To celebrate the release of dark crime thriller Night Hunter, we have a feature interview with British director David Raymond discussing his biggest influences on the film including Memento, Gone Girl, Superman, Road to Perdition and Argo…
In terms of childhood influences I’d say that was the Donner, Lucas, Spielberg sort of decade. The first Superman, Star Wars, E.T. that for me was very much my childhood and in the scripts that I’d written earlier on in my career and looking on at what I want to do next, that’s sort of very much my childhood of watching movies. Richard Donner’s Superman – I’ve probably seen more than any movie in history. It was probably the first movie I saw as a kid that had a huge influence on me and that sparked my imagination so I believed I could fly and pick up buildings and run around the house with kryptonite. It’s the first memory of a film affecting me creatively. And it’s a film that still stands up – if I come across it on the TV now I find myself watching it from start to finish.
GONE GIRL (2014)
As I got older I got more into the Christopher Nolan and David Fincher. I write genres of movies that I watch so I’ve written big platform kids stuff and then some more of the psychological grounded stuff in the Night Hunter vein which is more for the feature film world. Those are the two main types of movies that I watch so I gravitate towards them. I hate when people immediately compare Night Hunter to Seven or Silence of the Lambs, I think anything made in that thriller space is immediately going to be compared to Fincher mainly because he’s the god of that genre and is phenomenal. He’s made some of my favourite movies such as The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Seven. I think he offers a masterclass for a younger director – he’s got everything.
I thought the performances in Gone Girl were remarkable and what I love about Fincher’s work is how he uses the cast. I think it’s Ben Affleck’s best performance purely from an acting point of view, but also you look at the peripheral cast and the supporting characters… everyone has there own depth to them. There’s a number of small supporting characters that I was fortunate to land in Night Hunter, but also I tried to breath life into them even in these little moments so that you felt it was a real world that all of these people lived in. Even if for 99% of the movie you’re only really following two or three main characters, I wanted that sense that even when people are dipping in and out they have there own stories, depth and personality to them.
I’m in my thirties and for anyone in the industry, like Spielberg did in the eighties, I think Christopher Nolan has affected a mass of people with his storytelling because it’s extremely intelligent and treats the audience with a lot of respect but it also is very commercial and is widely released popcorn fare which from a narrative point of view and scripting point of view is something I look up to. I’m striving to write original material and there’s not much of it being made anymore. Memento was mesmerising especially if you look back at it and think that it’s an original idea as well. I just love the way he tells stories and uses time and the depth of characters to bring his stories to life. So I think from a writing point of view, I tried to chase the emotion of what the characters are going through so it ‘s not that you take it really seriously but you follow the emotional arc of some of these characters so hopefully you care when these bizarre twists and turns are coming out. You’re there with the characters and when you get to the end of it you’re not worrying about the twists, you care about the characters and wonder who’s making it out when the ice thaws…
When it comes to an influence on Night Hunter, in terms of the technical side of filming it, I really liked Argo. I thought the style of filming there was superb. There was a fluidity to the movement of the pacing of characters walking and talking but when he slowed things down there were intimate scenes. There was a reason behind the way Ben Affleck shot that film. In Night Hunter there were certain techniques we tried to install, so with Henry and his character I tried to shoot him either looking up, the way Simon would be, to accentuate the big shoulders and grizzled features. Or, if we’re behind him, again it was looking up, but when the narrative shifts and you realise Simon is in more control I shifted to putting it behind Simon instead to give you a sense of knowledge and power and an idea of what is going on in this thriller.
ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)
One of my favourite films is a Sam Mendes movie called Road to Perdition which is stunningly shot and very character driven but it had this poetic energy to it too. Most people directing that script it would have become a generic gangster thriller but what he did with his cast and the way that he shot that film it was so elegant and sophisticated and poetic. For me as a director interpreting material, albeit my own material, I was striving for those elegant moments and moments of levity so we’re not drowning in the dark material. That’s why yes, it’s a really dark themed movie but there’s no sexual violence, there’s no real violence in the movie much of that is inferred and in fact the only person that gets into any real physical alterations is Rachel, Alexandra Daddario’s character, and that’s very deliberate because I wanted to avoid the tropes of other thrillers.
Signature Entertainment presents Night Hunter on Digital HD 4 November and DVD 11 November 2019