Jay Kay Chats With THE DEMOLISHER Director Gabriel Carrer!!
We fear what is in the dark… We fear the rage, the fury, the monster inside of us that stays just under the surface. It is triggered by things, emotions, actions and choices we make and miss. This hulking monster that lays below the surface reflects all that has been done to us and all that we hold back from releasing onto the world. As powerful and intense a tale that you will find, Toronto based filmmaker Gabriel Carrer is a man that holds nothing back, harnessing passionate, creating furious action and engrosses you with complex characters that walk a tightrope of tension with each frame. Connecting to the rage and vengeful soul bubbling on the surface, Carrer and LATEFOX PICTURES INC. release the fury of THE DEMOLISHER on an unsuspecting world October 4th. In between shooting new projects, promoting current ones and creating new films, we grabbed this madman to talk the visual and storytelling influences, the importance of color and the incredible stunt work by the lead actors among many topics here on ICONS OF FRIGHT.
With the October 4th release on Blu-Ray and DVD of THE DEMOLISHER, how’s does it feel to have this film finally getting out to a wider audience on this platform as well as your decision to release it with MPI?
The team and I are very excited to have this film get a wider release in North America. Our previous film IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES had a much smaller physical release, so having the backing and support from MPI and Raven Banner Entertainment in North America is new to me. In my personal opinion, THE DEMOLISHER is a very physical film hence why it’s important to have a version of this film you can have in your hands. Germany picked up the film before it had its world premiere at Fantasia, and soon after the premiere they released the film in a two-disc steel book, which included the soundtrack. So physical releases are important for us and for North America we wanted to find a company that could get the film out to as many people as possible in a physical format. MPI has a fantastic reputation and their wings pan out fairly wide. They are amazing people to work with and make the release fun. It was an easy decision.
When you finished IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES, it took a couple of years between films. What did you pull out of the process IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES that reflected and influenced THE DEMOLISHER? Ry Barrett played an impactful role in IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES, did you know then he was going to play the lead Bruce in THE DEMOLISHER? What did he bring to Bruce that was not on the page?
It always takes me a year or two after a film to even think about doing another film. When you do a film, it becomes your life. You develop, you produce the film, you tour the film then you release the film. It usually takes a year or two for it to do a full circle. From the very beginning to the very end, the end is when you have the film on DVD and Blu-ray sitting on your shelf. I am very hands on and love to have control of every facet of a film. From the development, marketing, production design and poster, my hands are always in the mix. I become obsessed. If something doesn’t work with the film, it’s my fault and I learned that from IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES. With FLIES I began to hone in on what I love with character performance. Setting the set like an actual stage for the characters to act and play in. I consider the set like a battle ground or war zone. Anything can happen on the set and I like letting the actors have full reign of the scene. For THE DEMOLISHER, I wanted this same device and wanted to see how far we could push it on a wider and broader scope. I was no longer limited to a single basement room, but a whole city. I wanted to see how far we could go with the performers in a single frame, giving them the world, giving them the stage to do what they needed to do physically. Because THE DEMOLISHER is a very physical film, literally and emotionally. Ry Barrett is one of my favorite actors. The Demolisher was written in concept for him. He IS The Demolisher. He is a very emotional and physical actor, and by physical I just don’t mean his body in a literal form. He can conjure up an energy on screen, on frame, that is very physical in an emotional way. When you watch THE DEMOLISHER you can seem him breathe this physicality. When Ry Barrett read the story, he began to work on the background of his character and gave lots of reasons and motives for why his character Bruce in the film acted the way he does. We ended up using Ry Barrett’s ideas on screen visually as well. That is one of the great things about Ry Barrett as an actor, he will take your story and the character he is playing and really bring something to the film. He won’t just sit back and ask questions as an actor, he becomes a large proactive cog in the machine and begins to turn the idea bulb on brighter. He is a large fuel source for a film, and he challenges the film from all ends to make sure it can be the best it can be with its resources.
In THE DEMOLISHER, you see influences within the writing, tone, visual feel and performance of 1980s ultra-violent classics like DEATHWISH, THE WARRIORS and THE TERMINATOR. We also see comic book influences from books like MARVEL’S “THE PUNISHER” and DC’S “BATMAN” along with the visual storytelling feel of Nicholas Winding-Ref, Michael Mann and David Fincher. How close am I to your personal filmmaking style and what other influences reflect THE DEMOLISHER?
