Interview: Ambrose McDermott, producer of the Irish feature ‘Shackled’, which is released on DVD on 6th March
Steven Galvin caught up with Ambrose McDermott, producer of the Irish feature Shackled, which is released on DVD on 6th March.
Shackled is a psychological horror film, which tells the story of a woman’s search for the truth after her brother Brian is found murdered. A botched break-in on the night of his funeral prompts Sarah McDonald to start investigating the events surrounding her brother’s last few weeks alive. Soon, Sarah begins having prophetic nightmares of the two of them at a mansion, where they are being haunted by strange masked figures. With the help of childhood friend Michael and clues from her late brother’s journal, Sarah begins looking for the mysterious people Brian was dealing with before he died. It soon becomes clear however, that the mysterious people will stop at nothing to prevent Sarah getting to the mansion from her nightmares and finding the truth.
Tell us a little about the production of Shackled.
Shackled was an entirely Irish based production, shot in Dundalk, Co. Louth and the surrounding areas. The majority of the cast were sourced from an online filmmaking network and word of mouth. The dialogue for the film was completely improvised – the actors only knowing the basic outline for each scene and the main points that needed to be gotten across. The crew was extremely minimal and were mostly sourced from Dundalk. A lot of the crew had worked on our previous short film The Hollow Girl.
The film was edited over four months at the start of 2010 and the post-production sound was completed in Windmill Lane Studios and Ardmore Sound. Martin Brannigan, an award-winning musician, composed the score for Shackled and two music tracks were provided for the film by singer/songwriter Bill Coleman. The film was fully completed in the middle of August 2010 – exactly a year since the idea first came to shoot it.
How did you get the funding together?
The film’s overall budget came to about €15,000 and the majority of the funding was sourced from our own personal account, a number of investors and two local funding bodies – the Dundalk Arts Office and the County Louth Enterprise Board. We did not approach any of the bigger funding boards because we wanted to prove we could actually make a feature film first and we were itching to get something made, so we just went ahead and shot it. The actual pre-production and production of the film was approximately €3000, with the rest of the budget going into post-production for audio cleanups, Foley work/sound design and sound mixing.
Where did the original idea for the film come from?
The idea to shoot Shackled came one August afternoon in 2009 when myself and director, Dave McCabe, went on a drive in the local area. We were driving past very picturesque locations and talking about local secret societies from the last century when the idea came to construct a modern day film around these tales. Assuming it would be relatively easy to shoot a feature film in these locations with a small budget and minimal actors and crew, we set about writing a script with Squid Media’s writing collaborator Steve Cumiskey. Before long, the story started growing very big, but we still decided to go ahead and shoot it less than two months later.
Was a feature a natural step to take after your short The Hollow Girl?
We learned a lot from The Hollow Girl, but felt that we needed a better calling card. We were going to go ahead and make a properly budgeted short and were working on a number of scripts, but then the idea for Shackled just kind of came out of nowhere and felt like the right thing to do at the time. We set ourselves the challenge to make a feature film in a year and we succeeded. In hindsight, I do feel it was the right move for us, but there were certain times when I was very worried that we were making all the wrong moves. It was an incredible learning experience and we are very proud of the end result.
And what’s the most important lesson you learnt making your first feature?
Personally, my biggest learning experience is to make sure you have the finance to cover every stage of production before starting it and that problems have to be taken care of immediately – they very rarely fix themselves. The project was going well for us until we hit the post-production stage. We had stuck carefully to our budget and schedule and had a number of people ready to go with editing and special effects. However, this all fell apart when these people felt the scale of the project was too large for them and told us they couldn’t do the work, so myself and Dave had to take over post-production. We had lost three months post-production time at this point, so things got a bit rushed. We had to call on investors to help us out with financing the sound design of the film, which had not been in the initial budget. The ‘making of’ and the commentary on the DVD goes into the things we did right and the things we did wrong in greater detail.
What’s the plan for the film?
Our distributors, Midnight Releasing, are currently handling all the sales for the film and it is being released internationally on DVD on 6th March, with the initial focus being the American and Canadian markets. However, the DVD is available to purchase from anywhere in the world through the distributor’s sales website. (More details on the film website here: http://shackledmovie.com/buy-now/). A number of extras will be included on the DVD including a retrospective ‘making of’, a director’s commentary and a blooper reel. Squid Media’s short film The Hollow Girl will also be included on the DVD.. We keep all our followers very up to date with the latest developments on our Facebook page
Shackled was selected to be shown as a View On Demand (VOD) release on over 30 cable and satellite channels in the U.S and Canada, including Verizon and AT&T, from March 2012 for three to six months.
Tell us about Squid Media.
Myself and Dave met towards the end of 2005 in a budget filmmaking night course and along with a number of other Dundalk based filmmakers we began working together on the short film Echoes. After that we collaborated with one another on a series of short films, before forming Squid Media in May 2007. We initially started out doing corporate videos before turning our attention back to creative films and the occasional music video.
One of our main goals was to help revitalise Dundalk as the centre of the North-Eastern creative hub. So far this has meant shooting as much work as possible there and working with as many local cast and crew as we can. Hopefully if Shackled is successful is will encourage other productions to shoot in the area, boost local tourism and help the local economy.
Director Dave McCabe is developing a number of new projects and people can keep up to date with these on his website: http://davetheallthing.com/
Shackled is available to buy worldwide from 6th March 2012 from distributors Brain Damage Films. The DVD is region free.
– Audio Commentary
– ‘The Making of Shackled’ Featurette
– Blooper Reel
– Introduction to the Film by Director Dave McCabe
– Short Film: The Hollow Girl