I recently got the chance to talk to Bret Kennedy about his role in ‘The Dark Lurking’. Here, Bret talks extensively about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Bret. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Dark Lurking’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The film surrounds the exploits of an underground biological research facility that has just gone postal. Inside the facility there are a number of employees of both the facility and contractors who have been exposed to a lethal virus that has escaped its holding. We centre around 8 survivors of the facility who are desperately trying to escape the horde of mutated monsters and escape with their lives. The only way that they can survive, is to make their way through 13 levels of carnage and hell.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
My character’s name is Michaels. He is a mercenary that has been called in to help ‘diffuse’ the situation in the research facility. He is a no-nonsense guy. Follows orders to the letter, he does what is needed to do at the time no matter what the consequences are. During the film you find that he is just a hard ass, and you are on his side because he does what is needed to help everyone survive. Initially in the film he is doing his job, and that is getting out any survivors that may be trapped down in the facility. But during the film I think you might be surprised with how he evolves into something on a whole new level. He has a massive amount of military training and experience. His commanding officer is Dare, someone he respects and listens to without any bullshit. He will take the hit for the team, back up the point guy when needed, and put himself on the line for his fellow mercenaries.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Oh I love telling this story. In 2005, Australia decided they wanted to put a TV reality show called ‘The Dragons Den’ on for broadcast. I was for some reason on yahoo7.com and saw an advert for this show. I went and looked at the information and found that there was no reason we couldn’t submit a film as a business plan for the Dragons. I rang my mate Greg, who I’d met on the set of ‘Netherworld’ – a short film that I auditioned for and got the lead role. Greg, Stuart (the producer) and I went on to become good friends. After ringing Greg I told him of the show and I needed a film, so he wrote out a 20 page synopsis of a film idea that he had. I submitted the necessary forms with the synopsis and left it at that. About a month later I get a letter and a phone call saying that they love the idea of submitting a film, and we were advancing to the next round of the competition. This is where the fun started, we had to have a script and business plan ready in just under six weeks. So Greg went off and wrote the rest of the script, Stuart worked on as much of the production side of things that he could in regards to budget and stuff, and I finished off the application that included both of those things and resent the submission.
We were pretty excited about it at this time. So a month went by and we got a letter saying that were had been selected to go on the show, they were flying us down to Sydney for the day to present on the TV show that afternoon. We had about two or three weeks left to polish off any kind of visual submission that we were to present on the TV. Excited, folders and posters in hand we flew down to Sydney and were put up in a hotel, where I was shitting myself because I had to go in front of a panel and sell our movie. Greg helped write an intro script that would captivate the Dragons, and captivate them we did. But in the end none of the Dragons would commit to what they considered a ‘risky’ venture, even though they loved the idea, were awed at the production quality of ‘Netherworld’ and applauded us for such an amazing presentation. So, dejected we flew back to Queensland. The next day, Greg calls me up and says “Fuck it, let’s make this movie”. He had saved a substantial amount for a deposit on a house, threw that in with money from both myself and Stuart, and ‘The Dark Lurking’ feature film was in pre-production. Over the next 2 1/2 years we shot, built, destroyed and blew up the set of ‘The Dark Lurking’, when we finally finished it in 2008/2009.
How would you say this film is different and unique from most sci-fi horrors?
It is a B grade horror film from the start, with gratuitous violence, enough blood and goop the sink the Titanic without an iceberg, and enough bullets and explosions to make ‘Rambo’ proud. What we did though was take a step back to the earlier days of horror films and action, when 3D effects weren’t as advanced as they are now. Everything on that set that we could make practical we did. We created our own compressed air squib hits, we had squib jet packs for head shots. Our SFX makeup team did everything we asked them to make monsters real and gooey. All of the black stuff you see running down their faces is real ooze created for the film, hell we would have gone through like 10 litres of the stuff at least.
We also took a step back to create models. Models that were cheaper to film, but also looked pretty shit hot. The only piece of CGI in that film was the……well I think that you will be able to see it, so I won’t spoil it for you. I think with the combination of real effects, (yes the fire and explosions in some of the battle scenes are real fire) and the models for the space craft, we have really made a B grade action/horror a little different from some of the mainstream stuff.
The film stars Tonia Renee, your good self, Ozzie Devrish, Dirk Foulger and Anthony Edwards – with Gregory Connors onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I think it best to go through from the top here.
I started working with Greg on ‘Netherworld’. This was my first real gig, so I wanted to really impress him. I did everything he asked of me, came out with a few new scars and a broken cheekbone for it 🙂 but I knew already how he directed. Greg is a creative that is one of those freaks that sees stuff in his head, he may or may not be able to explain exactly what he sees but he knows how to get it. Most of the time when he directs though he lets actors have free reign unless there is something super specific that he wants to see. During the creation of ‘The Dark Lurking’ I worked with him on the script process with Stuart. He would give us 20 odd pages to read and we would critique. I asked for things to be put in and they either were or they weren’t. On the set though, he was a mellow director who knew what he wanted. He expected everyone who knew their job to do it, and the truth be told only got super pissed off on the set three or four times. Over a total filming time of 8-9 weeks that is a pretty good record.
