Interview With Ivan Kavanagh Director Of The Canal
By James Whittington, Friday 22nd August 2014

Ivan KavanaghInfluenced by Don’t Look Now and Suspiria, Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal is a disturbing, psychological thriller that contains some incredible moments of horrific bleakness. Starring Rupert Evans the film charts a descent into madness that becomes more and more extreme as the film goes on.

We chatted to director Ivan Kavanagh ahead of its English premiere at FrightFest about this movie and what else he has planned.

HC: Where did the idea for The Canal come from?

IK: I've always loved horror films and some of my most vivid memories are of watching and being terrified by horror films as a child. Also, horror films allow you to push cinema to it's very limits, both in terms of sound and picture, almost to breaking point if you want to. You can literally do anything in terms of experimentation, especially in sound and editing, which can be very liberating for a filmmaker. So this has always attracted me to the genre. The initial idea for the film is quite difficult to talk about it, as that would give away the end of the film, which I can't do, but I will say I did always want to make a film about a cinema archivist, which I always thought would be a great subject for a film and one I hadn't seen before. They basically investigate the past for a living, and this is what our main character is doing throughout, as he tries to find out how and if the past relates to his present. Also, there's that haunting idea that everyone you see in films from early cinema is dead, so, like he says in the film, "it's like watching ghosts". This seemed to me a great starting point for a ghost story.

HC: Did it take a long time to write?

IK: It took about two years from conception to filming, which is very quick I believe.

HC: You assembled an amazing cast, Rupert Evans in particular gives an outstanding performance, how did he prepare for the role?

IK: I usually spend a lot of time casting and it took a very long time to find the right actor for the main role of David. I don't audition in the usual sense, I just like to watch their previous work and then have an informal chat to the actor. I get a sense of who they are and see if there's anything in their personalities that might suit, add to, or enrich the role. When I first talked to Rupert I knew at once he was the right actor for the part. David needed to be handsome, but also needed to have a sense of vulnerability about him too and Rupert possessed that quality. I don't know about Rupert's personal method of preparation, but he was incredibly prepared each day and willing to explore the role (which goes to some very dark places) as thoroughly as I wanted to. Another method I use, which I think may have helped Rupert, is I have the actors interviewed quite intensively in character before we begin filming. So he and all the actors, as if they are real people, will answer a series of very personal questions about their lives and they have to think on their feet and answer as their character would. This not only gives me a chance to see if they truly understand and know their characters, but also gives them a chance to know their characters inside-out before we begin.

HC: The film has some incredibly bleak moments, what was the atmosphere like on set?

IK: For me the best and only atmosphere for creativity is a relaxed one, where everyone feels safe and free to experiment and to do the best work they can possible do. If there was a gloomy or unhappy atmosphere on set I don't think that would happen. So it was actually a quite fun set most of the time and any tension that was on set was more about the very tight schedule than anything else. In terms of the little boy Billy (played by five year old Calum Heath) he never knew he was in a horror film. It was just a game to him. So all the horror elements were kept away from him. He had a great time and loved every minute of it. He's an amazing little actor, highly intelligent and always totally in the moment (which a great quality for actors of any age). I'm looking forward to the day, 10 years or more from now, when he can finally watch the film!

HC: How would you describe the film as it touches upon a number of genres?

IK: I think, if I had to categorize it, it's a psychological horror film, but one that is deliberately paced and I hope emotionally driven and has quite a disturbing and serious theme at it's heart, when we finally find out the truth about what happened. It's actually quite hard to talk about without giving anything away! I definitely wanted to create a terrifying highly visceral cinema experience, where sound and picture were of equal importance, that would hopefully linger in the memories of those who had seen it and would be watched more than once. I wanted to create the feeling of a nightmare, and that it would become more and more nightmarish as it went along. This is why some of the imagery should feel raw and uncensored, just like in nightmares where you have no control over the images that appear in your mind and after you wake up you wonder how you could ever have imagined such a disturbing thing. I also wanted to make a film that was almost 100% from one character's point of view, so that all the events of the film (and perhaps even people in the film) would be colored by his view of events. The problem is that he may be losing his mind and therefore what you're seeing may not be all that reliable. Or else, he's telling the truth and the explanation is supernatural. Or both. I've heard many different interpretations of the film and for me, they are all equally valid. Also the fact that our main protagonist is a Film Archivist meant it would allow me to play and experiment with the horror genre a little bit. Here's a character, who, through his job, must have seen every horror film ever, and so knows all the plots, and so it seemed correct (and fun) to me that he effectively steps into his own horror film, complete with the most popular starting point of all horror films, that of the old house with the terrible past. It's quite a knowing or self-aware horror film in that respect, I think. I thought this aspect would also add to the ambiguity that I definitely wanted the film to have. Is the haunting real or is it a figment of his cinema soaked mind? There's also the old film aspect of his job, which I thought was a little like found footage (which is basically what he does for a living, is find footage!), which I thought would be interesting and give me a chance to recreate these old films using a camera from 1915.

