We’ve partnered with Damien Molony Forum and DamienMolony.org (“the mothership”) to present an interview with Mr. Simon Dixon, director/co-writer and Mr. Gareth Coulam Evans, producer/co-writer of Tiger Raid. Please make sure to visit that great site for more insightful commentary regarding the film, cast, and Damien Molony (Paddy).
*This interview took place on Friday, April 22nd ahead of the final Tiger Raid showing at Tribeca Film Festival.
Steven Biscotti: Hi, this is Steven with Universal Monsters Universe. I’m here today with Mr. Simon Dixon, one of the co-writers of the upcoming film Tiger Raid which premiered here at Tribeca Film Festival 2016; he’s also the director. I’m also with the producer Mr. Gareth Coulam Evans, who also co-wrote Tiger Raid.
We’re moments away from the third and final showing of Tiger Raid at Tribeca. I’d love to hear a little about the process of going into this movie all the way up to now.
Simon Dixon: Do you want to do that?
Gareth Coulam Evans: We’re super excited to have this final screening here because it’s a Friday night, it’s a sold out audience and it should be a really great crowd. And they’ve all been receptive to the film as they all have been. I guess this feels like the culmination of a journey to come to Tribeca – a journey that started in Ballinrobe, the west of Ireland, came to London, [and] went to the Middle East to shoot. It’s a really fitting kind of end to come to New York and a city that’s so renowned for great, international, and global kind of movies and that’s always been the spirit of the film for us – to take an idea that started with a very Irish heartbeat and reach out to a big, global audience. We’re just really grateful that Tribeca wanted to give us this platform to premiere the film and to be a part of that tradition that Tribeca’s got for breaking exciting and different talent.
Steven Biscotti: That’s pretty exciting and I know the reception for Tiger Raid has been quite warm. How does that feel…
Simon Dixon: [laughs] Quite warm is a good phrase.
Steven Biscotti: …to be here at Tribeca and to now be so aware of what people are saying? Pretty much to have your baby out there.
Simon Dixon: It’s a strange experience to be in a bubble for two years when you’re making a film and obviously you collaborate with hundreds of people over the process. You start with one or two of you writing and then that bubble gets a little bit bigger. You’ve got actors, a production crew, editors, and post production so the bubble gets bigger but it’s still a bubble. It’s not real people; it’s obviously talented people, but it’s not an audience. So coming to Tribeca has given us the first taste of what it’s like to present the work to an audience and it’s been amazing. People have been very receptive. It’s a very dark, intense piece of work. It’s a little polarizing in terms of material, but what’s really nice is both good and bad. People have responded to it and that’s what we’re interested in – people’s reaction and response to it. Both Gareth and I have a feeling that we’d like to make entertaining, but provocative cinema. We’d like to do things which challenge people; we like to do things for an international audience so despite being U.K. based, we want to make things for people around the world. I like the idea of a guy in Mexico likes to see this, and someone in Sydney could see it, and North America’s getting to see it. So I think that process is very rewarding. You could look people in the eye; they come up and talk to you about the film and spot things out that you had no idea was on film, and the Q and A’s are amazing. It’s been a fantastic experience.
Steven Biscotti: That’s interesting and I picked up on the word “provocative.” I think that’s a very accurate description of the film. One of the things that stood out to me was, especially right now in modern cinema, so many of the movies have become very comic-booky in depictions of violence. The viewers become very disconnected from it and it’s almost creating sociopaths out of audiences if I’m to be extreme…
Simon Dixon: It’s desensitizing them to violence. It’s not an action thriller. We don’t describe it as such; I know people do and we would hope that it’s thrilling, and it has action in it, but what [Tiger Raid] is is an exploration of what happens to men when they’re confronted with the violence we’re talking about. So what we didn’t want to do was shy away from that and show the truth of what happens to people in these situations. There is a lot of muscularity and energy, intensity, and violence and it’s hopefully a very thrilling film because we wanted it to be an experience for our audience and for me the outcome is somebody at the end of the movie is gripping their seat. That would be a fantastic outcome. But at the same time modern cinema, literature, and culture is doing violence in lots of different ways and we what we wanted to do was get in side the men and show truly what that does to them and the choices they make, of how they live with it, and ultimately pays for that price. We don’t want to condone the violence, but we want to let people experience what it feels like to be a part of that.
