Frightfest London interview: Dominic Brunt & Joanne Mitchell Emily Stockham August 31, 2015 Editor's Choice, Film4 Frightfest, London, London Interviews 1924 I was waiting with baited breath [small pun intended] for the chance to interview director Dominic Brunt and his co-writer / leading protagonist Joanne Mitchell – in her long list of credentials, it’s worth mentioning Joanne is Dominic’s wife too. They worked on the resounding horror favourite, Before Dawn and now they are back with a classic and superb revenge tale, Bait. I had the pleasure of chatting all things horror, Bait and more with a genuinely passionate and talented pair who can surely be crowned the power couple of Frightfest 2015. How do you feel about Bait making its London Fright fest debut? Joanne: Great, it’s really exciting seeing the story come together and hearing the reactions of the audience. Maybe initially we felt a bit nervous, and had to settle in the bar but in gets easier… Dominic: Yeah, I agree, I watched the very first showing [at Fright Fest] and took a deep breath and thought, good that’s done now I can relax. It looks alright. Now it’s on the third showing I think and I’m just enjoying it and hearing what people have to say. Where did the idea of Bait come from? How did the project come to be? Joanne: The idea for the plot came from a lot of things really, newspaper articles, news stories, it’s a very current and topical story but is also something that has gone on for years, the idea of borrowing / lending. There’s so much out there but some of it is too harsh, too bleak – we wanted something that gave the audience some retribution. You definitely give retribution! I was cheering the girls on in the final scenes… Joanne: In one of the screenings, when Dawn is stabbing him someone shouted, ‘More, More!’ I think that sums up how people feel when they see the story and empathise – put themselves in the situation, what would I do? Dominic: Yeah, we had this idea of loan sharks, revenge, and making an allegorical monster. [Joanne] is a lot more cultured and intellectual than me I think, I’m happy with zombies but she wants more of a storyline, character development – people to think and feel about and empathise with. But the allegory of the loan shark worked, we wanted a new monster, and to show that, human beings can do terrible things to each other, that’s more frightening in some ways. Jo is right though, you have to give back to the audience I think, some moral to the story – otherwise it all becomes too much, too bleak. It makes the payoff better. Joanne: I didn’t always completely get the zombie and gory stuff [laughs] but [Dom] has definitely won me over and educated me. There’s a place for it definitely but with Bait and the idea we had I was certain I wanted to make sure the characters were fully developed, and it felt realistic. And, it was really important for me that the two lead roles were played by women. Had to be. Interestingly, I was going to ask, why did you choose to have two leading female protagonists – the story would have made sense and had the same impact with a couple, two guys… Joanne: Oh yeah, it could have been anyone, but when I was coming up with the idea for the story and working with the team on the script, bringing the characters to life, I knew they had to be two women. There aren’t enough women in the horror genre, both on and off screen so I felt that it was important to have these women in this strong role for that reasons. Two female friends, complete opposite but ultimately they have a bond – almost sisterly. That worked well and I knew Victoria [Smurfit] the feisty one – she is a friend from Drama College and is the tough, gorgeous, feisty Irish one in real life so it worked well on screen for me to be the quieter of the two – I can be like that. Although Victoria has a great energy and I really feed off of that, they had to keep reminding me to bring it down a notch on set as I would be too up, too loud and on her level which of course ruins the dynamic difference between the two women on screen but we bounce off each other really on screen as well as off I think. Their love-hate sisterly relationship comes full circle in the film. Dominic: Yeah, and with choosing to make it female led we were conscious of making sure it didn’t come across as sleazy, using two women for the sex factor you know? That’s another thing sometimes horror can be guilty of…we had spoken to mates who would consider themselves feminists though and I guess just women in general, it’s hard to know what female audiences like or dislike in horror as it’s so often portrayed as something only men watch or like… I think it’s changing slowly but we wanted to add to that idea. Dominic, how did you go from loveable vet from Emmerdale to directing horror films? I’ve always been a massive film fan, I will literally watch anything, but obviously I love horror and particularly zombies and when I made Before Dawn I decided to have a crack at directing and loved it. I’m still learning as a director, but I’m really into the cinematography, getting the right shots – soaking everything up from all of my favourite directors and working out what works best. Hopefully doing that justice, and working my way, step by step into similar realms as people I admire I guess. I like to be precise with everything and how it will look on screen… Does that make it hard to watch, are you always looking for where you could have improved? Dominic: No, not really, otherwise you would literally drive yourself insane. Of course, there are always things you could change or improve, but I think you have to be happy with the outcome to a certain extent, without saying, ‘I’ve done an amazing job’ or thinking it’s perfect… Joanne: I think you have to say, at the moment, when we were making it, or when it is done, that it’s the best it can be, in that moment, and be happy with that.