Thurs 25th October – Sunday 28th October Whitby
Thanks for your patience. We have just taken on a new press officer, Hannah Bryce so we should have more content more often from these pages.
Here’s an interview for Scream magazine:-
Scream: Dom, tell us, how did the film come about?
Dominic: The idea came about because I watch too many zombie films. My wife is a big fan of French cinema and art house cinema and lots of English cinema from the likes of Ken Loach, and she just can’t understand my love of zombie films. And so I said “What is it you hate about a zombie film? And what is it that you love about films?” So she told me everything she liked, things like the character building and the setting up of a story and the fact that drama can be just as exciting and you don’t need people running around hacking people to bits. And I was like “I disagree!”. And she hates the fact that there’s bad actors running around in police uniforms and army uniforms, there is very often no characterisation, So I said “Alright then let’s throw that into the pot and hypothetically, let’s see about that”.
So Before Dawn was supposed to be in the first half like a French arthouse film, the kind of film she likes and the second half was supposed to be a gorefest – the kind of films I like. But I said, “In the first half you have to understand you’re selling this as a zombie film so you can’t ignore that because people will be sat there saying this is a zombie film, so where are the zombies?”
So the plan was that every five minutes we introduce something that will remind them, so there’s the scream in the background, there is the blood on the car, there is the person outside the house, so that will keep the screw turning, get the tension going, then all shit breaks loose.
So that was the plan really, it was an idea of Jo’s to say “Why don’t you put these dumb the films that you watch into an intelligent film where it’s character led?” So once we got that story worked out, I knew a screenwriter from Emmerdale who had already done lots of plays, lots of novels and even though he was a screenwriter for Emmerdale he is great for dialogue and it didn’t matter that he hadn’t done film before. We’d written down 36 scenes we wanted hypothetically to film and he said “Okay, I’ll write a screenplay!”.
Scream: So how long did that whole process take?
Dominic: I would say it was about six months and then nine or ten months of fiddling and messing about but it was just great that Jo and I were working together. Next we thought maybe we’d send it off to different places to look at but in the meantime I’d met Marc Price who directed the zombie classic Colin who is a force to be reckoned with and he said to me, “You could film this project yourself!” and we said “No, that’s ridiculous!”, and he said “No! You could film this!”. I initially asked Marc to direct it for us but he said “You don’t need me to direct it! I’ll be there and I’ll help you do it and I’ll help you budget it and I’ll do the executive producing but you know enough about the genre and enough about films to direct and make it yourself”.
Scream: So you were confident about both directing and acting in Before Dawn?
D: Well I work with actors and directors every day it’s not like I was a butcher coming into doing films. I know what makes a good or bad director and I’ve watched enough films, maybe one or two films a day or night. I know what makes a good or bad shot and so I kind of had my critical faculties sorted already because I’m an actor. I know what does or doesn’t work creatively I suppose and so I was confident. And the fact that Marc Price insisted that I could do it, I thought right I’m going to do it and so I did yes, I had a go (laughing)
Scream: The film looks beautiful I have to ask where was the film shot?
Dom: In and around Hebden Bridge and on the moors around Midgley and the Cragg Vale area. Yes, it’s really beautful there. Some amazing countryside, perfect for the undead to invade!
Scream: Why did you choose your first film to be a zombie film?
Dom: It wouldn’t have not been a zombie film! If my wife hadn’t had the idea for the story I wouldn’t have done it at all but the fact was it was an exercise in how we could bring something different to the genre that wasn’t just zombies turning up in a hospital or bad news reporters turning up saying there’s been an outbreak.
Scream: I suppose you’ve made the sort of film that you would like to watch yourself?
Dom: Definitely, yes that was the point! What is missing in these films? What can be added to them? I like the whole Shane Meadows, Ken Loach thing. Very British too. If you live here you’ll know that there aren’t any guns lying around in the event of a zombie apocalypse. In a British horror film why would you start pulling guns out? You wouldn’t. We just thought we’re in Britain in a house what have you got? You’ve got whatever is in your kitchen or garage. You’ve got kitchen cutlery, you’ve got bricks, you’ve got …
Scream: A breadboard?
D: (Laughs) Exactly! Yes! We use a breadboard in one of the scenes as you know. In America they would hand over a gun but here in the UK you’ve not got that, When they fight in the kitchen you can only use what there is whereas in American and in too many English films they use guns.
These people have never had a violence incidents in their lives, now let’s throw all this stuff at them, plus they’re both going through some troubles in their relationship and so what can we do with that.
We didn’t want to make it a comedy, although there are some lighter parts in the film. It really was a character study to see how these people who had never experienced violence, never expected anything, They’re confused because they’re in the middle of nowhere. As far as they knew the only thing they are struggling with is their own personal crap and then..zombies (Laughs).
