Your new movie Don't
Sell Me a Dog - in a few words, what's it about?
a film about how people conceal the real them to be more acceptable to the
people around them and to fit into the life they think they belong to. In
a sentence it's about the lies we tell ourselves to fit in with our peers.
Adele is hiding from herself and trying to be what CD wants her to be, but
inside she is struggling with being true to herself.
did the project come into being in the first place?
been making films for around ten years now and Iíve had excuse after
excuse not to make a feature film. We all use the same excuses not to make
a feature, no money, the wrong camera or if only I had Ö So,
when Covid struck I decided it was either now or never. I rang Mark
Hampton, and we had a chat about a few ideas, and we finally settled on a
car, 3-4 actors, and most of the action takes place around the car. Mark
went off into his writerís cave and over the next 2 months Don't Sell
Me a Dog
was born. We started down the road of casting then
as we rewrote the script, and that rewriting continue right up until the
end of editing our film.
can you tell us about Don't
Sell Me a Dog's writer Mark Hampton, and what was your
met Mark about 5-6 years ago after I put a call out for a short script to
make. He sent me this wonderful Christmas story and I jumped on it, but
not as a short but a feature. We reworked that script and from there we
started working on other ideas and trying to get that elusive funding. Weíve
collaborated on about 5 scripts before Don't Sell
Me a Dog and each one got a little
closer to been made.
Don't Sell Me a Dog
came about due to Covid as I was saying earlier. Our process is fairly
simple. Sometimes I ask Mark to write something to a brief or Mark will
have an idea and weíll run with that. Our next project, Am Fear Liath
(The Grey Man) is a good example - I wrote a first draft and sent it to
Mark. He then deconstructs it and puts it back together in a far better
way. We have an easy working relationship with no deadlines or pressure to
create. The best stories come from listening and talking about what we
would like to make and if we can make it with what we have.
Do talk about Don't
Sell Me a Dog's approach to the thriller genre!
donít think I have an approach per se! I take the story at hand and try
to make sure that all the information is there for the viewer, even if
that information is hidden in plain sight as is the case with Don't Sell
Me a Dog. A
good thriller will always have everything you need in it, and everything
will make sense for the story. I
think delivering that information without drawing attention to it is
important or, if it needs to be pointed out then you do that. It's like
what Hitchcock said about the bomb under the table. If the viewer isnít
aware of the bomb, they get a fright when it explodes, but if they see the
bomb, see the ticking clock, then the audience is waiting and waiting to
see what will happens, and the suspense levels rise.
did that in Don't Sell Me a Dog. We gave all the information needed for the story twist
at the end and we tried to do it in a way that it wasnít on the nose or
obvious to the viewer, but made complete sense by the end of the film and I
think we succeeded in doing that.
largely centered around a car, Don't
Sell Me a Dog is somewhat limited in terms of locations - so what
were some of your techniques to keep things interesting nevertheless?
think the limitations of Don't Sell
Me a Dog made us concentrate on the story and on
developing the characters. When you think of other stories set in one
location, you generally think of how good and engaging the story was and
how strong the performances were and less about the location - unless it
was a vital part of the story.
initial plan was to shoot everything through the windscreen of the car,
even the action that takes place outside the car, but when I experimented
with the idea, I didnít like it. If we take CD, played by Mark Agar, and
how we framed him, you see he spends a lot of time in the shadow of the
back seat. I kept him that way to isolate him from the developing
relationship between Joe (Andy Yule) and Adele (Liadh Blake). The
long takes keep us very much in the moment and hopefully, make it feel as
if itís happening now. The long pauses, the pacing, all were used to
bring it as close to real life as possible, like reality TV. I also
decided not to shoot singles of the cast, unless it was just one person on
camera. This allowed us to have those awkward moments were characters want
to say something but decide not to and so it gets uncomfortable to watch,
making you feel like you shouldnít be there listening to the characters.
few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
on the story Iíll take very different approaches to directing. With
Don't Sell Me a Dog I left the cast to it for the scenes where they were driving. I
would just say Ďright, weíll go from page 20 up to 50 and then have a
chat.í Depending on how the cast felt we either moved on or went back
and reshot the parts they felt they didnít get right.
my current project One Last Time (working title) my approach is
very different. With the cast here Iím right in there and weíre
looking at the dialogue and how the charactersí past will influence the
story, particular Joeís (Gary Swayne) backstory. In One Last
Time, Joe has committed crimes in the past and suffered the consequences of
those crimes, and now he finds himself in the same place again.
like to make my sets as fun as possible and make the cast feel relaxed and
not under pressure. I always like the cast to have fun while shooting, and
this leads to some great performances. Iíll always jump in where I feel
a cast member is struggling or they are unsure and ask for help, but
mostly I just let them do their job as actors. I
can be, at times, in my own head and so I donít always communicate what
I want in an understandable way, but by talking with the actor, we
generally work it out. I have in the past frustrated actors because of
this, but weíve always found that common ground for where I think a
character should be, and where the castmember wants to go with the
donít dictate or demand a type of performance from actors. Weíre all
there to do a job and most importantly to create great stories. Iím a
firm believer in if you have 21 people in a room, 20 of them will have
good ideas, but that 21st idea could be a cracker and the one you should
run with. Film is collaboration, and collaboration is key to a great film.
talk about Don't Sell Me
a Dog's cast, and why exactly these people?
