DOP-turned-director PJ Dillon and his producing team John Wallace and Alex Jones talk to Niamh Creely about their new feature and the scheme that funded it. Dillon’s debut feature is a dark revelation of the crime one woman has sought to forget – as much as Karen would like to erase her past, it has caught up with her in the menacing shape of Karl.
How did having a DOP’s visual sensibility affect your writing of the script?
PJ: Well, having shot a number of low-budget feature films, I would have had a fair idea of the pitfalls to avoid. There were certain rules that were laid down at the Catalyst Project: no special effects, no shooting at night, no X, no Y. But as I was sitting there I was thinking ‘that’s not really the case at all.’
John: Yes, we actually did everything we were told not to do. But we didn’t do it from a position of ignorance. We did it in the knowledge that what we were doing was achievable.
PJ: And when it came to the shoot, Ken Byrne was DOP, who I’ve worked with a lot over the years. We were both very conscious that we were a low-budget film shooting in winter and the look of the film was designed around that. I knew what our limitations would be and I knew what sort of opportunities that shooting in winter would present. Being a DOP, obviously you’re starting with an advantage there.
And would there be any particular scene in the film that you wrote with specific visuals in mind?
PJ: The burning caravan. But if that had been mooted at the Catalyst Project it would have been laughed out of the room.
Alex: People would have had seizures!
PJ: But we were lucky that we had the right production designer, Philip Murphy, who was very pragmatic. When we looked at it, it wasn’t going to cost us much.
PJ, you worked with Allen Leech before, on ‘Deep Breaths’. Both of the characters he plays have a similar menacing character…
PJ: [laughter] We really enjoyed working with Alan and when I was trying to think of an idea for the Catalyst Project that menacing character of his was in my mind. In fact, I pretty much wrote the first draft of the script with him in mind. We did some workshops with him after we were shortlisted and developed the character in that way.
The full article is printed in Film Ireland magazine, Issue 134.