The Movie Thieves is a 40-second advert about film piracy. Its message is presented in the form of a heist sequence where a gang of professional thieves break into a cinema to steal a rare film print. Directed by Irish filmmaker Gerard Lough, the ad’s anti piracy message was one he felt passionate about as not only was his first feature film Night People illegally uploaded online, he sees it as a still viable threat to cinemas and the industry as a whole. As the narrator (played by Michael Parle) in the ad says, “What seems like a harmless vice would close down every cinema tomorrow if everyone did it.”
Lough: “Its too idealistic to expect a commercial to change people’s minds but hopefully this one will seed the idea that if you truly love movies then you should resist a dodgy download that will hurt the very people who make and exhibit them.”
The ad also served as an opportunity for Lough to work with up and coming actors Aidan O’Sullivan, Bobby Calloway and Kaireht Yovera who will also be in his next feature film, a thriller called Spears. The location used was Century Cinemas in Letterkenny, Co Donegal. The ad is now online and will be shown at selected cinemas across the country.
Anti piracy organization The Federation Against Copyright Theft, say that, “Making quality films and TV programmes is an expensive business and it is vitally important that people pay for the legitimate product. Accessing illegal content, whether it’s free or for payment, means that the very heart of the film and TV industries is at risk. Future films will not get made leading to a very rapid downward spiral of a lack of content for film and TV fans, job losses, damage to the local and wider economy, and an increase in criminal activity.This is not scaremongering – it’s a fact.”
Spears is a mystery / thriller and is the second feature film for Irish director Gerard Lough. Best known for the short Stephen King adaption The Boogeymanand horror feature Night People, this is his first foray in neo-noir.
This ambitious thriller takes place in four different countries and stars Nigel Brennan, Michael Parle and Yalda Shahidi. A large international ensemble cast also includes Aidan O’ Sullivan, Bobby Calloway and Rebecca Thompson.
The film also aims to highlight the best of new Irish electronic artists with music from bands such as Sleep Thieves.
A young Private Investigator (Brennan) is sent to Italy to find a woman (Shahidi) who mysteriously disappeared there. Very soon he finds himself tangled in a web of obsession and revenge. Fittingly, the film’s title is taken from the Emily Bronte quote; “Treachery and violence are spears pointed by both ends; they would those who resort to them worse than their enemies.”
Part of principal photography recently wrapped in Florence, Italy and will resume in Ireland, Berlin and Britain in the coming months.
Spears is produced by Fatima Fleming and Lough and is set for a cinema release in 2019.
Night People is an Irish Horror / Science Fiction story which marks the feature film debut of director Gerard Lough and stars Michael Parle, Jack Dean-Shepherd and Claire Blennerhassett. The film was shot on location in Donegal and Dublin and features a large cast made up of some of the country’s most exciting new acting talent. The film tries to breathe new life into genre cinema with striking visuals, provocative themes with an ambitious intertwining narrative that has plenty of twists and turns.
“A film that neither looks or sounds like any other Irish film” – FILM IRELAND
“Shows so much imagination and ambition its hard to fault it” – UK HORROR SCENE
“Creative little anthology piece that manages to entertain as well as provide some genuine thrills from the performances within.” DREAD CENTRAL
A pair of professional but 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 that involve everything from vampires to alien artifacts. As the night progress the line between reality and fiction starts to blur as the hidden agendas of both men are revealed.
DIR/WRI: Gerard Lough • PRO: Gerard Lough, Tanya McLaughlin • DOP: Greg Rouladh • ED: Greg Rouladh • CAST: Michael Parle, Jack Dean Shepherd, Claire Blennerhasset, Sarah Louise Carney, Aidan O’ Sullivan, Eoin Leahy
Gerard Lough makes the transition from shorts to features with this anthology horror/sci-fi in which a pair of seemingly mismatched criminals Mike (played by the brilliant Michael Parle) and Luke (Jack Shepherd), who break into a house as part of an insurance scam. When in the house the pair, with time to kill, start telling each other tall tales. One involves a pair of friends who discover a mysterious, powerful, potentially alien device which pits them against each other. The other tale follows a business woman who provides a prostitution service for wealthy fetishists and how her attempts to escape this line of work leads her down stranger, more sinister rabbit-holes.
This ambitious film is full of distinctive flavour. The set-up and stories are certainly unusual in terms of an Irish film. Lough exhibits a very particular style in how’s it shot – lots of underexposed cinematography, and in its soundtrack, which is heavy on impressive synthesized ’80s style music.
