Desperate strangers flee to an isolated Central Alberta farmhouse, seeking refuge from a mysterious, cataclysmic force.
The threat could come from zombies, aliens, atomic fallout, or a meteor hurtling through space — although none of the above are part of the apocalyptic scenario in Break On Through.
The new 90-minute indie movie, being made by Ignition Films in association with Ridge Enterprises, is being shot over 19 days in a rented 1970s-era farmhouse, five minutes drive from Alix.
Writer/producer Matt Grue said the wood-panelled walls and orange carpeting lend the right visuals to his tense screenplay.
“It was hard to find an isolated farm house where you could look 360 degrees around it and not see any other house…”
The action begins with all of Earth in a state of panic. “There’s this strange sound and it’s knocked out all the power, and none of the gas stations are working, and everybody’s fleeing…”
Grue is cagey about further plot details because he doesn’t want to spoil the surprise ending. But he promised some interesting twists in this psychological thriller, which is being directed by Red Deer resident Dustin Clark and filmed by director of photography Adam Patrick Cummerford.
“I’d like it to be the kind of film where, once people know how it ends, they can watch it a second time and catch all the things they missed the first time.”
With a $60,000 budget, the movie features intense characters: a spooky boy who can’t talk, but seemingly knows too much, a supernatural villain, Bogart, a man looking for his missing wife and daughter, and Dillon, a woman who becomes the boy’s protector.
Break On Through, financed by the filmmakers and other local investors, has a cast of 10, including actors Sebastian Kroon (an RDC grad now living in Vancouver), Robert van der Linden, Evan Hall, Minjang Dau and Amber Bissonnette, who appears in the APTN TV show Caution: May Contain Nuts…
The script is open to interpretation and has been under construction for several years. Grue was intrigued by the idea of putting desperate strangers into a small space, in which they are must work together — although each have different approaches to a common problem.
Unlike films of similar ilk, such as Night of the Living Dead, he’s striving to create dimensional characters instead of stereotypes. Bogart, Dillon et al, will show different sides of their personalities as the plot turns, Grue added.
His trick, as a screenwriter, will be “not to let the characters nor the audience get ahead of each other,” but allow awareness about plot developments to happen simultaneously on and off screen.
The pressure-cooker atmosphere of Break On Through will stand in contrast to Ignition’s debut indie movie from 2015.
In the feature musical Year After Year, the worst thing that happens is the protagonist turns 30 without having his life and career in order.
Based on an original, made-in-Red Deer stage play, Year After Year had a successful run for an independent film.
It made the film festival circuit in five countries and collected three awards — best screenplay at the Down East Flick Fest in North Carolina, and Best Actor awards (for Joel Crichton) at festivals in Germany and England.
It was nominated for multiple Alberta film awards and eventually aired on Shaw TV.
The project took about three years to complete and was so labour-intensive that Grue and his production manager spouse, Stephanie Ridge, decided to go in a different direction for their second venture
“We decided we’re never doing a musical again!” said the producer, who’s glad to be filming primarily in one location this time, and without a supporting cast of dozens of singing, dancing extras.
The goal is to have Break On Through ready for a local premiere by the fall of 2017. Grue believes end-of-times themes have become more popular since the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre. Anxiety about the new millennium is perhaps weighing on the populace. “Mortality interests people, and they like to think of all the ‘what ifs’ …What would I do if I was in this situation?”
Although Grue and Ridge, who both trained at Red Deer College, started out by launching Ignition Theatre, they have moved towards making films lately because they can reach a broader audience.
Part of the problem with live theatre is Red Deer doesn’t have affordable, accessible and appropriate space for it to flourish, said Grue, who noted Ignition Theatre had been building an audience before The Matchbox venue folded for financial reasons.
While he hasn’t closed the door on producing plays in future, he said these will be done as inspiration strikes rather than as part of a full season.