INTERVIEW WITH Director Eric England
Director Eric England is not somebody that needs an introduction to most Australian cinema fans. His horror flick Madison County became a favourite for many horror film fans while his last film Contracted did amazingly well on the film festival circuit here Down Under as well.
Now England returns with his brand new film – Get The Girl – a film that isn’t the typical style of horror that we have come to know and expect from England. Instead this is a film that mashes genres together in such a way that while it borders on horror it also has a strong crime feel to the film with a little bit of comedy thrown is as well. With the film about to be released on DVD and VOD here in Australia Heavy caught up with England to talk about his experiences on the film.
England says the film arrived on his lap through the screenwriter Graham Denham. “He had this brilliant idea for a movie,” says England with the excitement showing in his voice. “It was about this guy who stages a fake kidnapping in a bid to win the affection of this girl who has his interest. To me it was kind of originally conceived as a straight-forward horror movie and everytime Graham and I would sit down to talk about it I would say ‘to me this seems like a really absurd comedy’ and I felt that I wanted to see a movie about the kind of people that buy into this and the person that sets this up and it kind of just spawned from that. And I’ve always been a massive fan of films like Fargo and Very Bad Things – movies that take almost slap-stick comedy crimes and watch them go horribly, horribly wrong so I thought this would be a great opportunity to not only dip my toes into that kind of genre but to do the same with a few other genres as well.”
One of the surprising things England found while putting together the movie was that it wasn’t hard to stray from his normal type of horror and put comedy into the mix as well. “I tend to be a bit of all over the place kind of person with my interests,” he says. “So I can switch back and forth from different genres of music, or I can start my day with a horror movie and then end it with a romantic comedy, so my interests are all over the spectrum so as far as my storytelling it felt really natural. Horror and comedy are actually pretty similar because they both rely on timing. If you can set up a scare and a pay off then you can do pretty much the same thing with a joke. It was fun allowing the actors to bring their own kind of comedy to the role.”
Unlike when Australian filmmakers decide to mix genres together England said investors behind the film were not scared off at all. “We were very lucky that because we coming off Contracted the producers really trusted me to be able to do something different. They were actually excited to work with me and while some people were a little sad that I wasn’t doing a straight-forward horror they weren’t. Coming off Contracted I was determined to take the opportunity to do something different and spreading my wings a little bit. I think anyone who has taken any notice of my career were like ‘what??? What is this?’ I think the fact that Get The Girl was coming from the guy that made Contracted made it even weirder for them. So for some people they had their heads tilted with confusion but once people saw the movie they could see that it didn’t completely abandon the genre root, there is obviously a fair bit of genre in there, but there is a lot of comedy in there as well. So there was so excitement but also apprehension.”
England admits one of the most important things that needed to be done in order for Get The Girl to work was to make sure that the character of main character of Clarence worked. “It was really hard to balance sympathy and drive for Clarence,” he says. “I wanted to inject some of my own passion into him and I tend to be a very OCD kind of personality so I really wanted to invest into the idea of somebody that is a romantic – a true romantic – and they believe in love at first site, which in this day and age is also kind of creepy and weird to some people, especially when you consider the new generation seem very adverse to commitment and while some of it was very romantic so of it was also very creepy and so I wanted to ride that line.
Rather than use that to make a statement or to have a commentary in there I wanted to really just have the events play out very true to the character and what those scenarios would lead to and then let the events play out based on what these characters would actually do and just see where that would lead me. So it was kind of a fun and therapeutic exercise in finding out what people’s motivations are and what really leads to some of these more bizarre news stories that you hear about in real life – I just wanted to trace that back in movie form.”
When asked about whether or not Clarence’s really personal opening monologue has a little bit of himself in it England says it does. “I think it does,” he says. “Just to the degree that in the first draft of the screenplay he was a bit of a hero and I really wanted him to be more of a under-dog. That was again interesting because in today’s social climate… especially here in America… it would work better from someone being an under-dog and kind of rising to the top and being a saviour of sorts. But again I viewed it through the eyes of romance and love and I was watching things like The Great Gatsby and these things that are love stories that are based on a lie. I thought that added a lot more conflict but then when you start adding social commentary it starts to skew it a bit. So that certainly came through in the first draft and was part of the attraction to the story for me but as it evolved it became more and more about Clarence the person so I started to use my imagination and let it run wild.”
With so much of the film hinging on Clarence England admits that it was a really tough role to cast as well. “It was really tough,” he says. “There were a few other actors that we were interested in that just didn’t work out and Justin Dobies that ended up playing the role was kind of a breath of fresh air because he embodied this charismatic and handsome young man but also had this vulnerability to him and had this quirky sensibility and natural humour, so it was a very unique mixture and I think Justin does a great job blending those together to become a mix of Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski almost. I think that introduced a very likable charm to both him and the role. It was tough at first but once we found him it was a real godsend.”
He also admits that the chemistry between his romantic leads – Justin Dobies and Elizabeth Whitson didn’t come naturally. “It had to force it,” he says laughing. “Elizabeth was coming off this really bad break-up and she was totally against romance. I wanted to put them in as many scenarios as I could that would allow them to bond so we went out as a cast and we hung out and we did table reads and rehearsals, so we did everything we could to try and make this film feel like a personal experience. We ended up feeling like a family while we were making it so that was really nice and that translated to screen really well. It was interesting because while I wish we could have done more with it I think the kind of thrown-into-the-pool-at-the-deep-end scenario that the film is really lends itself to that kind of environment and while Justin and Elizabeth didn’t have a lot of time to get to know each other that kind of worked for the movie as well – she didn’t know him and she had to learn to trust him over the course of the events so art really mirrored real life.”
Get The Girl is out now on DVD and VOD through Bounty Films.
Written by David Griffiths