Lough has no qualms about juxtaposing different genres and sub-genres and also attempts to tackle a variety of diverse subjects from the economy and housing crisis to grand philosophical concerns. The result is a film that looks and feels very different to most Irish cinema. It doesn’t always add up and the complex nature of its presentation can be sometimes difficult to follow with the anthology film being a famously difficult trick to pull off
The special effects are also somewhat creaky in places and the budgetary restrictions do show. However, Lough must be commended for making a virtue of this. He himself has cited the New Romantic music scene and films such as Tony Scott’s bonkers Catherine Deneuve/David Bowie vampire picture The Hunger as big influences aesthetically and the effects of the film when integrated with these aesthetic influences work to create a referential B-movie style as opposed to incompetence. It is heartening to see a film as singular as this being made in Ireland, even if not every aspect of it works.
The real star of the show here is Michael Parle. Best known probably for his role in Ivan Kavanagh’s outstanding Tin Can Man, he here once again makes for a magnetic screen presence. Parle could easily lay claim to being Ireland’s first genre movie ‘star’. One is reminded of B-movie luminaries such as Udo Kier in his innate ability to balance just the right amount of knowingness and earnestness in the – often sinister – characters he plays. We need to see more of this man in Irish cinemas.
The other performers unfortunately often cannot match Parle for his presence and there are times, when Parle is off-screen, this his absence is felt somewhat and one yearns for a return to the framing story in which he is a part of, rather than the tall tales themselves.
Despite these flaws it is pleasing to see a film that neither looks nor sounds like any other Irish film historically or contemporaneously being made and further reinforces the notion that new ideas both formally and thematically are now being explored in independent Irish cinema.
In Gerard Lough’s Night People, a pair of professional but badly 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. As the night progresses the line between fiction and reality starts to blur and the hidden agendas of both thieves become apparent.
David O’Donoghue broke into director Gerard Lough’s house, to carry out an interview ahead of Night People‘s world premiere at the IFI Horrorthon Film Festival.
What particular sci-fi or horror films, styles and directors influenced Night People?
The film has a lot of influences. It’s kind of a strange mix really! Anthology series like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents were definitely a big part of it. For anyone like me who grew up in the ’70s or ’80s they definitely had a big impact. Also, the New Romantic music scene was a big influence. If anyone one film influenced Night People though it has to be Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983).
What was it that prompted your use of the anthology-like story-within-a-story style?
Definitely those anthology series. But also I was interested in the idea of tall tales and urban legends. We’ve all known urban myths we associate with out towns and with our people. I even remember on the playground when I would hear urban myths about films- like everyone involved in The Exorcist died or maybe it was Poltergeist or The Omen, they could never quite get it right. But I think urban legends are very interesting and so I tried to use these hyperlinked stories in the film
The film has a number of topics that are very important in public debate at the moment: the economy, property and sexuality. Do you intentionally draw on these themes to create powerful cinema?
The recession is all around us; we’re particularly badly affected here in the northwest. In some ways you can’t avoid it. But also there was an element of convenience to it. A lot of the story is set in a vacant house and there are plenty of those around here in Donegal. I’m not a political filmmaker but I do think I was saying something about my country in my own way. Still ambiguity is useful and more interesting to me, even if it can be tricky.
Do you feel making sci-fi or horror films makes it more difficult to produce a film due to prejudices against genre films?
Initially, I didn’t think so. But as I’ve gotten more involved in filmmaking I definitely have noticed something I might call ‘genre snobbery’. You’ll go to a production company and as soon as you say your film is a sci-fi/ horror they say “no, it’s not for us”. There is definitely a certain snobbery because Irish films can be so focused on social realism and historical films. In my case though, I just don’t care about genre, I want to make a good film. I’ve heard some people talk about an ‘Irish New Wave’ shedding new light on genre films – I don’t know about that but wouldn’t it be great!
A large portion of the film was filmed around your native Donegal. Did you enjoy capturing your own area on film?
I think there are definitely a lot of places in Donegal that are really unusual and isolated and that there are places so great you could shoot a Michael Mann film or even Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. For example, the beach that is used in one of the stories in the film. We only discovered the place, just a while up the road, shortly before filming and we found all these wonderful caves which ended up in the film. I love to shoot the real thing. It’s sitting there on your doorstep so why not shoot it right there. I really enjoyed giving the area a sense of perpetual twilight, misty and dark almost like a noir film.
What’s next for Gerard Lough?
