Interview with Dark By Noon Creators Alan Leonard and Micheal O’Flaherty
I sat down with creative partnership – Alan Leonard and Michael O’Flaherty who wrote and directed the film together, with Leonard also handling the special effects and O’Flaherty co producing and acting in the film. TheHorroronline interviewed them three days before their mind bending Sci-Fi film Dark by Noon will open the 4th annual Underground Film Festival in Dun Laoghaire on September 12th.
The film has already been taking festivals by storm ; having had its première at The International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film London on May 6th where it had the prestigious honor of closing the festival. In July the film screened at the Galway Film Fleadh and its trailer was shown at 2013’s Canne’s festival.
Dark By Noon follows Rez a man with a photographic mind trying to survive and provide for his daughter in an alternate 1993 where things look very different ; Rez finds himself involved with dangerous people from his past who persuade him into testing their stolen time machine ‘Titus’ that has the ability to send someone hours into the future. What Rez sees when he jumps forward leaves him fighting to save everything he has ever known.
Filmed on a small budget with sets built from scratch and co-writer/ director Alan Leonard creating all of the special effects himself , the film is an incredible achievement for indie sc-fi film making ; proving exactly what true talent and determination can achieve. The creative duo conceptualized and undertook a mammoth task to bring exciting, engrossing Sci-Fi to indie film making and their success at achieving this goal is truly inspirational.
You closed The London Sci Fi Festival, how was that?:
Micheal O’Flaherty: Neil Jordan opened it with his new film, so there was a little Irish bookmark going on. I quite like the fact that our London cut which is a little longer (then the current final cut) is way freakier, to me it’s more interesting but it’s much less commercial. There was a serious amount of Sci Fi fans there and they were giving us loads of different things they’d seen in the film that as pure writers and film makers we went (jokingly) “ Ah yeh that’s what we meant!”
Laughter all round
How did you both come to collaborate together?
MO : I was an actor way back in the day I did the first ever Irish National Youth Theater, I did Theater in Education in the UK, I was into theater, an awful lot of theater. For a while I went away from it, went into another career then a number of years ago I wanted to get back into the acting, I bumped into a guy on the set of Laws of Attraction who told me about this guy (Alan) out in Rush who was doing stuff with film.
So Michael when did you make the move from acting to film making?
MO: I just decided I wanted to write stuff that I could find a part for me in.
Alan Leonard: And actually you are in our film (Dark By Noon) and no one realizes it’s you!
That’s right, you play Pix in the film?
MO: Yeh a lot of people don’t notice it’s me but I don’t mind them not noticing.
How did you come to take the part of Pix?
MO: (jokingly) when we wrote it, Al wrote it for me.
AL: I don’t even remember!
MO: You know what it was? I had done that film Dawn of the Dragon Slayer, where I shaved my head and grew a beard and I looked like a total thug!
AL: (amused) Oh yeh!
MO: And Al went “That’s a good look I’ve an idea, we can do something with that!” and that’s how Pix came about.
How was it shooting on a small budget and having to utilize local locations?
AL: We had to do a lot of natural lighting on the streets and that.
MO: And we were lucky in a lot of outside scenes, I say lucky but it’s not really lucky to get rain in Ireland, is it? But the rain gave us a lot of nice effects. We did work out on the streets but that was only part of it we did three or four weeks out in warehouses as well.
A big thing I wanted to say about the film was that when you see lower budget films you don’t often expect to see special effects and the effects in this film are amazing, how did you come to the decision for the film to be effects heavy? And how did you undertake them?
AL: we initially weren’t supposed to be as effects heavy as we were, we didn’t get the money we needed in time so we didn’t have the sets built fully, we literally only had a couple of walls, so we did what George Lucas, God Bless him did on the new Star Wars films, we did an awful lot of Photoshop and CGI.
So you used real life locations and enhanced them with CGI?
MO: Yeah we were lucky we found a factory out in Slane that manufactures huge giant pipes. On one set in the film, there were multi million stainless steel pipes that were standing end on end that just happened to be there the night that we were filming.
What was the Inspiration behind Dark By Noon and who/ what does inspire you generally as film makers?
MO: We’re both Philip.K.Dick fans, we both like fun films, fun stuff like that but we do like stories that go somewhere, we’re huge at picking holes in films and now especially when dealing with time travelling in Sci-Fi you’re going to have huge plot holes, we’re lucky in Dark by Noon there aren’t many, there are some that could be questioned.
