Over the last few days with the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival coming to an end Scannain was out and about taking to the actors and directors on the red carpet. Last Friday was the Irish premiere of Ron Scalpello’s second feature film Pressure, starring Danny Huston. The director, writer/actor Alan McKenna, and Huston were in town for the premiere.
So Ron where did the story for Pressure come from, what made you decide to the tell the story of four men trapped under the sea?
It’s an exciting and intriguing premise. The survival genre, the decisions we make, life and death. They activated my imagination. The concept told itself and the drama is built into the premise. I just wanted t explore a lot of elements. Who we are, how we live and how are relationships shape us. It’s essentially a life or death situation exploring things like masculinity, relationships, regret, remorse and atonement.
As a director what the challenges of shooting in a confined space like that?
It was a real challenge, I was frightened by the idea of underwater filming, the idea of sustaining a film in a confined space, luckily we had four brilliant actors. Danny (Huston), Alan (McKenna) and Joe (Jones) and Matthew Goode obviously and I just wanted it to be active. I wanted to engage the audience, make them feel the experience the film with the characters and maybe come out exhausted as if they’ve lived it too. You know I wanted them to be happy to be alive, grateful that the Sun’s shining and that they can breath. It’s not a film you can passively watch, it’ll bombard your emotions, maybe bring up fears and you’ll think about decisions you make under pressure, sorry that was rather convenient.
You had to say it Ron, so how long was the process to find your leading men?
Well Alan and I developed a good story, we worked on it a very long time. We sent it out to Danny and Danny had seen one of my previous films and he knew how I wanted to work with the genre. When Danny embraced the script and saw what we wanted to achieve and the ambition of the film he came onboard and then Matthew responded to that. I think everyone just responded to the power of the writing and the power of the story and what we wanted to achieve. It came about very quickly actually. Danny Huston
So Danny what was it about Pressure that excited you as an actor?
The script by Alan, the story about these men in this closed environment which was so suspenseful, dark but there was also something wonderfully romantic about the imagery. Also it was about the characters who are scarred from working in that kind of environment. Also everything I loved about the script I hated about the experience making Pressure.
So Danny like you said there, what was it like working in those conditions?
Awful, awful, horrid. It was humid, dark and dank but I suppose it helped performances. At least I hope it helped the performances. It was tough, but only up to a point, better than digging a ditch put it that way.
Did you form a kind of brotherhood with your fellow leading men?
Oh yeah, I imagine it was like spending time with fellow soldiers that are put down in a trench where you love them, but you also hate them.
I imagine you wouldn’t be happy going for a second go?
No, no. I was just coming up the elevator with Alan and I was getting flashbacks and I was going, “Oh no not again”.
So what was it like working with Matthew, Alan and Joe?
So great, they’re all wonderful in their own different ways. Matthew is a friend and Alan I adore and they all have their own style but as I said enjoyed spending time with them as long as we were having a drink but I wouldn’t want to be in that environment with them again.
So for people who haven’t seen Pressure yet how would you describe Engel?
He’s on a dark road isn’t he? He’s a voice of doom, not someone you want around necessarily, but it’s kind of like being stuck with a horrible hunter in the wilderness. You know he can help you out because he has experience of maybe doing something that could save your life.
How is it bringing films to festivals like the Dublin International Film Festival?
It’s very important, you see how the audience interact, some actors are afraid, well more like they don’t like watching their films for whatever reasons they may have, maybe they don’t like watching themselves on the big screen. I’m quite the opposite, I love it, I love seeing how the audience engage with the story. It’s what it’s all about.
What was it like working on this, I won’t say horror but thriller kind of film?
It was hard actually. I did loads of research on divers and stories of divers in similar situations and it kind of gave me nightmares and since I’m in it I had to do training for those types of situations. You just kind of get caught up in it. When I approached it, let’s treat it like a horror but a real horror movie. This isn’t a movie where we’re making monsters, this is a movie where the world we’re in is the monster and it works on a lot of primal fears.
Was there any difficulties translating the script onto the screen?
Just like every script you get production problems where you have to change things. There’s a scene which was going to be a flashback but became a monologue from Danny’s characters point of view. When you’ve got someone as brilliant as Danny giving a monologue you listen to it and you hang on every word. Ideally we would have shot that scene, but with the recording of Danny it worked fine.