HC: The Canal has some incredibly realistic effects sequences, were these mainly practical effects?

IK: Yes, I wanted all the effects to be practical. I'm not huge fan of CGI (or at least the overuse of it) and wanted there to be an old-school feel to every expect of the film. The practical make-up effects were done by the Dublin based company Bowsie Workshop, who did an incredible job I think. The direction I gave them was that the effects should seem visceral and real (almost like a documentary) and I didn't want to cut away and create the effects in editing. I wanted to do everything in one shot if possible, so that the camera's gaze seems unflinching, which not only adds to the nightmarish feeling, but also treats the violence as something serious, horrific and terrible, which of course is the correct way to treat it, especially at the end when you find out the tragic awfulness of what happened.

HC: You’re a man of many talents being not only a director but a producer, composer and writer. Do you have a favorite role?

IK: I'm not really a producer, that would be an insult to real producers! I made all of my early films with literally no money, so I'm just a guy who cobbled together a camera, some sound and editing equipment and began making films with friends. I just stuck my name on the credits as producer because every other film had a producer on the credits so I thought it would look funny without! So that would be my extent of my producing. But I did write, direct, edit all my previous films and wrote some of the music and did the sound design too. In fact, The Canal is the first time I have ever worked with another editor and sound designer and I was very fortunate to find amazing collaborators in my editor Robin Hill and sound designer Aza Hand who were willing to push things as far as I wanted to go and really experiment. We had great fun. The same would go for the DOP Piers McGrail. I hope to work with them all again on my upcoming films. But, to answer your question, I love all aspects of filmmaking, but if I had to choose a couple of things it would be working with actors and sound design, which I usually spend months working on.

HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?

IK: There's a lot of things in the air at the moment, including some possible TV, a western, another psychological horror film and a few scripts I'm reading by other writers too. I'm just waiting to see which one lands first!

HC: Ivan Kavanagh, thank you very much.

Interview with Richard Elliot, Managing Director of 88 Films
Posted on Saturday 17th March 2018

Recently I've been lucky enough to review some rather tasty Blu-rays from 88 Films. This company has been behind amazing releases of titles such as A Cat in the Brain, Anthropophagous and Don't Go in the Woods...Alone. So I decided to chat to managing director Richard Elliot about 88 Films and how they survive in a cut-throat market.

HC: How did 88 Films start?

RE: 88 Films started after James and I met working for another label and it was the usual "we think we can do it better than the boss" scenario. So we slowly developed an idea of what we wanted to do after work down the pub and after lots of head scratching and pork scratchings and some setbacks BE Movies was born... which quickly became 88 Films...

Interview with Paul Urkijo, director of Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
Posted on Thursday 1st March 2018

One thing that Horror Channel FrightFest prides itself in is by championing new talent. This year's Glasgow event is no different with a whole host of newbies bringing their first features. A real highlight is Paul Urkijo's Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil which is a sumptuous piece that Terry Gilliam would be proud of. Here he chats to us about this stunning movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil come from?

PU: I was inspired by the Basque story "Patxi Errementaria". He was registered by JM Barandiaran, an anthropologist priest who dedicated his life to recording stories and legends of the Basque Country. It is a legend about a blacksmith who was so ev...

Interview with Adam MacDonald, writer and director of Pyewacket.
Posted on Wednesday 28th February 2018

There have been a number of occult and demonic movies over the last few years but none have come close to the tension and terror of Adam MacDonald's Pyewacket. The superb piece of cinema is showing at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this week so I had a quick chat with Adam about this superior shocker.

HC: Have you always been a horror fan?

AM: It really started when I was about 7 years old when my older brother showed me Evil Dead. I couldn't believe what I was watching, it truly rocked me. The card scene in the film did not leave my mind for days. That film is stained on my brain. I was terrified. But then I had a realisation that I loved that feeling. It was primal. Then I watched The Shinin...

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HC: You were inspired to write Attack of the Bat Monsters when you were researching 50s movies, did it take long to write?

KG: It took quite a while because I was working 50 to 60 hours a week at a video production facility while raising a 2-year old and 8-year old, along with my wife, who was also working. I would write at night between 9 and 11pm, and maybe a little more ...

Interview with Patrick Magee, writer and director of Primal Rage
Posted on Monday 26th February 2018

There's been a spate of "bigfoot-style, beast in the woods" types of movies recently but none have come anywhere near Primal Rage. This superior creature feature from Patrick Magee will be having its European Premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this Friday so I decided to have a chat with this very talented and creative person.

