A bright new talent has been marked out in Northern-Irish filmmaker Stephen Fingleton, who has taken home awards for his exquisitely crafted post-apocalyptic first feature, The Survivalist, at BIFA and film festivals such as Stiges and Tribeca.
Fingleton wrote the screenplay (which was added to the Hollywood ‘Black List’) after watching the documentary Collapse, which inspired him to take a realist approach to the end of days. In The Survivalist, the nameless protagonist (Martin McCann) is forced to eke out an existence off the grid in a world where hunger is widespread – but can he keep his humanity in a time where it has been all but abandoned?
“Most films about the apocalypse are kind of implausible. My entire thinking about the film came about from the plausibility of Peak Oil theory. I’m very interested in the idea that humanity is not the end product of nature but a by-product of nature and that nature will outlive humanity.”
Fingleton also looked at dramatisations about the end of civilisation, such as 1980s TV series, Edge Of Darkness, and the bleakest film ever made about the aftermath of nuclear attack, Threads, which he asked some of his actors to watch in preparation.
“The last ten minutes of Threads were something I got [The Survivalist‘s lead actress] Mia [Goth] to watch, particularly, because the journey her character is going through at that point in the story. I think Threads has a much bleaker ending than The Survivalist. My film presents a world in which people have made very difficult choices and who make terrible choices during the film out of necessity, but I am fundamentally an optimistic person.”
The main cast is made up of Mia Goth, Martin McCann and Olwen Fouere who all lost weight for their roles, but unlike Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, as Fingleton compares, they weren’t made to suffer as much.
“We didn’t spend a lot of time travelling to a location out in the middle of nowhere. We had a cabin that was very accessible for us. I would spend lots of time rehearsing with them. It was an intense shoot because there were 6 day weeks with night shoots and we were exposed to the elements. They were experiencing things their characters would feel and that’s reflected on screen.”