05 Jul 2022

Interview: Dundalk director Ian Hunt-Duffy completes his first feature film

Interview: Dundalk director Ian Hunt-Duffy completes his first feature film

Ian Hunt-Duffy

Blackrock man Ian Hunt-Duffy fell in love with film at a young age, fascinated by behind the camera film documentaries and recreating scenes from his favourite films with action figures

But the idea of actually becoming a film director always, he says, “seemed like a pie in the sky kind of pursuit.”

Fast forward a couple of decades and Ian, who attended De La Salle College, has just wrapped shooting on his first feature length film Double Blind, a Horror shot in Limerick, which sees test subjects fight off sleep, and each other, to stay alive after an experimental drug trial goes horribly wrong.

The film sees Millie Brady (The Queen’s Gambit, Roadkill) and Pollyanna McIntosh (Vikings: Valhalla, The Walking Dead) take up the main roles.

Having graduated from The National Film School in Ireland Ian established Failsafe Films in Dublin, producing the IFTA Nominated and Academy Award longlisted ‘Love is a Sting’ in 2015, written by Academy Award winner Benjamin Cleary.

Many of the other short films Ian has directed were written by his friend and NFS classmate Darach McGarrigle who also wrote the screenplay for Double Blind .

Critical success came with their 2016 short film Gridlock, a thriller set during a traffic jam on a country road where a little girl goes missing.

The tense trailer has a twist ending worthy of M. Night Shyamalan and received no less than 60 awards on the international film festival circuit.

“We were always kind of trying to work towards the feature film and shorts, by and large, are kind of stepping stone towards a feature in Ireland anyway, you kind of cut your teeth on short films first to try to show what you can do and develop your style and your voice of the filmmaker.

“And so then I asked Darach if he had any ideas for a feature film, and he had the idea for Double Blind, which I mean, he had the main premise, the hook, which was if you fall asleep, you die.

“I thought it was great, so he went off and wrote a first draft of it and we submitted it to Screen Ireland, for funding for me to continue to develop the script.”

The final script was finished just as Covid struck, which meant shooting had to be postponed.

The resulting issues of casting and crew availability meant that it was only in March this year that filming began.

Any casting difficulties proved to be worthwhile, however, as Ian was able to secure two Hollywood actresses with growing reputations and impressive screen credits in Millie Brady and Pollyanna McIntosh.

“They’re both such professionals. They were a joy to work with. For Pollyanna it’s a smaller role and Millie is kind of the lead, but she nailed everything she did and she brings such charisma and energy to that role. I think I’m really excited by that.

“Lily I think is a star. She is just amazing, and it was great to collaborate with her.”
Ian cites James Cameron and John Carpenter among his influences.

“I love genre filmmaking. I was born and raised on the movies of James Cameron and John Carpenter, films that would just grip an audience and keep them guessing you know?
“Like Gridlock was like a thriller, my attempt at a kind of a mystery thriller, something like a Twilight Zone episode.

“I love films that are all set in one location and create these pressure cooker environments.

“I’m also a big fan of high concept films like one that you can pitch simply and picture. Something that hooks an audience and they can instantly attach to.”

And what is an Ian Hunt-Duffy film? What can an audience expect?

“I guess it’s suspense. I very much try to incorporate the thriller aspect. I try to make taut and suspenseful films, ones with an inbuilt ticking clock device, where you can really feel that pressure building on the characters.

“I will try to put the audience into the character’s shoes as much as possible.

“And then in Double Blind because it’s all about sleep deprivation and sort of confusion and paranoia, that aspect has to come into it and there are a lot of different ways to do that with camera tricks and composition and music and sound design.

“We’re really trying to immerse the viewer in the same sort of twitchy, dreamlike state and atmosphere that these characters find themselves in.

Recent years have seen the horror genre begin to gain more acceptance at awards ceremonies, something that could not have been said in days gone by.

“I mean, it’s hard to know. I think I know you mean, sometimes horror might not be as highly regarded as other genres like drama, in particular, when it comes to awards or Oscars.

“There's been a lot of great films in the last few years , Kate Dolan's film, You're Not my Mother, she's another Irish filmmaker and the cinematographer Narayan Van Maele who shot that shot Double Blind with me, Lee Cronin's The Hole in the Ground is another good one.

“And then internationally you have The Lighthouse and films like Hereditary.”

“I guess it’s similar to comedies, like people would say the same of comedies, horror and comedy are from the same cloth.

“There’s been a lot of “Elevated Horror” recently. I don’t know if that’s a way for critics to be able to say, like, oh, it’s an elevated horror so it’s ok.

“I think horror has always had more going on under the surface than people maybe give it credit for or recognize.

“Some of the best horrors have always held a mirror up to society at the time, or there’s often a lot of subtext.

“But it’s not just for jump scares or anything like that.

“Horror is a great way of dealing with a certain theme, or topic, in a heightened way, in a very accessible way to an audience. It’s a way of getting something in a more entertaining and digestible way.

“But still, I wouldn’t say it’s any less or lesser than any other genre.

Double Blind is currently in post production and Ian hopes to bring it around the festival circuit before releasing it in Ireland in early 2023.

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