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Interview – Ian Hunt Duffy – ‘Gridlock’ – A Short Film


Posted June 25, 2017 by

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Interview – Ian Hunt Duffy

Director Ian Hunt Duffy and producer Simon Doyle’s unnerving thriller ‘Gridlock’ has been selected to screen at the prestigious Short Shorts Film Festival in Japan on the 7th of June.

‘Gridlock’ is an Irish spin on an American style thriller, set during a traffic jam on a narrow country road. When Eoin’s young daughter Emma goes missing from their car, he forms a desperate search party to find her. But as panic takes hold among the other drivers, the search for a missing girl quickly descends into a frenzied witch-hunt, where no one is above suspicion.

Director Ian Hunt Duffy graduated from the National Film School in Ireland with a BA in Film and Television Production and upong graduating set up his own production company in Dublin called Fail Safe Films, alongside Simon Doyle. Ian has produced and directed numerous award-winning short films, including the IFTA Nominated and Academy Award long listed ‘Love is a Sting’ and the Filmbase/RTÉ time-travel comedy ‘Small Time’.

‘Gridlock’ has already won a number of high profile awards, including Academy Qualifying Awards Best Irish Short at the Foyle Film Festival and the Grand Prix Irish Short at Cork Film Festival. This exciting film has also won five more prestigious awards and has been selected for almost 20 film festivals.



To begin with, let’s talk about your latest short film ‘Gridlock’, what is it about?

‘Gridlock ’is a ‘whodunnit’ style thriller that set’s during a traffic jam on a country road. When a little girl goes missing from one of the cars, her father forms a desperate search party to find her.  But as panic takes hold among the other drivers, the search for a missing girl quickly descends into a frenzied witch-hunt, and soon everyone is a suspect.

How did you get involved with the film? Where did the idea come from?

I’ve always loved high-concept thrillers that are set in a single location and so I wanted to do my own version of that genre. I was stuck in traffic one day and I thought it would be interesting to set a thriller entirely during a traffic jam, and see what kind of suspense you could create in that restricted environment. From there I had the idea of a father whose daughter goes missing from their car, and that was the jumping off point for ‘Gridlock’. I pitched the concept to writer Darach McGarrigle and he liked how it touched on some very primal fears, like losing a child, paranoia, and not being able to trust the people around you.  We’re both fans of old television shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’ or ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, shows that managed to fit a huge amount of tension and suspense into a 20-minute episode, so we wanted to see if we could achieve that with a short film and create an exciting mystery for an audience to solve.

Lets talk about the cast, who are the stars of ‘Gridlock’?

Gridlock’ is an ensemble piece with a group of characters, so I really tried to get the best cast possible and find actors who were not only excited by the material, but who could work well together as a team. I was extremely fortunate to cast some of Ireland’s most talented actors, including Moe Dunford (‘Vikings’/’Patrick’s Day’), Peter Coonan (‘Love/Hate’), Steve Wall (‘Moone Boy/Vikings’) Amy De Bhrún (‘Jason Bourne’) and Ronan Leahy (‘The Flag’). Everyone delivered brilliant performances, and really elevated the script.

‘Gridlock’ has recently been selected for the Oscar qualifying Short Shorts Film Festival, the largest short film festival in Asia, tell us about this, will you be attending? What is it like to receive this acclaim?

Shorts Shorts Film Festival & Asia is world renowned, so I was delighted to be officially selected to screen and compete at such a prestigious festival. Unfortunately I won’t be in Tokyo for the event, but I’m really excited to learn how the film goes down with the audience and if the dark Irish sense of humor will translate. ‘Gridlock’ is actually the only short film from Ireland showing in the International Programme at Short Shorts this year, so it’s a huge honor to be representing Ireland in this way.

What are your influencers as a director?

There are many film directors that would be big influences for me personally. I grew up watching the work of James Cameron and John Carpenter, and I’m a great admirer of directors like David Fincher, Christopher Nolan and Jeremy Saulnier to name but a few, but inspiration comes from all manner of films and directors, not just genre ones. I’m also watching an exorbitant amount of TV dramas lately, shows like ‘The Americans’, ‘The Leftovers’, ‘Fargo’, ‘Better Call Saul’, ‘Quarry’, ‘Mr. Robot’…the list goes on! Each show has such a distinctive style, its own unique aesthetic, and that’s something that really influences me as a director.

As a director, do you have any advice for any up-and-coming filmmakers trying to crack the industry?

With cameras getting better and cheaper all the time, it’s easier than ever before to go out and make a film. But with that comes a lot of competition, so you really need to have a good story or premise to stand out from the crowd. So my advice is simply to work on your script as much as possible before going into production. Really put the time into developing the story and rewrite and tighten the material as much as necessary to get your script in the best shape possible. If you’re not a writer yourself, then try and meet with writers to find scripts, or go to networking events and see if you can collaborate with others. Find people with similar tastes or interests and make work that excites you, that you’re truly passionate about. I’ve found that you will often be defined by the style and genre of your last film, so be true to yourself and make films that are representative of the ones you want to make in the future.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I’m currently developing my first feature film, and I’m working again with writer Darach McGarrigle. We’re big fans of ‘siege’ style movies, where a group of people are trapped in a single location and must fight to survive. Movies like ‘Assault on Precinct 13‘, ‘The Thing‘, and more recently ‘Green Room‘ are all brilliant examples of taut and efficient thrillers set in one location, and Darach came up with a great idea for how to do our own spin on it. It will also be another opportunity for me as a director to work with an ensemble cast, so I’m really excited about it. I’m also working again with Vincent Gallagher and Ben Cleary on a feature length adaption of our award winning short ‘Love is a Sting’.


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Adam Snowden
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