Interview: The Creators of Grabbers
Grabbers, the latest feature film by director Jon Wright, received its European premiere at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival. Set in Ireland, starring Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley, this monster comedy follows a small island community as they battle strange alien creatures that appear from the sea. I sat down with Jon, along with script writer Kevin Lehane and visual effects maestro Martin Chamney, to discuss the film.
“It's a romantic comedy, set in the world of a horror film,” explains Kevin. “And it's a love letter to Ireland, and a love letter to the films that I grew up on.”
“At one point we were jokingly talking about calling it a mon-rom,” Jon tells us, before Kevin corrects him. “It's a mon-rom-com.”
The two continue to debate the exact genre of Grabbers, in jest, before Kevin settles it. “It's a romantic comedy, with monsters!”
What is immediately clear from chatting with the trio, apart from them being a very down to earth and friendly bunch, is that they are deeply passionate about their work.
“My colleagues have worked with Jon before, on Tormented (2009), so we were invited along pretty early in the Grabbers planning,” says visual effects supervisor Martin. “We read the script and felt really excited about it.”
Martin, employed by a company called Nvizible, has an impressive résumé, having worked on films such as The Dark Knight, Clash of the Titans and Quantum of Solace - to name just a few. But working on a smaller scale project such as this does have advantages for him. “It was just a massive difference, a really enjoyable experience.”
“We had a lot of creativity and freedom to explore animation and devise ideas with Jon about how the creatures looked, how they moved and how they behaved. It was a real end to end process, an evolution working from concepts and sketches right through to the final product, so it was really rewarding. That's quite often something you don't get when working on a Hollywood blockbuster, where you are brought in quite late just to do something after they've already shot the whole thing.”
The film has already gained some early status as a 'B-movie', but while the team were quick to promote the light-heartedness of Grabbers, by no means did they want to provide the audience with a comical monster.
“That's where it sometimes goes wrong in a horror comedy, when you take the piss out of your bad guy,” Kevin explains. “We took it deadly serious. It's just our characters have an unusual reaction to them, that's where the comedy comes from.”
Martin reiterates Kevin's point. “You feel like they (the monsters) are really there in the shots. You've got a lot of handheld camera work going on throughout the filming, it's in the dark, it's in the rain - traditionally the type of effects that would've been difficult to do a few years back - but these things are more straightforward these days. It's just really good production values.”
“I had a battle on my hands to get Nvizible to be the sole company dealing with the visual effects in the film,” Jon tells us. “There are a lot of options out there, but I really wanted it to be one company, and one company that really cared about the final result. As a consequence of that we have a monster that a lot of people are saying is fantastic.”
The significance of dealing with just one effects company, and the way in which the whole group interact, is something that the director felt was key to the overall success of the project.
“One thing that the guys at Nvizible said was that typically there is not a lot of contact between the different levels of a production,” Jon explains.
“So one of the things we did, which was quite unusual, was to have the guys who were actually going to do the effects come down and sit with me and we'd watch the effects and we'd discuss it and they'd offer up their ideas and I'd give them my feedback and it became quite a collaborative and open process.”
But this film is not solely about the 'mon', in fact it revolves around the 'com', and of course plenty of 'rom'. “There's a sweet romance at the heart of it,” reveals Jon.
“Both characters are imbalanced, she's a workaholic who's defining herself by her status in her job, and he's somebody who's not taking anything in his life seriously,” explains Kevin.
“It's about two characters who have to take a bit from each other to survive this rather metaphorical monster. It is their demons that they are battling, essentially.”
Kevin mentions films such as Tremors and Shaun of the Dead when talking about some of his inspiration for Grabbers, and the overriding feeling that he associates with it is one of 'fun', even describing it as a party film, which he hopes the audience will enjoy.
“We had an absolute ball making the film. As a writer this is my first project, and I couldn't have asked for a better director to take my baby from me and turn it into something that I'm really proud of. I love everyone involved in it, and it's just been such a fantastic experience.”
“If I wasn't involved in the film I'd still pay money to go and see it, and that was my one wish for it.”
The reaction to the film has been extremely positive from the Edinburgh viewers thus far, and expect to hear more about this particular 'mon-rom-com' very soon!
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