Jeremy Lovering has already enjoyed success on the small screen, but 2013 saw him make the transition into film with his directorial debut In Fear.
In Fear saw him bring together a great cast that include Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert and Allen Leech. We caught up with the filmmaker to chat about the film, the cast and what lies ahead.
- In Fear is about to be released onto DVD, so can you tell me a bit about the movie?
It is an exercise in fear. It is about two people… the plot is simple, and deliberately slow, it is about two people who go away with each other, but are relative strangers to one another: they met just a couple of weeks before. They get lost, darkness falls, they can’t get to where they are going and then they start to be terrorised by something that is unseen.
The plot is simple, but it is about how they engineer their own fear and how they fear starts to take over. They become more paranoid and their relationship breaks down. What we are trying to do is look at a compressed relationship in extraordinary circumstances, so that they go through blaming each other, anger, trying to find loyalty, trying to resuscitate their compassion and the whole thing is trying to pull them into a state of fear.
The actors didn’t know what was going to happen, how the story was going to end: they didn’t even know if they were going to be in it the following day. We shot it chronologically, and so their relationship evolved relative to what was going on: because they didn’t know what was going to go on, they were in a constant state of expectation and anticipation that something bad was going to happen.
They were in a genuine state of fear. What I was looking at, was the actors living out what the characters were feeling, and it very much became an authentic response.
- You are in the director’s chair for the film and were behind the script, so where did this project start for you? And what inspired the story?
I was in Ireland as I was looking to make a film there. I went to visit an old Anglo-Irish family, and the locals had turned the signs around so I kept retuning back to the pub from where I had set off. They did it as a joke that had been passed down through the centuries, but as I was driving around and the primal fears… I was looking at a film about violence and the violence of the area, and your imagination runs over.
There are primal fears that you have that do come out when you are lost or when you give into your imagination of bad things. So, it kind of came from that idea. I had seen a road rage incident, and I just thought ‘there is this endless cycle of petty violence that comes from fear’.
So I was just looking at that and thinking ’most religions believe fear it the root of all violence and problems. We wouldn’t have war if we didn’t have fear and we wouldn’t have fights/aggression if we didn’t have fear’. I was just looking at something that played with those ideas.
I remembered the story in Ireland, and I mentioned it to producer Nira Park. I wanted to make it in a particular way, I think that is why it became more interesting because it was like ’lets put this people in a state of fear and see how authentic that is in terms of how we feel it and whether it will lead to violence, or the desire for violence’.
- What were your influences for In Fear? Were you inspired by any particular movies? Or did you try to stay clear of the horror genre?
There were films that I had seen over the years, but I didn’t go back and look at anything specifically. The obvious ones were Knife In The Water and Repulsion from Polanski. There is also Deliverance and Southern Comfort for that alpha-male confusion, and violence as a way of communicating - i.e. badly communicating.
The Straw Dogs for the violence and thematically it is the same: the man who thinks he will never resort to violence, then resorting to violence. The Hitcher plays a part, and Funny Games on some levels. All of these films were in my awareness.
- You brought together a great and small cast can you talk a little a bit about the casting process and what you were looking for in your actors?
For the role of Tom, I was looking for somebody who was witty, sharp and intelligent and therefore thought they were able to deal with any situation using those gifts and skills: rather than somebody who is more physical or more alpha -male. I found that in Iain De Caestecker.
I also wanted someone who understands what alpha-male is, but is actually quite contemptuous of it. He was great because he told me about how he grew up in Glasgow and would go out with his friends; they would get into a situation and would always want to throw the first punch. He would always try to make a joke to get them out of a situation. I instantly thought that was perfect.
I needed an actor who had that in them as a human being, rather than just an actor who can perform. I met loads of great actors who could do that with a great script, but because I didn’t want to give anyone a script and I wanted to shoot without the actors having anything and let them find their way first, I needed an actor who could relate it to their real experience.
Similarly, with Alice, she understood what the darkness was and the void that is out there: she would constantly want to turn away from it. There is a duality where she is slightly vulnerable and at times very savvy.
Alice was only seventeen and so she had an amazing intuition about human nature but there was a vulnerability because she was seventeen.
Allen Leech was the perfect charismatic alpha-male, strong physical presence and strong confidence. I introduced him to the world of Iain and Alice, and it was very clear that he would cause fragments to take place. He knew the story from the beginning, so he was more in on it.
I needed someone who could bully his way into certain situations. He was doing a social experiment in a way, and he wanted to push these two people - Iain and Alice - to the point of violent. In his false logic he was like ’I have done nothing wrong’.
Allen was very able to do all of that, both physically and emotionally. It was a combination that I needed to get. Like I say, I saw many people who were brilliant, but these felt like they were the right combination.
