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Director Rob Grant On Nautical Nightmare ‘Harpoon’

Harpoon stole our heart when we caught it at Fantasia Film Festival earlier this year. The film tells the rather unfortunate story of three friends, Jonah (Munro Chambers), Sasha (Emily Tyra) and Richard (Christopher Gray), as they find themselves stranded together on Richard’s boat. Cabin fever soon sets in and the trio, whom were once good friends, find themselves at odds with one another. As tensions rise and their situation worsens, they each find themselves fighting those close to them, for their lives.

Though is might sound like a rather sombre affair, Harpoon is actually a lot of fun to watch. Writer and director Rob Grant doesn’t take the character’s situation too seriously and adds an unexpected air of humour to proceedings, the result has seen festival crowd after festival crowd bowled over by the independent movie.

From 18th October the film will premiere exclusively on Arrow Video’s Cult Film video-on-demand service the Arrow Video Channel, with a physical media release pencilled in for 2020. The Arrow Video Channel is now available to UK customers of Apple TV channels in the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and selected Samsung smart TVs, in addition to Amazon Prime Video subscribers.

Ahead of the digital release we caught-up with Rob Grant to find out a little more about the movie:

Did you have much experience with boats before filming?

Yeah, I had grown up in Vancouver so in the Summer, in the two nice months that we get in the Summer, people try to get out on the Ocean as best they can. I had a friend who has got a boat in our area. As I was writing I was always thought if no one gives us money, I can still shoot this for cheap on his boat. That was the original plan.

There are lots of random boat facts and superstitions in the film, were they fun to research, and was there anything even crazier that didn’t make the film?

I think we included everything. It was all through stuff I already knew, but I had to do a ton of research to basically find every crazy superstition and the reasoning behind them if I could. The part of the movie that says ‘we don’t know the reason behind the redhead superstition,’ that is because we couldn’t find a logical explanation behind it. I think it has something to do with that people think that mermaids and sirens of the sea had red hair. It’s funny because when you’re out on a boat, once you’re out there, you actually feel like you cautiously want to make sure that you don’t upset any of the bad luck.

Would you say that you yourself are a superstitious person?

I just don’t want to tempt fate is a good way to put it. If I can improve my odds of not sinking in the middle of the ocean (because that terrifies me from watching Jaws at too young an age), then I’d rather not mess with those things, just in case that stuff does exist.

You guys did film out on the water, what was that experience like?

Going out in the middle of the Ocean in Belize was pretty crazy. We had a skeleton crew. I had to bring in my own drone operator for all the shots because we couldn’t afford to bring a drone operator with us. It felt very much like going back to the days of film school and shooting with your buddies. Except we got to do it in this really nice tropical location. I now know why Adam Sandler shoots all his movies in tropical locations.

You managed to do something that independent films don’t often get the chance to, and that’s rehearse. How did that help?

It’s such a rare experience on an indie, just being able to run it through for three days, just me and the cast. It really solidified their characters and relationships with one another, which was super important. It also allowed us… by the time we got on set there wasn’t really any guessing. There wasn’t any after the first take ‘that didn’t feel right’, we knew what we were doing right away. We managed to get a day ahead of schedule, which on an indie is unheard of. That was all Mike Peterson, he said, ‘I think you’re going to need rehearsals with this one so I’m building days into the schedule’. Thank God he did, I don’t know if we would have gotten what we needed to get done in the amount of time that we had if we didn’t have that.

The other thing about those rehearsals too is you actually get to refine the words. Every night I’d write down notes from what we’d worked on, and adjust the script. People’s reactions have been, ‘I see you used a lot of improv’. We didn’t, I just wrote down all the stuff that we were noodling with on the day.

A lot of independent films seem to gravitate toward the single location story, which can be a bit of a double edged sword. What do you think the pros and cons are? 

The pros are, it can be cheap and economical. The cons are that you have no where to hide if it’s not working. If your script isn’t what it needs to be, or the performances aren’t what they need to be, or even the location. It really forces you to be aware of what you’re telling. If that’s not your priority, if you’re not aware of that, it can lead to a really bad boring movie. I think for me what helped was it made me realise I had no where left to hide. I can’t just keep people entertained by camera tricks and stuff like that. It’s got to be these three characters and hope that I’m not pushing my audience away. It makes you very vulnerable and exposed.

The film is being released in the UK by Arrow Video, how does that feel?

I’ve always said they’re like the Criterion Collection of Europe. To be considered to be in one of their catalogues is a wicked honour. I love how they package and curate the movies too. They’ve been awesome so I’m excited to see what they do with it [the DVD] because they really like special features. That’s where I learned how to do a lot of stuff, not in film school, but finding the DVD’s and feature commentaries, and behind the scenes videos. That’s the kind of stuff I’m excited about. I did some cool stuff for their release that I’m really excited for people to check out.

Before the physical release next year, the film is released digitally just in time for Halloween. Are you excited that people will be settling down to watch Harpoon for their Halloween watch?

I hope people sit down and watch it. The problem is, especially around these times, I have to bury my head in the sand a little bit. No matter what, you don’t want to hear that’s it’s not going well. I’m excited it’s coming out and I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that people will tell each other to watch it, and it’s not just going to be my family sitting down to watch it.

Harpoon is now available on the ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL (and also Amazon Prime and Apple TV) from 18thOctober.

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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