Gareth Coulam Evans: And when you watch Tiger Raid we hope that people will spend a whole lot more time thinking about violence than they will watching violence. It’s much more interesting to have the seed of violence, and the violence in the air, and the smell of it, and the fear of it forcing us to look at the different ways it’s shaped these men rather than just watching it in a way that isn’t engaging on a real level.
Steven Biscotti: One of the things that struck me about Tiger Raid, in watching it from start to finish, was that you have this poetic film in the way it’s shot, in the way it’s scored, and in the way that it’s acted but there are a lot of intense moments of violence being portrayed and of seeing a dishonesty between men. It’s almost hard to watch at times. One of the moments that stuck out was when Joe is interacting with Shadha; it’s a provocative scene but also very hard to watch…
Simon Dixon: It was hard to film…
Steven Biscotti: I’d like to ask if you felt as co-writer and director if there was more of a challenge in bringing this to screen based on it’s origins as a play? Or did it help that you had Mick [Donnellan] involved with co-writing as well?
Simon Dixon: Mick Donnellan is the name of the playwright and the play was called “Radio Luxembourg” and it was set in the west of Ireland in a place called Balinrobe. It was actually un-produced when we got a hold of it and he sent us a raw draft of the play; what was in there was this really amazing heartbeat. This really chewy, visceral, kind of savage-y beautiful language and this really nice interplay between the two men. I suppose transposing that idea to the backdrop of the Iraq War and the militarization and the mercenary aspect of the film allowed us to give it context to why the men were doing what they were doing and of how they got to where they were in the moment. And the film really isn’t really about a moment in time; it’s about the truths of Joe’s life and the betrayals that he’s dealing with, and the situation itself. The way I describe it is it’s kind of an ugly beauty. I like the idea of looking at things that are very dark and not flinching in a sense; trying to describe them in a way that draws the audience in but it doesn’t flinch and doesn’t pull its punches. So we tried to deal with a violence and we don’t actually show it explicitly but what you get is the build up and post violence. I think that’s more powerful than seeing blood, and guns, and things like that. For example, when Joe’s interacting with Shadha, it was really hard to film emotionally, physically – it’s a difficult thing to do. But we thought that in order to be true to the material and true to the story, you have to engage with it with the truth. We staged it in a way that would maximize the story and really get you trapped with the guys and that’s what it’s about. We really loved the interplay of the characters.
Steven Biscotti: I’d like to ask you Gareth about the approach to casting the film. Again, it was beautifully acted and I could imagine in dealing with material you had, how challenging it was to find who would best inhabit these characters and truly bring them to life and give them a soul.
Gareth Coulam Evans: We were lucky to work with a fantastic casting director on the film, Debbie McWilliams. She casts the Bond films and she cast Daniel Craig. She’s got a real depth of knowledge of who is out there and who is coming through; of who could do something different and that was really what we wanted – to challenge her to put people in front of us who we weren’t already familiar with and of who could take these parts and do something brave and incredible with them and not be constrained by the previous work or be constrained by the audiences expectations of what they could do so they could provide a sort of cleanness and obviously a lot of people in the U.K. are familiar with Brian [Gleeson] and Damien [Molony]’s work, but on an international scale there is an opportunity for them to really shape these roles in ways that are surprising. We saw loads of people for the part and their was just a sort of magic to what they did in their live reads, they made us believe that they could connect to these two characters. Connect to them in a collaborative way that promised a journey that would bring them to life in a three dimensional way. It was fantastically exciting to connect with each of them because once we did we started to see Joe and Paddy and feel them in the room, which is both exciting and scary when you know both Joe and Paddy. Sitting down with them is an intimidating prospect. It was a very organic process of discovery to find the guys and have that path lead to them.
Gareth Coulam Evans: Of course.
Steven Biscotti: His fan base is very supportive and one of the questions I wanted to ask was from one of the members of the Damien Molony Forum. Fifi wrote in: They filmed [Tiger Raid] chronologically in 19 days… I read somewhere!
