Your new movie When
Darkness Falls - in a few words, what is it about?
the film is about two American friends, Jess and Andrea, who reconnected
after high school and they have taken a walking holiday to the Scottish
Highlands. They happen upon two opportunistic men in a local pub and after
a disagreement about staying with them, Jess goes off on her own,
arranging to meet Andrea later in the day. However she doesnít show at
the hilltop meeting point. What happened to her? Did it have something to
do with the two guys in the pub or is there a more sinister agenda at play
in the sleepy Scottish countryside?
What were your sources of inspiration when dreaming up the story
for When Darkness
was actually heavily inspired by 1970ís British thriller And Soon the
Darkness, which featured two British tourists going on a cycling holiday
in rural France and one of them goes missing. Thereís also a 2010 remake
with Karl Urban and she who shall not currently be named (Amber Heard),
which I have not seen. Our story flips it to two American tourists in
Scotland, we thought this would have more international appeal. Beyond
that, it doesnít really follow the original, which was a little
simplistic in its narrative and execution Ė ours gets a little bit wild
towards the end with the twists.
What can you tell us about When
Darkness Falls' screenwriter Tom Jolliffe [Tom
Jolliffe interview - click here], and what was your collaboration
is the sort of person that sends WhatsApp voice notes you can only open in
private, for fear of arrest and incarceration. Other than that heís a
great guy Ė we met a few years ago on an action fan forum, we love the
same kinds of movies, have the same outlook on modern and classic cinema,
and collaborating with him is great because weíre always on the same
page. He wants to make something creative, put his own stamp on it and
harken back to old school thrillers but without having to sell our soul in
terms of making something overly commercial and in return sacrificing
trying to make a genuinely good movie. Weíre already planning our next
Do talk about your movie's approach to the
thriller genre is one that has seen a bit of a renaissance recently I
think, especially with the advent of Netflix and other streaming
platforms. They seem to travel well and if the concept is interesting
enough they usually get hyped up on social media and through word of
mouth. In terms of our approach, we wanted to go a little old school,
hence the 1970s inspiration. Everything from the old fashioned credits
and freeze frame opening is straight out of the 70s. We wanted a little
bit of an Alfred Hitchcock vibe to it, but hopefully punctuated with
enough twists and gore to satisfy genre fans.
A few words about your overall
directorial approach to your story at hand?
think directorial wise, I wanted to make the performances as realistic as
possible. Tom did a great job in writing some convincing dialogue, and the
actors were great at delivering that. Style-wise I didnít want to go
handheld. Nice sweeping shots, picturesque wides and nicely framed close
ups I felt would highlight the scenery, which is one of the filmís
strong points I believe. Obviously that approach canít be realised
without a shrewd and imaginative DOP too, and Andy Crane did a great job in
hitting all those beauty shots bullseyes.
appear in front of the camera in When
Darkness Falls - so what can you tell us about your character,
what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you intended to play
Nate from the get-go?
agreement with Tom was that although the film would be female-led, to
appeal to modern audiences and avoid too many cliches, I would get some
kind of role. That happened to be Nate. Nateís
quite an interesting character and certainly one with more depth than the
usual roles I end up in. Heís pretty nonchalant, bit of a pleasure
seeker, probably charming but bordering on unsettling to those that see
through the thin veneer of laddish banter. So underneath heís quite
dangerous, calculated and heís only really after sex and money, and
heíll try to get those two things any way he can. I wonít say too much
else but he does see a bit of an arc and reveal a bit of depth as the film
progresses. In terms of bringing Nate to life, I think Michaela Longden (who plays
Jess) [Michaela Longden
interview - click here] was instrumental in getting me to see motive jump from the page in
terms of character, and really once youíve got the motive down it
becomes easier to deliver the lines and craft the character. Tom wrote the
part very well too.
Do talk about the rest of your
cast, and why exactly these people?
cast in this one was excellent I felt. Everyone truly hit the nail on the
head and brought their characters to life. Everyday I was observing
performances thinking thatís so much like Tom and I had envisioned it.
Everyone just seemed to get their character and put their own slant on it,
and I feel the performances (until the film gets a little crazy) were all
grounded in reality, which I think really helps sell the tension in the
film. Acting-wise, I think these are the best performances in any film
Iíve made. It was a largely new cast; Michaela Longden, Emma O'Hara, Ben
Brinicombe, and Niamh O'Donnell we
found via casting calls online. Craig McEwan I had worked with before and Tony
knew of and was just waiting for the right role for him. Because this is a
little bit of a different film, I had to look out with my usual network
for new talent.
How did you find all
your impressive outdoors locations, and what was filming in the Scottish
Highlands actually like?
actually, Iím a bit of a mismarketer here! The film is set in the
Scottish Highlands but almost ironically we filmed in Southern Scotland as
it was easier to access and visually it is a pretty close comparison to
the North. This was to aid with travel etc. But again, almost
ironically, the South is actually home to Scotlandís highest village
(not the Highlands), called Wanlockhead. We shot across Wanlockhead and
Leadhills, which have a very interesting history of lead mining and gold
panning! They are very sleepy, you could probably drive through either of
them at any point and not see a single soul, which was perfect for the
film. It was September but it ended up being uncharacteristically warm.
Other than the night shoots, those were f*cking freezing!
