You're Home. Forever
Story line from IMDb(written by Sitges Film Festival): :
A young couple is thinking about buying their starter home. And to this end, they visit a real estate agency where they are received by a strange sales agent, who accompanies them to a new, mysterious, peculiar housing development to show them a single-family home. There they get trapped in a surreal, maze-like nightmare.
You're home. Forever. No pun intended here as we all hope each and everyone are staying safe and healthy during this trying times. In the meantime, take this moment to know Mr. Garret Shanley, the screenwriter of Vivarium. He has worked with the director, Mr. Lorcan Finnegan, on a previous movie titled Without Name. Vivarium is their second collaboration and it will be release on VOD on Friday, March 27th. So, chill for a sec and read how this talented screenwriter wrote a finely-crafted thriller.
1. In one sentence could you say what Vivarium is all about?
Vivarium is about an idea we had that an audience will have its own ideas about.
2. What was the writing process for you when working on Vivarium?
Like anything else, the idea was worked out and developed over drafts and notes and treatments. We lost our way at times, but found our way back. The script was in the works for many years, with potential backers becoming involved and adding suggestions. A lot of ideas came and went as Vivarium was developed. Some of the ideas were unnecessarily elaborate, but the last draft returned to the original idea.
Although infinite, the setting of Vivarium is very limited. The characters are in an inescapable trap. That’s the horror of Vivarium, but it’s also constraining. To tell a story of mystery solving and escape attempts would’ve diminished the (existential) dread of the predicament. Vivarium was a strange and challenging script to write. The characters are not entirely passive, but their situation is hopeless. It had to be that way or the essential horror of the concept would’ve been lost.
3. What research did you do when writing Vivarium?
The setting of Vivarium does not exist and the story is a fantasy. Unlike other scripts I’ve written, no research comes to mind. Some little stuff, here and there.
4. Were there other titles you came up with before Vivarium? If so, what were they?
It was called The Estate originally, but that was just a working title. We couldn’t think of a name until Cathal Duggan (who illustrated the boy’s book in the film and provided concept sketches) suggested Vivarium.
5. What is your favorite line from one of your screenplays?
I like typing ‘The End’ on the last page of the very last draft.
6. What film/s has most influenced your life?
If you mean my life and not my work, films like The Spirit of the Beehive, O Lucky Man!, Andrei Rublev, Persona and The Ascent come to mind for getting under my skin and influencing or depicting how I see or perceive the world. If you mean my work, the screenplays of Nigel Kneale, watching Doctor Who and British science fiction, horror and what they call ‘kitchen sink drama’ on telly since I was small, the films Don’t Look Now, The Innocents, Picnic at Hanging Rock, A Taste of Honey, Jaws and lots of others, but I’ll quit now.
7. What are your thoughts on Jesse Eisenberg playing Tom and Imogen Poots playing Gemma in Vivarium? Did you meet them on set?
I have met both actors a handful of times on set and off. I couldn’t be more pleased with the performances. Jesse brings a lot of warmth and lovability to Tom, allowing the viewer to empathise with Tom even in his more aggressive and impulsive moments. Imogen realised Gemma perfectly and really communicated the horror of the situation. On set, I watched her perform a scene that is particularly harrowing for her character. She was so convincing, I felt we were unfair to put her through it. She’s a professional though and a gifted one. She was grand really; just doing her job, brilliantly. I love the other performances in the film too - Jonathan Aris, Eanna Hardwicke and young Senan Jennings - those fellas brought the funny/scary weirdness of Vivarium to the screen in grand style.
8. Were you ever on set for the making of Vivarium? If so, could you tell me what scene you were present at?
See above, the scene was the one where Gemma asks the child to pretend to be the person he met that day and he does and she freaks out. I didn’t spend much time on set. I just let everyone get on with it. I don’t like to hang around tripping over cables, annoying busy crew members like some bewildered, visiting dignitary.