I worked with Anthony briefly on ‘Netherworld’ as well, that is how we found him for Dare. Anthony is another one of those guys who has the ability to really see creative things, and has a massive amount of theatrical experience in both performing and teaching. He was able to really help me in some of the scenes I struggled with. As a group though, when we are together all we try to do is make each other laugh, and that can be a good thing, not necessarily on the set though, especially shooting pivotal scenes, but I would work with Anthony again in a heartbeat.
Ozzie we cast through our casting process, actually Greg found him. The first thing I heard about Ozzie was from Greg – “Dude, we’ve got an Australian Danny Trejo lookalike”. We cracked up and decided purely on looks alone that Ozzie would be an awesome Merc. Put him on the set though, and he is just as funny as anyone else. His crazy eyes in scenes lent the whole set into fits of laughter on the third day of primary shooting, but on the camera it served the purpose well. Ozzie was a great addition to the crew definitely.
I knew Dirk before he came onto the film as an actor and DOP. Dirk is the guy who speaks his mind, like it or not. On set you need that person. You can’t really pussy foot around a topic when something like ‘money’ is involved. As a DOP Dirk knew what Greg wanted, and 99% it was right. Dirk has a massive amount of theatre from back in his native homeland, as well as a lot of local Australian work as well. He was perfectly suited for his role as an evil scientist, and the accent isn’t fake 🙂
I met Tonia at a gathering we organized for the main cast to meet each other at the park. She didn’t talk much, and looked as meek as a mouse but when she was on set, but she was pretty awesome. During the filming all of the cast and crew we worked with were there for one reason only, purely because they loved the idea of the film and wanted to help some local guys try to get somewhere in the industry. We had a lot of students working purely for the credit on a feature film, so we had a lot of scheduling conflicts with some of the guys, but we always had a willing group of people to double up on jobs and help out where they could.
Let’s talk a bit about you Bret. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?…
A long long time ago…… haha, back when ‘Buffy’ was popular and I was a massive fan of both ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’, I used to nerd out and log onto the ‘Buffy’ website which had a bulletin board that was actually kind of different. the board itself used to tick every time someone would put up a new post and so it was actually like a live chat room on a bulletin board. I had come onto the board after Season 3 aired, so I was a little late, but found out that the cast and crew sometimes frequented there. During my time on this board, I met Jeff Pruitt, stunt co-ordinator for ‘Buffy’ seasons 2-6 I think. I chatted to him about stunts and everything and then found out that Buffy didn’t do her own fights? It should have been obvious right?
Well I guess back then I was looking at her first, and not the actual fights, but after closer inspection I noticed that second girl, who just happened to be Sophia Crawford, Jeff’s wife. I became good ‘internet’ friends with them, asking questions and learning about the industry and stuff, and decided that wanted to be a stuntie. I had a martial arts background and that is the stuff I really wanted to do. So I researched everything I could in Sydney at the time to get my grading, but I had no way in.
Lucky for me I had a pretty hot friend who did karate with me. One day she was at a car and this dude tried to pick her up. Turns out he was a stuntie in QLD who worked on ‘Mission Impossible 2’, ‘The Matrix’ and a whole load of other stuff. She got his card and mentioned me to him. I rang and spent some time with him while he was in Sydney. He was part of a group of stunties up there who trained people to get their grading. Six months later I leave Sydney for QLD to get my stunt grading. That took me a year to obtain. During that time I did some acting classes and stuff like that, but never got any work.
It wasn’t until the guy who I had been training with told me about a group of Uni students he was doing a short film with – he was onboard as their fight director. It was on that project I met Greg, auditioned for the role of Gabriel, and thus started my acting career. Since then, I have appeared in ‘Netherworld’, ‘The Dark Lurking’, ‘Singh Is King’ (stunt background work) and ‘Daybreakers’ (stunt background work). I managed to land a TVC in Australia too, just thought I would throw that in 🙂
Now all I want to do is make films. I want to get somewhere in this industry because as an actor, I can be all of the jobs that I have wanted to be as a kid, without the hassle of going through a Uni degree or special ops training for each one 🙂
What is your favourite holiday destination and why?
Favourite destination right now is the Caribbean. I have been to Ireland and Scotland and they are my favourite places in regards to the hospitality of people, but I have just come back from Bocas Del Torro, which is in Panama, as well as Costa Rica and Nicaragua, those places are amazing. The surfing is unreal and its a completely different culture. I haven’t visited enough places to have a clear favourite yet though, but with my traveling still underway I may have one sooner than expected.
If you could invite three guests to a dinner – (living or dead) – who would you choose and why?
- Hahaha… Hugh Jackman: because he plays my second favourite comic book character. As well I have a lot of admiration for him as an actor and an ambassador of humanity.
- Kelly Slater: 9 times world ASP champion. Cook him up a good dinner, then corner him to help me be a better surfer 🙂
- Jessica Biel: do I need to say more? I have had a crush on this girl since, well since before ‘Blade 3’ i’ll tell you that….
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
Right now i am currently in the US trying to secure an agent, with that I am working on getting a US working Visa. Unfortunately the Australian industry isn’t big enough for the number of people trying to break into it. I am planning on living and working in LA by june 2012. During this time I am working on my feature ‘Chosen’.
Thanks for the interview!