Today we sit down with writer and director Gerard Lough in order to have a chat about his debut feature film Night People. Following on from our review of the film when it hit Irish cinemas on the 13th (here) we thought it would be a good idea to have a chat with Gerard and find out about the shooting process, his motivations behind the piece and much more! Read on for our interview…
Hey Gerard, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us! It has to be exciting seeing your first feature premiering in Irish cinemas this month.
It is considering no distributor had the balls to release it here and that most indie films will never see the inside of a cinema. There were some offers but it was strictly a straight to video kind of deal that would bypass even a limited theatrical run. I stuck to my guns as the experience of seeing your film on a 30 foot screen with surround sound just can’t be beaten.
Could you let our readers know a little bit about what Night People is about?
A pair of mismatched criminals break into a vacant house to carry out an insurance scam. Awkwardly thrown together with an hour to kill, they reluctantly start telling each other tall tales. One concerns two friends who discover a mysterious device that may be of alien origin. The more they learn about it, the closer to breaking point their friendship is pushed. The other is about an ambitious business woman who provides a dating agency for wealthy fetishists. She attempts to escape this shady line of work by taking on a new client who’s habits may be of the vampiric variety. Eventually the three stories interconnect, the lines between reality and fantasy blur and all hell brakes loose.
You have many years of experience writing, producing and directing short films as well as music videos. Included in those short film credits is an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Boogeyman. How have you let your experience on these projects influence your first feature?
Everything I learned on all the shorts and music videos has helped me make Night People which is why I tell young film-makers to make short films before taking the plunge into making a feature, which could be a two year process that will really test you both physically and emotionally. A indie short film on your C.V. will at least prepare you for what’s in store. The Boogeyman was a great test run forNight People as that story was a nonlinear narrative that jumps back and forth with multiple flashback and an unreliable narrator, a difficult thing to pull off as you constantly run the risk of leaving an audience totally confused and lost.
The shoot for Night People was all on location, around Donegal if I’m not mistaken. Naturally, I tend to assume shooting in one area makes life easier as opposed to traveling far and wide to make a film come together. Is that necessarily true or are there certain challenges introduced by staying local?
It is absolutely true and when you are also a producer you have to practical. The downside was that most actors live in Dublin so there’s that and the high amount of rain we get in the North West of Ireland. All the rain in the movie is not me paying homage to Blade Runner – its the real thing.
What was the motivation for digging into feature films? How was the transition from short film production to making something like Night People?
Because it was what I always wanted to do with my life and had decided I wanted to be a feature film director when I was 18. Problem was I hadn’t the slightest idea how to go about it, had no connections to the business and remember in 1996 we were still in the pre digital camera / digital editing on a PC / DCP age. If I were 18 now I would skip college altogether, buy a SLR and a good PC and get to work. Research and film theory? Internet! The transition from a short to a feature is almost exactly the same except that now everything is gonna be three times longer. The prep, shoot, the post so you have to ask yourself are you ready for it and can you make it to the end? The only other difference is that features unlike short films are a commercial product and so a lot of thought has to go into the marketing side of things. That and the cruel battlefield that is the box office.
One of the the things that really struck me about this film was the times of day you chose to shoot. I suppose the title speaks for itself, but I enjoyed how you chose to shoot a lot of these scenes during the evening, when light was low, which afforded the film an eeriness, a really thick atmosphere. Was there a conscious effort to provide a balance between daytime and nighttime environments?
I just love shooting at magic hour. It’s a pain in the ass for the cast and crew as you have to schedule the shoot for a specific time and then have to move quickly as the light is changing so fast but I think its all worth it when you see the footage. But you’re right, it suited the mood of this film as it created an otherworldly, film noir feel. Night shoots will get on your nerves after a while, mind you.
Night People has multiple storylines ongoing, one set in the present involving the two thieves, and then those of the characters involved in the stories they tell one another. What were your inspirations for crafting this story-within-a-story narrative?
As a kid I watched a lot of anthology shows such as The Twlight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as anthology films such as Cat’s Eye and despite the movie’s well earned reputations as mixed and uneven, I like the idea of getting three stories for the price of one, three tales with all the fat trimmed off them that hit the ground running. But with Night People the ambition was that to do this as a hyperlink story where they are not separate tales but in fact share characters, themes and all take place in the same world and by the last twenty minutes even those lines have blurred and it is really one big story. Ambitious stuff for a first feature but I think I pulled it off… by the skin of my teeth. And just urban myths and the unreliable nature of story telling in general. How a story starts off as accurate but with each telling gets 30% of bullshit added to it because it makes for a better story and then its that narrative that sticks and gets repeated endlessly. Let’s face it, The Exorcist or Poltergeist were not cursed productions… but it makes for a good story.
You have a keen interest in telling stories based in horror and science fiction. Do you have any interest in playing around in other genres?
Absolutely as I am interested in different things but its wise to play to your strengths too. Mine are flashy visuals and creating a tense atmosphere but those could be used in service of other types of genre such as a thriller. Current desires would be to shoot in a foreign country or a story set during the rise and fall of the New Romantic scene (it could be like Cabaret… but with synths!). Put it this way, one of the things I love about The Cure is how they smashed their image as Gothic doom mongers with the release of the singles The Walk, Let’s Go To Bed and The Lovecats and surprised everyone with a sudden sharp about turn that creatively recharged them and paved the way to worldwide mainstream success. No harm in rearranging the sandbox from time to time.
Do you foresee people outside of Ireland being able to see your film soon? Any plans for an international distribution?
Ideally I would like them to be able to see it in a cinema but that requires a distributor that is brave enough to roll the dice on a film with no stars, a first time director and a story that isn’t based on a best selling novel. It is brutally hard for indie films at the moment as the powers that be are scared about taking a chance on them as they frankly would like to keep their job because they may well lose it on the next flop they acquire. That said there will be the VOD option in the new year and yes a 32 inch monitor isn’t the same as a 30 foot one and stereo sound isn’t 5.1 surround but… a good film stands up no matter what format you watch it in. Because it legally wasn’t available in Ireland at the time, I had to watch Clockwork Orange for the first time in black and white with French subtitles as that’s how it came out when taped from some obscure cable channel. I still knew it was a great film within minutes though.
Night People opened in Irish cinemas on the 13th November! Do you want to check it out? Let us know in the comment box below!