Interview mit “Tony”-Regisseur Gerard Johnson vor dem Fantasy Film Festival

This entry was posted on 16.08.2010

Gerard Johnson

“Tony”, der erste Langfilm von Gerard Johnson, ist beim diesjährigen Fantasy Film Festival zu sehen. Da ich den Film durch ein persönliche Verwicklungen (Gerard ist der Bruder von “The The”-Sänger Matt Johnson) bereits kannte, habe ich ein Interview mit dem Regisseur geführt, das in gekürzter Fassung im Oranienburger Generalanzeiger erschienen ist. Hier das komplette Interview auf Englisch.

You are coming from a very creative family – your brother Matt is a musician and your other brother Andy is a painter. The lead role in “Tony” is played by Peter Ferdinando, who is your cousin. How were you and your brother raised? Has your family been supporting you in your wish to be creative?

I luckily come from a family where it was encouraged. Although you have to prove it and do the hard work to get there.

It’s interesting though that all of your chose a different path. I don’t know if you are younger than the others – did you consciously say: I want to do something different? Or how did that happen?

I am the youngest brother but it was never a case of I want to do something different, Film has been my passion since I was very young and it was obvious that I should be working in that field. For me film is the ultimate art form, although I’m sure other members of my family may disagree.

How did you get the idea for “Tony”? I guess everybody is observing that “strange guy on the street” who acts different. Was it something like that? Or is the movie based on real life’s events?

Dennis Nilsen was a well-known serial killer in London in the 80’s and I was always intrigued by his story, how he killed for company only. I wanted to tap into that, but Tony is a completely different character from Dennis, the inspiration came from years living in Hackney, knowing and following people like that around.

There have been many serial killer movies, even though it seems as if the genre was less visited by directors in the last years. How difficult is it to bring a new perspective into this genre?

Well I approached the film as a social document, what is a serial killer like when he’s not murdering, what does he have for breakfast, where does he buy his clothes and found I was more interested in those questions than how many people he killed or how gruesome we could make it.

At some point when the neighbour invites Tony over for lunch, the viewers might think he could change and become “more sociable”. Did you ever consider following that idea?

The question has been answered in that scene, you don’t have to show him being more sociable, you can sense it when she invites him down for dinner.

And another spoiler-alert-question: You leave the end open. It almost seems to be inevitable that Tony gets caught, but that is up to our imagination. Why?

People want to be spoon fed narrative and have happy resolved endings, it’s from watching too many Hollywood films, I have enough intelligence I think to come out of a film and put the pieces together myself, I don’t need smart endings to make me like a film, I want to be moved by the piece first and foremost.

How important is the music for the movie?

Very important in adding to the overall picture, obviously some films work with no music at all, but I’m a big fan of composed scores rather than pop tracks on soundtracks.

How did you convince Matt to do it? Did you have to convince him at all – after all the soundtrack is his first real album after ten years.

Matt will work on stuff if he’s excited by it, he didn’t need convincing, he already did the music on my shorts and He wanted to do it.

“Tony” first was a short movie. When and why did you decide to turn it into a feature film? Did you have other ideas you postponed?

I was offered the chance to turn it into a film by Paul Abbott (creator of Shameless and State of Play) I’d never thought of it as a feature before then, but it was great to actually do it properly with a bit more money (the shooting budget was £40,000, which considering it was shot on 16mm is amazingly cheap) we also got the UK Film Council on board who were very eager to help.

How difficult was it to add more to the story to last 76 minutes?

Well, I’ve always made my shorts as snapshots of a bigger picture so it wasn’t really difficult, but with Tony I didn’t want it to be a nice three point plot but more a character study, for me it was to understand about a serial killer rather than to show a super human killing machine.

I am curious about what happens to a movie after the director “delivers” it. Did you have any input at all where the movie was shown and how it got released? Or are directors finishing a movie and don’t have any influence anymore?

Well, we have to find a distributor for it and as far as influence goes, once a distributor picks it up, it’s really up to them how it is shown and how it gets released, obviously I have a say how I’d like it to be released. I’m not happy with the artwork that the UK distributor went with so will insist on the artwork I originally intended with other releases around the world.

The movie was released in theatres in the UK and came out on DVD a week later. Usually that happens much later – why was “Tony” released that way?

It’s called collapsed release, and unfortunately a lot of films are being released this way, the industry right now is going through big change, the UK Film Council has been disbanded and people are trying to cut corners at every turn, the distributors reasons are simple. To save money, why do two spends on advertising when you can do one? Unfortunately I haven’t got the name of someone like Jim Jarmusch yet, it’s a small film with no stars and I know of many many films that are sitting on shelves with no release at all so you have to bite the bullet a bit for now.

How important are festivals like the Fantasy Film Festival for smaller movies like “Tony”?

Hugely important, we rely on film festivals for support and to spread the word about the film.

“Tony” is not out in Germany yet – I had to order it through Amazon UK. Do you have a release date now? Or do you hope to gain interest through the festival?

No but I think we have a sales agent who will release it in Germany, so yes looking to gain more exposure over here.

And finally: Did you start your next project yet? What will it be, and when will it be out?

Yes I’m deep into the next project; its called HYENA and hopefully it will be shooting later this year.

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