I am a visual story teller. Sometimes it can possess me so much that I become obsessed with style. One of my favorite vigilante films and “action films” of all time is DEATHWISH and also MAD MAX. I even have a DEATHWISH production still signed by Charles Bronson sitting above my television. I grew up watching Michael Mann films and David Fincher is just another way of saying “film school”. Nicolas Refn is like the rarest sharpest knife in the kitchen that doesn’t need sharpening whenever you pull it out. You only use it when you have to, and when you do, you know it will slice perfectly. It’s the knife you have that you just want to keep to yourself and use for pleasure. You are very close to my filming influences. I think it’s okay to try and remix, use, change and find what you like in style and storytelling. For me, film is like music. It’s also experimental. You can remix music, steal beats and rhythms, change them so they can fit what you want to do and your tastes. You can do the same thing for cinema. There is also a platter of references of MAD MAX in The Demolisher, including a certain injury to one’s leg.
Were you or Ry or any of the creative minds behind the film personally affected by tragedy like we see in the film or therapy like we see in the wrap around narrative with Marie? Can you talk about framing Marie in the therapy group and how her journey elevated this film?
The tragedies in the film were all manifested through the storytelling and were not referencing anything that happened to any person attached to the film. The narrative with Marie was actually created by actress Jessica Vano. She took it upon herself and from her to create a monologue for Marie. Whether it was person or not, that is something between Jessica and her character. We also wanted her to be the mirror image of our main character Bruce who played The Demolisher. She had suffered tragedies all throughout her life, and the journeys she experienced prior to being gunned down by The Demolisher helped her get through this. We wanted to enter the characters into dream like scenario, because our past tragedies sometimes become like dreams or nightmares. In our nightmares, we are always running from a tragedy or something that could harm us. With Marie, that was her journey. We wanted her to be running from something that was more than just a man in a suit, but something from her past, whether it was conceived as a nightmare or a real situation.
What impact did the ARRI ALEXA camera and lens make on this film? I know notice that many of the unfocused and emotional scenes are off center in framing. What was the reasoning for it? How challenging was it to shoot the fight scenes with THE DEMOLISHER and did any particular film influence you?
Shooting on the ARRI ALEXA was fantastic. The camera allowed us to use natural light for many indoor and outdoor scenes. Framing many of the characters in a non-centralized fashion in the film was an idea that myself and cinematographer Martin Buzora had discussed prior to shooting. When you have a character in the center of the frame, the character appears to have control over the scene, so whenever Bruce become the Demolisher, he was almost always in the center of the frame. When he was not the Demolisher, there was less control because he didn’t have control of his emotions, the same goes to the other characters. For the fight scenes, Ry Barrett also acted as a stunt coordinator and we would rehearse and talk about how quick and how we can get straight to the point with the violence. We also did not want the violence to be the central part of the film. We didn’t really draw any influence from any film for the fight scenes. We just worked as a team to figure how what would be best for the scene using some simple rules. Which were, “quick and in control”.
What did Ontario offer to the production from a resource and financial aspect? What location is the signature in the film?
The signature location of this film is definitely Toronto and West Toronto, and some leads of Hamilton. We wanted to be on the outskirts of Toronto, with The Demolisher looking into the city in a literal sense. Financially, we just became film pirates and shot on the streets after hours and just become creative with where and when we could shoot because we simply did not have the budget to block off streets.
Can you speak on the ideas behind the lighting and color and how it was executed? Did the ideals, planning and visual canvas as you went through each phase of the film? How important was Scott McIntyre as a colorist to this film?
We wanted the film to have a contrast between scenes. We also wanted all the environments to suit the current mood of the scene, but we also wanted to give it a very natural look, as if it was real but not boring to look at. In order to do so, we had to use all he available light then play with it to give the scene a look. Similar to when a photographer takes a photo then manipulates it in post. Martin our DOP approached each scene like a still photograph. We wanted some latitude in post-production to bring out what we wanted to convey in each scene but not overdo it. When it was night time and/or dark, we wanted to make sure we had light sources in the frame that could be amplified or tweaked to give the picture a look. This can be seen in the mall chase scene with the security guard. Scott our amazing colorist brought out details and shadows that Martin our DOP created. Scott also was able to give the film a unified dreamy look and or nightmarish look depending on the scene. Towards the end of the film, Scott came in heavy handed and created an interesting sun rise look for the film amongst the fog that was all naturally shot.
