Film Interview – Abner Pastoll (A Good Woman is Hard to Find)

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To celebrate the upcoming release of A Good Woman is Hard to Find, which debuted at this years FrightFest London and has a special screening at Fantasy Filmfest in Germany on September 14th, our writer Scott J. Davis sat down with the film’s director Abner Pastoll to discuss the genesis of the film, casting Sarah Bolger in the lead and his earliest film influences, which began in Hill Valley…

This crowd-pleasing and violent “kitchen-sink” revenge thriller is a dark and daring journey through Northern Ireland’s criminal underbelly. Recently widowed mother of two Sarah (a tour-de-force Sarah Bolger, The Spiderwick Chronicles) is desperate to know who murdered her husband in front of their young son, rendering him mute. Coerced into helping

a low-life drug-dealer, she’s forced to go beyond her humanity to protect her children and learn the truth.

Scott J. Davis: What was your reaction when you found out you were going to be the closing night film of FrightFest this year?

Abner Pastoll: I was a little bit speechless at first, I couldn’t quite believe it. I still don’t believe it! I’m not nervous as the reaction to the movie seems to be pretty positive, we’re just excited to see what the FF audience is like and the reactions.

SJD: What was the genesis of the film, how did you discover it?

AP: It was written by this amazing Irish writer Ronan Blaney one month before the premiere of my last film at FrightFest (Road Games). I was looking for a writer to collaborate with so my producer to an agent she knew and asked if he had any clients who could send some samples and we got sent five scripts and one was this, and it just blew me away. Ronan had only finished the script one week before I got it so I was one of the first people to read it so I jumped at it.

SJD: Was it fully formed when you read it?

AP: I would say that we evolved as we went but it was good enough at that point to move forward to cast the write actor who would then bring their input to it. I did some tweaks to it but it’s essentially the same idea and story.

SJD: One of the striking things about the film is that even though it’s set primarily in one small town, it has a vastness to it. Can you talk to us about how you shot it and how tricky is was to make?

AP: It was actually a co-production with Belgium so we shot half the movie in Belfast and half on a soundstage in Belgium so it was even more complicated than it usually is. The interiors are all on a set and everything else are on real locations but for me it was important to give the film a sense of place and that was the approach to fulfilling the nature of the story and script.

SJD: How important was Sarah (Bolger, the film’s lead) to the film, how did you land on her as she gives an incredible performance.

AP: She is the single most important aspect of the whole film. It could have gone awry if it was somebody with less adventurous. She is so skilled and she was perfect. Casting her I felt my entire job was done – once she was cast, it was her film and I just sat and watched her and she constantly kept surprising me with her choices and ideas – we were on the same wavelength all the way through.

SJD: Not to spoil the film, but you start with a very cryptic opening shot that immediately makes you question the how and why. Was that something you designed on purpose?

AP: No, that wasn’t in the script that was something I changed in the editing room. I felt like it is a really powerful opening, seeing the woman leaning against the wall covered in blood and not knowing what the lead up was. We wanted to stir some thoughts and people will have assumptions about what it means and shows. It’s more powerful, too, because you don’t know where it’s going or where it’s been. It’s set the film up in a really interesting way, you know where it’s going but you don’t know the road ahead.

Related: Arrow Video FrightFest 2019 Day Five – A Good Woman Id Hard To Find Review

AP: There’s a real tragedy behind it, it’s one of the things that drew me to the project. The fact that it was about those family dynamics and one of the most interesting things on the page was less about grief than it ultimately was because of Sarah’s performance, and that was something we added to it, thisfiref and how her family was affected

SJD: With independent films such as this, time and finances are always on your mind. Did you encounter any big issues with the filming of this one?

AP: We originally had twenty days, which I thought would be tight, but then on the Belgium side of shooting was told we had to reduce the schedule a bit because of costs, so as tight as 20 days was we thought we could do it in nineteen but then we had to cut four days so we shot in sixteen days. So many long days! How we did it I don’t know, we just did it. I was either make it or not, and I’m still in awe that we actually have a film given the amount of locations. The fact we achieved what we did is incredible.

SJD: What has inspired you to want to be a director, what films or filmmakers have left their mark on you?

AP: My family used to have a cinema when I was a kid, so I grew up watching so many movies! First film that made me want to make films was Back to the Future. I thought I wanted to be an actor after seeing Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and thinking “I want to be that character”. We always had video cameras around so when I was five or six, so I would film things and quickly realised I wanted to be behind the camera.

SJD: In closing, what do you hope audiences take away from the film?

AP: I just hope they like it and connect with it in someway, if they do then I’ve done my job. Whatever that may be.

A Good Woman is Hard to Find is released in cinemas and on DIgital HD on October 25th. Our thanks to Abnor and Marek Steven at Signature for arranging this interview.