SET REPORT: COMPOUND FRACTURE
It seemed to become unnaturally windy as soon as I arrived at the crew parking lot for COMPOUND FRACTURE. Roughly 50 miles Northwest of Los Angeles, I soon found myself somewhat in the middle of nowhere or as the locals call it: Piru, California. The film’s main location sat perched up on a hill, mostly hidden from my car which seemed over a mile away. With the knowledge that I was about to spend the day with Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Ben Willis (aka the hook killer from I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER), I laughed off a prayer I’d make it out alive.
As soon as I caught site of the set, it’s exterior seemed like a boring and most definitely unassuming house. But upon further inspection, underneath the building’s mundane facade existed a rather creepy cult compound vibe. As I stood there, taking in my surroundings, the wind once again picked up and almost knocked me off my balance.
It was later in the day that Tyler told me, “The wind adds to the overall creepiness. The night we arrive to the house in the film, it’s a stormy night. So it just adds to it.”
Todd Farmer was there to greet me. After some small talk, he guided me on a tour of sorts to take in the many rooms and areas being used to shoot Mane Entertainment’s new film. Known as a screenwriter, Mr. Farmer had been with the production from the get go. His responsibilities on set were to help wherever needed. Such is the world of Independent Cinema.
As we walked, we talked about the production. Written and Produced by Renae Geerlings and Tyler Mane, COMPOUND FRACTURE stars Mane as Michael, a man who is driven to protect his family from an unforseen power. Geerlings is his fiance Juliet, and Alex Saxon plays the nephew Brandon. The story takes place in the locked down and heavily secured home of Gary (Muse Watson), Michael’s extremely paranoid and delusional estranged father. Over two days, the family must deal with the outside threat trying to get in and the past that may turn the family’s fractured relationship into a full on break.
Discussing the story further with the main players of the cast, Renae said,“My background has been in comic books and theater and Tyler’s in horror. So when he said I want to do a horror film, I told him you know it’s going to have to be all about character. So, you know, we built it but we tried to make it really simple and contained. While being scary at the same time, staying in one location.”
Derek chimed in, “It’s three fathers trying to protect their family in different ways. They all think they’re right. And they all come from a place of love when I’m the more darker side and the lighter side is more Tyler and in between is Muse. None of them are necessarily correct but each character feel as if they are.”
Nodding, Tyler added, “Everyone believes that what they’re doing is what needs to be done and they’re right. There’s a motive behind any action. It may not be right, but they think it’s right. It’s right for what they’re doing at that time.”
Renae summed up the gist of the film by saying, “At the heart of it, the story is a family drama wrapped in a supernatural horror film.”
Tyler and Derek were in the middle of choreographing a fight scene. Muse Watson appeared on set after having wrapped from production some days prior. He was visiting with his wife and daughter and instead of talking to him about the production, we found ourselves talking coffee. He brought much happiness to the cast and crew with what he refers to as “Cajun Crack”. Without going into great detail, I’ll just advise you all to google Community Coffee from Louisiana.
While in between scenes, A.J. Rickert-Epstein (Director/Cinematographer/Editor) came to chat with me. We had originally met at The Eyegore Awards in September and I was reminded of how personable he was. He’s a no nonsense type of guy, definitely, and very much unlike any director I’ve met before. COMPOUND FRACTURE is his first feature film but he was definitely undaunted by the opportunity. The cast and crew had nothing but great things to say about him after seeing his work ethic and creativity on set of a previous music video he worked on.
When asked about the multiple roles he has on set (I started referring to him as their Robert Rodriguez), he said this,“Where time is limited, it eliminates the need to communicate to another person. For me, that’s pretty much the only way I know how to direct anyways. And it just goes by faster. The energy of the set is a collaborative effort and allows an easier workflow as opposed to a battle of egos. Everyone has the freedom to work as hard as they can to make the best movie possible without the different departments and overall hierarchy you usually see on movies.”
Derek added, “Everyone here wants to row the boat in the same direction. We all have the same goal. Whatever’s best for the movie. There’s been times where actors may have too much dialog in a scene and we’re like no we gotta cut that because it doesn’t feel right and we’re looking at what’s best for the film. Usually you don’t see that lack of ego with actors who are just focused on their time and their dialog on camera. This doesn’t feel typical, it’s more like a group of friends making something and trying to create a story together. That’s our purpose. The most important thing above everything else is the story and not the needs of the individual.”
I observed at how different this production was from many sets I’d been on before. The cast and crew worked seemlessly with one another. It was almost like everyone were old friends, or better yet, a family. A.J. nodded, “The whole film is about a family unit so to have that family unit feeling on set is key and contributes to that on screen I think too.”