Really I’m just focusing on this film now, taking care of it. I’m anticipating the premiere and how the audience will react. They say a premiere is almost like giving birth in public. In the future though, I would love to do something based around the New Romantic music scene. It was such a brief thing, it really only lasted from 1980 to ’81, but it was so interesting. I love the style and the sound of it.
Night People screens on Sunday, 25th October 2015 @ 23.00 as part of the IFI Horrorthon (22 – 26 October)
Night People is an Irish Sci-Fi / Horror film which marks the feature film directorial debut of Gerard Lough. The film was shot on location in Donegal and Dublin.
A pair of professional but badly 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 . As the night progresses the line between fiction and reality starts to blur and the hidden agendas of both thieves become apparent.
Rachel Curran talks to Gerard Lough, director of Night People.
Shot primarily in Donegal, Night People is the debut feature of Gerard Lough. After having received critical acclaim for his short films, including his thriller Ninety Seconds and the highly ambitious Stephen King short story adaptation of The Boogeyman, Lough now presents us with his dystopian and controversial first feature. Gerard tells us what we can expect…
You’ve had great success with your short films and now you are working on your first feature. What can you tell us about Night People?
Night People is a very ambitious film that moves through several interconnecting narratives and both the horror and science fiction genres. It takes things familiar with both genres, puts a fresh spin on them and takes the audience into some unexpected places, which I hope may catch them off guard in an entertaining way. The movie starts off with a pair of high tech but mismatched thieves breaking into an abandoned house to do an insurance scam. To kill time they tell each other tall tales, which we get to see. However, as the story progresses, it appears as if there might be some truth to the stories as well as sinister hidden agenda for both thieves being there.
What was your inspiration for the story/stories?
Horror / Sci-Fi anthology films of the ’80s such as Creepshow, Twilight Zone and Cat’s Eye but with the goal of having each story blend together to make one big story and then bring it stylistically up to date for a modern audience. Combined with a desire to tell a story about outsiders that depicts them not in a depressing or judgmental way but in a romantic and stylish fashion.
The structure of the film is clearly integral to the narrative but tone and atmosphere plays a huge role in your work. Was that something that was hard to create or did it develop naturally?
It’s not hard when you know what you want and have already developed a visual look that you are fond of that fits the material. For me its shooting at magic hour, smoky rooms, underexposing, deep blues, shooting in full widescreen. That said, it takes time to wait for the smoke to become dense in a room or for the sun to go down and then try to get your shots within a 20-minute window of magical twilight.
There are so many different and exciting sets and locations throughout the film, from dynamic nightclubs to the stunning wilds of Donegal. How would you describe the different worlds of Night People?
We shot in a building that was one week old and one that dates back thousands of years. Nocturnal, abandoned, dangerous, uninhabited and left to ruin is the atmosphere I try to create. For example, one of the stories takes place in a house that hasn’t been lived in for a long time and is wrapped up in plastic dust sheets with very few signs of any human contact. With that, and many other locations, I was always aiming for the eerie vibe that comes off the derelict spaceship in Alien. The foreboding feeling that something happened there once long ago and it wasn’t good.
You have a particular visual aesthetic in your films, how does that inform your style as a director?
Again it comes back to knowing what you want and being clear about it on day one. I think in terms of cuts when I’m shooting a scene and, by and large, I’ll carry out that plan when I’m in post but I’d be lying if I said it always turns out exactly the way I imagined.
What was your biggest challenge on this latest project?
Trying to stay focused and not let the story get away from me. Each story has gone through multiple drafts, which I have stopped counting long ago. Some were changes that were forced on us by circumstances (someone suddenly changing their mind and refusing you permission to film in their building), others by design as I felt the story could be improved even more even if we were a week away from shooting. The problem is, sometimes you make a change and you will have to jump to another part of the script and rewrite a scene to accommodate the change. For example, the ending was changed before shooting began. The knock-on effect of that meant that an exiting story had to be deleted and a brand new one written so the whole story would click into place like before and make sense. In the end, every performance, slick visual and cool piece of music is in service to advancing the story first and foremost… style comes a distant second.
There is often a focus on the dark and more sinister nature of things in your work, something that isn’t always strongly depicted in Irish cinema. Can we expect more of this in Night People?
You can expect it in spades with this film. Darkness is attractive in movies and troubled characters are a lot more interesting that well adjusted types who are at home by 9 pm. Off course that also means I should not be expecting any directing offers from Disney anytime soon.