Q&A with Junior Day & Eleanor Dolan, Directors of “The Brass Elephant in the Room”

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Name a horror character you relate to on a spiritual level:

Junior: Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman, as I apsire to have as a good skincare routine, plus I like sex and chainsaws.

Eleanor: Ellen Ripley. She is determined to survive, brave, intelligent, good at thinking on her feet and adapting to a wide range of situations. Ripley breaks gender stereotypes and is a particularly ground-breaking character in the sci-fi horror genre. As an accomplished pilot and military officer she is nobody’s side-kick or girlfriend – She is badass!

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?

Junior: For my final film in college, I filmed myself brushing my nipple with a toothbrush. If I can make that work then I’m sure ‘bad’ ideas are the ones that aren’t as straightforward and require a deeper level of thought and time – but who has time? So we just use the good ones.

Eleanor:  I don’t consider any idea to be a bad idea. I keep notebooks full of fragments, thoughts and imagery which I keep going back to and developing. Some ideas just take longer or merge into others.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?

Eleanor: What do you mean by horror community?

Junior: No, but I’ve always liked working in genre and the fan bases that come along with it.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?   

Eleanor: Firstly, I draw upon my own personal experiences for ideas as well as my dreams (I keep a dream diary) these tend to conjure up fragments of imagery which I will sometimes draw or make mood boards for. I am also constantly inspired by paintings and literature and I like to reference these inspirations within my work. ‘The Brass Elephant in the Room’ is very artistically driven with a huge influence from German Expressionism, 1920’s fashion, Lynch, Magritte etc.

Junior: Paintings. The surrealist movement from France in the 1920s especially. And also history – especially when researching into time periods where people had different beliefs and schools of thought – which has inspired a folklore vampire feature film I’m currently developing. 

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?

Junior: I’d probably drink tea and not worry about taxes.

Eleanor: I would probably do the same as Junior and not have to worry about the current pandemic whilst drinking tea! I have surreal nightmarish dreams and have always wanted to live inside a fantasy. I would explore the void and its limits to see what objects/experiences it presented me with.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?

Junior: Werner Herzog and the clown from ‘IT’ so I could have a nice yellow raincoat.

Eleanor: Hannibal Lector, Jack from the Shining and Alien from ‘Alien’.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?

Junior: So unsure apart from practical or CGI. Always practical.

Eleanor: Yes, definitely practical. Everytime.

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?

Eleanor: I created loads of mood boards and colour schemes from the start – deciding on the 1920’s aesthetic. I then went out and sourced, hired and created props/set dressing – this was mainly from dumps, vintage charity shops and Superhire/Trading Post. When the props and set dressing were all put together to make the 360-degree set where objects behave almost like characters within the voids internal logic – it created a surreal world of a forgotten time. We hid references to Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Magritte and Un Chien Andalou to name a few within the design. Moreover, we had the characters costumes bespoke designed and made to further create that element of fantasy.

Junior: Brass Elephant was initially a writing exercise for me to try out my new conceptual screenplay theory – I started to isolate objects around me and mix them into my surrealist platter and it conjured abstract, uncanny stylised items. We had a very talented art department who were able to constantly reflect the styling of the film into the props they made and bought. (P.S – take a closer look at the key and the doorknob) 

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?  

Junior: Yes, the majority of people scare me as I tend to stay inside too much. But they inspire everything I write because they are capable of anything.

Eleanor: I am scared of the unknown which extends to multiple fears such as trypophobia (fear of holes), nyctophobia (fear of the dark), thanatophobia (fear of death). I am scared but oddly fascinated by my phobias and they definitely inspire my storytelling. I have concepts for a cosmic horror in writing development at the moment.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’

Junior: Eraserhead. Or Mamma Mia. Both those films make my skin crawl.

Eleanor: I can’t choose just one! Some of my favourites that have a huge impact on me are: ‘Alien’, ‘The Shining’. ‘Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Jaws’, ‘The Blair Witch Project’, ‘The VVitch’, &  ‘It Follows’.