Was the neon light signature shot found by luck or was it part of the plan? Were their specific colors assigned to each lead? Was the color palette more critical or the darkness/shadows for these lead characters since there is a sense of dread and hopelessness through most of the film?
The neon light was part of the plan and was created during our location scout in pre-production. We actually played with some neon stuff during IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES but it never made the cut, but we used it in the poster graphics because of the 80’s influence in the film. The Demolisher character always had hues of dark blues, we wanted to have a night time stalker look to his armor, so it was important to always keep him in contrast to the background, have him move in shadows or was actually the shadow creator himself. Even in the brighter scenes, such as Bruce and Samantha’s house during day time, we wanted a stale, decay type of feel. Even though it was home, it needed to have that dreaded hospital or mental institution glow. When night hit, shadows and darkness were in favor, regardless of who the character was. When night hit, every character had a transformation, Samantha, Marie and Bruce, they all transformed, manifested and changed into something else. A great example of this is when Bruce comes home to find his wife Samantha in her cop uniform. The shadow and contrasting light on her body and in the room itself represents her past and present characteristics.
How much fun was it for you to produce and customize the soundtrack for the film? You go with a lot of mood driven tracks reflecting the emotion and the pulse of the film, did the Ontario music scene offer you what you were looking for? What did composer Glen Nicholls bring to project with his score? Whose influence were you listening to for the film?
Music is everything, especially when music is carefully selected for films by the directors. I tend to listen to music non-stop when developing a story, then try and hunt down the artists to see if I can use the music in the actual film. With The Demolisher there is somewhat two soundtracks. What soundtrack contains a slur of songs produced by some international artists, mostly from the U.S and Canada. Then the other side of the film is the actual score. At the time I was listening to a lot of The Prodigy and beat heavy stuff, especially their remixed tracks on a b-side cd they came out with. One of the tracks was remixed by Glen Nichols of Future Funk Squad. I stalked Glen down and got in contact with him. He was on board during the script development phase and even started producing tracks while he was reading the script. He helped bring a visual element to the film with his sounds and tracks. It’s important to bring in these composers early on during the development of a story. Even with my prior film IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES, the same thing happened. Glen was with me since day one of THE DEMOLISHER, all the way till the trailer edits of the film. We have yet to meet because he lives in the U.K, but somehow we managed to collaborate. The score for the film is a huge component and Glen Nicholls brought so many layers with his music and scored tracks. In post-production he would go back and re-edit tracks because he had the freedom to do so. I was listening to Glen Nicholls stuff before and after we filmed the movie. Glen always offers something different and has a unique sound that is his own. That is what separates him from many composers, he won’t give in to “copy-cat” synth noises and bleeps. He will create his own and will tell you if something sounds stereotypical. He likes to take risks when he can, which can produce and transform something typical to something off the beaten path and thematic.
What disciplines went into Bruce’s fighting style and the movements of his body in the mindset of The DEMOLISHER vs just Bruce? Where did the model of the body armor come from? How important was it to have a faceless mask?
Bruce’s fighting style was more street, brute force and less calculated, but when he hit ya you felt it and there was impact with it. We didn’t want to have him as a martial arts type of guy nor wanted any hint of that, that was a challenge. You won’t see punches or kicks with Bruce aka The Demolisher. You’ll see grabs, throw downs then beat downs with his baton. We wanted his fighting style to be believable and less fantastical. When he put his armor on, there is a bit of intimidation you get when you see him charging at you. Since he is armored up, many of his vital organs etc are covered up, allowing it to be more difficult to take him down, especially with his portrayed weight and size. The armor he wears is actually modified motocross padding. Not one piece of that costume minus the helmet is from actual swat or police riot gear. The helmet was ordered from the U.S and I attached a piece of gold window tint to the transparent visor on the inside. The gold window intent added a nice flare of gold at night, especially in some scenes when light reflected off it. I didn’t want to show Bruce’s face under the helmet, because when the helmet was on, he was simply, THE DEMOLISHER. This created entity was void of any human characteristics of Bruce. It needed to be a complete transformation. That way when he took his helmet off, he was weakened emotionally. So when you see him without his helmet on in the movie, he was/is vulnerable. When he puts it back on, he’s bad ass and ready to strike again.
Did it help that Ry was one of the stunt coordinators as well as Jessica doing her stunts in the final battle? Does that versatility make for a more authentic character?
