Jeff Renfroe, Director of The Colony, Talks Behind-the-Scenes Insights of Creating an Ice Age Thriller

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“The Colony,” from RLJ Entertainment and Sierra Pictures, playing in theaters everywhere presents a terrifying apocalyptic winter thriller created by Director Jeff Renfroe that captures the breakdown of society, showcases a sub human species and exemplifies against all odds survival.

Creating this world centered on the next ice age became the responsibility of Director Jeff Renfroe as he was tapped, in addition to securing the director gig, as one of the writer for the science fiction horror film.

Having the opportunity to interview him he offers the behind the scenes insights of his driving force that compelled him toward the creation of this society, explains both passions and challenges in creating the world for the audience.

Janet Walker: Hi Jeff. How are you?

Jeff Renfroe:  Fine Janet and you?

JW: Fine Thanks. So Congratulations on the film. “The Colony” is an interesting film.  It has some ups and downs and some interesting moments that I didn’t expect. So why don’t you tell me a little about it? What drew you to directing it?

JR: Initially, it was a really cool low budget science fiction script that caught my attention.  And at the time it was very low budget and I was looking to do something with a bigger scope and I guess what attracted me most was the setting, and a great excuse to getting into building a world around this next ice age.  And really how that taps into the sustainability and how greed and consumption distort our human spirit and ultimately destroy us.

We worked together with the writer to bring our antagonist, our cannibal, which at one point had a supernatural kind of take on it. Really I wanted to go with a more honest and organic approach on it which make “The Colony” essentially a monster movie. But a monster that was credible and justified by the simple means of just people running out of food and what, at some point that, could happen to any one of us. I mean it’s not a space virus it’s just humanity on the brink. Those are some of the things that attracted me to the project.

JW: So when you got the script and the entire sequences regarding the cannibalism, was that changed at all. Did the scope become larger or narrow from what you got the original script in that area?

JR:  When I came on as the writer I blew the budget up. I really wanted to do some bigger set pieces and felt like the premise deserved that and really it was about taking the supernatural out of the script and making it more reality based in a sense.

JW: I thought that was all very interesting the cannibal scenes I didn’t see that coming at all and I see a lot of film.

JR: Cool.

JW: You said you came on as the writer?

JR: Initially, I attached myself to direct the movie and it was around a two million dollar script and I had come off some independent movies around that budget range and convinced the producers we could do something bigger and they gave me a crack at it and I kept working with the original writers and eventually we brought Svet in and there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen but I feel like we made a nice stew.

You know, it was really fun working with three other writers who were equally passionate about the genre and about making a cool science fiction horror flick.

JW: What were some of the challenges you faced during filming?

JR:  Um. . . a lot of weather based challenges.  We were shooting a big part it in northern Ontario so quite a ways north of Toronto. And it was cold. We were shooting and our lenses froze up. We essentially shoveled snow into an airplane hangar. We hung three walls of green screen and lit through the forth wall which was completely open so we were able to get the nice real breath coming out from our actors because everyone was actually freezing.

Weather was one of them. We shot in some very challenging locations. We shot in an old coal plant in Toronto which was just very decrepit and miserably cold and dirty but offered an amazing environment and just some great atmospheric location.

It’s hard to build sets when you are looking at the world’s largest freestanding buildings inside with all these rusted steel girders and the texture just goes on forever and you look at your crew and realize it is going to be hard but at the end of the day it’s really going to look stunning. So those were some of the bigger challenges.

JW:  When you were working through the writing process and the challenges of building a new script although you maintained the premise but blowing it up as you said, was the expectation building or was the expectation of making the film different that you thought it would be and if yes how.

JR:  Well it was certainly an ambitious change. As you may or may not know Canadian films generally have a very small budget, much smaller than we had.

So it was a challenge in one respect to raising the financing to develop the movie on this scale that we could pull off in Canadian. And as we marched closer to production date there were a lot of sacrifices in the eleventh hour and we had to make some compromises in the script and always keeping in mind what the core objectives were and to really paint a picture of this world and drop our audience into this frozen landscape.

And throughout this process we had to keep the eye on the ball of maintaining a timeline very tight and linear and making a film where you feel you are in the trenches with these characters and surrounded by the action.

JW: what was your most memorable moment from working on the film?

JF: I would say Construction on some of our sets was really fun to see taking shape. We built a huge section of the bridge that appears in the movie in studio and part of it was finding solutions to budgetary problems we ended up shooting at a warehouse in actually building the bridge to match the eye beams that ran down the middle of the warehouse. Just things like that. You come into the studio that had nothing in it. And slowly it becomes this monster set and then cut to seeing the finished movie with all the visual effects; it is really satisfying to see all that come together.

“The Colony,” stars Lawrence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Kevin Zegers, Charlotte Sullivan, Atticus Mitchell, and Dru Viergever. “The Colony” was directed by Jeff Renfroe and written by Svet Rouskov, Patrick Tarr, Pascal Trottier and Renfroe.

“The Colony” is playing in theaters everywhere. Check your local listings.

 

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