An interview with :

Dominic Brunt

Speaking to Dominic Brunt recently, I managed to quiz him on all things welding to Emmerdale and on to writing and directing.

DGE: If I've done my research correctly, I believe you once went to Accrington and Rossendale College, the same college as I studied in? Is this where you studied welding by any chance? I read that you used to spend your younger days as a welder?

Dominic: I was a welder and sheet metal worker in Great Harwood and trained in Blackburn for four years then worked all over the country.

I'd carry on welding at the weekends and holidays to pay my way through further education in order to become a professional actor.

I went to Accrington and Rossendale College for two years as part of a BTec performing arts course before winning a place at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

DGE: So, from college to welding and onto acting. Whilst Emmerdale may appear to be your first real break at acting, you also starred in The Bill and Soldier Soldier. But have you appeared on TV before the Bill in 1995? Perhaps there is some video footage starring a young Dominic Brunt hidden away that no-one yet knows about :-)

Dominic: My first job on screen was Crime Watch File. They did a small run of one-off dramas built around solved cases which had featured on the program. I really enjoyed doing it. I didn't really care what I did as long as I was working in TV.

DGE: I know this has been asked many times before but you are good friends with Mark Charnock (Marlon in Emmerdale for those that dont know). Together you both organise a horror movie festival in Leeds every year. (Formally a zombie festival). Is it too early to say if 2016 will see another festival?

Dominic: As long as people turn up then we'll keep doing them. It's a great way for us to watch our favourite films on the big screen and raise money for WAP animal welfare charity.

We are now known as The Leeds Horror Film Festival. Every April we show 6 films on a Sunday at The Cottage Road Cinema in Leeds. Come along!

DGE: Before Dawn is billed as a zombie movie by all intents and purposes but I've had endless discussions with my wife over this movie in that its a drama about a couple trying to save their marriage rather than it being just another zombie movie. Where do you sit with this? Drama movie first, Zombie movie second or the other way around?

Dominic: It's absolutely a drama first. The zombies are neither here nor there. They could be werewolves or vampires or aliens. It's about the breakdown of a relationship and themes of redemption. The zombies are purely allegorical. The fact that it gets really gory and violent is because I'm a massive horror fan and wanted to serve that side of things correctly. You just can't have zombies and no blood. We had LOADS.

DGE: Before Dawn also stars your wife, Joanne Mitchell and she also helped with the writing of the movie. It must be fantastic working with your wife on all aspects of making a movie and to finally see it on the big screen.

Dominic: It was a time at Emmerdale which was really busy. I was involved in a huge storyline which spanned about eighteen months and I wasn't seeing Jo very much. I do love being busy and it's food for an actor to be given stories you can get your teeth into but we wanted to balance that by doing something together.

We'd make an effort to sit and make up this story which reflected our own differences and personal dramas as a couple. We're very different people and opposites in so many ways. We wanted a european film style to the story with two halves, the first being a domestic drama and the final being a horror.
We passed the story and structure to Mark Illis who wrote the screenplay.

DGE: Now you have another movie soon to be released, BAIT is about to hit our screens. Can you give our readers an idea as to what its about and what can they expect from the movie?

Dominic: It's a much bigger budget and much better quality. The script was done by Paul Roundell and the dialogue just flew off the page. The film was backed by Metrodome International on seeing the script in Cannes.

"Bait" is a violent female revenge thriller. Geoff Boyle was Cinematographer with a cast featuring Victoria Smurfit, Jonathan Slinger, Joanne Mitchell, Adam Fogety and Rula Lenska.

We're incredibly proud. It has similarities with Before Dawn as it's allegorical again. It explores the unfairness and injustices of the economic system. We look at what we mean by "EVIL" and we also have themes around the exploitation of ambition. It's full on and never takes a breath. There's plenty there for the horror crowd but as a thriller it's as tense as you can get.

DGE: Now I haven't yet seen Bait myself just yet, but are any of the crew members who helped out on Before Dawn involved with it? Before Dawn was perfectly filmed in idyllic surroundings (im biased as I live close to where Before Dawn was filmed) and it just seems to come across on screen what a talented team you must have had during filming.

Dominic: I'd say most people that worked on Before Dawn were in some way included in making Bait. Dave Nolan is just a great person to have around and is skilled at almost anything he does, as well as being brilliant at managing people. Thomas Ragsdale (who is a genius) did all the score again but Dave Mercer was editor this time as I didn't trust myself at this level, and I was right as he did a brilliant job.

It may have been directed by me but it was made by 73 others. Before Dawn was 10 of us locked in a house and filming until we dropped.

Bait was 70 odd people, on multiple locations around the Yorkshire/Lancashire border. We had longer to finish it but logistically we were a traveling circus of big lorries and tons of crew and equipment.

DGE: From the trailer, Bait looks to have been filmed locally (Lancashire towns/villages) but can you be more specific?

Dominic: Mostly Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Elland, Halifax, Siddal and Prime Studio's in Leeds.

DGE: If you have to sum up Bait in one sentence, what would it be?

Dominic: Bait is a violent female revenge thriller.

DGE: You seem to like horror movies or dark, possibly disturbing, genres (Inbred was particularly disturbing at times). Would you say horror is your favourite genre?

