The Pact: Nicholas McCarthy Interview

Supernatural-chiller The Pact will be with us soon. Director Nicholas McCarthy took time to field a few questions from Filmwerk regarding his new film.

So, how did you get your start in film making?

Ever since I was a kid I’ve made short films, one after the other, without any idea how I could get the opportunity to make a feature.  And when I wasn’t making films, I was watching them, in theatres or at home.

As an adult, I began writing screenplays.  Just like the short films, no one was paying me to do this I just realised at some point that if this seriously was my dream, to be a writer/director, than I had to do both of those things constantly, regardless of success.  After a while my work caught the attention of some film festivals and I even got paid to write.  Not much, but enough to rationalise continuing to do it.  It was all of this experience that led to writing and directing The Pact.

Tell us how the project came about for you?

The Pact began as a short film which I shot in late 2010.  I didn’t make the film as a trailer for a feature, I just made it because I thought it would be an interesting story and I wanted to try my hand at directing something with the atmosphere of a horror movie, since I’ve always been obsessed with the genre.  The short was accepted to Sundance and screened there in January 2011.  Three days after the festival I had a meeting with Content Media, who proposed financing a feature version.  Less than a year later the movie was done.  I can hardly believe it.

How did you come to cast your leading lady?

Caity came in to read for the part and I immediately knew she was the one.  Sometimes casting actors is like falling in love – you know immediately this is the person you want to marry.  Caity has this toughness which you can’t fake, a natural confidence that the character needed.  We looked at a lot of people for the role, but no one touched what she had.

It’s also great to see Casper Van Dein, how did he get involved?

Casper was actually cast while we were shooting and I wasn’t at the audition.  One of the producers came to our set and told me Casper had come in to read because his manager had heard about the part and told him to go and do it.  I was shocked – “the Casper Van Dien??”  When I met him I realised what an incredible guy he was.  We really tried to make him look tired and kind of aged for the part, but it proved impossible he’s just way too good looking, every time we’d try to mess him up he’s just have those movie star looks shining through, it was frustrating!

How long was the shoot?

18 days.  Which is insane for what we were trying to pull off.

There is an early stunt in the film which involved a character being lifted and pulled through the air, was this wire work?  It looked quite impressive.

It’s funny, technically it is wire work and we had a couple of great stunt guys helping Caity do that, but really at the end of the day it was us wrapping ropes around her and throwing her to the floor.  Caity has a background in parkour and martial arts, so she kicked ass all through it, but it was brutal on her.  I still have one of the ropes as a souvenir.

Any spooky on set occurrences you want to scare us with?

When we made the short film, we actually were shooting in the house of a woman who had recently died. All the set dressing was made up of her things.

There was a particular shot we were filming involving a light flickering, an effect indicating a ghostly spirit was around and screwing with the electricity.  We set up the shot and the actress, Jewel Staite, was poised to begin her work.  A moment before I called “action,” another light in the shot – one that we didn’t control – began to flicker on its own.

Months later, after the film was done, I showed the movie to the son of the woman who died in the house.  He pointed out that the very shot where the flickering light had occurred was compositionally a match for a photograph he had taken of his late mother, in that very spot, shortly before she passed away.

When we did the feature, me and my production designer Walter Barnett wanted to pay tribute to this ghost.  So Walter’s crew got permission to borrow a bunch of key things from the late woman’s house and we carefully placed them in many of the shots in our movie.

The film comes out in June, right when the summer season is really getting going here. Are you worried at all that your film will suffer with all the big Hollywood blockbusters hogging screens and attention?

I think eOne are being really smart about it.  The Pact is an audience picture that I think people will have a good time in, they should be screaming.  That’s something they won’t be doing in the big movie opening against us that same weekend, Red Tails.

I was just sent the summer release schedule for the UK and I thought it was wild that Prometheus opens a week before, we’re opposite George Lucas’ Red Tails and soon after that you guys are getting a re-release of Jaws.  It’s like my entire generation’s childhood of Jaws/Star Wars/Alien is circling around my tiny movie!

Can you tell us what you are or hope to work on next?

My next movie is going to be another horror film and the script that I just finished is the most frightening thing I’ve ever written.  I really enjoyed hearing audiences scream when I’ve watched The Pact and I want to go for that one more time…

The Pact is out on 8th June.

Steven Hurst

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