Simon Dixon: That’s correct.
Gareth Evans: Good job, Fifi.
Simon Dixon: Seventeen days and two nights.
Steven Biscotti: Financial constraints aside, how did that impact/benefit the film making process and the final product?
Simon Dixon: The reason for shooting chronologically was to help develop the characterization. I had a feeling that if we could remain as live and physical as possible – for example we shot very long takes so we shot 5, 6, 7 minute long takes. We shot chronologically as much as possible, other than a few practical things that wouldn’t allow us to do it 100 percent, but what it meant was the guys could build an actual bond so for example, while we were shooting the truck scenes we were rigged with two cameras so you would do a pass at the dialogue and then the truck turns around and then you do another pass so in that intervening time the guys would improvise. So all the while and in between actual shooting we would be improvising, none of that material specifically ends up on screen but the relationship between the two guys does. What was nice was the guys rehearsed with myself for about a week in London before we went there; we had another rehearsal period with some military training prior to shooting, and then chronological shooting and the guys literally bonded in that process and developed the vernacular and language of how they’d operate together. So despite it being a very intense schedule, it gave it a spontaneity and energy that I think really was liberated by their performances. And they did an absolutely stunning job.
Steven Biscotti: They truly did. That brings me to Whimsyfox’s question: I remember reading that Robert Sheehan was originally attached to the role of Paddy. What was the audition process and first impressions of Damien in landing the role? And in having Mr. Molony play the part of Paddy?
Simon Dixon: We saw a lot of actors and lots of different people. None of which I’d want to speak about specifically, but I will speak to meeting Damien. As Gareth said a moment ago, it’s a really strange process trying to find actors because they have to come into your office and sit in front of you and perform. That’s how casting goes which is, inherently, not a great way to build of building a relationship with somebody. What we were looking for was that spark and that ability they had to own the character and define them based on their own personalities on a view of what the character would be rather than a template we’ve set. With Damien, he’d been doing quite a lot of improvisation and live work with some other work he’d been doing and there was an energy as to how he attacked his audition that you just thought ‘this guy has the cocksure arrogance that we required from Paddy. Damien himself? Incredibly giving and smart guy but his performance had that twinkle in the eye of what we required from Paddy which is a guy on the make, a guy who wants to get picked and that’s what the process was and he gave a lot in the audition in the same way that Brian did and it was just a very easy choice at that point.
Steven Biscotti: Mr. Dixon, Mr. Evans, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Simon Dixon: You’re very welcome.
Gareth Coulam Evans: We appreciate it.
Steven Biscotti: I would like to ask just one quick question, Gareth. Parting words for all those that have experienced Tiger Raid and those that will hopefully experience it sometime quite soon we hope.
Simon Dixon: Fingers crossed.
Gareth Coulam Evans: Well we hope they’re going to go home shaken up and with a lot to think about and that they’ve had a thrilling experience sitting in the theater. You know, it’s intense and edge of your seat stuff but edge of your seat stuff that’s hopefully going to rattle around people’s heads when they’re lying awake at night and when they’re at home. I hope it’s going to live with people and I hope it’s going to leave a mark.
Steven Biscotti: Well again, thank you so much for taking some time to speak with us.
Tiger Raid is directed by Simon Dixon, produced by Gareth Coulam Evans, and co-written by Mick Donnellan, along with Dixon and Evans. It stars Brian Gleeson, Damien Molony, and our favorite and soon to be the new ‘Mummy’ – Sofia Boutella as Shadha. You could find out more about the film in UMU Joe’s profile on Sofia Boutella’s “Tiger of a Performance” and in What’cha Reading and Reel News Daily‘s praise worthy reviews. And be sure to check out Damien Molony Forum and DamienMolony.org for more on Tiger Raid.
*Universal Monsters Universe would like to thank April Tonsil of Falco Ink for arranging the interview with Mr. Simon Dixon and Mr. Gareth Coulam Evans; Mr. Dixon & Mr. Evans for their time and support, along with the good people at DMF and DM.org for partnering with us.
(Photos from TFF by Steven Biscotti)