Interview with IN FEAR director Jeremy Lovering

We catch up with director Jeremy Lovering about his new movie, and his work on the new series of SHERLOCK…

How does one get to direct the most anticipated TV comeback of all time? Jeremy Lovering has been directing TV projects since 2004 but until now wouldn’t have had a major profile. His debut movie IN FEAR released this week, is about to change all that, after winning rave reviews at horror festivals around the world it caught the eye of DOCTOR WHO/SHERLOCK producers who personally requested the upcoming director for the next series of BBC’s hit show SHERLOCK, which judging by online forums is the most anticipated TV show currently in production.

Set in the remote Irish countryside, IN FEAR is not a movie that Bord Fáilte will be endorsing any time soon. The psychological thriller follows a young couple driving around small country roads looking for their romantic hotel getaway, which soon turns into a living nightmare. There are elements of BLAIR WITCH meets THE HITCHER in there and it has genuine jump out of your seat moments. We caught up with director Jeremy Lovering on a recent trip to Dublin.

What was your inspiration for a horror movie set in Ireland? Did you have a very bad holiday here?
Jeremy Lovering: The idea for the movie came to me on a trip to Sligo, while making a documentary about a family that lived on a massive estate, I started off at a local pub, drove around for 25 minutes and then came back to the pub, I thought it was weird, so I went around again and ended up doing a circle at the pub again. I don’t have particular fears, I grew up in the countryside but I felt those primal fears we all have, unknown, lost & dark. There were some guys sitting outside the pub laughing, it was a practical joke to change the signs around, it’s done every so often, a benign harmless practical joke.

The movie rests on your very small cast.. How difficult was it to cast the right leads and prepare them for the shocks you had in store.
JL: I never gave them a script, I gave them a character breakdown then interviewed them in character. I asked them lots of questions, like ‘If you went shopping and somebody pushed infront of you what would you do?’, then I gave them little scenarios to play out in the auditions, so they knew it was improvised and that it was going to be controlled, that it was SAW at one end and KNIFE IN THE WATER at the other end.

With the cast working without a script, how much information about the movie would they receive daily?
JL: I didn’t even tell them the story. I didn’t want them to know what was going to happen or if their character was going to survive. I wanted them to be genuinely scared, if you don’t know what’s coming your tension is always constant. If you’re an actor and know you’re not going to die or live until page 77 then up until that point you’re more relaxed. Obviously these were great actors they could have given me that but what I didn’t think I could get was the absolute authenticity of fear in a given situation, so I wanted to try it. On a day to day basis they wouldn’t know what to expect, they would arrive, I’d instruct them to drive somewhere but the route might be blocked and they’d have to respond. I’d then be watching it and jump in to excert more control and they’d improvise from that, perhaps then I’d jump in with a script. We tried it multiple ways and had about 50 hours of footage at the end.
We were much more collaborative on the day, the actors were creating the character and their reactions were their creation. I was just moderating it and manipulating it, the whole thing felt like a fun game.

What were your influences for IN FEAR? Did you watch a lot of thrillers/horror movies to help set the tone for it?
JL: I tried not to go back and watch them as their influence might become more dominant. The ones I did watch for themes were KNIFE IN THE WATER, FUNNY GAMES, REPULSION, DELIVERANCE, SOUTHERN COMFORT, those are the ones thematic that I was looking at. In terms of the scares I looked at claustrophobic films like THE VANISHING, BURIED, THE RING, THE HITCHER for characters and story, those are the biggest trends.

You’re currently directing the new series of SHERLOCK, which left one huge mystery open. How many times have you been asked into revealing the secret of Sherlock’s survival?
JL: So much conjecture has happened amongst fans online, people have gone on about worm holes and parallel worlds which is more like DOCTOR WHO. What the SHERLOCK writers have done is very clever, very smart, I think the sleight of hand tricks in my episode are very good. We’re all aware that everyone is going to be either satisfied, disappointed, amused, pleased or annoyed depending on what their expectations are. It’s going to be an interesting evening of tweets.

Which do you find has the greater responsibility? Working on your own project like IN FEAR or working on something with a built in fan base like SHERLOCK?
JL: I found immense responsibility to the fans, which I never really felt before. How do we satisfy their expectations? I’m just curious about what happens. ‘In Fear’ was very quick, from coming up with the idea to production was just four months, so I haven’t invested 11 years of my life, which you hear of people like PT Andersen do, its such intense labour, that would terrify me. Because you’re sitting there after investing so much into a film for the audience to just ‘Boo!’. With SHERLOCK its Mark, Stephen and Conan Doyle’s project, they wrote it, I just directed it. I’m not abdicating my responsibilities and I didn’t create the characters, so I’m not scared of what the fans will think. What people have to remember is that Sherlock is a real man, he’s in the realms of humanity, we love the fact that he’s got his arrogance and vulnerability, therefore the mechanics of it are very human.

IN FEAR is at cinemas from November 15th