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.