07th Dec2017

Horror-on-Sea 2018 Interview: ‘Dead Love’ director Chris Gallagher

by Philip Rogers

Dead Love is new unorthodox love story from writer and director Chris Gallagher, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on Friday 19th January. I got chance to ask Chris a few questions about making the film, working with Lloyd Kaufman and the seminal casting of Emily Booth whilst writing the script.

Dead-Love-poster

What can we expect from the film Dead Love?

Talking tables, cannibals, exploding hearts, an awesome soundtrack and many scenes of murder-sex (a term the actors coined on set). It’s essentially a love story concerning a man named Allan, a woman called Anne and a sentient piece of furniture! We’ve got all bases covered – if you want gore, we have scenes where some cast & crew had to watch through their hands. There’s a bit of comedy (hopefully) and underpinning that is the tale of two mismatched people finding love in an unlikely situation.

Dead Love has some unique ideas which create an unorthodox love triangle.  What was your inspiration for writing the film?

Dead Love started from two short stories that I’d written. One of them came from hearing someone speaking on the phone. He was asking for someone called Joanne but said it so slowly that it sounded like he was saying two names, Joe and Anne. That instantly gave me the idea for the character Anne – in the short story, she became Joanne but to say why and how would spoil the film. The other short story was dealing with Allan hiding his relationship with the table when visitors came over. This came from two places. It seems to be a thing in everything that I do that there’s an anthropomorphic object. Make an animal talk or have a bed eat people and you have my interest! I don’t know why it always seems to slip in but it does! Following on from that, I find it fascinating how people have relationships with objects – someone has married the Eiffel Tower and I’ve read about people falling in love with theme park rides and even things like fences. In interviews, they always talk very sincerely about these relationships and genuinely seem to get something from it. So, I thought that was something worth exploring a bit, especially when you chuck in themes of jealousy and the like. What’s interesting is that these stories were written at least a year apart and then maybe another year later I suddenly realised that they were potentially two halves of one story so I decided to see what would happen if I threw them together. The characters took over from there, Dead Love pretty much wrote itself.

Were there any elements of the original script which had to be adapted during filming?

Not really! Pretty much the finished film is the script and to be honest, even the script didn’t change that much from the first draft. I think we shot the tenth draft of the script but I don’t think my drafts are ‘proper’ drafts, just continuous passes at dialogue and things like that rather than adding or changing entire scenes. Part of that was down to the non-existent budget – I knew I couldn’t shoot car chases, gunfights or explosions so the script was always written to be achievable on a shoestring budget. The only exception to this was the ending which was slightly bigger in the script than it ended up being. The way I envisioned the scene, we could’ve shot it but before we came around to filming it, I came up with an ending that suited the rest of the film better. And that’s why we ended up with that, it wasn’t so much a money thing but I’d spent time with the actors embodying those characters which made me envision a truer ending for them. Though, that said, the film still ends up in exactly the same place it was always supposed to so I wouldn’t say anything was that drastic. Other than that, I’m surprised that we didn’t end up changing more – I’d always planned to have two single-take scenes in the film and I think that doubled owing to scheduling (which the actors loved me for). But other than that, nothing really changed at all.

The film features a cameo from independent film maker Lloyd Kaufman. How did he become involved in the film?

This one is going to be a really boring answer I’m afraid! Lloyd occasionally comes over to the UK and plays a few of his films at the Prince Charles Cinema. We saw that he was coming over to promote a new release and we just fired off an email! This was actually six whole months before the rest of the shoot was scheduled but we knew we had to go for it. He came back super fast saying he was free the morning after the Prince Charles screening so we pencilled it in.

I grew up watching Bravo and the Sci-Fi Channel late into the evening (Editors Note: Us too!) – as I remember it, Bravo used to play a Troma film every Saturday night. I’m sure Channel 4 used to dabble too – pretty certain that’s how I saw Terror Firmer (1999). Plus, I used to watch a show called outTHERE that Emily Booth hosted which is where I remember seeing scenes from Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990) and then obviously the Toxic Crusaders cartoon (imagine my horror when I watched The Toxic Avenger (1984) thinking it was a live action movie of the cartoon in the same way that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) was).  So, meeting and working with Lloyd was a huge deal and one I was admittedly slightly cautious of. I was well versed in all the behind the scenes documentaries for his films and didn’t know what to expect. However, Lloyd was amazing – I know it seems like such a cliché to say how well things went but they truly did. He had so much patience with us, especially considering we were struggling slightly as a key crew member was missing. He really is someone who appreciates his fans and we are so grateful that he agreed to appear in the film.

