FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS | BOOTH'S BLOG Interview With Dominic Brunt Director And Star Of Before Dawn
By James Whittington, Sunday 17th February 2013
Dominic Brunt is known to millions as Paddy from the hit ITV soap Emmerdale. Last year he brought his stunning directorial debut Before Dawn to FrightFest and gained a new legion of fans. This superb zombie shocker was a real highlight and is due for release onto DVD on February 25th.
We caught up with Dom to talk about making his first feature, of showing the movie at festivals and what plans he has for the future.
HC: You're a massive fan of the zombie genre, what are your top three gut-munching movies?
DB: I watch an awful lot of awful zombie films in preparation for the Leeds Zombie Film Festival (now in its sixth year). There are so many brilliant and original ones that stick out from the pile though. Obviously Dawn Of The Dead is a classic and I could probably quote every line from the film. We're hoping to show the Argento cut this year. I thought the German film Rammbock was a great film which came out of nowhere for me. Braindead is still a supreme zombie film which we showed last year. It went down an absolute storm with the audience cheering and laughing all the way through. A total one off gem. It's difficult to have just three as that would be ignoring Night Of The Living Dead, Flesh Eaters, Colin, La Horde, Zombie Land, Night Of Terrors, Planet Terror, Shaun Of The Dead, Re-Animator, Pontypool, Dead Set, Maniac Cop etc etc etc
HC: Before Dawn is your directorial debut, were you inspired by any other directors' style?
DB: We wanted to make it as British as we could and I really love the films of Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Shane Meadows. They manage to make situations come alive and get naturalistic performances from their actors without any grandstanding or over the top American action film gurning. It was important to us that this unlikely situation was to happen to a believable couple you could relate to with everyday problems of their own. Then throw the living dead at them and see what would really happen.
HC: How did you manage juggling your day job with this project?
DB: Emmerdale and specifically Gavin Blyth (then Producer) were right behind the project from the beginning. I was allowed to do Inbred first, much to my surprise as it's quite brutal, then I passed him the script for Before Dawn and he basically said "Great, yeah, good luck, go for it". There were no time limits for the preproduction as we were working for ourselves so I could really plan the thing to within an inch of its life and go looking for funding. The schedule done by Nader Mabadi was a life saver and we knew that if we stuck to that, we wouldn't go wrong. I finished work on the Friday night, met the cast and crew for dinner and went through plans for the first day then on the Saturday we started filming for 15 days solid. We finished on the Sunday night and I was back in work at Emmerdale on the Monday morning fresh as a daisy and feeling excited and proud. Then the hard work really began in the edit and dub over six months.
HC: The camera work is ambitious (such as the "from the air" title sequence) and effects are impressive, did you call in many favours for these?
DB: I called in a lot of favours in making Before Dawn but tried not to take the p*ss because you never know when you might need to ask again!!
HC: Before Dawn has developed quite a following since it was shown across festivals last year. What was it like jumping from city to city with it and did it surprise you how positively critics responded to the movie?
DB: We would have been more than happy to have a couple of festivals under our belt then maybe grab a modest distribution deal or even distributed it ourselves but it just ran away with itself. We showed at Berlin then Cannes but as soon as FrightFest got hold of it we had coverage from Film4 and the Horror Channel then magazines ran articles. We ended up being shown in most cities and doing a mini tour of Q&A sessions along with the screenings. This led to a Distribution deal with Metrodome who have been kind enough to give us a limited cinema release as well as DVD and this ultimately ended up with being shown and distributed all over the world and in different languages. As you can imagine, it's been a thrill and has taken us completely by surprise.
HC: When we first spoke (at FrightFest 2012) you seemed quite shocked by the way the film was embraced by those who saw it. That must have been gratifying to say the least?
DB: We had a sickening worry that we would fail to satisfy the horror audience as there is a strong element of human drama and character based story involved and we had another worry that fans of drama orientated films would balk at so much gore and violence. The horror audience have been amazing and really encouraging. I am a nerdy horror geek and it would have broken my heart if we'd failed with them as I feel part of them. They are the most open minded of all cinephiles and in my experience are willing to accept and be entertained by more than just one element of the genre and so we feel emboldened by their support.
HC: Do you have any tips for first time directors?
DB: Stop talking about it, get out there and press record. Equipment is cheap to hire and it is possible to shoot on broadcast quality gear for very little money now. I know people that have been whining about shooting a feature for years and they have more excuses than ideas.
HC: What projects are you working on at the moment?
DB: We have finished two short films which we’re very proud of (After Three and Grace's Story) and we're in pre-production with our next feature which will be a gory and violent female revenge drama.
HC: Dominic Brunt, thank you very much.
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