A film about two guys who want to blow a guy up but forget to bring a lighter.
Film Ireland nips out to the garage in the middle of a homicide to chat to writer Dave Svedberg about his short film, which screens at the Underground Cinema Film Festival.
The initial creative spark for Caper came from our producer Eoin Naughton. For years he’d been wanting to do something in his home town of Tullamore and a fantastic location he’d been sitting on, The Old Texas shopping centre, had just been scheduled to be sold and redeveloped. The upcoming Filmbase/Film Offaly short film award would prove the last opportunity he’d have to actually use it. It was incredibly good fortune that at this time I was desperately struggling for ideas. I reached out to Eoin on the off chance that he might have something to work with inspiration wise and was astounded when he got back to me in under two minutes with a rake of photos from this beautifully dilapidated shopping centre.
I’m a firm believer in writing about what you know ,which is unusual because I’m admittedly a mild-mannered man from a relatively nice area who decided to do a short about hardened gangsters trying to explode someone. Ultimately though, Caper‘s really not a short about gangsters or explosions, I wrote it in a more or less improvised way with no ending in sight and the whole ‘trying-to-find-a-lighter’ plotpoint wound up dominating the whole film. Everyone’s had one of those nightmare days where trying to accomplish a mundane task just utterly cripples you with a string of bad luck, and it’s that relatable sense of unrelenting failure and adversity in the face of something trivial that informs the film’s humour. It’s not really a parody or subversion of the gangster genre, it’s just a comedy of errors in which people just happen to be hired murderers and thieves.
I wrote the film quite pragmatically, cutting out anything too expensive or intimidatingly complicated to the film that might scare off potential directors. Much to my delight, once director Brian O’Neill got on board, his first piece of feedback was that these elements needed to be added back in. It wasn’t that I had told him that these things were originally there and now missing, he had independently arrived at the same conclusions I had, and then repeated them back to me. As someone who’s cautious about handing my work over to other people, this solidified instantly that we were on the same page and I’d picked the right man for job.
The only issue we butted heads over during the course of re-writing was the relatability of our characters. With a black comedy it’s quite difficult to strike that perfect balance where someone’s awfulness is just excessive enough to be humorous but not so bad as to become loathsome. The issue resolved itself once the film was cast. There’s just something inherently likeable about Johnny Elliot and Peter O’Byrne that allows the audience to let them away with anything, while Brian Fortune brought a perfect mix of menace and humour to the film’s more villainous role.
Production was an absolute breeze on account of the community being 100% behind us. We paid no fees for any of our locations, and got astounding rates for the construction of our film’s hero prop, a towering cast-iron safe from All Set Scenery. We fit our entire crew into the Central Hotel in Tullamore, again at a generously reduced rate, which added a great sense of community and camaraderie between the crew’s 50/50 mix of industry professionals and eager up-and-comers, as it turned the three days into an ongoing experience rather than just a job that people clocked in and out of. The town even put up a screening with an open invitation to encourage the locality to take an interest in local filmmaking. Caper owes just as much of what it is to where it was filmed as it does to the people who filmed it.
The film really came together in post, Brian was editor as well as director, which meant that none of J.J. Rolfe, our incredibly talented D0P’s work was wasted on the cutting-room floor. Paul Bushe’s colour grading combined with Kevin O’Brien’s light jazzy score gave the film a wonderful noir aesthetic that perfectly accentuates the film’s old-school slapstick vibe.
I am insanely grateful to everyone mentioned above, as well as the rest of the cast and crew, for making this film what it is. We’ve had a wonderful festival run, which will be culminating this Saturday at the Underground Cinema Festival in Dun Laoghaire where I hope people have as much fun watching it as we all did making it.
Caper is up for 5 awards at this year’s Underground Cinema AwardsBest Comedy – Directed by Brian O’Neill
Best Supporting Actor – Peter O’Byrne
Best Editor – Brian O’Neill
Best Sound – Arran Faye
Best Score – Kevin O’Brien