Dominic: I would say it was my favourite. It constantly evolves and changes. It's been my default genre since I was about 13. The usual story of the video shops in the eighties. We had an amazing one which my mates dad owned, Accrington Video run by Brian Whittaker. A haven and an education in film. Any film, and it made me want to be an actor. I'm not into really disturbing films at all. I don't like a lot of horror films and some are purely spiteful and some are made by really stupid people with no intelligence at all, just a will to shock and it doesn't seem enough for me. I don't mind homage or slapstick but an indulgence in portraying torture for entertainment is just lazy and I just don't want to watch it. Just me?

DGE: Are there any movies in particular that truly disturbed you as a viewer? I have to say I find movies such as Eden Lake and Cherry Tree Lane disturbing because I can actually picture kids of today doing just what is shown in those two movies!

Dominic: Martyrs because I wanted to turn it off but had to see it to the end. Such an amazing finale but incredibly brutal.

DGE: For someone reading this who doesn't really understand what the attraction of a horror movie is and who is perhaps looking for a change, what movies would you suggest in the hope of converting them?

Dominic: For me, I like jumpy movies, I like being scared by a story and I like special effects. A worse case scenario taken to it's limits on film is a joy to watch from the safety of the sofa.

DGE: Before we finish, can I ask if you have any other projects in the pipeline (other than Emmerdale) that you could mention that aren't a secret :-)

Dominic: We have two features in pre-production. Attack of the Adult Babies which is a satirical slapstick horror and another which I can't mention until all the paperwork is finalised.

DGE: Finally, I'm asking everyone who I interview this next question: With remakes/reboots seemingly popular at the moment, if you had the chance and was asked to remake a movie, which would it be and why?

Dominic: Motel Hell! It couldn't be more silly but it could be gorier!


Bait (2014)

Synopsis (IMDB) : Bex and Dawn are trapped. They dream of taking control of their lives and owning their own upmarket cafe, but no one will give people them the opportunity.

Directed by : Dominic Brunt

Written by : Paul Roundell, Dominic Brunt

Cast :  Victoria Smurfit, Adam Fogerty, Rula Lenska, Joanne Mitchell, Jonathan Slinger, Kerry Bennett, Andrew Dunn, Geoffrey Newland, Anthony Mark Streeter

My Rating :

A review with spoilers

One dodgy loan, a ruthless loan shark, two friends hoping to build up their business and when all of this is put into the mix, well, its pretty easy to realise that things are never going to go well.

Director Dominic Brunt`s follow-up movie to the hit `Before Dawn` (2013)  takes us on a dark journey through the cesspit of debt and the troubles that can and do occur to people struggling with day-to-day living standards.

In this case we have Bex (Victoria Smurfit) and Dawn (Joanne Mitchell), two best friends who run a small business on a northern town market but who harbour hopes of one day moving into much better and bigger premises.

Unfortunately they are constantly knocked back by banks when applying for loans.

Unluckily for them, they befriend a stranger called Jeremy (Jonathan Slinger) who at first seems friendly and charming.

After meeting Jeremy for a night-out, Dawn mentions to Jeremy the struggles she is having trying to raise finance for hers and Bex business so when Jeremy offers to help by loaning the girls £10,000, Dawn apparently `accepts` the kind gesture.

However, when Jeremy starts to dictate the terms of the loan, wanting £40,000 back in payments, Bex and Dawn `pull out` of the deal.

Jeremy shows his true colours by becoming more and more intimidating and it doesnt take long before his intimidation turns to violence.

Bait is a terrific movie that keeps you watching from the first minute to the last.

The performances by our three `main` actors are terrific.

Jonathan Slinger puts in a truly brilliant performance as the psychotic loan shark who puts on a Jekyll and Hyde persona at will.  From being polite and charming one minute to psychotic, violent and truly disturbing the next.

Joanne Mitchell and Victoria Smurfit both play their roles of Dawn and Bex well enough to make the whole movie believable in terms of what really does go on in the murky world of loan sharks.

As for the violence in this movie, most scenes are well thought out and whereas many movies of this genre can go over-the-top, Bait seems to show the violence in small sections that do just enough to make you feel uncomfortable and perhaps vulnerable at times.

Some reviewers have said that the finale to Bait can seem a little excessive but having been witness to the torment that Bex and Dawn have been put through and seeing no-way out of their predicament, I guess it was inevitable that they would snap at some point.

So OK, perhaps Bait is not a `thinking mans` kind of movie.  Its straight to the point with a relatively simple storyline which some viewers may be put off by. 

Bait is dark, gritty and has a real sense of vulnerability about it.  It takes on subject matter usually only reserved for news channels and takes you to places you do not want to go.

With the fear of debt surrounding many of us and with banks seemingly turning their backs on people, Bait takes its subject matter and turns it into a truly scary (and believable) monster.

Violence, gore, beatings, intimidation and lots more to be had.

Bait is available now on VOD as well as in your local stores.

By purchasing the DVD you will also find a plethory of information thanks to the `making of..` section.  Interviews with all the cast members as well as director Dominic Brunt give insights as to how the movie was made, how the actors got into the mindsets of debtors (and loan sharks) and also a fantastic interview with Thomas Ragsdale, music composer for the movie.