From the minds of director Jon Wright and writer Kevin Lehane comes ‘Grabbers,’ a high energy and side-splittingly funny film which is sure to become a cult classic! The story focuses around the people of Erin Island, an idyllic fishing village off the coast of Ireland. Charming but somewhat work-shy Ciaran O’Shea, is tasked with greeting Lisa Nolan, a straight-laced young officer who has arrived from the mainland. Not that there is much for them to do, aside from dealing with the occasional drunk, and that’s usually O’Shea himself. But strange doings are afoot: the crew of a fishing boat disappears, whales start appearing dead on the shore, a local lobsterman catches a strange tentacled creature in his trap. Soon it becomes clear to O’Shea and Nolan that there’s something big out there, and that it’s hungry. It’s time to rally the villagers, arm the troops…and head to the pub. A terrifically entertaining time, ‘Grabbers’ opens in select theaters and will be available on cable VOD and digital outlets starting July 19th. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with writer Kevin Lehane to discuss his journey in the entertainment industry, the process of bringing the film from script to screen and the challenges they overcame along the way!
Tackling a career in the entertainment is often not for the faint of heart. How did you originally get started?
I had always wanted to make films but I didn’t come from the right background to make that happen, so I wrote scripts. I went to college and studied film theory and thought myself from reading as many scripts as I could get my hands on online and wrote what I thought I’d enjoy if it were on at the cinema. In terms of breaking in I was an intern in LA and made student films and worked as a production runner and anything that could give me access to the industry. It’s a very hard world to break into and it took several years but it all came down to Grabbers as a script being the turning point.
Who would you cite as your biggest influences both as a fan of film or even someone who served as a personal mentor?
That’s a hard question. My tastes are always changing as are my influences but I guess my first loves were the most influential. Almost everything Richard Donner, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and James Cameron made left huge marks on me as a kid. In terms of writers I loved Preston Sturgess, John Hughes, Joss Whedon, folks that told stories from the heart. I guess those influences would be the most evident in Grabbers.
How did the idea for ‘Grabbers’ come about initially?
I was sitting on a veranda in the Cook Islands and having a few beers and a mosquito bit me. I wondered whether it would get alcohol poisoning off my blood and that was it. I was surprised that there hadn’t been a vampire movie that had messed around with a similar conceit and from there it all sort of snowballed into the ambition I had of writing the kind of Irish movie I’d love to see on a Friday night.
You hit the ball out of the park when it comes to casting. Can you tell us a little about that process and what you feel the actors involved brought to the table?
The first person to be cast was Lalor Roddy who plays Paddy and we cast him within about 30 seconds of viewing his tape. He actually put himself on tape and chased the role and it we cast him almost immediately. His casting not only influenced the rest of the picks but sort of informed the idea of going for interesting faces. We wanted everyone to feel of a world and for folks to have their favourites. They all sort of took what was on the page and ran with it bringing a lot of warmth to each role. I don’t think we could’ve gotten a better ensemble. Folks may not recognize all the names but they’re never forget their faces and I’m incredibly proud of every single performance in the film.
The design of the Grabbers themselves is very cool. Can you tell us a little about bringing these creatures from a vision in your mind to what we see onscreen?
I described them in the script as a cross between an eel and a spider with a tongue that shot out like a bullwhip. Medusa on a bad hair day. It was up to Paddy Eason and all the folks at Nvizible to turn those words into the weird, mess of tentacles you seen on screen. They really invented the look of the Grabblings too. They were originally called Jumpers in the script and had a pair of vestigial legs that allowed them to hop. Their design evolved into the more Jack-in-the-box creatures you now see on screen.
The film was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and has toured many festivals. What were the highlights of those experiences?
Sundance was fantastic and hard to top but screening the film at Edinburgh was an absolute highlight. The film really resonated with that audience and it was the most joyous experience. Aside from the Irish, the Scots really got all the little inside jokes and had a ball with it and really welcomed us. Also screening the film at the Galway Film Fleadh as the opening film was a wonderful experience especially as all my family were there to see it for the first time. And Norway! Going to Ramiskrik to screen it was unforgettable. Jeez, there have been too many great experiences.
What was the biggest challenge of bringing the film from script to screen?
The boring answer is we didn’t have enough time or money. We made do however with a lot of guts and passion. We shot the film during an incredibly harsh winter in Northern Ireland we lost days due to blizzards. I think for the actors having to be outside at night under rain machines in sub zero temperature was particularly difficult. Yet despite how difficult it was we genuinely had an absolute blast making the film and loved every second. I watch the film and I can see the twinkle in the casts’ eyes as they play off each other and it was like that from day one right to the end. A really lovely bunch of people.
Has any thought been given to plans for a potential sequel?
If we ever did do a sequel my idea for it begins with the very same meteor crashing into the sea and from the opening onwards the story would follow the events of the coast guard. Taking the story off the island and out into the waters. Into the domain of the ‘Grabbers.’ I guess it would be more of a parallequel than a sequel.
Looking back on your career so far, how do you think you have evolved in your craft since starting out?
Well, ‘Grabbers’ is my first film. I’ve been writing for a few years but ‘Grabbers’ is the first to make it to screen. I think I’ve been spoiled with the experience I’ve had on it. I learned an awful lot about production during ‘Grabbers’ and I think I’ll carry those practicallessons forward with whatever comes next.
What other projects are on the horizon for you both long and short term?
I’m writing films I’d love to see and I’d love to see them get made. It’s a tough old racket and it requires a lot of writing, more writing, and then some more writing. Everything else is up in the lap of the gods.
What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in entertainment in today’s climate?
Write from the heart and make things. Try and get work within the industry in other capacities than writing and try and make friends with those who may be able to help you out when you have something ready to show. Make shorts with your friends and put them on YouTube and just get into the habit of being creative and productive. Only the most persistent break in and follow your heart, and allow your dreams for your future to evolve with you.