It’s time for another Jurassic June project highlight – and this time, we will be looking at a fantastic live-action Jurassic project.
The Jurassic Park community is arguably one of the most creative on the internet – with hundreds of people producing dinosaur filled content every week. So; imagine my delight when Brad let me know I had a new interview with another community member – Todd Jason.
Todd released a Jurassic Park fan film (Jurassic Park – Life Finds A Way) on his YouTube channel. Clocking in at around thirty-four minutes, the film is a nice romp in a post-apocalyptic landscape littered with dinosaurs. Many – such as Steven Ray Morris of See Jurassic Right – have spoken about how they would love Jurassic World 3 to be akin to something like The Planet of The Apes – and Todd’s film is a nice look at what this could present itself as.
Take a read of our Q&A below, and check out the embedded movie at the bottom of this page.
Hi Todd – thanks for taking the time to sit down with me! So firstly – how did your Jurassic Park story start? Where did your love for this franchise begin?
Every little boy has a stage in life where they’re just obsessed with dinosaurs. I am no different. I watched the first Jurassic Park almost every day growing up. What I didn’t realize at the time was that every time I watched the film, I would go into the extras menu on the DVD and watch the behind the scenes feature. I was learning how the film was made at the age of five. So, when I decided to become a filmmaker I wanted to make my own Jurassic Park movie. And so that’s how to whole thing began.
The Opening Monologue and accompanying video incorporates some nice CGI for Jurassic Park: San Diego. How did you go about achieving this?
First, thank you for complimenting the CGI. I wanted the opening scene to have shots of a functioning Jurassic Park. And right after you hear the part of the monologue “they had killed us all” all hell breaks loose. Due to limited time and limited budget I had to come up with something else. The next idea I had was to have a Fallen Kingdom moment where you have the monologue against some creepy music, there’s rain, thunder, lightning, dramatic timing with the monologue and lightning, etc.
Can you outline the basic plot for readers, and how you came up with this?
Sure, the basic plot is In-Gen created Jurassic Park San Diego in 1997 (from The Lost World). It becomes successful and they create a chain of theme parks. All the parks eventually get destroyed, and now the world is taken over by dinosaurs. And the film follows three survivors who must stay with one another to stay alive. How I came up with this story? I wanted to do something different. Most Jurassic Park fan films out there have one thing in common. They either return to Isla Sorna, Isla Nublar, or go to Site C. I didn’t want a film that was the same, I wanted to make a film that was different from the rest. One that stands out from the crowd.
How did you go about choosing the dinosaurs you wanted to feature in your short film?
Obviously, dinosaurs we’ve seen in the films. You can’t have a Jurassic Park movie without the T-Rex and the raptors. The brachiosaurus scene was to pay respects to that iconic scene from the first movie. The Spino I wanted a character to have a tragic history with. The Carnotaurus was inspired from another dinosaur movie and Fallen Kingdom. And the Stego and Ptero I wanted the audience to see them in that final shot in a herd. Kind of a poetic moment going back to Alan Grant’s famous line “they do move in herds”.
We see the Spas 12 featured which is a nice addition. Did you guys channel your inner Robert Muldoon when working on the film?
As a matter of fact, yes. While we were filming that scene with Danny (Brady Box) and the Wounded Survivor (Chad Leath), I told Brady to kneel a couple times. I chose this because that is what Muldoon does a lot before his fate is decided by the raptors.
I get the feeling that this a post-apocalpytic Jurassic story where the dinosaurs have taken over the planet. Kind of like Planet of The Apes. Was that the vibe you were going for here?
Yes that was the vibe I was going for. Great films like Planet of The Apes played a huge role when coming up with the tone of the movie.
We see the Ford Explorer here – but obviously, we are not on Nublar. Is this meant to be a fan-made Explorer which the guys stumbled across and have adopted? Almost a super fourth-wall reference to the community.
You’ve read my mind. One thing I wanted was a Jurassic Park vehicle but the original intention was the Jeep. So, I started searching throughout the Jurassic Park Motor Pool trying to find a Jeep in my area. I live in the small town of Liberty Hill Texas, about 30 miles from Austin. All the Jeeps were from Dallas, San Antonio, or Houston. Too far of a drive for them. So, I found somebody in Austin who had the Ford Explorer and he was willing to lend it to us for as long as we needed it. We had it for two weeks, and it was a great moment seeing that vehicle sit in my garage. One of my goals in life is to build the Jurassic Park Jeep someday.
In the film, we see a scene where an injured person talks about humans attacking other humans. We never really see this in other Jurassic films, so how important was it to convey this in yours?