A few words about the shoot as
such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shot back to back for 12 days straight (which was eleviated somewhat by
shooting almost backshift most days, giving us a bit of chill time on set). We stayed on location, across two cottages, and I think that really
helped bring the small cast and crew closer together. We got to know each
other, and hopefully the intimacy of the shoot shows through in how natural
the performances are on screen. All great people and we had a great laugh
over an intense 12 days! There did have to be frequent spider removal
missions from bedrooms though (mostly mine).
Anything you can tell
us about audience and critical reception of When
the film isnít out just yet (it drops on 21st June on DVD and digital in
the United States) but I hope that audiences and critics see it as a well
crafted and neat little thriller with all the desired aspects to keep the
viewerís attention and hopefully surprise them with the twists and
turns. I hope people are forgiving of the low budget and that it doesnít
show Ė really the strong points are the photography of the beautiful
locations and the performances of the actors who really grabbed and ran
with a tightly woven yet slow burn script.
Any future projects you'd like
actually right in the middle of shooting a sequel to our first feature,
Holiday Monday Ė which is an action thriller set on Bank Holiday Monday.
I felt it had sequel potential so we went out and did it! Logistically and
physically it was probably the most challenging film Iíve ever done. Next
in the pipeline (without tempting fate hopefully!) is a really dark crime
thriller and a gothic horror. Iím really excited for those.
What got you into the filmworld in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
used to make shorts for YouTube, just starring myself in an almost Mike
Myers playing every role-type thing. I ended up involving others and
putting together a proper crew, and I guess things just spiralled from
there Ė and here we are; 7 shorts and 3 features later.
actually studied business and marketing at university and have a business
degree, so no formal film training. But learning on the job has always
been utterly invaluable to me Ė every film is a huge learning curve and
I hope my business experience actually helps in terms of crafting
something commercial, marketing it properly and dealing with the
production/project management side of things more efficiently.
seem to feel as comfortable in front of the camera as behind it - so which
side of the camera do you actually prefer, and why?
I only transitioned to behind the camera because I felt it was a better
way to have more creative control and see my vision through. I think if
you write something or have an involvement in the script, thereís a
natural want to take that from page to screen. I enjoy directing, but along
with producing, writing and acting it can get a bit much. Iíll likely
take a step back next time and put my trust in someone else.
do enjoy acting though, itís fun. Itís an adult dressing up and
playing pretend - whatís not to like?
talk about your filmwork prior to When
Darkness Falls, in whatever position?
Darkness Falls I did 7 shorts, a mixture of action, crime, horror
and thriller. 5 at around 25 minutes and 2 at 40, before I realised I
probably had a feature in me. The goal was always to do a Hollywood style
plot and cover it in 20 mins, and now hopefully Iím taking that
commercial outlook to features, whilst trying not to sacrifice creativity
and artistic merit. I acted in all of them to some degree, directed most,
wrote them all. Iíve always been a master of all trades and probably
jack of noneÖ
you describe yourself as an actor, and how as a director?
Acting-wise, I tend to try to deliver things as naturally as possible. I usually
imagine them as a conversation in real life and how Iíd say them to
someone. To be honest though, I do try to put a bit of an American
slant/cinematic angle on my acting. I donít know if that comes across
but I always think it makes it more internationally appealing. Just a pity
about the accent broader than the Nile!
Directing-wise Iíll most of the time stand back and let actors do their thing and
make sure to listen to the ideas and advice of the DOP. I was asked why I
wasnít giving direction or intervening on a performance, but that was
because I didnít have to. I was standing behind the camera thinking
thatís pretty good. So why try to fix something that ainít broke? I
think you have to put some trust in your actors, and at the end of the day
they are usually better than me!
filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
think Iím probably more inspired by individual films rather than one
specific actor or filmmaker. Whether that be the tone, the lighting, the
plot or the way the film works narratively.
a huge action movie fan, so everything from Rambo and
Terminator to John
Woo, Bruce Lee movies, all the 80s and 90s action heroes, of which
there are too many to name and that are basically a dying breed. I kind of
hate the modern cookie cutter action movies where they have these interchangeable
soft faced leads that are either a Hollywood Chris or Ryan. I kind of
prefer the grizzled older action stars like Liam Neeson, Stallone, Mel
Gibson or Denzel.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
than that, some of my favourite films are Shutter
Island, The Departed,
Gran Torino, Cape Fear, The Changeling, Rosemaryís
Baby. I love taut,
imaginative thrillers. But Iíll pretty much watch anything if the
concept is good. I also love the erotic thriller that has kinda died out
as well (although seems to be edging towards a slight comeback) Ė stuff
like Body Heat, Fatal Attraction, Final Analysis.
and of course, films you really deplore?
wouldnít say I quite deplore them, but I think the superhero stuff has
run its course. I know people love Marvel and the like, but all the films
are impossible to differentiate between. I know a few old school directors
like Scorsese have voiced their disapproval of them for essentially being
akin to video games rather than actual narrative features. I thought the
superhero wave would have died out now but it seems to have incredible
legs and almost become a genre on its own. They also utilise great actors
and give them very little to do. Watch Robert Downey jr in The Judge, for
example, and youíll see how wasted he is as Iron
Man, although I know his
performances as Iron
Man are pretty much iconic now amongst the fanbase. I
do love the Nolan Batman
trilogy, but thatís probably because Batman
doesnít have superpowers so it is devoid of overuse of CGI.
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
think Iíve rambled enough!
for the interview!