IN CONVERSATION WITH DOMINIC BRUNT
“…even though it is ridiculous, slapstick and satirical, there is a lot of anger in ADULT BABIES. It was like putting punk rock down on celluloid” says writer-director Dominic Brunt. In conversation with FrightFest, the filmmaker discussed the contrasting presence of his new film, not only to his preceding work, but also his future films. He also reflected on the film making process as one in which the audience can be forgotten that feeds those moments of doubt, and spoke to the idea of the abandonment of a film as well as personal transformation.
FrightFest: Why film making as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?
Brunt: Not really. I was a welder for five years when I left school, but I always wanted to do something creative, and the opportunities weren't really there until I was a little bit older. And as far as doing genre films, it has just always been my genre. My best mate had this video shop in Accrington and we raided all the videos that we could. And even when they were all banned, he gave us a black plastic bag with the banned videos, which I have dragged a load of them around. I still have about twelve of them from when I was thirteen, and they are on a shelf; kind of in this pride of place. So it has always been my default, but I love cinema anyway, including a lot of foreign cinema, and I like digging around. But yeah, it is just my favourite genre, and as disappointing as it is sometimes, there is always something interesting to watch.
FrightFest: Neil Young once said something about how to appreciated the best art, you have to experience the worst.
Brunt: I don't consider myself an artist at all [laughs], but as in experiencing art, I like watching old rubbish weirdly. I like digging out some of the 80s stuff that has a certain nostalgia to it. But when I am getting ready to do a film, and when we made BAIT, I wanted to try to keep away from bad films as much as I possibly could because I didn't want to be tainted with anything awful. So you try to watch the classics to feed into the vain hope that something might rub off on you [laughs]. But yeah, I'm a sucker for everything; I will watch a film a day and watch many awful films. But there is always something in them; I don't think anybody ever sets out to make an awful film. Certainly with ADULT BABIES that's a nod to that sort of film anyway, where it is trying its hardest to be a B movie, but without naming it.
FrightFest: How do you view the place of ADULT BABIES within your body of work?
Brunt: Well from the start, I don't see ADULT BABIES as a continuum of what we are about. BEFORE DAWN was definitely an allegory and BAIT was the same, but it was a different monster and people even said that BAIT wasn't a horror film. I was saying: “It is a horror film; I filmed it and conceived it as a horror film.” Just because the monster is human and is not wrapped in bandages or does not have fangs, it is still a monster; if not worse than others because he’s human. The excuse of forgiving or excusing people because they are evil, and saying that we as community or society are not responsible because they are just evil, well we created these people, and I like that side of things.
But ADULT BABIES is certainly a side step because it is what it is. It has these very broad strokes and we wrote it thinking somebody else might make it. I had taken five months off work because I was due to make a film in America, around a two or three million pound budget for Radar Pictures, which collapsed two weeks before I was due to go out there. I had the visa sorted and everything, and so I was heartbroken. We made ADULT BABIES which was sat there waiting for us, and even though it is ridiculous, slapstick and satirical, there is a lot of anger in ADULT BABIES. It was like putting punk rock down on celluloid [laughs] as far as I was concerned because I was pissed off about what had happened. I saw all these doors opening and was just getting over excited. I couldn't believe the opportunity that had been leant to me through BAIT because they liked it and so I was hired. But then all these doors just shut and that was it, I was back to square one. So I suppose some of the elements of ADULT BABIES is a reaction to that. The next film will be this allegorical thing, where what you are watching is not what it's about, unlike ADULT BABIES which is exactly what it’s about [laugh]. It's commenting on things, but it’s not as deep and it’s not a societal commentary.
FrightFest: So is ADULT BABIES more that momentary pleasure, whereas your other films are designed to be contemplated afterwards?
Brunt: If I am flattering myself, yes, that's what I'd like the audience to do. But whether they do or not, I don't know. That's what we wanted them to do, whereas with ADULT BABIES you want people to have fun.
FrightFest: Film is an aspirational object and in spite of the uncertainty of the audience’s response, is that reveal a part of the magic of cinema for you as a filmmaker?
Brunt: Yeah, I think so because you lose that along the way until it is out there. You are not pandering to an audience when you are writing; you are writing because you like the story. Certainly with BAIT we wrote it because of things we had experienced, and the things we had read. We’d get lost in that and try to craft the best story we could. It is almost like a novel because you are reading it very quietly to yourself a billion times in bed, changing and tweaking it. But then it’s funny when you are filming it because you want the best shots and you want to be clever, you like working with the actors and building the scenes, and along the way you forget that actually, this is for an audience. When you then put it out there you think: Oh my God, I wonder if I had done it differently, if I had kept the audience in mind all the way through? I don't think I even give a second thought to them until it’s out there and then you think: I wonder what people make of it? But it’s like you have forgotten that element of it and it’s an enormous element.
FrightFest: Speaking with Carol Morley for THE FALLING, she explained: “You take it 90 percent of the way, and it is the audience that finishes it. So the audience by bringing themselves: their experiences, opinions and everything else to a film is what completes it.” If the audience are the ones that complete it, does it follow that there is a transfer in ownership?
Brunt: Yes, I absolutely believe that. It isn't yours anymore, but I feel that as the audience when I go to see a film, if I find one that I love and I want to tell people about, if you experience it as deeply as that, then you’ll forget that you are watching a film, and it’s like music. I still buy vinyl because I want that ownership of the music in my hand. I don't want it whisking across on MP3, although I do listen to MP3, and I listen to Spotify a lot. When I really like something I want to own that piece of music, and that is the same with film. Certainly my top ten, twenty or fifty films, I believe I have something to do with them. It’s bizarre. There’s no ego involved, but you feel that you are something to do with it; it’s weird is it not? Certainly with RAGING BULL, I will rant about it until the cows come home; I need to because it’s a part of my life.
FrightFest: Interviewing Larry Fessenden, he spoke of how a film is abandoned. Would you agree that by a certain point you must accept the film you have and send it out into the world?
Brunt: I think that is more of a presence when you write because at some point you have to stop writing, and everything can be changed and you feel differently from day to day. With film you have to film it in a certain way; you can’t keep filming it for three days. There are different time constraints and schedules, and budgets to stick to, and in the edit you only have what you filmed. Having said that, we messed around with the timeline and the structure of BAIT. I think we could have gone on and on with that, but the rest were definitely set with what we filmed, trimmed, sped up, elongated and carried on like that. But I've always got to a point where I think: That’s the best it can be. I am happy and that’s it, lets stop. I know novelists that have said: “I just had to say, ‘I’m abandoning it now.’” But I’ve never heard that with film.
FrightFest: Filmmaker Christoph Behl remarked to me: “You are evolving, and after the film, you are not the same person as you were before.” Do you perceive there to be a transformative aspect to the film making process?
Brunt: I work with my wife and because we work on a lot of things, there are those that will never be made, some good, some bad, and there are things that need developing. So the inspiration at the beginning to think it can be made is the only time I feel that, and as for the rest of it, we are trying in a professional manner to tweak it, to hit the right notes and make this thing as exciting as we can.
BAIT and BEFORE DAWN were very personal, but it was more to do with protecting what I felt that went onto the screen, rather than trying to change myself. So I disagree with that actually and I don't think it does change me. No, I am set in my ways; I set myself down when I was twenty seven and I haven’t changed since.
ATTACK OF THE ADULT BABIES is released on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital on July 9 2018 by Nucleus Films
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