HC: Did you know from a young age you wanted to work in the film industry?

PM: Since a very young age I was always into, even obsessed, with movies. Specifically horror movies, monster movies really. As a hobby, I got really into special make-up effects and drawing. It got to the point where I was so obsessed with it, I decided when I was a teen that I ha...

Interview with Gabriela Amaral, writer and director of Friendly Beast
Posted on Sunday 25th February 2018

As we get ready for the trip to Scotland for this year's Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow I've been lucky enough to chat to Gabriela Amaral about her powerful movie Friendly Beast which is getting its UK Premiere at the event.

HC: Was there a certain piece of work or person that inspired you to work in the industry?

GA: Yes, there was. I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock and I decided to study cinema because of him. In the beginning, I didn't know what would I do with movies. Would I be an academic? A film critic? A director? I just knew I had to live doing something that had to do with movies. I graduated in Communication Studies in Brazil where I studied horror movies and literature (specific...

Interview with Ruth Platt, director of The Lesson
Posted on Wednesday 6th December 2017

On the eve of Horror Channel's network premiere screening of The Lesson, director Ruth Platt talks about the decision to quit RADA, why her film isn't 'torture porn' and what the future holds.

The Lesson received its World Premiere at FrightFest. How did you react when it was chosen? And what was the experience like?

RP: I was really excited when I found out we'd been picked - we got a call from the team, and they were passionate about the film, and they are such a knowledgable and experienced small team, Greg, Paul, Alan and Ian, and it meant so much. Especially when the making of it had been such an arduous and difficult process! I had no idea how people would react to the film - it was su...

Interview with John Shackleton director of Panic Button
Posted on Wednesday 15th November 2017

As social media horror feature Panic Button gets a remastered DVD and Download release, writer and producer John Shackleton reflects on the film's inspirational journey.

To start at the beginning, what was the genesis or the seed of the idea for Panic Button?

JS: The model of how to make a film actually came before the concept. I'd made a short film with a group of trainees using a bunch of self-imposed restrictions for practicalities sake, to make sure we completed and delivered within the three-week timeframe of the training scheme, who were my employers. The rules were quite simple - no more than five minutes' walk from the office (we couldn't afford a van), no dialogue (we did...

Interview with Damien Leone director of Terrifier
Posted on Saturday 28th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Terrifier at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event today, director Damien Leone talks about the 'Art' of extreme clowning, his debt to Tom Savini and a terrifying Halloween experience...

Art, The Clown initially appeared in your 2008 short The 9th Circle, then the 2011 award-winning short Terrifier and in your first feature All Hallow's Eve. What made you decide to give him a fourth outing?

DL: Up until this point I never felt like I fully showcased Art's potential. I believe between the short films and All Hallows' Eve, there only exists about 20 minutes of Art the Clown screen time. For a character who's done so little, he seems to really resonate with horr...

Interview with Mathieu Turi director of Hostile
Posted on Wednesday 25th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his debut feature Hostile at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Mathieu Turi shares his admiration for Tarantino, describes the challenges of filming in three continents and reveals his 'magic hour'.

You were born in Cannes so you grew up with film all around? When did you know for sure you wanted to direct?

MT: I think it's always been there. As a child, I used to steal my dad's VHS camera to make mini-movies. They were basically all about my Jurassic Park toys eating my dog or invading the garden. Later, I did more elaborate short films with friends, instead of studying. Then, I remember watching Braveheart and the making of the ...

Interview with Marko Makilaakso director of It Came From The Desert
Posted on Tuesday 17th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film It Came From The Desert at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Marko Makilaakso shares his admiration for Roger Corman, love of B-Movies, spoofing and overcoming homeland obstacles.

It Came From The Desert is inspired by Cinemaware's cult 1980s video game, which in turn was motivated by the giant creature feature craze infesting 1950s Hollywood. What was the main inspiration for you?

MM: There's so many movies and makers which inspired ICFTD, but the main inspiration was exactly that; creature feature infested 1950s Hollywood films, and the legendary Cinemaware Desert games and creature features and action comedies I grew up with in the 19...

Interview with Can Evrenol director of Housewife
Posted on Thursday 12th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Housewife at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Can Evrenol tells us why film is a 'pervert's art' shares his feelings for Fulci and reveals his contribution to Horror anthology, The Field Guide To Evil.

Was it important to make your follow-up film to Baskin in the English language?

CE: I wanted to make the film available for a wider audience and to test myself with a different language movie. I thought it was a fun thing to do.

How do you describe Housewife? What would be your perfect pitch line?

CE: Man, I had this crazy f****d-up dream last night! Do you want to see it?

Like Baskin, Housewife shares man...

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