Tell us about the origins of Red Room.
I first came up with the story for Red Room in 2012. The film follows Kyra, a young woman kidnapped off the streets who later awakes in a locked room with two other captives. They are informed by their sadistic captors that they must wait their turn to enter the Red Room. Although they are unaware of what the Red Room holds and are also clueless as to where they are, the three girls plot to escape.
At that point five years ago, I had only written a few short scripts and with no education in screenwriting, I wasn’t keen on having anybody to read my work out of fear of criticism.
In 2014, I finally got around to making my first short, Long Term. It was my first venture into directing and producing. The whole experience helped me to realise that the production value I had envisioned for Red Room would be too big for me to tackle alone.
I then started my own company Deep Web Films with Erica Keegan and shot music videos, shorts, and two no-budget features, Bully and Class A, in an effort to get noticed by producers for funding. This worked and I eventually linked in with Marc Hughes of Sicario Films, who became co-producer and executive producer of Red Room.
The idea behind Red Room was to make an Irish film that had never been done before. I didn’t begin to work on the script until late 2015. Surprisingly, after much research, no other filmmakers had come up with the concept. Still today, I regularly check iMDB and horror websites of upcoming horror films but Red Room is still an original and unique story.
I originally wrote the first draft of the script in one week. I contacted roughly half of the final cast and they all loved the concept and put themselves forward for the project. From the second through to the final draft, Erica Keegan co-wrote alongside me.
Let’s talk about your influences in Red Room.
With regards to writing the script, no films really influenced us. We tried our best to steer away from the stereotypical horror characters, general jump scares, etc. and instead opted for a more tension-based scenario. The original plot idea just seemed to write itself. A lot of the twists and turns in the screenplay came about from Erica and I discussing what we would do if we were the characters and how we would react to their environment.
For the visual look of the film, I took inspiration from other directors and films. Huge influences in storyboarding were cult classics such as Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Other films that influenced me were Switchblade Romance, Martyrs and Irreversible. Extreme French horror was definitely an eye-opener. That was just the horror side of things. Non horror films were also a huge influence on the visual style/colour pallet of the film; Drive, The Neon Demon, Casino and Panic Room, to name a few. They all really helped me explain my vision to the DoP, Eric Gaffney.
How was the casting process?
Casting the film was relatively easy. We held auditions for one major role, which went to the very talented Sohaila Lindheim. She showed fantastic interest in her character and blew us away with her audition.
We cast Amy Kelly as the lead very early on in the writing process. I called her, pitched the film to her, and she loved it. We were able to then write and edit the script with her in mind.
Saoirse Doyle has been in all my projects, bar two. It was a no-brainer to cast her as she is a very talented, diverse actress and also a huge fan of horror. That was the casting of our captured trio.
I have wanted to work with Rodrigo Ternevoy since 2014 after he contacted me for a short. Due to conflicting schedules, we never got to work together. When Red Room came around, I knew he would be suit his character perfectly and got in touch.
I could go on and on about the cast. Their performances truly speak for themselves. It was great to see each of them really become their characters and give it their all. Co-writing the film was an added bonus which really helped me in the directing process. With Red Room, I knew exactly what the actors needed to bring to their role. Every single one of them had extremely hard roles to play and they completely exceeded my expectations.
I would go further into discussing the other actors involved but at the moment, I want to keep their parts under wraps and throw the audience in at the deep end. What I will say is that I was very happy with everyone involved.
How was the production process?
This was my first film not using a DSLR. We shot on a Canon C300 Mark II with prime lenses which set Red Room apart from my previous projects. We had steadicams, dolly tracks, sliders and a ton of lights. All of this was a luxury for me but really aided in creating the world of the story just as I had imagined it.
Production began in July 2016 and ended in June 2017. The long shooting process came down to continuity. In July 2016, Ireland was in a heat wave. It wasn’t long before the real Irish weather came back; dull, overcast skies and rain. This meant we needed to shoot the remainder of the film in small blocks and finally wrapped in June of this year.
The first seven days of shooting took place in Athboy, Co. Meath. It was a really tough shoot and I still refer to it now as the “seven days from hell.” Most days, we were on set for around 18 hours; cast and crew stuck in a room with hot lights during the warmest summer I can remember. Throw in a dodgy fog machine that kept going off on its own accord, ruining sound, which had us doing dozens of takes for one scene over two days. I don’t know how we all stayed sane. It was like being in the Big Brother house with all cast and crew staying for the week. Again, I commend the cast for being so patient the first two days.
Soon enough, it was all systems go. The amazingly talented Debbie McKibbin began working her magic with special effects that kept us all entertained. I won’t go into detail about the effects as I don’t want to give away certain plot points but I will say that the cameraman refused to shoot one of the sfx effects scenes. I stood in and filmed that small scene myself. I am a huge genre fan myself but even I was green in the face afterwards, which is a good sign for other horror fans out there.
After Athboy, we shot in numerous locations in Dublin. Marc Hughes of Sicario Pictures helped us to secure some amazing locations for the last few blocks of filming and besides some weather issues, it all went extremely smoothly.
We finally got to say ‘that’s a wrap’ in June 2017. We had our Wrap Party in one our locations, Empire Bar Swords.
Post-production was a really long process. What was extremely important for me was having 5.1 DTS surround sound. Crisp sound is crucial in every film but I believe even more so in horror. This is why I opted for a surround mix.
Editing, colour grading, sound design, foley, VFX, and score were being worked on throughout and after the production. There were long and tedious days of exporting to Blu Ray, then going back to fixing sound and visuals here and there, making sure the film was up to the high standard we expected while filming.
And finally, what’s next for you, the film and Deep Web Films?
I am happy to say that Deep Web Films are now looking forward to working with Sicario Pictures on an even bigger project in the very near future.
As for Red Room, based on a rough cut, we have sold the rights to Wild Eye Releasing for North America and Canadian Blu Ray / VOD release, which will be coming in the first quarter of 2018. And we are also currently in talks with numerous distributors in Ireland, UK and various other parts of Europe for release.
Red Room screens on Thursday, August 31st at 6pm at the 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival.
Get tickets here
The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.