Locus of Control introduces us to Andrew Egan, who reluctantly accepts a teaching job to support his floundering, stand-up comedy career. As an increasingly anxious Andrew grows accustomed to the droll institution and its occupants he suspects that one of the students may be his downfall and that the previous teacher may not have left of his own accord. His life slowly unraveling, Andrew’s lessons fall on deaf ears and he soon becomes part of a larger cosmic joke.
Ahead of its screening at Filmbase, Sean Clancy tells us about his dark comedy about decision and control.
For the last few years I’ve made all sorts of short films and sketches, all of which were experiments or challenges in some way. These pieces were as much about becoming familiar with the ins and outs of filmmaking as they were a reason to get people together and just have fun creating something. Locus of Control was born of the same attitude and feels like the culmination of all the various styles and ideas I’ve thrown around in the past.
The story centres on Andrew Egan, played by John Morton, a struggling stand-up comedian on the dole whose life becomes a slightly surreal descent after taking a job to help the unemployed re-enter the workforce. John described it as “The Shining on a Jobridge” which is a pretty accurate description. It’s got elements of a character with self-absorbed, creative frustrations in an ominous building and a world that gets more sinister as things progress. But the horror and the comedy elements of the film are inseparable, they both play off a sense of tension that run throughout. Peter McGann who plays Chris called it ‘Barton Fink on the dole’ so it’s a story that starts off more comedic and little by little becomes more like a psychological horror.
The idea for the film came when, a few years ago, I was on a course as part of social welfare and we were given a personality test called locus of control. Based on your answers, the test would tell you if you had an ‘internal locus’ or an ‘external locus’, basically whether you felt you had any power over your own life or if it was something that was all dictated by chance, luck and other outside forces. I had been working on an idea for a story about a comedian and when I started the script I introduced elements of a slightly absurd and frustrating bureaucracy but I was more interested in making a story about behaviour and how much control you really have over your life. Andrew’s teaching job is used as a starting point to explore the effects of anxiety, depression, decisions and choice. A kind of domino effect of helplessness and feeling worthless. The film is told from Andrew’s point of view so we see the world how he sees it, not necessarily how it is. As the story builds, the world becomes increasingly threatening and the reality of what’s actually happening becomes more and more questionable.
John Morton was the only person I wanted to play Andrew. We’ve worked together before so I knew what he could bring to a role like this and just as importantly, we get along. That goes a long way when you’re halfway through the shoot, sleep deprived, standing in a rainy car park at three in the morning and asking for another take. John is so well versed in writing and directing his own projects that I can’t imagine making the film without having his insight and experience.
Seamus O’Rourke plays John Lance D’Arcy, a long-standing teacher at Andrew’s new workplace who, like Andrew, is at odds with the world around him. Before making Locus of Control a friend of mine asked me in passing if I’d seen any of Seamus’ videos online, I hadn’t but as soon as I did I was hooked. A collection of acutely observed monologues that are as sincere as they are funny. I got in touch with Seamus and crossed my fingers. After seeing him perform one of his own one-man plays live I was finding it hard to picture anyone else in the role. Luckily he said yes.
Everyone in the cast did a great job and I can’t thank them enough. We shot for fifteen days with a budget of about €800. People were so engaged and easy to work with that it made a schedule and budget like that much easier than it should be.
I knew the music was going to play a huge part in creating a certain kind of tension and mystery. I’ve been friends with Callum Condron since primary school and he’s an incredibly versatile musician. We hadn’t worked on anything quite like this before but Callum sent on a lot of different mixes as I was editing and he ended up making an album’s worth of brilliant music that fits the film perfectly. You can listen to some of the soundtrack here.
Looking back on the production, it seems like a bit of a blur but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m incredibly grateful to all of the people who came together to get it made and now that it’s all over I can’t wait to do it again.
Locus of Control will screen in Filmbase, Dublin on March 7th at 8:15pm as part of the Silk Road International Film Festival 2018.
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