Did you write the role of the table with Emily Booth in mind?

No word of a lie, my producer will vouch that I did. Writing the table into the film, I knew I had a bit of leeway with casting that role. After all, it didn’t require weeks of commitment on a performer’s part. I just needed a recording studio and one day of the actor’s time so I was always set on casting a known name for it. At the same time, I was never interested in getting someone on board just because their name might attract people. It had to be someone who was synonymous with the genre and Emily’s got that well and truly cornered – who else would you want to cast in that role? I’d seen her in all sorts of things like Cradle of Fear (2001) and Evil Aliens (2005) as well as her strong association with Frightfest and Horror Channel – if anyone was going to play such a pivotal part in the film, it had to be her. Now, we did do the cautious filmmaker thing of drawing up a list of other potentials in the eventuality that Emily wasn’t interested but when we looked at it, it was even clearer just how important Emily was to it. No joke, knowing that we had opened communications with Lloyd, he was very, very briefly on our list but that would’ve completely changed the whole tone of the film.

What was one of your favourite scenes in the film?

Nothing obvious. Without going into spoilers, the characters definitely grow and change throughout the course of the film and there are two very quiet scenes where there’s nothing else going on but these two-people casing each other (and themselves) out. The actors are great and whilst it’s good fun having blood splatter across every wall, if you don’t have interesting characters and an engaging story underneath that, the whole thing crumbles. Coupled with the brilliant score that we have, I’m most proud of those moments. On the flip side of this, I am very keen to see what people make of Laurence R. Harvey’s scene in the movie. We reunited him with Emma Lock (the end person of the centipede in The Human Centipede 2 (2011)) and have a bit of fun with that. It’s a scene that very much comes out of nowhere and manages to throw everyone off. I won’t say anything else about it but that was a fun shoot day, culminating with Laurence getting revenge on our DOP for constantly calling him Neville for reasons none of us understood!

Do you have any new projects which you are working on?

Loads! Feature-wise, I’m hoping to get something going next year that’s extremely different to Dead Love. It’s a film in the vein of Cube (1997) and SAW (2004) but, before you roll your eyes, I think I’ve got a unique enough spin on it to warrant its existence. And this is coming from the guy who made a 30min short film about killer flying scarecrows called scAIRcrows (2011), another short about a murderous, lovesick mobile phone and then all the shenanigans in Dead Love. So, I’m pretty confident I can make it stand out. I’m excited to go out and do something blatantly mainstream just because I haven’t tried that before and filmmaking is way too stressful to just be repeating yourself over and over. I have another feature script called Self Catering which is best described as Come Dine with Me meets Requiem for a Dream (2000). It’s about a bunch of people who come to learn that their blood has hallucinogenic properties and basically take turns hosting dinner parties serving up dishes made with their own blood. Then things take a dark turn! Then there’s two shorts I’m floating about, both of which have a bit of a social realist bent to them. One that my producer and I came up with looks at homelessness through a slightly Cronenbergian lens. Hopefully we’ll see some money from Dead Love to help push these along.

If someone is looking to direct their first film, what advice would you give them?

As tired as it sounds, just go out and do it. Don’t second guess things. If all you have is your iPhone, shoot on that. I think with the proliferation of equipment these days, indies are getting so hung up on shooting 4K and stuff like that and forgetting the creativity in the process. Give an imaginative person a mobile phone and someone lacking talent the best camera that’s available and I know who’ll come back with the better film. The best way to learn is by doing. When you do something wrong, you’ll know what you need to do to fix it next time. Take casting seriously. Don’t use friends because you think that’s the best you can do. There are talented actors out there who are just as keen to cut their teeth on practical projects as you are. Just treat them well – I’ve heard so many horror stories! And lastly, do it because you have a drive to do it. It can be a soul-destroying process most of the time, especially on a no-budget film where everyone thinks you have money but are just trying to scam them! It’s way too much of an ordeal to do it without passion.

DEAD-LOVE-SCREEN-004

Dead Love will be playing at the Horror-on-Sea Festival on Friday 19th January at 10:30pm.
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You can find out more information on the event and to purchase tickets for the Horror-on-Sea please see the website for details:  https://www.horror-on-sea.com

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