Director Ian Hunt Duffy and producer Simon Doyle’s unnerving thriller Gridlock is an Irish spin on an American style thriller, set during a traffic jam on a narrow country road. When Eoin's young daughter Emma goes missing from their car, he forms a desperate search party to find her, and soon everyone is a suspect.
Director Ian Hunt Duffy graduated from the National Film School in Ireland and set up the Dublin based production company Fail Safe Films with Simon Doyle. Ian has directed and produced numerous award-winning short films, including the IFTA Nominated and Academy Award® long listed Love is a Sting and the Filmbase/RTÉ time-travel comedy Small Time. Producer Simon Doyle has also produced numerous award-winning short films, along with the feature film In View released theatrically in 2017. Simon has a slate of three additional feature films that he is currently developing with some of Ireland’s most exciting talent.
We talked to Ian. Here are the excerpts
What inspired to make you this thriller? Any plans for feature?
I love high-concept thrillers that are set in a single location and I always wanted to do my own version. Myself and writer Darach McGarrigle are both fans of old television shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’ or ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’-- shows that managed to fit a huge amount of tension and suspense into a 20-minute episode, so we wanted to see if we could achieve that with a short film and create an exciting mystery for an audience to solve. One day I was stuck in traffic and I thought it would be interesting to set a thriller entirely during a traffic jam and see what kind of suspense you could create in that restricted environment. From there I had the idea of a father whose daughter goes missing from their car, and that was the jumping off point for ‘Gridlock’.
As for a feature, I’m currently developing my first feature film with Darach. It’s another high-concept thriller set in a single location called ‘Double Blind’ and will also feature an ensemble group of actors. We’re really excited about it.
What do you enjoy about short films?
I think short film is the perfect medium to hone your craft as a filmmaker and storyteller. You need to be able to tell an engaging and interesting story in a short space of time, so short films really help develop that skill. Budgets on short films are usually tight as well, so it forces you to find creative solutions to problems. Short films are unique because they are typically only ever viewed amongst a programme of other short films, so you really have to grab the audience’s attention with a good story or hook that will make your short film stand out from all the others.
How was the funding & casting for this film?
We received funding from the Kildare County Council in Ireland and they were a pleasure to work with. We shot the film on location in Kildare, so they were very helpful throughout the whole process. As for the casting, ‘Gridlock’ was an ensemble piece, so I knew the success of the film would depend upon the actors and their performances. I wanted actors who were excited by the material and who could work well together as a team, so my producer Simon Doyle and I really strived to get the best cast possible. We definitely aimed high with our cast, going after my ‘wish-list’ for the roles, but thankfully they all really responded to the script and were excited to come on board. That’s something I would always advise other filmmakers- don’t be afraid to approach an actor, even a bigger name. Often you will find that if an actor is available or has some free time, they would rather be working and acting. So it’s all about timing.
What other filmmakers you like? And why?
There are many film directors that would be big influences for me personally. For ‘Gridlock’ Alfred Hitchcock would obviously be a big inspiration. I’m a big genre film fan and grew up watching the work of James Cameron and John Carpenter from a young age. I’m also a great admirer of David Fincher, as he is a master at creating atmosphere and has such a meticulous approach to both performance and composition. But inspiration comes from all manner of films and directors, of every genre. I also follow various TV series, as some of the best and most exciting drama is now happening on television.
What's your message to other aspiring filmmakers and storytellers?
Probably the best advice I’ve gotten is to just try and make work that excites you personally, that you’re truly passionate about, and develop your own style. By in large you will be defined by the style and genre of your last film, so it’s important to be true to yourself and make films that are representative of the ones you want to continue to make in the future.