Ahead of the release of his latest film, Liselotte Vanophem sat down with Lorcan Finnegan to talk about Vivarium, filming techniques and the future.
Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Lorcan, how are you?
Lorcan Finnegan: Yeah, I’m fine. Busy with the interviews.
LV: Congratulations on the film. How did you come up with the story for this film?
LF: Well, in 2011 we made a short film called Foxes and it was a supernatural story about a young couple who were trapped in this ghost estate in Ireland that was left abandoned. Apart from them, there was nobody else there. That was more of a supernatural story but the stories and ideas of that film were something that we wanted to expand upon more metaphorically in a sci-fi, ‘twilight zone’ type of film. That’s what we develop into a long feature film. Vivarium is different from Foxes but it has some similar ideas.
LV: The cast consists of big names such as Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots but the actor who’s the most amazing one in this film is without a doubt Senan Jennings who plays the boy. How did you come across him?
LF: Getting the right actor for that part was always going to be challenging. We thought we were never going to find a little child who could do all of the things that we wrote about in the script. We got a bunch of self-tapes coming in and then I saw a lot of the actors as well. We were very lucky that we got Senan cause when he sent in his tape, it was so good. I asked him to do some other parts of the film and then he sent in another tape and again it was brilliant. We were like ‘ok, he got the part’.
He was great to work with. He was seven but when he read the script, he completely understood it. After we told him that he got the part, his mom said that they were going to supermarkets to watch people and copy them. He just loved it.
LV: In this movie, Senan’s character shouts and screams a lot. How was it to make him do that on cue?
LF: Well, he just loved it. At some points, we were just trying to make him stop. I was worried about his throat and that he would lose his voice. He had no problem with it at all and he just went for it. That was another thing that he showed us during his auditioning tape.
LV: During this film, Imogen’s character needs to choose whether to let the boy live or die? What would you have done in that situation?
LF: I would save him as he’s still a living creature after all but it rationally also makes sense to not save him.
LV: How much input did the actors have regarding the lines and the script?
LF: Well, we talked a lot bout the script before shooting and made some changes to dialogue and we also cut some dialogue and scenes. We also wrote a few new scenes. When you’re developing a script, other people are involved and everyone has a few notes here and there and some input. Once we came to shoot it, we all kind of trusted each other and if the scene didn’t feel right then we would just change it and try something different.
LV: What was the first scene that you shot between the couple and the child because that probably must have been a very crucial one?
LF: It would probably have been the bedroom scenes during which the audience sees the boy for this first time. I remember Jesse saying that Senan was exactly as he imagined from the script but he never thought that we could find a kid who could do it.
LV: The houses in Yonder are the same. Green, neat and almost to perfect. How did you film them? Was it a green screen or on-location?
LF: Well, it’s a mixture of things. We’ve build sets with the facades of threes, houses, footpaths, gardens, and roads. Then we shot sets of that same thing to expand it to the back and then the set was scanned and made into 3D. A lot of it was 2D map paintings, sometimes it’s CGI and sometimes it’s 2D plates that are being composed together. It was a lot of different techniques that came together.
LV: What was the hardest part for you to film for this movie cause it’s a very complex movie technical wise it seems?
LF: Yes, it was indeed a very technical film to make and a bit tricky as well. The trickiest scene was probably the one in which they’re trying to drive out of the place. We only had a certain amount of sets and then we had to switch to location as well. Trying to make the lighting the same. The aerial shots were also shot in a different location again. Then we combined all of that to make it feel like one sequence. That was something that we have been working on for a long time.
LV: If you look back on the film now, what’s the scene that still gets you the most?
LF: I think it would be the last scene between Imogen and the boy. I also like the scene very much during which they’re talking about the clouds. Also, all the scenes with Jonathan Aris were so much fun.
LV: What do you hope that people will take away with them after seeing this film?
LF: Well, I hope that they will think it’s the best film they’ve seen in their lives. In this film, there are a lot of metaphors that are wrapped in a sci-fi story. Some people seem to enjoy it as a pure sci-fi movie and other people see parts of their own lives in it. I enjoy getting to know people their interpretations of the story and how they relate to the story. I just hope people will enjoy it.
LV: One last question: What’s next for you?
LF: I’m working on a film called Nocebo which a supernatural revenge thriller about fashion and the exploitation of the east by the west. I’m also working on another project called Goliath which is a reimagining of the story of David and Goliath and is set in the dystopian near future. It’s about creating monsters, starting wars and stealing resources.