Ry and Jessica were very excited to get behind the wheel of performing all their own stunts and learning new stage combat techniques. It also made the production side of things a lot smoother and faster when you aren’t working with stunt doubles and our budget of the film wouldn’t allow that, so we had no choice. I also believe it amplified their performances, before and/or after the action scenes. Ry worked with Jessica Vano on and off set, rehearsing and practicing different and realistic fight/struggle situations. We wanted it to be somewhat realistic; that she wouldn’t have a fighting chance against him unless he was broken or hurt by other means. The Demolisher is supposed to be nearly unstoppable. It definitely makes their characters more authentic, because what you are watching is real. The shots and cuts of the film from after the fights, them breathes and small nuances are real. They worked so hard and really sold it on set for the team.
What went into the scripting of the balance with the growing brutality with The Demolisher and the coping at home with Samantha as Bruce? Where did Ry have to go to find the intensity and fury as well as hopelessness and tragic sense that Bruce embodies? How much fun was the third act gore and practical FX makeup which truly enhanced the fury of The Demolisher?
I wanted to focus the script on the brewing and emotional torment that The Demolisher was going through and how it was revealed through his loved one. I wanted to showcase it similar to how tales and stories of a werewolf are told. Like a werewolf, you have a pit in your stomach that feels bad for the individual that can’t help getting over their transformation of something he can’t deny or control. Bruce has been pushed too far to the edge to come back, so he has to keep going to form a perfect circle and not to backtrack his emotions or thoughts. It’s a look into the mind of someone who is going full tilt to complete their circle. He has scapegoats that get triggered for his inner rage to come out and he must follow them because it’s the only way he knows and the only way that makes him feel better, like medication that his insanity needs. Samantha added the dark seed he needed to self-medicate his insanity, even though she didn’t like what he did, she knew there was no other way. Every time he is with her, he is reminded of what happened to her and their relationship. He loves her so much and feels guilty for not being able to be there for her. So even her death would destroy him, so he needs to protect her. Even if it means that he slowly deconstructs himself into a mess of insanity. Ry Barrett as The Demolisher is a machine on his own. I can’t really tell you where he went to find the intensity and fury, but I can tell you that every person on earth has this fire in them. For the film, that is between Ry Barrett and character of The Demolisher himself. No one will understand him better then Ry. I know Ry went into very emotional places to brew up the fire, physically and emotionally. I can tell you from a personal stand point that The Demolisher not only represents fury and hopelessness, but also being able to brew an inner fire and straight so strong that you have the courage to go against everyone and everything that stands in your way for the choices you make. The third act was a lot of fun, the FX and gore were slightly amplified to inject the hyperrealism of The Demolisher and also the dream or nightmare scape which was created in the third act. It was hard not to string violence all throughout the film, because it’s not that type of film.
Can you talk about the inspiration for Samantha and Marie? Both play roles of victims yet are truly empowering. They are both connected to Bruce in deep ways. Was there anything personal behind the writing of these two women? What went into the casting them? What research was done by Tianna Nori and Jessica Vano to play such rich and conflicted characters?
I am convinced that storytelling should involve a three-point character system, the triangle symbol. My previous film IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES adopted this way where you have two protagonists and one antagonist. You have a triangle design in which the characters are all equal sided and are all interconnected at various times. What one character does affects the other two. All three characters in THE DEMOLISHER are victims and all characters are truly empowering because they are all masters of their choices. This also interconnects into a three act story system to tell tale. Samantha makes some huge choices in the film such as fueling Bruce’s rage and at one-point blessing him to continue on his rage. Marie is a master with her choices because nothing will put her down. We show her vulnerable but through her choices she becomes even more powerful and gains more strength by the end of the film. Samantha and Marie are both mirror reflections of Bruce’s personality. Samantha representing Bruce’s personal emotional struggle and not being able to let go of the past and Marie representing Bruce’s external struggle, the ideas of external devices getting the best of you and having to beat them. There was nothing personal behind the writing of these two woman. These two women needed to support Bruce’s actions and make up the triangle to tell the story from different sides. Casting for the lead women in the film was done through numerous audition rehearsals with Ry Barrett. We needed to find the right chemistry that could complement the role of Bruce’s on screen persona both as Bruce and The Demolisher. For the role of Samantha, we looked for small nuances within the performers body language, their ideas and analyzation of Bruce’s struggle at home and also their dedication and knowledge to understand what it is like to be physically hindered by an incident. For the character of Marie, we needed to cast someone who could show a range of emotions, everything from innocence to strength, and also be very physical with her body language and pose aggressive stances with it, but maintaining the element of innocence. Tianna Nori and Jessica Vano jumped into the roles. Tianna Nori asked for a wheel chair and for two months wheeled herself around her condo with some method acting to feel the right hindrance involved with not being able to walk. It’s more of a challenge to be still then to be in motion, and she went to great lengths to conquer the physical attributes of Samantha’s struggles. Everything from how the character went to the washroom to how she would slip out of her wheel chair herself and crawl around. Jessica pretty much wrote the entire opening monologue piece for her group support scene because she actually went out and sat in various group suppose environments. Both these female leads absolutely threw everything they could into the roles, and took the roles into their own hands and made it their own.