- You have mentioned a couple of times that you didn’t give the actors a script during casting or during the shoot, so why did you decide to work like that? How did the actors respond? It is unlikely that they will have worked like that before.
I think that is true. The bottom line is they loved it as it gave them total freedom and they become collaborator, if not part creator in terms of their character. In terms of the story, I had a thirty-page story - which was pretty much a script without dialogue. During rehearsals, I wouldn’t rehearse a scene from the film, but I rehearsed a scene that might reflect the scenes that were going to happen in the film. I could them feed that into the scene that I would write that night.
When arrived on set, I had a script and the crew also had pages given to them, but the actors didn’t. I didn’t want the actors to know because if don’t know what is going to come, then it is more like life: which is an obvious thing to say. Secondly, you are more alert and there is no down time as you are constantly thinking ‘what is going to happen next?’
You can’t play any scene in a quiet way because your expectation is that something may occur. For example, you drive out into the night, you par the car and you have a conversation about what you are going to do next, if you knew nothing bad was going to happen you would have played it in a very quiet way.
What I wanted to do was inject the whole thing with a sense of fear: what I was exploring is that fear is a state of mind and a state of existence. Therefore, I wanted to create that. Without them knowing what was going to happen, that is what they did.
- The likes of Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker are two major rising talents, so how did you find working with them?
They were extraordinary: even if it had been a scripted piece, they would have been amazing. What I found was they were just… they were genuinely and totally committed to it, and they totally embraced the low-fi nature of it.
I didn’t want them to have low-loaders of lots of makeup, and they totally loved that idea. It really was filmmaking at its most raw I suppose. They were just really excited and committed, which meant that my life was much easier. They were just giving me more than I could have hoped for, all of the time.
They are very skilful in different ways: Alice is very intuitive and is able to come into a dramatic situation and entire it. Iain was much more method, and wanted to be in character more of the time. However, when they came together it was totally real. I found that they are very sympathetic as well and I found it quite moving. They gave me loads.
- In Fear has played at FrightFest and Sundance over the last year or so, so how have you found the response to the film and the festival experience?
We have done a few festivals. Sundance was the first one, and that was a big thing to go there and be involved in that. It was an amazing experience. They have different screenings there: one would be late at night for the hardened festival go-ers. Then there would be another in Salt Lake City, where tickets were sold to the general public. Therefore, I got a spread of audience.
It is a genre film, and I wanted to make a film that hit genre moments and needs an audience: it is not a work of art and it is not meant to be something that exists without an audience. When I started getting positive responses from different audiences, it was very exciting. I have been incredibly gratified.
We played at two horror festivals - one in London and one in Dublin - and the expectations are much higher. Both times people were ’we like this’ and you are like ’oh my god, they like it’. We had one In Leicester Square - which was thirteen hundred people - and it went down really well: they are fans who know their stuff.
I was apprehensive because I didn’t know what their expectations would be and if I would meet it. That is when you realise that they are a lot smarter than you are, as they can embrace many different types of sub parts within that genre. It has been amazing.
It has been a really gratifying experience in terms of what audiences feel and the different types of audience. I always wanted to make a film that I would have enjoyed and been excited about watching and two days later, I would still be thinking about it, and I that is what has happened.
- While you have had a successful TV career this is your feature film directorial debut, so how have you found that transition? And how does feature film compare to working in television?
The transition wasn’t difficult at all because I just look at it as a project. In that sense it wasn’t any different as you were using the same crafting, things that you have learnt or not learnt, you make the same mistakes, which you will hopefully learn from for next time and you have the same level of fun or anxiety.
The investment in time is what is different as you have more commitment to preparation and you can change the script. In television it is much together, quicker, you are shooting more and you are shooting in a different way: there is a script that you are shooting rather than looking at it and going ‘lets see where this goes’.
Bear in mind this was not a studio film for $100 million, this was a low budget, semi-improvised British film. When you do a big studio film, you end up with the same number of executives and constraints: the insurance people are on your back making sure you finish for the day. In a way, that is probably closer to the TV experience.
- Speaking of TV, you were also involved in the latest series of Sherlock, so how did you find being part of the current biggest show on TV?
It was great fun it really was brilliant. Working with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman was exceptional. When you do In Fear, you are creating fans or an audience.
However, when you do Sherlock you already have a massive fan base and you do feel a sense of responsibility of pleasing them: not in a frightening way, but you think ‘it would be nice to do something more than they have done before, but keep it in the realms of something that makes the fans happy.
- Finally, what is next for you?
I don’t know. There is an adult ghost story that I am looking at. There is also a messed up coma/love story that I am looking at. There is also a psychological drama, which is just pure drama. One of those will hopefully be the next thing.
In Fear is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.