The Making of Turn In Your Grave: A Microbudget Feature
(full 54 min version included on the Turn In Your Grave DVD)
In late 2008 Rob Ager started planning a return to fiction film making after a gap of several years. The initial idea was to shoot a ten-minute horror film in the traditional zombie style ... something that would satisfy zombie fans' desire for old school cartoonish flesh-eating gore with a minimal plotline that served no other purpose than to justify the action. Basically to pay homage to the classic, low budget, pre-CGI zombie flicks of George A. Romero / Tom Savini.
Early drafts of the script did just that, but as new drafts were continually updated unusual themes began to emerge that veered away from the standard concepts of the genre. Some of the new themes were basically a compensation for the then much more limited budget, others were a response to boredom with the usual limitations of the zombie genre (eg, the scientific impossibility of dead flesh coming to life), and some were unrelated themes plucked from our other film project ideas.
It's difficult to know which came first, the intention of turning the project into a feature film or the intention of exploding the traditional zombie story devices into a whole new realm.
Technically, the big challenges were always going to be locations and special effects. For our location we were lucky enough (after much asking around) to stumble across an ideal warehouse location that was empty and due to be refurbished. The owner also happened to be a rabid fan of old school zombie flicks.
The special effects and make-up development was the longest and most difficult part of pre-production, basically adding at least six months to the development process.
As the project became more ambitious (technically and conceptually), the script was repeatedly updated with new ideas. The usual dialogue = exposition method of communicating a story became less relevant, replaced by non-verbal symbolism and subtext communicated through set design, costumes, lighting, camera angles and just about every other aspect of production. The result will be a film that satisfies the original intentions of creating a homage to old school zombie classics, yet can be experienced in many different ways upon repeated viewing.
The main warehouse shoot took place in March 2010 and lasted a week. The building was freezing, but the determined cast and crew (working on a deferred payment basis) gritted their teeth and bore the discomfort. We not only stayed on schedule, but shot a ton of additional, adlibbed scenes. All together we shot an hour's worth of the film in one week.
New scenes were then scripted and shot that take the film into new conceptual territory, bringing the film up to 86 mins running time (feature length).
The editing task was highly experimental and was frequently delayed by other projects, including a 54 minute behind the scenes documentary, but as of 20th May 2012 the final cut version of the film is complete and independently available for purchase on ebay and at www.collativelearning.com. A new trailer has also been completed.