvious reasons but stuck through the various drafts and ultimately remained the character’s name.  That’s not to say this film’s avoiding the type of trivia it will no doubt be branded with.  Actually, there’s a bit of very circumstantial trivia that should amuse hardcore genre fans that goes beyond the casting and naming of the film’s characters.  An unintentional easter egg of sorts that’s best left to be revealed in the film.

    Having been friends for years, Compound Fracture is Derek and Tyler’s first time actually working together on a film.  Tyler had worked with A.J. Before though, bringing him on board as director of photography but after the previously attached director had to drop out, A.J. swiftly filled those shoes to the benefit of the film’s rigid shooting schedule.  Renae however wasn’t quite sure about him until after filming a specific scene involving a tree house.  Questioning the composition and coverage he shot for that scene, A.J. had to stop explaining it and just showed her the footage he had shot moments ago on playback, right away earning her unconditional confidence for the rest of the shoot.

    What she lost confidence in, however, was Derek and Tyler’s respect for her car, assuming she ever had any to begin with.  When a higher budgeted film would be able to afford picture cars specifically for production, like any frugal indie film would, they used her own car for a stunt, a Cavalier her father had personally built for her years ago.  To her horror, the Cavalier became a set piece and was subjected to a battle of titans as Derek fought Tyler on and around it.  Faces were smashed, dents were made.  A face dent now existed on the hood of her Cavalier, a seemingly permanent souvenir from the shoot that would follow her whereever she drove, but to her and everyone’s surprise, the hood perfectly snapped back in to shape, the face dent instantaneously disappearing.  Only later that night after driving home did she discover the car had further been used in a scene without her knowledge as she parked, got out and discovered bloody footprints all over it.  

    Myke Michaels (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) did make-up on the shoot, providing Tyler with a ghastly bruise across his neck that would make one think twice about asking if it was real or not.  He also did the make-up for Derek which in turn freaked out Muse Watson’s daughter, making her instinctively cover her eyes and almost pass out. 

    The combined A-list credits of those involved is far greater than an indie film of this budget film would normally allow.  Adding to that list is Todd Farmer, who’s unofficial role on set extends well past the two days it took to film his character’s scenes.  He’s been with the production from the beginning, assisting it in every way he can.  Every indie film should have a Todd Farmer working behind the scenes, a super PA of sorts, aiding the production across several departments.  Having written and acted in studio films, he wasn’t above stocking craft services on this indie, bringing chairs for people to sit in, supplying props, escorting press around, putting out fires (metaphorically) and even driving back and forth to get lunch for everyone everyday, even getting pulled over on one of his trips.  He talked his way out of the ticket.  

    What he does already have to show for it though is a trunk that smells of Chuy’s, Jersey Mike’s and In & Out.  Ordering 50 burgers and fries at In & Out one day, an order that was supposed to take 45 minutes, took only 15.  What would normally be a good thing threw off the timing of getting the food back to set on time and keeping it warm as lunch was to be served no earlier than 6 hours after call time.  While a low budget film, it’s still under SAG’s low budget agreement so union rules are in effect.  Kind of.  12 hour days for crew, 8 hours for cast, lunch served 6 hours after calltime.  Ideally.

    As strong as Todd’s faith in the project is, its equally matched by the cast and crew’s, putting together a film that’s look already surpasses it’s budget, filled with talent that can usually be found above the line on a studio film, working together at the lower budget level with a key element giant studio films can hardly ever afford, autonomy.  The quality of the final product is yet to be determined as it doesn’t exist yet.  It could end up being just another film, just a footnote in genre film history or it can be something more.  And if it’s the later, one of the reasons behind that will be Compound Fracture’s indie limitations used to its advantage, a talent driven film that answers not to a studio, but to itself.

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