DARK NIGHT: INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR
Daniel Grant, a fourth-year archaeology student at University College London, has just seen the premiere of his first feature film, Dark Night, which he wrote and directed. It is the horrific tale of a house party gone terribly wrong, as the guests find themselves stalked by a mystifying evil presence. Here, he gives his view on the whole experience…
Q: There was actual screaming from the girls sitting next to me!
A: Good, I’m glad, that’s the effect we wanted!
Q: So why this genre?
A: It’s a generalisation, but I think that when you start off, you can do one of two things: you can do a fun movie, or an arty pretentious one. I don’t ever really want to do arty pretentious stuff, that’s just not me. With horror, you can do whatever you like, it’s fun. Having said that, it wasn’t just a movie for me, it was a huge learning experience. It let me have different camera styles for each person, so I could just experiment really. I’m still learning the trade, basically.
Q: Was it difficult acting in it, as well as being director, producer, tea boy…?
A: Yeah, it was busy! I didn’t really have time to direct the way I’d like to. I would’ve liked some more workshops. The assistant director, Vaughn Stein, was really good, sorting out shots while I was in front of the camera. He can translate what I’m saying. Also, everyone pitched in, which was touching, humbling even. When the actors weren't due on set, they all helped out with holding the boom, sorting the rigging, anything!
Q: Was it hard to direct your friends?
A: It was okay. I tried to get a professional feel going from the start. I knew that if we treated it lightly, that it would just never, ever get done. We had a shooting schedule from the start.
Q: Who did your effects for you?
A: Make up was one of the things that I did. I had no idea how to do it at the beginning. I like design, that’s something else that I do. We had help making the prosthetics, they look excellent onscreen.
Q: How long was it in post-production?
A: A year – that takes the most time. The editing and the music was done with pretty quickly.
Q: The soundtrack is excellent – did you call in some favours to get that together?
A: My friend Jess got drunk at a wedding and met this guy who was in composing, and she said that she embarrassed herself when speaking to him… I was like, “Can I have his number please?” Pete turned out to live in nearby Camden, and the work he did was great. We also got the rights to the song “Dark Night,” that was the title right there, great.
A: £2500-3000 went on hiring the cameras. We hired out newsroom ones from Bristol, for 8 weeks – what a bargain. £1000 went on set design, props, all those things. £500 on just food for the cast. All the little things add up. From then on – it’s all about blagging. After a while, that’s all we did.
Q: What was your best blag?
A: All of the set furnishings. UCL have this huge warehouse full of stuff like that in storage, stuff that they don’t want to use, like carpets. They were like, we want the carpets back I thought, will they mind a bit of blood on them…?
A: It was at a house in Rickmansworth, northwest London. It was my friend Johnny’s house. His parents went away for two weeks and were like, “yeah, sure, you can use our house.” As all my other stuff has been documentary-style, funny stuff, they must have thought it’d be fine; “maybe Dan’s doing a nice romantic comedy or something?”
Q: So is that what you’re planning to do next?
A: Not likely… it’d be great to get Dark Night to a festival. The next thing I’m doing is actually at the Bloomsbury Theatre. There’s also a documentary in the pipeline. I’ve got loads of ideas for films; now that this one’s done, I feel I can start getting my head around new ones.