AL: No, Fiona (the continuity supervisor) went through it, she couldn’t find any and she was determined to find them!
MO: continuity was essential on this, he (Rez) went back and forward so many times!
AL : I think Dark By Noon feels like an action film with the action stripped out which fundamentally describes Bladerunner.
MO : Yeah I’m a huge Bladerunner fan and a huge fan of Phiip.K.Dicks’s books.
So would you say that Bladerunner would be one of the film’s biggest influences?
AL: funny enough we were trying to avoid it initially going in, we were trying to go more Children Of Men, but Children of Men is more difficult to do because it’s more extended cuts, extended takes and we just didn’t have the means to do that, we were dealing with two walls that we had to paint the backgrounds on afterwards , we couldn’t do the ‘wide shot Children of Men thing’ because you would have seen the catering in the background!
MO : laughing There was a time travel scene, where when we were looking at it in playback, one of the assistants said “what’s that?” and it was someone making tea with the kettle in the background!
What next for Dark By Noon what would you really hope for it?
AL: (jokingly ) Dark By Noon 2!
MO: Darker by Noon! (laughs)
MO: Really though, even though it’s now been at three festivals we’re really only at the beginning of what we’re going to do with it.
AL : It’s opened doors.
MO: Yeah the huge difference in speaking to people now and speaking to people two years ago, is that suddenly we are the owners of a finished feature film. And people are saying give us a look at your scripts, now.
I just found the concept to be fantastic, the idea of one person going ahead and seeing what no one else can, theme wise what were some of the inspirations behind the story and concept of Dark By Noon?
MO: Al really came up with the premise; Al usually comes to me with full outlines.
AL: Oh The Lazarus Effect, that was one!
MO: Well the bond markets and playing the stocks, because two years ago ( when the film was written) everyone was talking about the markets and people playing with other people’s money ; creating money out of nothing and these people were heisting the future, they were literally going forward and playing the markets and that’s not robbing anything physical, all they’re doing is getting knowledge. We were quite well aware of how hated anyone who plays the stock market or bankers or even the government are so we just rolled them all into one.
AL: There is an obvious leap now in the film to a parallel universe.
How did you go about dealing with the parallel universe, did that cause a lot of problems?
MO: I think we tried to keep it straight forward, without using the multi verse theory.
AL: I went through the multi verse theory and I just said that is rubbish.
You do have to wonder who came up with it, I don’t think it was quantum physicists, I think it was more likely people who watch Star Trek…
AL: My cousin is actually very much into quantum physics and he’d give me all his books on it. Its interesting though because it’s based on how in every moment we will make a different decision but in every moment you are going to make the same decision because you are only going to make a decision based on the memories and experiences you have.
MO: I still like to think that somewhere in another universe I’m a storm trooper!
Lots of laughter
So what can you tell us about your next project? I heard on the grapevine that it’s a horror; the name that had been thrown to me was Reign Of The Devil? Do you have plot points or anything to share about it?
AL : How do you pitch Reign of The Devil?
MO: it’s a mixture between The Raid and 28 Days Of Night..
AL: 28 days of night! (Laughing) 30 days of night!!
MO: That actually is a great pitch!
No one’s put vampires with zombies yet, I think that could be done!?
AL: It’s real grind house.
MO: Yeah, Reign of The Devil I’d say it’s ; The Raid meets 30 days of Night
So vampires? Or are we not using the ‘V’ word?
MO: We’re not using the ‘V’ word or the ‘W’ word.
It’s because of sparkling vampires isn’t it? it ruined everything!
MO: That’s it, that’s even in the film, that is referenced ; there’s an argument between two of the main characters about vampires and werewolves, with one character saying ‘vampires don’t exist!’ and the other saying and ‘and werewolves do?!’ it’s a great scene in the film when they’re arguing over that.
AL: Though it’s set in the future, it’s kind of got a very 70’s, early 80’s vibe.
MO: And there’s also much more humor than Dark By Noon!
AL: Oh yeah, totally!
So there is dark comedy?
AL: Oh yes it’s meant to be dark comedy.
MO: It’s much, much lighter than Dark By Noon.
Finally as cliche as it may sound do you have any advice for aspiring film makers?
MO: The one thing that I know about this film is that it would not have been made if we’d stopped to think about it, just go for it!
Alan Leonard and Michael O’Flaherty, thank you for very much!
Dark By Noon is the opening film at the Dun Laoghaire Underground Film Festival on the 12th of September, more info about the showing and tickets can be found here ; http://www.undergroundcinema-filmfestival.com/