On the other side of the house, a few guys were test flying what looked like a toy helicopter. I later found out that it was a special camera rig to be used in the film. When asked about it, A.J. laughed, “That’s one of many tools we have to film the story in a way that’s conceptually creative. Did you see the ball sphere? One of Gary’s security measures is this little sphere that has 22 cameras around it so when you throw it into a room it shows you all the angles of that room.” Renae added some information regarding this little ball, “It’s actually been used by the Israeli Army for a long time. They send the sphere in with dogs. It’s an actual 360 camera. They blow out the wall and send in a dog during the melee so people don’t notice the dog dropped something on the floor. Then it goes to it’s second objective and now the army can see exactly how many people are in the room and where.” A.J. nodded, explaining with a grin “It might come into play in the ending sequence between Derek and Tyler.”
Commenting further on A.J.’s work ethic, Tyler stated “The good thing working with A.J., a lot of directors will stop between takes. A.J. is just on the fly, spinning around, and you can stay in the flow.” Derek added, “Seeing some of these custom rigs he’s made for cameras that I’ve never seen before, I’m like, you shot that on what!? And for how much?! REALLY!?! And then being here and seeing how he just knocks stuff out and communicates with the actors how he does, it’s so clear and precise and very creative.”
Soon it was time to break for lunch and we made our way to a table in the middle of the hurricane, I mean wind. I was able to sit down and speak more about the fight they were choreographing earlier out back. With Tyler’s past wrestling experience and Derek’s knowledge as a stunt coordinator, I asked them about the experience working together on bringing a fight scene from the page to the screen.
Tyler took a second to reply, “A fight written on a page compared to what actually gets done, it changes so much. Choreographing a fight is like choreographing a dance. You just gotta figure out Step 1, Step 2, Step 3. You’re going through that waltz and you just have to make it fit. Derek has the ability with coming up with things on the fly.” Renae quickly jumped in, “Derek is great with ideas especially when they involve my car.”
Car? I needed to know more.
With a serious as Cancer look in his face, Derek said, “Renae has this special car her father built her 14 years ago. It’s a hybrid of two different cars put together. It’s very dear to her and we used it for the show. And I thought it’d be kind of interesting if we…”
“…Trashed it!?” Renae looked at Derek, her arms crossed.
“Fought on it. You know, stand on it a couple of times.” Derek said, smiling slightly.
“Slam Tyler into it!” Renae, arms still crossed.
“Ram Tyler’s face on it.”
“I believe he wanted to blow the tires off the side.” She was glaring accusingly at him at this point.
Shrugging, Derek replied, “That would have been awesome.”
Renae continued, “Smash the windshield.”
Derek’s smile got bigger, “Look, you’re the producer. I want you to put into it what you get back out of it.”
It was at this point where everyone shared a laugh and you could feel the family like bond between them. Tyler shook his head and looked at me, “So needless to say, we scaled that one down a bit.” Renae shook her head, smiling, “So I drove home at night in the dark and didn’t realize until the next morning that there were muddy footprint indents all over my car and it had been sprayed with blood.” Never skipping a beat, Derek added, “I think the important part of the story is I didn’t fall. And we got the shot.”
This little back and forth led me to ask them how it’s been working with Mr. Mears. Any sign of mock anger immediately subsided, as Renae said “We’re good friend with Derek. If he had a schedule conflict or was doing another film, we didn’t want to get in the way of that but the role we wrote was always meant for him.” Tyler added, “It’s been a huge collaborative effort. Finally I get to work with Derek. We’ve been friends for years.” Derek nodded, “Way before the Michael and Jason thing.”
Tyler continued, “Anytime we talk to the fans, they always ask when we’re going to do something together. When are Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees going to fight? And that’s another reason why we thought we should do something and have Derek and myself, you know, go at it.”
At that moment, it was announced lunch was over and it was time to get back to the set. I shouted one last question before the talent made their way to hair and makeup and Renae stopped and smiled. She then said bluntly, “Of course I set it up for a sequel. I’m no fool!”
Fools? None of them are. Bypassing the studio system entirely, COMPOUND FRACTURE is a labor of love and you can feel it from every person involved in the production. With the focus always on story over everything else, this creepy compound has turned into a sort of refuge away from the big Hollywood system. A refuge where ideas flow freely, actors have the right to create their own choices, and a movie can be made without any sense of pretension. With six more projects in the pipeline, Mane Entertainment is definitely a production company to watch.
COMPOUND FRACTURE is set to be released later this year.
Mane Entertainment, LLC is a new, Los Angeles-based production company, formed by Tyler Mane, with the goal of producing high quality, moderately budgeted films to create the best return on investment.