How challenging was it to craft the full extent, experience and timeline of Bruce and Samantha’s marriage? Did the lack dialogue create better characters and film overall?
Bruce and Samantha’s marriage is shrouded in mystery on purpose. We wanted to convey that they were very young and in love, typical to a young generation of lovers. But we also wanted to hint towards a life time of loneliness and that this wasn’t the first conflict or obstacle of serious nature. When you are with someone for so long, sometimes dinner and lunch time conversations are kept to a minimal. Whenever I go out and eat and observe old couples, they aren’t talking excessively. They are more so sitting in each other’s presence with a life time of experience. They know each other so well; they are almost one person. I kind of took that reference and used that for the stillness and quietness of Bruce and Samantha’s timeline. I was a fan of the lack of dialogue because it made the viewer focus on the character’s eyes and face, rather than the words. This was a very visual film from the start, and all visual elements needed to be addressed and brought to far ends of the spectrum. If we had a scene with no dialogue, we weren’t going to force dialogue to spoon feed the audience an emotion or reaction. If the audience felt something they did, if not, then they didn’t.
I think one of the most impactful questions in the film becomes who really is the villain? Was that a challenge to write and for Ry to perform this complex idea of a man who may or may not be the true monster because of what he feels inside and his weaning control?
The ideas of villains in movies and stories have been jaded to be looked at in a more negative or victimized way. With this film, we wanted this villain to be seen as a hero to himself and to his loved one. And when you have one character who is victimized against another character who is victimized, you have a hard time discerning who the real hero is. The Demolisher, the monster that becomes Bruce is the true villain of victimization. He doesn’t want to be victimized anymore therefore he puts on a mask, a front to conquer his victimization and battle his insanity and/or pick out his scapegoats. His alter ego, Bruce is the hero who is battling The Demolisher from the inside. Marie happens to be a hero through victimization that brings out Bruce to finally confront The Demolisher by driving the monster to the extreme. It wasn’t really a huge challenge to write for Ry, because the film is very visual. As a team, we were focusing on the style of the story and how to convey all this information and emotion through the character’s performances.
With this conclusion of the film, was it left open on purpose? How many endings did you shoot? What was the toughest phase of this production?
We wanted to complete the circle of this characters journey for this story, but also establish that this could be just one day or one typical week in a man tormented by the insanity he is cursed with. The monster within will never fully be destroyed because the man and the vessel that carries this monster is very much alive and a survivor at the end. We shot one ending, the ending that you see in the film, but wrote a dozen endings. One ending included the death of all three characters, collapsing the character triangle in its entirety. The toughest part of this production was the ending. We were racing against the sun rising to complete a very complex chase on the rooftop and there was no way to gain access of the location again. Out of everything we battled with on set, it was the simple race against the sun that had us cursing under our breathes.
What is next for you? Where can we find more?
I have a few projects on the go, a few waiting to get green light. One is entitled VENTABLVCK about a lonely pizza delivery man who battles against a notorious female fashion designer who runs an underground fight ring. The project was recently show at the FRONTIERES INTERNATIONAL Co-Production Market at the FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL in Montreal. We’ll see when that pops off the ground, but in the mean time I have one project that I will most likely complete beforehand which incorporate hypnotism, horror and thievery.
People can check out ramblings at www.carrergabriel.com and www.latefox.com Also, all the latest updates are posted on Facebook via, www.facebook.com/thedemolishermovie and www.facebook.com/ventablvck
Thanks for taking the time and asking some very potent questions about the film!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME!