Director Q & A EXCLUSIVE: Talking DAMIEN MOLONY and TIGER RAID with SIMON DIXON
The Tiger Raid treats just keep on coming! Following our Universal Monsters Universe and DMF interview exclusive, we are thrilled to reveal a more detailed Q & A with director and co-writer Simon Dixon, who has kindly taken the time to answer our questions and talk about Tiger Raid in more depth. We are honoured to share some of the most incredible insights we’ve seen so far about Damien’s upcoming film.
DMF: How did ‘Tiger Raid’ come about?
Simon Dixon: We wanted to develop a film that we could move ahead with quickly and allow us to maximise the impact of a film at this scale. We’d reviewed over a 100 scripts and are developing several other films but in amongst the many choices Mick (the playwright) sent a really intriguing (and challenging) over length sketch of his new play. There was something beautifully savage about the raw form of the writing and we felt it could be developed into a compelling feature.
DMF: Can you say a little about what each of the three leads brought to the film and what it was like seeing them bringing the characters to life from the script?
Simon Dixon: We were lucky to get such a young and vibrant cast. All three embraced the film in ways that elevated its impact.
Brian is an incredibly aware and visceral performer and he imbued Joe with a depth of humanity that allowed us to explore his dark character with much more depth.
Damien was very alive. His energy and attitude was a powerful counterpoint to Brian’s intensity. He created a very strong bond with Brian.
Sofia was the emotional heart of the film. Her strength and presence elevated the scenes and focused the guys performances around the intensity of her characters situation.
DMF: Can you say a little about the training the actors had for Tiger Raid, how long they trained for, and the weapons handling?
Simon Dixon: The guys undertook a diet and fitness regime a couple of months before shooting under the watchful eye of an ex British soldier and military expert. It was to strengthen them and build the base fitness for their characters. They then had a short burst of specific weapons handling and movement training during the pre production in Jordan.
The Jordan advisors were Mission X: http://www.missionx.com/film–tv.html
Both actors embraced the intense and demanding training with genuine enthusiasm and the results definitely transfer to the screen.
DMF: How big a part did the desert play in the film? I can imagine it’s an all-consuming environment…
Simon Dixon: It was a difficult but inspiring place to shoot. The intention was to replicate the real environment as closely as possible – to enhance the reality of the film. It was over 45 degrees at points so all of the actors and crew were incredibly driven to deliver the vision of the film in very tough conditions. That said in between filming the sheer beauty and scale of the locations never failed to inspire.
DMF: Was there any improv ?
Simon Dixon: Yes. Quite a bit. Both Damien and Brian are very good at it! It was mainly between takes to develop energy and help frame the guys relationship. I would throw topics at them and they would banter, joke and play crazy as a way to release or build tension. To reboot for the next scene. None of it is in the film but it helped frame the relationship.
DMF: Damien and Brian’s characters wear very striking bandit like make up in the film, can you say a little about that without too many spoilers?
Simon Dixon: It is a tactic used by mercenaries to scare people. We used it to create a mask that is literally and metaphorically stripped away as the film develops. Revealing the real men below the surface.
DMF: How much input did you have into the film score or did you just let award-winning Dean Valentine do his thing ?
Simon Dixon: A lot! I’m a real music nut. Dean is a gifted composer and working with him was a joy. I was keen to develop more than just a score. I wanted a soundscape for the film. A blend of score, electronic music, sound design and field recordings. Something to drive the emotion and tension of the film. I sent Dean a catalogue of references to spark debate then he developed several scratch tracks to influence the themes of the film. The one that unlocked it was a track called A Thin Place. When I played it on my stereo at home I knew it was the film. Dean’s work was enhanced and blended with incredible sound design/fx and editing by Egg Post Production in Dublin. They took the sound to another level and the score weaves in and out of it in a really motivating way. http://egg.ie/
DMF: When the sum of the creative parts came together for this film – script, characters, photography, sound – was the outcome exactly as you expected or did Tiger Raid take on a life of its own ?
Simon Dixon: It is both. You have to imagine the finished film but it’s an ever developing thing. So a clear vision allows you to let the film live and breathe and the talent to shine but you know where you want it to go.
DMF: How was the process of directing your first feature film?
Simon Dixon: Of course it is a steep learning curve and an exciting process. However it was really about stretching myself creatively. It felt like leaping of a cliff and just about surviving! Creating a film is difficult for lots of reasons and staying true to the idea ends up being a series of thousands of discrete decisions that make up the whole. It’s a very live process as every moment there is something to consider or have an opinion on. It’s also inherently incredibly collaborative as it is a team game. Every person in the cast and crew is vital to deliver the vision and all of them add to it in different ways. So finding ways to liberate that amazing talent in service of the film is extremely rewarding.
DMF: What’s it like letting go of your first film to the audience?
Simon Dixon: Terrifying but liberating.
DMForumer Pearl: One question I wonder about is why the original play was called Radio Luxembourg?
Simon Dixon: It is the name of a race horse. I can’t explain more without ruining the story!
DMForumer fifi: Tiger Raid seems v character driven, can you tell us about Damien’s casting as Paddy?
Simon Dixon: It is character driven and this is accentuated by having a small cast.
Meeting Damien was fun. He read at our studio and it was apparent very quickly he had the bravado that could deliver Paddy. Casting is difficult as it’s a very cold process but Damien just popped. You could see the essence of Paddy bubbling under.
DMForumer fifi: Did you ever consider not filming in Jordan?
Simon Dixon: We looked at lots of locations including places like Morocco. However Jordan was the closest we could get to reality and had a fantastic range of locations. Plus who doesn’t want to film where they shot Lawrence Of Arabia and Zero Dark Thirty?
DMForumer fifi: How much time did the actors have to get to know each other before filming?
Simon Dixon: Rehearsals for just under a week. Then two weeks pre production. I believe they had met before too.
DMForumer fifi: You filmed it chronologically in 19 days….I read somewhere! Financial constraints aside, how did that impact/benefit the filmmaking process?
Simon Dixon: It was difficult to match our ambition to the time but it did create a great sense of energy and commitment. Shooting chronologically allowed us to follow the character and narrative development and build momentum. The bonding and intensity increased as we progressed. It felt natural.
DMForumer fifi: What it was like working with Damien?….this is his fansite after all!!
Simon Dixon: He is a class act and a very generous performer. Outside of that his energy and support throughout is a testament to his very open and giving nature. He’s a top bloke!
DMForumer fifi: And possibly the most important question all…..I’m so impatient to see this film – when will I get to see it in the UK?!??!!!
Simon Dixon: Aha! Not sure yet as it depends on a lot of things. We will let you know asap. Hope to have something cool to announce soon.
DMF: With your Dixon Baxi design background, how much of that played into the final look of the film, and was it hard to know where to stop with the final edit?
Simon Dixon: My experience at DB was useful in terms of art direction and look. It was also useful in terms of large project experience and handling the vision for very complicated projects. However nothing really compares to the intensity of shooting a feature!
The edit process is very fluid with so many different ways to remix the film. It was one of the most rewarding parts of the process. It is a real jolt the first time you see a very rough assembly of the film. You then begin an ever tightening series of passes to sharpen the narrative, performance and impact of the film. After a lot of work the film appears from the soup of the assembly and you can form the final structure. Eventually you feel the changes aren’t improving things. So you close in on a locked film. You have to let it go!
DMF: Tiger Raid is being described as a thriller, action, psycho-drama, road-buddy movie – can any one genre define this film? If not how would you describe it?
Simon Dixon: We hope it is thrilling. We hope it is dramatic. We also hope that the audience will feel the immediacy of the experience whilst watching the film. We hope to surprise people too as it has quite a few twists and turns and is definitely unflinching as the intensity builds. It’s not a buddy movie but maybe has hints of a very dark and twisted bromance!
DMF: Were you going for ultra realism with the story or are there more symbolic elements?
Simon Dixon: It explores several themes that people may recognise but it lives in a dark and intense space. We don’t want to over elaborate or symbolise the film as it is meant to be viewed, then let the audience members decide how to react to the material.
DMF: If you could only use three words to describe Tiger Raid what would they be?
Simon Dixon: Personally:
Amazing. Challenging. Humbling.
As a film:
Visceral. Tense. Provocative.
>>> Read the Universal Monsters Universe & DMF Exclusive Tribeca Film Festival Interview with Simon Dixon & Gareth Coulam Evans here <<<
Tiger Raid has just made its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival and is set for a 2016 release, the date is yet to be announced. Watch this space for news as we get it!
Our huge thanks to Simon Dixon for his time and awesomeness! We cannot wait to see Tiger Raid!
Tiger Raid is directed by Simon Dixon, produced by Gareth Coulam Evans and Samson Films, written by Mick Donnellan, Simon Dixon and Gareth Coulam Evans and exec produced by Aporva Baxi.
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