This week Dublin’s premier filmic fright fest, the Horrorthon, returns blood-stained and shambling to the IFI. Demonic possession and dismemberment are to be expected, but between the shocks and screams there are laughs to be had at the screening of the comedy mockumentary, The Light of Day.
Film Ireland picked at the brains of co-director Conor Dowling ahead of the screening this Friday.
Set and shot in Dublin, The Light of Day follows a group of amateur filmmakers as they struggle with the horrors of low-budget filmmaking on the set of a vampire horror flick. The mockumentary follows Michael, the DOP trying to salvage the production against a horde of incompetence from the egocentric director, a desperate producer and non-existent budget.
The film was made as part of the MSc in Digital Filmmaking at Filmbase, written by Christopher Brennan and directed by students Amy Carroll, Conor Dowling and Eoin O’ Neill.
After it premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, Conor Dowling, who describes the team as “horror fanatics”, told us what it means to have it shown at the IFI Horrorthon. “We’re over the moon to be screening at the IFI. I’ve been going to the Horrorthon for years and it’s a genuine honour to have our film screen at it.”
The feature was the culmination of a course focused on practically preparing filmmakers for all areas of film production. Conor went on describe how this benefited the making of the film. “The course allowed the class to work together on several projects throughout the year before The Light of Day, giving us the opportunity to see what it was like to work together along with giving us top quality experience and guidance.”
This was particularly relevant for the three directors. “Before we got onto set we were all on the same page in terms of the script, the cast, the shooting style, and how all the scenes would be staged. Having three directors on a film is not very common and people often wonder how it can possibly work, but for us it was a particularly smooth process, and working with two other directors was actually a huge benefit.”
Conor explains that working collaboratively they were able to “work on our shotlists together and give feedback on the other director’s interpretations of how scenes should play out, while each bringing our own unique take and sense of humour to certain scenes. By the time it came to shoot, we were happy to divide the three shooting weeks up evenly with a week each. Having three directors also allowed us to cover more ground and sometimes even shoot simultaneously. For example, one director could be setting up for a scene in the warehouse and the other director could grab some crew, and an actor to film some additional scenes outside.”
Another topic discussed before the shoot was their influences. “When it comes to mockumentary style you have to look at the likes of The Office, both the US and UK versions, and the films of Christopher Guest. These would have been the main influences but we also looked elsewhere to get an idea of how it has been done differently. For example, I was a big fan of Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, which was a great comedy horror mockumentary in 2006 and we were all a fan of the Belgian film Man Bites Dog, which was not tonally what we were looking for but in terms of camera movement and naturalistic staging of scenes it was a great example.
“So for the mockumentary style we intended to make it look as close to real life as we could using natural light where possible, using a lot of camera movement and working with our cinematographer to obtain the fly on the wall documentary style we wanted.”
The Light of Day is told through behind-the-scenes styled footage documenting the production of the vampire horror flick, ‘The First Bite is the Deepest’. The story of the shoot develops alongside footage of the film, creating a film-within-a-film that presented both challenges and opportunities for the filmmakers. “To establish a different look and feel for the film within the film, we used a different camera and shooting style. Stepping away from the handheld mockumentary style for these scenes, we were able to use a more traditional cinematic shooting style with more complex lighting setups. The aim was to have a short cinemtic horror film split up and placed throughout the overall film, and this film was a great opportunity for us to try out different cinematic techniques and styles from some of our favourite horror and action films.”
The Light of Day screens on Friday, 24th October 2014 at 19.10 as part of the IFI Horrorthon 2014 (23rd – 27th October). The directors will attend the screening.