Yule is an actor I wanted to work with for a while, and so part of the
brief Mark worked to on Don't Sell
Me a Dog was to include Andy in some way. Andy is
from Scotland and is a character in his own way, a good way. He really
puts the work in before set and is constantly ringing or messaging you
with questions about character, about story, and so he really makes you get
to know the story, the characters inside out, and that was something that
the entire cast brought to Don't Sell
Me a Dog.
and I ran auditions over Zoom and each of the cast, Mark Agar, Liadh Blake
and Damien Lumsden, all had sparks of being good actors. None of them had
made a feature film before, and so brought a lot of enthusiasm with them to
the process. When
we started to rehearse, again over Zoom, they all had great ideas about
their characters and how theyíd react in the situation and what they
felt would be believable in the context of the story. Their ideas helped
Mark and myself refine our script and add other elements that set up our
final twist. The
relationship between Adele and Joe had to be believable as itís central
to our story. They both had great insights from each characterís
perspective. Liadh felt that her character wouldnít be won over by Joe
as easily as we had initially written, and we worked her thoughts on the
character into our story.
a writer or even as a director, you have to be open to what your cast have
to say about their characters. Each of our cast in Don't Sell
Me a Dog all had great
ideas and insights to their characters that helped open up our world.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shot Don't Sell Me a Dog over 8 days, myself been 90% of the crew. The cast and Mark,
writer, helped where they could. We had good fun shooting it and we took
it easy during shoot days while getting the work done. As I was saying
earlier, I let them do their job as actors, helped where they needed help,
and guided them when they needed it. I
think the long takes helped too as the cast could run the scene 5-6 times
and then do it for real and not have the pressure of a director wanting to
move to the next take or setup.
$64-question of course, where can Don't
Sell Me a Dog be seen?
out on loads of VOD channels including Tubi, Hoopla, PLEX and many other
sites. If you check out my website youíll find out where it's streaming,
but youíll also find out what Iím up to next - www.pauricbrennan.ie
Anything you can tell us
about audience and critical reception of Don't
Sell Me a Dog?
Iím honest weíve got a better-than-expected response from audiences
and critics alike. Don't Sell
Me a Dog is a first feature made on a shoestring, with no
crew and a new cast. We had all done shorts in the past but not features
and yeah, itís rough around the edges but itís a story people are
enjoying. I think
gets a lot of people and critics is the twist at the end and how itís
all built into our story and not just added on for shock value. Weíve
all seen those indie films and blockbusters with an ending that makes no
sense or that ambiguous ending, because the filmmaker didnít know how to
end it, that leaves you thinking ĎWhat the f!%# was that all about?í
or ĎWhere did that come from?í Hopefully
our ending isnít like that, and I donít think it is. A lot of the
reviews and responses from audiences mention the ending and how it adds an
entirely new layer to the story without taking away from it. For me and
the cast that means weíve done our job, weíve entertained!
Any future projects you'd like to
currently shooting on One Last Time (working title), a feature I wrote a
few years back. It's about two friends whose lives go from bad to worse.
Kevinís wife leaves him for his boss after Kevin loses his job, and Joe
is out of work with no prospects. Kevin wants to spice up his life before
he goes off travelling, and he drags Joe into a crime spree as a way of
dealing with his midlife crisis. Itís
a fun little film about two friends. Iím working with Andy Yule and Gary
Swayne on it. Gary worked on a few shorts with me in the past, including
The Rosen Bridge.
Iím also in pre-production on Am Fear Liath, written
by myself and Mark Hampton. Itís
a story about Fred Gibbons (Mark Agar) trying to save his tourist business
by giving tours to see Irelandís answer to Bigfoot,
Am Fear Liath (The
Grey Man) - but as most Bigfoot
fans will know, the Grey Man is a Scottish
legend but donít tell the tourists. These tours run foul of Rheinhold
OíConnor (Andy Yule) an obsessed Bigfoot
hunter, set on being the first
to find and trap the creature here in Ireland. We
have a great cast working on it that includes Mark Agar, Andy Yule, Gary
Swayne, and my first time working with Ger Boland and Laura Whelan. Itís
a fun little wilderness horror set here in Ireland.
I also have a short
mini documentary series in post-production called The Crafty Irish On
is a follow on from my Crafty Irish Documentary about the Irish craft
brewing industry. I visit more Indie breweries here in Ireland to get
their stories of how they started and all about their journey to making
are two other projects in the works too, a documentary about Brexit - directed by Gabrielle
Gordon - that Iím producing ,and then a top-secret
horror that Iím currently writing. To find out more youíll have to
keep an eye on the website - www.pauricbrennan.ie
- and on my social media.
