Interview: Dominic Brunt Chats About Bait

Mark Bartlett at close-upfilm.com spent some time catching up with the very talented Dominic Brunt, ahead of the 2015 FrightFest premiere of his awesome second feature BAIT.

Two good friends played by Victoria Smurfit and Joanne Mitchell fall afoul of a relentlessly cruel and brutal loan shark (Jonathan Slinger). It’s a very satisfying (and gory) retribution movie, with very strong performances, writing and direction.

**This interview contains some spoilers**
close-upfilm.com– As you’re already aware, I LOVED this film. So this is less an interview and more me gushing haha. It’s clear that you have a deep love of the horror genre. What inspires you in terms of major influences both past and present?
Dominic– I’m so glad you like the film. Loads and loads of bad and good horror and far too many comic books. I’m still the same.
I met my future wife at drama school and she got me into world cinema which I’ll happily sit through between watching thrillers and horror.
close-upfilm.com– One of the elements that immediately stood out to me was the originality of its subject. Was there anything that specifically inspired the premise, or were you purposefully looking for a script that covered ground that hadn’t been tread as often? Did you embark on this project with any particular goals in mind in bringing something new to the genre?
Dominic Brunt– After finishing Before Dawn (Dominic Brunt’s previous film and directorial debut), we were looking at other monsters. It didn’t matter that the monsters in Before Dawn were zombies at all as they represented an analogy for the collapse of their relationship. “Bait” is culled from three or four real instances which happened in this country and across Europe and one in Indonesia. The fact that these people are in every town and city and are making a LOT of money from basically terrorising their clients and exploiting their ambitions for a better life. Even though we took the story to it’s worse case scenario, the real life stories were so much worse and sustained. True horror with sociopathic humans cast as the monsters. I was in debt a while ago and could see no way out and no end to it. That was really very scary and exhausting and pervaded every aspect of my life. I don’t think I slept properly for about a year.
close-upfilm.com– I found the third act enormously satisfying, a big part of that was because everything leading up to the final confrontation felt like something that could feasibly happen in reality, so I felt genuine fear for Bex and Dawn. Jeremy was so hard to keep down at the end, the situation so desperate, I was partially convinced things might take a turn for the supernatural, as he has that Michael Myers-like resilience about him. Was this your intention?
Dominic Brunt– No. People are hard to kill! Look at Pablo Escobar, Trotsky and Rasputin. Also it would have been a shame to have arrived at the final revenge and retribution and shot him once. He deserves his comeuppance and the audience deserve fireworks for their money and patience.
close-upfilm.com– It was really refreshing to see mature protagonists with real lives and real problems. Paul Roundell’s script really takes its time to set up Bex and Dawn as fully realised people with all the quirks in their relationship that make them believable long term friends. Joanne and Victoria have really great chemistry together, did this allow scope for any improvisation or was everything very tightly scripted?
Dominic Brunt– Yes. I really like that aspect of european cinema with naturalistic dialogue and none of the awful grandstanding you get in lots of (certainly not all) horror films. There was no improvisation. Maybe the odd word or phrase for Bex’s Irish colloquialisms. Paul Roundel writes as people speak and I’m a huge fan of his work in that respect. Vicky and Jo (Bex and Dawn) are friends from drama school and were flatmates in Bristol. They have been best friends ever since so we could bypass constructing a friendship and love between them.
close-upfilm.com Is it as much fun working with your wife as I imagine it is? (Lead character Dawn is played by Dominic’s real life wife Joanne Mitchell) I’d love to work with my wife Ruth as we both have completely different competencies, so I know we’d make a great team! When your married to an accomplished actress is it tough to give notes/direction or is it all very natural?
Dominic Brunt– It’s the second time we’ve worked together and this time she had her best friend as an ally.
I think you have to try and stay professional and treat everyone equally and with respect. Of course when it gets fraught, you have that direct avenue to familiarity. They were thick as thieves so I wouldn’t have stood a chance if I’d chosen to have a strop anyway. She’s incredibly intelligent and I trust her opinion implicitly so I was and am very lucky.
close-upfilm.com– What’s next for you, would you like to try your hand at another genre anytime soon or are you sticking with horror for the time being?
Dominic Brunt– Thrillers and horror films are what I’m made up of in my DNA. I would imagine that anything I do in the future would either be full on in terms of genre or have an element. I like worse case scenarios growing and creeping from an everyday situation. We have a couple of projects on the go now. One of ours and one for someone else. I just want to do it right and not drop the ball. It all takes time but it’s worth doing it correctly and methodically.
close-upfilm.com– Once again I truly loved the film. I thought it was fantastically paced, disturbing and then really really satisfying. I think it’s both thought provoking and a real crowd pleaser. It’s all really elevated by the quality of performances, the overall bleak/desperate tone and really, REALLY strong writing.
Dominic Brunt– Well we have Paul Roundell to thank for the writing. I’d love to work with him again. I’m a huge fan of FrightFest and I’ve been attending horror festivals for years so it’s an unbearably tense situation to be in, playing your film to your peers.