Scream: It is a great mix of drama and horror and looking back at the finished film, what is your favourite scene? What are you really proud of when you sit back and watch the film?
Dom: What I’m really proud of, and I didn’t expect this I’m most proud of the scene at the side of the bed when we see that he’s not been quite honest with her and it reveals everything about the relationship and everything about what he is and while your alliances might have been with him and not with her, this efficient officious woman, your opinions switch when you realise that he’s not who he said he was, the situation is now not how you thought it was. And that’s nothing to do with the zombies and I’m really proud of that scene because you see people really surprised..
Scream: When I watched it, to me, it didn’t matter that you’re not straight into the zombies right away as soon as the film starts because it was so interesting and engrossing watching the drama unfold with your character and Jo’s. That was a big surprise to me as I love all the gore and scares too, obviously.
Dom: It’s almost like saying to the gore hounds “Don’t worry! Keep watching! You’ll get what you want soon!”. Before Dawn is a zombie film and we’re trying to get as many audience members in to watch the film as possible obviously so we don’t want to upset people that are expecting that. My dream would be if somebody came in to watch the drama and thought something is not right and suddenly this cavalcade of gore and violence happens in the second half and the person thinks “Oh my God! I didn’t expect that to happen!” Personally I would love someone to not know that the film is a horror film, a zombie film and then just see what their reaction is after.
Scream: The gore hounds and zombie fans are in for a treat because it is gory, isn’t it?
Dom: It is yes. It is gory, and you don’t have to wait long. With these films I think you’ve got 20 minutes of grace to fill them in and then you’ve got to give them what they want and in this film we give them everything but even in that 20 minutes we still drop things in to remind them that Before Dawn is a zombie film.
Scream: How important was the gore factor to you when making Before Dawn?
Dom: Well there’s no point in making a mild zombie film and making people wait to just have somebody banged on the head with a cup – there’s no point in that. You’ve really got to pull it out of the bag and it was great, we really wanted that central piece where my character goes into the garage and its almost like a little short film on its own, It goes on and on and on and it’s gruesome, we spent a couple of intense days in there.
There was a lot of planned stuff but there was also props galore too, we knew that once you shut that garage door you had a car, a zombie and another man with no way out until one of them comes out dead and one has never experienced violence before in their life. With the zombie, he doesn’t run out of breath, the zombie will just go and go and go so it was great working that out, going underneath and through and round the back of a Land Rover, stuck in a garage, then you grab something and fight. That was brilliant and exhilarating shooting that sequence and then seeing how great it looks on screen.
S: Yes, it was a fantastic sequence. Who was the company that did all the special effects in Before Dawn?
D: We worked with 2 Baldies FX, the two chaps are special effects obsessives. They were brilliant! We went to them and said what we wanted and they showed us what they could do. They were involved in every single stage of it, and the stuntman on set – he was the zombie in the garage, rather than having two actors he just said. “I’m doing this!”. Which was superb.
S: Were you involved with the editing of the film?
D: Yeah, I did all the editing. I learnt how to edit because it was cheaper basically, I really loved the editing process. When I was shooting I knew where I would cut away, and I didn’t want to give it to an editor, and come back and I say “Oh! My god! It’s not my film!”. I wanted to be able to throw away what I didn’t need, add what I needed to, stretched bits where I wanted to and shorten bits where it needed to be – I decided to do it myself and I’m glad I did.
S: So it really is your film in every sense. I was going to ask if looking back there is anything you would change about the film or the process of making it?
D: I would have gotten more equipment in I think. I’d have included more tracking shots but it’s still better than I could ever have imagined, and the music really comes across. The music was done by Tom Ragsdale of Ghosting Season, and I have known Tom for years, he’s just been amazing and I think he made the film something special.
S: How did you get the time off Emmerdale to shoot the film?
D: I didn’t, that was my two week summer break in 2011 (laughs). We packed the kids off to my mums, but they were only in the same village so we saw them at night which was great, but it was a problem hiding all the buckets of blood, and the props. They found a severed hand in a bag, and they were like “Whoa!” but they helped put make-up on, so they realised it was just sugar and water. This shoot took 15 days but beforehand I was working in the evening doing preparations for the film, I got help from the scheduler at Emmerdale (Nader Mabadi) who is a genius, It’s very, very quick on Emmerdale you do about eight scenes a day or 12 if you’re in the studio. And he was brilliant in saying “What do you need and when?”, looking at equipment and when we needed it then putting the scenes together in a way that saved money, with things like cranes and cameras. And not having a day where they’re left sitting about doing nothing. He saved us a fortune!
S: So would you recommend it as a good holiday?
D: (Laughs) No! The shoot itself was utterly exhausting and as soon as it ended after we finished filming on the Sunday night at about 10 o’clock, we had to get the house back together, I was at work at 7.30 on the Monday morning. They say a change is as good as a rest and it was a bit like that. I was exhilarated by it. But then I had to get on with editing which took about four months. I want to get something else going because it was such an exhilarating two years but I feel like you’re waving goodbye to a son or something you know?
S: So you enjoyed the process so much that you would do it again?
D: Yes, definitely! We’ve got a few films in the pipeline. My wife Jo got involved with the executive production on Inbred (directed by Alex Chandon), and we’re producing Mark Price’s new film, Magpie, which isn’t horror at all, and we’re doing Whoops!, which is a MilesTone film about an accidental female serial killer, really funny. And then we’ve got two or three of our own in the pipeline but we’re not sure which one to go with first so we’re going to wait for the money to come through from the sales of Before Dawn, and use that to just get on with it, use the same people, a team that we really trust and we would definitely work with again. We just want to keep getting films out there but it’s not very cost-efficient (laughs).
S: What do you think makes a good horror film? What do you like about horror films?
D: How long is a piece of string? I don’t know, because as soon as you say, “Oh I like The Evil Dead!”, you like that for a totally different reason than you like the first half of Insidious. I love dumb zombie films too, but then The Exorcist spends two hours and a bit explaining all these characters and people, and it takes a long time before anything happens, I love that too. And I don’t just love horror, I love good films, it doesn’t matter if they are horror or not.
S: What can readers of Scream expect from Before Dawn?
D: I think we have a massive amount of respect for the horror audience, which a lot of horror films don’t. And you can see some of the French horror films like Martyrs and Inside, which are repulsive, but they understand that we are sentient human beings with a level of intelligence, and so we’ve decided that we don’t need to give them everything at the beginning, we drip feed and leave little bits so you can work things out, leave a level of paranoia and confusion, you are not left with any strings untied at the end. You are given every single bit of information that you need but you’re left to try and work things out yourself, and to not be given everything with a big club hammer. If you are a gorehound you will be satisfied with the sheer amount of violence and gore that’s in there. And I’m just really, really proud of it, I feel that it’s covered all the bases that we set out for, but then that’s for other people to decide isn’t it? It might fall on its arse (laughs), but I don’t know, hopefully not. One of the things we are really happy about is, it isn’t a vanity project, because there were enough people involved, it’s being shown in places like Japan, and Belgium and Sweden and India, and we realised it wasn’t just a UK thing because of my role in Emmerdale, and so that made us think “Oh, okay, were on the right track, we’ve done alright!”. And it’s sold itself on its own merits, not just because of Emmerdale.
And hopefully they’ll be some iconic things in there. But I don’t know what we’ve achieved, but on a personal level I know what we aimed for, and we achieved that, and what we’ve got to offer hopefully is a gory horror film with intelligence.
S: I think you have acheieved that
S: Who in the horror film world would you like to work with?
D: Well I really lived Cradle of Fear, so when Alex phoned up and said will you be in Inbred I just couldn’t believe it, I loved Perverilla with all the little model things. I think his tenacity and his balls and sheer determination, and the fact that he never accepted a shut door in his face, he just carried on, and he made Inbred because of that, and I was proud to work with him. I’d work for Alex Chandon anytime. I think the French are doing some evil horror films at the moment too.
S: Last question. What would be your top 5 things to pack in your zombie survival kit? If the apocalypse broke out – what would you pack?
D: Alcohol, a big book, a poker, they always come in handy, especially during our film (laughs), Hmmm… running boots or running shoes. And an iron man costume…
S: Dom, thanks for meeting us and giving SCREAM you’re exclusive on Before Dawn. We really enjoyed the film and hope to see more horrors from you in the future.
D: Thanks Rich, you are so welcome. Really love the magazine and thanks for all my back issues and binder today. I’m so chuffed! (laughs).
We’re nearly there!
We have a screening for potential distributors at the end of April so that’s really helped to concentrate minds. The task of making the sound as good as it can possibly be has been enormous but well worth the effort.
Helen Grace from Left Films and also our Producer has now arrived back from representing Before Dawn at the Berlin European Film Market.
Hopefully we have made a bit of noise and made it known that we’re now out there and in existence ready for Cannes Film Festival and then London Film Festival. We had a lot of interest and hopefully, this can be followed up with invites to a showing of the full and finished film at the festivals with an eye to gaining a proper distribution deal.
It’s all a bit of a gamble and we don’t know what will happen but we’re all having fun trying and the film is looking and sounding stunning now that the professional grade (Phil Bedwell) and dubbing mix (Chris Greaves) are under way. Michael Nowacki has done a great job at making the foley sounds have a real sense of depth.
`So, we’re all feeling much more confident and things are definitely flowing in the right direction for us.