‘Dual’ dir. The Brothers Lynch

An innovative split-screen thriller set in an evacuated office building as London is paralysed by multiple terrorist attacks.

Writer-Directors: The Brothers Lynch
Producers: Simon Thomas & Ed Barratt
Executive Producer: Christine Alderson
DOP: Ross McLennan
Key Cast: Rebecca Night, Emil Marwa

C8: Where did the idea for ‘Dual’ come from?

TLB: When discussing short films compared to feature films, we found that some of the best shorts were ones that managed to capture a moment rather than trying to condense a feature film idea into a shorter time period.  Never being ones to make things easy for ourselves we thought “why not try to capture two moments at the exact same time?”From there we decided to look at two very opposing and extreme situations that once visually juxtaposed against one another elevated both stories.  We decided on the pregnancy section and the bomb disposal section almost immediately but then added some nice thriller plot twists in there as we went along.  The two stories are representative of life and death and the cyclical nature of them both.

C8: How early on in the development process did you decide upon the split screen?

TLB: The story was born from the split screen concept rather than the other way around.  It was a very challenging process at each step of production but very rewarding all the same.

C8: What effect did the split screen have on you as directors and did it impact your Director of Photography Ross McLennan?

TLB: Ross was immediately attracted to the project because of the challenge of the split screen visuals.  In prep we spent a great deal of time researching what draws audience attention visually so that we could storyboard our split screens and ensure our audience were following the story the way we wanted them to.  For example, a human face staring at you draws your eye. So if we wanted you to be looking at the bottom screen, we may show a close up of a face there and then the back of someone’s head on the top screen.  Another key moment in the film is when we wanted to connect the Bomb Disposal Technician and Bethany, so we composed both shots so their eyeline’s meet.  It was an interesting challenge when it comes to shot composition as you have a much slimmer frame to work with so you need to mask off your monitors to make sure you’re keeping that in mind.  One thing Ross was very keen to ensure was to keep the camera movements smooth and controlled.  Handheld would have really disorientated our audience if it was happening in either or both of the screens.  We were lucky enough to have a great DOP and camera crew who rose to the challenge.  Our editor, Daniel Lapira, had a real task ahead of him as the split screen nature meant there were some moments which needed to be linked, so there were a lot of restrictions when trying to tighten the cut up, but again he excelled there.  Sound is also a key factor in drawing attention which our Sound Designer, Aleks Bundalo, did a great job at.

C8: Pregnancy and birth scenes in films can become more comedic than serious if not handled with the right balance. How did you work with Rebecca Night to achieve a level of realism?

TLB: It sounds a little ridiculous, but ‘One Born Every Minute’ is a great point of reference for a realistic pregnancy scene.  Because our short is a very serious thriller it was imperative it didn’t feel comedic, but if we’re honest Rebecca nailed it all on her own.  There was never a point where we had to tell her tone it down or anything like that.

C8: What were the biggest challenges during production?

TLB: The production itself ran very smoothly.  It was all shot in one location over three days which is quite an achievement when you think we actually shot two short films.  That said we were running a little short of time towards the end and Chris Hatherall, our Bomb Disposal Technician had to suit up in a steaming hot boiler room which is not the ideal conditions to work in.  But he dealt with it like a pro and gave a great nuanced performance for a character which has one word of dialogue in the entire film!

C8: The score adds to the tone of the film. How much free reign did you give to composer Carly Paradis?

TLB: Carly is a fantastic composer, we had a great initial meeting with her and she immediately got what we wanted for our score.  We gave her some references, one in particular being Joe Kraemer’s The Grab from ‘The Way of the Gun’ soundtrack, and she went from there.  She nailed each piece first time, we just had to be honest with her – we had no notes, it was spot on!

C8: You co-wrote the script. How did you go about this?

TLB: What was the writing process like?  We co-write all of our scripts and the process is usually the same.  We plan meticulous, outlining the entire story, discuss characters and themes then divide the script up and write a draft.  Then swap the sections, rewrite and so on until we’re happy.  However in this case it was slightly different because of the split screen nature.  We wrote the two stories separately in bullet point form at first, then brought them together deciding how they would intertwine and connect.  Redrafting was difficult as it wasn’t as simple as just removing or editing a section of the script – we needed to make sure that this kept it in balance with the other section.  We italicised the sections of the script that referred to the lower half of the screen to make it an easier read.

C8: What do you think are the advantages to directing as a duo rather than solo?

TLB: Problem solving is without a doubt the major advantage of directing as a duo.  When on set, things inevitably don’t always go to plan, so you need to think on your feet and keep things moving as smoothly as possible.  Being brothers we have a short hand that means we can get to the bottom of a problem efficiently and effectively.  Another advantage is simply quality control.  Providing you and your co-director are in sync creatively, it’s that extra bit of reassurance that a directorial decision is the right one.

C8: If you did the whole process again, is there anything you would do differently?

TLB: Not shoot split screen! Ha. No, seriously, we would have pushed for an extra day in our schedule.  Our mistake was to assume that non dialogue scenes, such as the boiler room stuff, would take a short amount of time but this really wasn’t the case.  We would have liked to have more to work with in the edit there but in the end we made it work nicely, we think.

C8: If you could give emerging filmmakers a piece of advice what would it be?

TLB: If you’re a writer, read scripts. All the time. Get a kindle. Stick them on there. Always have it with you so that if you ever get a moment you can make use of it. Try and get hold of unproduced screenplays, The Black List ones are usually floating around.  Reading screenplays that you haven’t seen as films is a great way to start understanding writing as the writer doesn’t have the finished film to hide behind. You’re not projecting an actors portrayal on to that character.

If you’re a director then keep making stuff. If you haven’t got a DSLR then just use your phone.  There are great apps that really add a lot to iPhone videography.

C8: What in your opinion is the essence of a good collaboration?

TLB: Communication is so important.  Trusting your collaborators is paramount as well. A respect for other people’s opinions and the ability to take on board constructive criticisms and implement people’s feedback.  Being a writing and directing duo means that at all stages of a project we are collaborating.  From initial idea to final cut.  Working as a duo has helped us hone our collaborative skills so that working with others is very natural to us.

C8: What’s next for you both? Any future plans for future projects?

TLB: We’re currently prepping to shoot our next short film, ‘Old Habits’ as part of this years Collabor8te scheme.  ’Old Habits’ is a black comedy about two estranged brothers in their 70s paying their respects to their recently deceased crime boss father whilst trying to mend their differences… Even if it kills them.

It’s a big departure from ‘Dual’ and we’re excited to be stretching ourselves in another direction.

After ‘Old Habits’, we’ll be finishing up writing an episode of BBC3′s ‘In The Flesh’, which we’ve been working on with the Beeb for the past few months. It’s a fantastic show and it’s been a great experience so far.

Then next on the agenda is our feature film debut, ‘Residual’, a contained non-linear sci-fi thriller following a paraplegic soldier as be takes part in a pioneering new procedure to transfer his consciousness into a new body. Needless to say, all doesn’t go as planned!