9. How did you know you wanted to become a screenwriter?
I don’t know how I knew. Maybe I still don’t know if I do. I seem to like telling stories. Maybe it helps me make sense of the world and I find it cathartic. Sometimes I think it’s important to communicate with people through stories and images. Other times it seems silly. It’s a compulsion of some sort. I like playing a part in visual storytelling, although I wouldn’t mind having a crack at writing some kind of strange book before I perish.
10. Could you express your experience working with Mr. Lorcan Finnegan on this film?
Mr. Lorcan Finnegan is a wonderful man. I’ve artistically collaborated with a lot of people and enjoyed working with them all, but Lorcan and Cathal (who I’ve mentioned above) are the two people I’ve worked with most and for the longest time. I think Lorcan and I are on complimentary wavelengths. We enjoy sharing reference materials and that’s often how our stories originate. He’s also not averse to very long meandering conversations about all kinds of shite.
11. What was your very first short film? What were the challenges you face and how did you overcome them?
I wrote and directed a film called ‘The Loser Gene’ when I was a student. My cousin and friends crewed the film and made sure it all got shot. We used 16mm film and lost a can so we were down to a less than 2 for 1 shooting ratio. The others kept this a secret from me, which was a compassionate bit of cunning. It’s dodgy, student filmmaking, but I still like it and liked working with the actors. It’s very dark humour with infuriatingly long takes (on purpose). Consumerism and the suburbs are the ‘monsters’ in it too. I’m a broken record.
12. If a self-published author is seeking a screenwriter, how would one get you to read his or her story to see if it would make a compelling movie?
Look for a kindred spirit with similar preoccupations. Explain your story first and where you’re coming from thematically and your influences. Say why you think it would make a good story visually. Then, see if they’ll read it.
13. If you could write a film-adaptation of any novel/novella/short story, which one would you like to do?
I would love to attempt to adapt the comics of Chris Reynolds. It would be a real challenge, but his art is the closest stuff to dreams I’ve ever encountered. God knows how I’d tie it all together, but I’d like to try. Of course, it would be considered inaccessible art-house madness that no one would help make.
14. What piece of advice do you have for aspiring screenwriter starting out?
Learn the rules and then discard them as required so you don’t end up churning out formulaic stuff like some kind of narratological algorithm. Use tools like story maps and graphs or whatever if you really need them, but don’t get intimidated by them. Learn how to structure your imagination in a way that works for you. Keep writing, even if you suspect the film will never be made – you are always learning. Make sure you feel a genuine compulsion to tell the story you’re telling. Don’t allow yourself get self-conscious for the first draft at least. Let your imagination and instinct lead the way. If things are going well, the story will tell itself as you write it and where it goes might surprise you. You are walking a mental tightrope, but enjoy it and don’t look down. You can clean everything up later, but just get into it at first. Your subconscious mind has more to say than your conscious mind, so allow it. When you tidy things up later, make sure to protect the integrity of your story – but do tidy up. Make sure to listen to others, but you don’t have to listen to everyone.
Also, like I said above, seek out filmmakers who are kindred spirits with a similar or complimentary vision. I always compare it to forming a band - make sure everyone likes the same music and let everyone contribute to the music. It’s a collaboration.
15. Last question, if your life was a title song what would it be?
If you mean the title of a song, it would be ‘I Think of Demons’ by Roky Erickson. If you mean a song that’s used on the titles of a film, I don’t know. The closest thing I can think of that fits the bill would be the theme music to the sitcom Steptoe and Son.
I just want to express my gratitude toward Garret Shanley for answering those questions. You all should definitely check out Vivarium when it comes out on Friday, March 27th on VOD (video on demand). It is a perfect thriller to watch with your family and/or friends. It's definitely a viewing party movie that will have everyone thrilled with suspense. Again, stay safe and healthy everyone. I hope everyone comes out of this coronavirus pandemic all right and well. Until next time.