STARBURST: Why did you want to make this movie?
Gerard Lough: To escape what I call the ‘first time director ghetto’, the classic catch 22 where a director can’t get hired to do a feature simply because they haven't done one before. The dialogue is usually ‘I know you have done shorts and music videos, but you haven't done a feature yet’. Of course, I see the (albeit flawed) logic in that and understand it takes a very brave producer to back a talented director with only commercials to their name rather than a mediocre director with two movies under his belt. But the bigger reason is because nobody else has made a film quite like it yet. If they had, I'd happily take the simpler option of buying a ticket to see it.
Why did you pick ‘Night People’ as the subject matter?
Dark, unusual and extreme people are interesting to me although at arm’s length would be preferable. When I would be staying the night in the city and couldn't sleep, I would poke my head outside the window to watch the activity on the streets below and there they would be - Night People. Being a creative type, I could never help but imagine stories to go with these individuals whose strange and dramatic lives called for them to up at that time doing whatever it was they were doing. Needless to say, a lot of them are out there for reasons other than working a night shift. Besides, an outsider will always be a hell of a lot more interesting than a well-adjusted, popular guy.
Why make it an anthology?
It’s not an anthology film, but it’s a very common mistake for people to make. It’s actually a hyperlink story or an intertwining narrative like Cloud Atlas or Traffic. In a nutshell, the movie does split up into three different plot strands but it shares characters, themes, and locations with each other and then they all intersect at the end to become one big story. I honestly think of Night People as one story. Anthology films such as Cat's Eye are completely separate stories connected only by some kind of framing device.
The framing device of the two arsonists talking is quite unusual. What made you go for that?
From a practical standpoint, it allowed the start of principal photography to be a little easier on myself by having one of the stories all contained within one interior location - a vacant house in this case. The other two stories took me all over the bloody country from everywhere from a nightclub to a waste-ground at 2am. Thematically, it let me tick the boxes of things I wanted to do in a movie such have a story take place all in one night, use the unreliable narrator technique and explore ideas such as can a place where something wicked occurred leave behind a trace of that event that some people will sense as soon as they enter?
How did you get the movie funded?
I’m very proud to say all self-funded - completely independent. It’s a big added stress but on the plus side you can do what the hell you like... as long as it’s within your budget. None of that crowd funding bullshit either. Asking the general public to finance your art? Bit of a cheek, if you ask me. I did try the usual channels for getting backing, but there is only so many times you can listen to the response, ‘Yes, but it's not really a horror film, is it?’ or ‘It’s very original, interesting and unusual, so it’s not for us’.
How is the indie movie scene in Ireland? Is it growing?
I don't know if it’s growing because the pattern here (as is the U.K.) is usually a case of as soon as a director really brakes out they get snapped up by Hollywood so they have to go where the work is and move sticks. I do know there is the beginnings of what some in the media are calling an ‘Irish New Wave’. Which is, far as I can see, a bunch of filmmakers like myself, guys who grew up on a steady diet of ‘80s genre cinema and now want to make commercial sci-fi/horror/fantasy films of our own. Do I want to make a film about the troubles in Northern Ireland or a gritty drama about a disillusioned petrol pump attendant with a depressed budgie? Fuck no! I want to make something as stylish as The Hunger, as scary as Hellraiser and as well-crafted as The Shining. If those three films all got it on with each other, I suppose Night People would be their unholy offspring.
What tips do you have for other indie moviemakers?
Music videos and commercials are great experience for sharpening your visual skills, but you’d be foolish not to take the time to make some short films which is where you will gain first-hand experience in the most important two areas: working with actors and telling a coherent story. Don’t be in such a hurry to make a feature before you are 30 and be hailed as a wunderkind. Even if that happens, it’s a double-edged sword that has cut short your career equally fast. And while you are at it, skip college or any third level education being taught by anyone who hasn't actually made a film themselves because their wisdom will be about as useful as driving lessons from someone who never got behind the wheel of a car. You probably have a computer, so all you need now is a DSLR and a boom. Hey presto, you are now officially a filmmaker and nobody can say any different. Don't know anything about French New Wave or Orson Welles and don't much care either because all you're interested in is Blade Runner and Alien? No problem, stay that way and don't apologise for it. Just stay away from crowdfunding, kids!
Can we expect more stories about ‘Night People’?
I haven't given it serious thought as I'd like to do something different and besides, given what goes down at the climax of Night People, continuing the story gives me a migraine just thinking about it.
What’s next for you?
I would very much like to do a story that takes place during the New Romantic scene of London 1981. We have had loads of Punk films, time for a New Wave one! But before that, I have to concentrate on the final hurdle of the filmmaking process - releasing the film and hoping for a warm reception. You can pretend to be the cool, arty outsider all you want, but everyone wants acceptance sooner or later. The characters in my film might disagree, though.