It's important to me that I included this in the film because, I think most Jurassic Park fan films focus too much on the dinosaurs. Don’t get me wrong, we all love our precious dinosaurs. But I feel like having a human threat as well as a dinosaur threat, it’s more realistic. If a zombie apocalypse were to happen right now, the walking dead wouldn’t be your only concern.
One of the big adversaries we see in the film is the Carnotaurus. Was this inspired by its presence in Fallen Kingdom?
It kind of was. Like I said earlier growing up I was constantly watching Jurassic Park. That wasn’t the only dinosaur movie, Disney made an animated movie back in 2000 called “Dinosaur”. I love that movie, and one of the main antagonists was a Carnotaurus. It used to scare me a lot when I was a kid. So, when I was writing the script I wanted to include the Carnotaurus. Then Fallen Kingdom came out and we see the Carnotaurus. That just gave me more motivation to keep that dinosaur in the film.
I love how the Spinosaurus was identified as a Baryonyx later in the film. Was this a nod to Billy misidentifying the Spino?
Yes, it was a nod to Billy. You’ll notice during that scene, I never showed the full body of the Spino until the final shot in that scene. That last shot confirms that it’s a Spinosaurus. But if someone is a serious JP fan like you and me, then you’ll immediately know it’s the Spino because we know how it looks and how it sounds. For people who are not a serious fan, I think not showing the full body until the end is more powerful and adds to the horror of the moment.
Later, in the film we see the JP gates and fencing. So – going back to my earlier point, is this perhaps intended to be Nublar? Or did you decide you wanted to take some creative liberties so you could include reference to the original park?
I wanted to use my own creative voice when it came to this film. Before Isla Nublar, John Hammond start working on the San Diego park. I thought to myself, “what if he never thought of Isla Nublar?”. This goes back to what I said earlier about being different from the rest of the JP fan films out there. That scene you’re referring to is supposed to be a park that was in construction and almost finished. That’s why you just see “Jurassic Park” at the gate and not “Jurassic Park Wichita” or something like that. But in the end, it became a scene that pays respects to the film that started it all.
CGI is a big factor of the film and is very well done. How was this achieved?
Thank you. The CGI is one thing I really wanted to sell, and that was the goal in post-production. A couple years ago, I started conducting CGI tests for dinosaurs, and the first one was with green screen CGI you can download from YouTube. Then I stumbled upon a 3D program called Blender. It’s a free, yes, a FREE 3D program. I started learning it and creating my own dinosaur animations. It wasn’t until I recreated that epic wide shot from Jurassic Park where the T-Rex steps through the fence and does that iconic roar. At that point, I realized that I was ready to make the movie. Now ILM is the best visual effects company in the film industry, they have access to all this expensive 3D software. What I learned overtime, however, is that it’s not the software; it’s how you use it.
The film gives fans something long anticipated. The Spinosaurus/T-Rex rematch. How important was it to you that this got an inclusion in the film?
Ah the epic rematch. The idea behind that is a debate between fans I believe. A lot of people want the rematch and a lot of people don’t want the rematch. But I wanted the climax of the film to be huge, go out with a bang. So that is why I included it. One of my favourite shots in the whole film is that epic 360 shot where our heroes are hiding between two trees, the camera turns around and you see both animals in an all-out brawl. I love that shot and it’s meant to reference the final fight with the indominus from Jurassic World. The amazing long take of Blue and Rexy destroying the Indominus.
Finally – anything else you’d like to add?
One experience I will never forget.
The day we filmed the Spino scene with Danny and Lauren (Jamie Brownwell), we all rode to the location in the JP Ford Explorer. It was the only vehicle we had. It was time for a lunch break so we all got in the Ford and drove to Dairy Queen. We sat by a window so I can always have eyes on the car. I didn’t want anyone to screw with it. I see a father and his son walk up to the car and start looking at it. I watch them and I see the kid just lose his mind. He was wearing a Jurassic Park shirt as well. He was so excited and his dad took a picture of him next to the car.
I then later walked up to them and I told them about it, where I got, why we had it, etc. It was just a great moment to see and one I will never forget.
Thanks, once again, to Todd for sitting down and working on this fun interview! I always love gaining insight into fan projects – and I think it’s fascinating that so many of us have our own ideas for stories and follow on pieces which have their own unique merits. Wherever the films go in the future, I think the Jurassic community will continue to make fun alternative and creative projects which explore this incredible universe.
Make sure you check out Life Finds A Way below.