What got you into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
as long as I can remember Iíve been into telling stories in one form or
another. From an early age I loved writing stories and always looked
forward to having to write them in school. As a kid I used to get friends
to pretend they were in plays and would tell them to do this or that and
have fun doing it. Back
in 2008 I finally decided to do something about it, and I took an acting
class. I liked doing it but found I much preferred what was going on
behind the scenes. I got work as an extra on some films and I spent much
of my time behind the directorís chair watching them work. From there I
went out and started writing my own scripts, which Iíd been doing for a
while, and making them into shorts. I
took a 12-week filmmaking course and never looked back. Iíve been
involved in the industry in one way or another since and have worked as an
AD, writer, DOP and loads of other roles including actor and body double.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Don't
Sell Me a Dog?
Don't Sell Me a Dog I had made short films and loads of corporate videos. But Iíve
also worked as a trainee AD on several productions. Over the course of the
last 10 years or so Iíve written, directed or produced short films. I also
have directed stage performances along the way. As a writer Iíve sold a
few options and worked as a reader for a company, which taught me a lot. Iíve
produced lots of projects from films to music videos and a sketch show.
Some have been sent out into the world, others failed and I learned from
those failures and kept going.
How would you describe yourself
as a director?
going and laid back, I think! Iím very much a listener when Iím on set
and in the creative process. Listening to the ideas and views of your
fellow creators is important I think, and if you listen you learn. I
like to let actors do their job and Iím very much for them brining their
own experiences to the process. Iíd never ask an actor to deliver lines
that didnít feel right or natural to them. I always tell them to make
the dialogue their own, unless it important to the story - like specific
jargon used in a job or a community, then we find a way to deliver it in a
also like to ask questions on set, especially when it comes to character
choices and decisions. I think asking questions is a great way to reveal
things about your actor and their process. If you get to learn how they
work then communication becomes easier and you know what they like,
dislike and that leads to a relaxed atmosphere on set.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
of filmmakers inspire me. Jack Arnold from the B-movie era. His sci-fi was
created by someone who loved the genre. The Creature
Black Lagoon is a favourite of mine. Then you have Hitchcock, but who doesnít love
him. From his scene blocking to his building of tension and his story
telling, it all added up to a great cinema experience. In
more recent years Iíve been drawn to Wes Anderson and his style of
storytelling. The symmetry in his shots and the use of colour both in the
sets and in the costumes worn. I love how it all adds up to telling his
Villeneuve, Sollima, Eggers, James Wan, George Miller, they all inspire me
on some level. I take a lot of inspiration from how they tell a story and
that sometimes can be a visual thing like composition, structure or
movement, or how they structure their storytelling. Iíd
have to add Roger Deakins into the mix here too. As a DOP he has a great
style for story telling, and I take a lot of inspiration from him. His use
of visuals and how he lights his scenes all help add to the storytelling
process, and as a director I think understanding these elements really help
you as a filmmaker and as a collaborator on projects. There are others who
I love to watch too.
favourite movies ... and of course, films you really
is a question that always gets me, and it's really because I donít really
have a favourite movie or one that I deplore. Someone early on when I
started to enjoy telling stories told me that Ďthereís no such thing
as a bad story, just how itís told!í I
love to watch movies and Iím not too concerned with how good or bad
others think they are. I ran a film festival for a few years, and I saw
some brilliant films in there but saw some that were not so great.
Watching movies is something I enjoy, and Iíll often go back to them to
see how they did that or why didnít that work so Iím always learning
from and enjoying the films I watch.
when it comes to movies I like thereís a few - The Creature
Black Lagoon, True Grit, 1917, Sicario, Little Miss
Sunshine, Fargo, Juno,
Joker and lots of others. The
Mad Max series is something I enjoy, as
are The Conjuring
I watch again and again is The Maltese
Falcon. I love the noir genre and
especially the use of hard shadows and the gritty black and white film
that lends itself to the moody and shadowy underworld the characters
is high on this too. I love this film because of the old school nature of
the story telling and how the filmmaker had to use atmosphere and mood to
create his fear factor because his creature wouldnít work. I think it's
great and I love the use of blocking and visuals to tell the story.
that I tend not to watch again are those that rely too much on CGI for
scares or to add to action scenes in the film. When itís done right and
it doesnít take you out of the moment it's great, or when it suits the
movie and itís established from the get-go, like the Sharknado
franchise, then go for it and have fun. I love seeing a filmmaker do FX
in-camera and come up with clever ways of doing it. The
Fast and the Furious films are ones that come to mind here, particularly
the last one. They are fun to watch, but when CGI is overused, then it
takes you out of the film, and that for me is a no-no. Same with horror
films that are filled with tension and have you on the edge of your seat
and they go and ruin the moment with a silly looking CGI demon or monster.
in all, I think it's things other filmmakers do rather than films I deplore
that end up on this side of the list. Every film is considered worth
making by someone and those films all have an audience that enjoy them but
not every movie is for everyone.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Your/your movie's website, social media,
quick search for Pauric Brennan on Google should throw up my social media
presence, but Instagram (@bren_brenenterprises) is where Iím most active
at the minute along with TikTok (@brenenterprises). Youíll get updates
about projects on my website www.pauricbrennan.ie
Anything else you're dying to mention and
I have merely forgotten to ask?
thereís one last thing to add then it would beÖ
making excuses and start making movies with what you have!í
Thanks for the