An isolated countryside street is the setting. The loss of a little girl breaks the tranquillity of a normal car travel and catapults the characters into a nightmare of panic and fear. All the perfect ingredients for an appealing thriller.
Gridlock is a short film that shocks the viewer for the simplicity and realism of its theme. The loss of a little girl during a usual car travel is something that could happen to everybody. It is a daily life tragedy that the director manages to translate into a fictional thriller.
Produced by Simon Doyle and directed by Ian Hunt Duffy, the film is going to be shown the 7th of June at the Japan Short Shorts film festival, the biggest short film festival in Asia. The winning of Gridlock at this festival could assure a straight flight to Los Angeles Oscars.
A scene from “Gridlock” with Peter Coonan (left) and Moe Dunford (right)
Gridlock shows that there is no need for too many special effects or complex plots in order to make a tempting thriller. Incomprehension and lack of communication between the characters lead to a climax that increases the beholder’s apprehension. Nobody seems to have seen the little girl, fact that increases the anxiety of the desperate father.
The film is mainly imbued with the psychology of the characters and their instinctive feelings and reactions. The suspect passes from one character to another and tension spreads as long as the solution seems ungraspable, leading to a nervous witch-hunt.
However, a sudden revelation elicits doubts and subverts everything, elucidating unanswered questions at the same time. A twist ending worthy of a thriller.
Starring: Moe Dunford (Vikings), Peter Coonan (Love/Hate), Steve Wall (Dominion Creek) and Amy de Bhrun (Jason Bourne).
Gridlock has already won a number of high-profile awards, including Academy Qualifying Awards Best Irish Short at the Foyle Film Festival and the Grand Prix Irish Short at Cork Film Festival. It has also won five prestigious awards and has been selected for almost 20 film festivals.
We have asked the director some questions that can be found below.
Ian Hunt Duffy
director of Gridlock
How predetermined are your shots? Do you improvise much while shooting?
I always do a shot-list for a film and work closely with my cinematographer to develop the style we
want to achieve. However, you have to be open to improvisation on the day and willing to change
things up if a better shot presents itself. Invariably you will be up against the clock, so certain shots
often need to be combined into one or simplified to save time. Elsewhere an actor’s performance on
set might change how you initially pictured covering a scene. On ‘Gridlock’, we had to change our
road location at the very last minute, so a number of shots I had planned had to either be adapted or
lost. So working within this new location, my cinematographer- Narayan Van Maele- and I decided to
opt for a more handheld approach to give scenes more energy and immediacy. We also had an
ensemble cast of actors so we would film long master shots for each scene, and often found that
these takes had the most urgency and tension. As a result, I decided to block scenes into longer
continuous shots where possible, without cutting away. So you’re using the shot-list as a blueprint, but
it’s not set in stone.
What is your opinion of Short Film as a medium? Do you aim to move into feature length?
I think short film is the perfect medium to hone your craft as a filmmaker and storyteller. You need to
be able to tell an engaging and interesting story in a short space of time, so short films really help
develop that skill. Budgets on short films are usually tight as well, so it forces you to find creative
solutions to problems, and that’s an approach I hope to carry over when directing my first feature film.
‘Gridlock’ is the kind of genre film I want to make as a feature, so I saw it as an opportunity to show
that I could craft an exciting thriller. I’m currently developing my first feature working again with writer
Darach McGarrigle. It’s another thriller set in a single location, with a group of characters fighting to
survive. I’m very excited about it.
What, for you, is the most important element of a Short Film?
The most important element of a short film, or any film, is always the story. What’s it about? That’s the
first question anyone will ever ask, so you need to have a compelling answer. Short films are unique
because they are typically only ever viewed amongst a programme of other short films, so you have
to grab the audience’s attention with a good story or hook that will make your short film stand out from
all the others. ‘Gridlock’ is a ‘whodunnit’ thriller, and so that mystery gets the audience to engage with
the film, guessing what will happen next or who they think is responsible.
How did the idea of this plot come to your mind?
I love high-concept thrillers that are set in a single location and I always wanted to do my own version.
One day I was stuck in traffic and I thought it would be interesting to set a thriller entirely during a
traffic jam and see what kind of suspense you could create in that restricted environment. From there
I had the idea of a father whose daughter goes missing from their car, and that was the jumping off
point for ‘Gridlock’. I pitched the concept to writer Darach McGarrigle and he liked how it touched on
some very primal fears, like losing a child, paranoia, and not being able to trust the people around
you. We’re both fans of old television shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’ or ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’,
shows that managed to fit a huge amount of tension and suspense into a 20-minute episode, so we
wanted to see if we could achieve that with a short film and create an exciting mystery for an
audience to solve.
Link to the trailer