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Prehistoric reptiles come to life in amateur Jurassic Park remake

Momentarily frustrated with their day jobs, regional Victorian teacher John Roebuck began talking with a colleague about how to find fun outside of work.

“I was spitballing ideas of ways we could take our minds off the fact we were a little bit miserable at work,” Mr Roebuck said.

“She suggested knitting and I said to her, ‘That sounds really boring, why don’t we do a shot-for-shot remake of Jurassic Park?'”

An animation of a dinosaur chasing a jeep as seen in the remake of Jurassic Park

The Jurassic Park remake is being done scene by scene.(Supplied: John Roebuck)

Two years on and the crew that began as six people around a dinner table now includes filmmakers, Jurassic Park super fans and cinematographers.

Jurassic Park debuted on the big screen in 1993 when director Steven Spielberg transformed author Michael Crichton’s novel and his fictional island of Isla Nublar into film.

Since then, there’s been six sequels on the world of Jurassic Park and its prehistoric reptiles.

The original remains a pop culture and science fiction icon.

“Jurassic Park was released in 1993 and that was the nascent period of CGI [computer-generated imagery] really coming to the fore in Hollywood so a lot of blockbuster films nowadays will have thousands of special effects shots with CGI, but Jurassic Park had only about 60,” Mr Roebuck said.

A Styrofoam model of a raptor dinosaur head sits on a bookshelf

The team is using puppets, styrofoam models and green-screen animation to recreate scenes.(ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

Bringing dinosaurs to life

On a brisk Saturday night in early April the crew is preparing to film night scenes with replica Jurassic Park jeeps on loan for the day.

There is no budget, and the crew is completely voluntary, committing hundreds of hours of their time to get this far.

“I usually try to pay for the food and any extra stuff myself, but most people on the main team have chipped in here and there,” Mr Roebuck said.

Scattered around the set in the ironbark forest of Glenluce, near Castlemaine, sits a dinosaur suit, a styrofoam raptor’s head, and some signs mocked up in someone’s shed.

The film shoot goes until 3am.

Bringing the world of genetically engineered dinosaurs to life for a low-cost remake is not an easy task.

A rubber and latex dinosaur suit hangs in a garage

Filmmakers used a dinosaur suit, and some camera trickery, to film the Tyrannosaurus rex scenes.(Supplied: John Roebuck)

The crew have used puppetry, green-screen animation, and some camera trickery to get a Tyrannosaurus rex and raptors on screen.

“We’ve got this T-rex puppet, we’ve got this raptor’s head, but a lot of the stuff we’re actually using animations — green-screen animation — and we’re just taking out the green,” Mr Roebuck said.

“The list of strange things is endless,” he said. “Honestly, the question I get asked most is: ‘Why am I doing this?’.

“I’m someone who does things without thinking a lot of and I’ve spent the past two and half years trying to find an answer. I haven’t found it and I’m still thinking about it.”

A lady with blonde hair and wearing a vest stands in front of a jeep with the words 'Jurassic Park" on it.

Jen O’Donnell plays Dr Ellie Satler in the remake.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Iconic locations, local people

The Victorian goldfields town of Castlemaine features throughout the film.

The backyard diner of the famed Castlemaine Theatre Royal was transformed into tropical Costa Rica, where computer programmer, Dennis Nedry, receives cash for providing vials of dinosaur DNA to theme park competitors.

“We’re trying to film at as many iconic locations around Castlemaine as possible, it’s taken us to these tunnels under Castlemaine. We’re trying to make the cast exclusively Castlemanians,” Mr Roebuck said.

For the past two years, when Jen O’Donnell hasn’t been in the classroom she has spent her time playing Dr Ellie Satler, originally played by actress Laura Dern.

A man in a blue shirt and cravat with wavy blonde hair smies at the camera whle standing in front of a film set

Ian Flavell is taking on the role of Dr Alan Grant, a palaeontologist played by Sam Neill in the 1993 blockbuster film.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Shubert)

“It’s been a lot bigger than we expected,” she said.

Castlemaine builder and children’s soccer coach, Ian Flavell, has taken the role of palaeontologist Dr Alan Grant.

“I think that’s the best thing about acting – the opportunity to be a different character, experience a different emotion, express [yourself] in a different way,” he said.

Fans following their passion

Pop culture buff Peter Pascoe “gets it”.

He runs Bendi-Con, a comic convention for fans of movies, television shows, comics and card games from the regional city of Bendigo in Victoria.

It follows other major comic, pop culture and gaming conventions such as Supanova and Dreamhack in major capital cities around Australia that draw thousands of fans through their doors.

A man with a pony tail and beard holds three small, rare comics in his hands, standing in front of a bookshelf full of comics

Peter Pascoe says remakes are just one way fans can express their fandom.(ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

Mr Pascoe understands the draw of immersing yourself in pop culture and science fiction.

“You follow your passion is basically what being a fan means. My passion lies in the realm of pop culture,” he said.

“You’ll find people out there that are into the weirdest and most wonderful things.

“Fan remakes of popular movies have been around for quite a long time. It’s really a chance for people who love the movie to feel as though they’re a part of it.”

More hands make light work

Remaking the world of Isla Nublar and the jeep chases hasn’t been easy, but the project continues to attract more people.

A group of men stand over a computer in the middle of the bush watching a laptop screen

The Jurassic Park remake started with a crew of six before friends and strangers came onboard.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

From the original six, the list of people with a credit now stands at about 100.

The first 10 minutes were shot by Mr Roebuck on a DSLR camera before the local barber suggested a landscape gardener and budding cinematographer, Kristian Bruce.

“He’s been amazing, the quality of the project has skyrocketed since he has come on board and then people have seen that quality,” Mr Roebuck said.

All over the world, there are members of the Jurassic Park Motor Pool – a group of fans who have done up the 1993 Jeep Wrangler YJ and Ford Escape vehicles with decals and paintwork as seen in the film.

Cody Butler runs the Australian “motor pool” from Melbourne, and lent the Castlemaine team his vehicles. 

A man with short share sits in front of a jeep

Cody Butler says he jumped at the chance to help the filmmakers bring Jurassic Park world to life.(Supplied: Cody Butler)

“As if the guy that revolves his life around Jurassic Park wouldn’t want to participate in a reshooting of it. It’s the one film and franchise that I’ve hyper-fixated on throughout my life,” he said.

“Everyone in the group made and used their vehicles just because of our own love of the films.

“As they say, you have to get old but you don’t have to grow up.”

Castlemaine Natural History Productions creates models of dinosaurs for museums around Australia and is helping the filmmakers recreate the sick triceratops scene.

“The most enjoyable part has been getting to know these people. You don’t say yes to making Jurassic Park, and spend a long time making Jurassic Park, if you’re not a nice person,” Mr Roebuck said.

“It just gets better and better in terms of quality; which as tiring and as stressful as it is, it gets addictive.”

The film is anticipated to be ready later this year, and will be shown at the Castlemaine Theatre Royal.

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