Among the fantastic line-up of the San Diego International Film Festival 2016 was the edgy and atmospheric thriller Red by Branko Tomovic (24, Fury, The Bourne Ultimatum), which also stars Dervla Kirwan (Ondine, Ballykissangel, Doctor Who) and Francesca Fowler (Doctor Who, Rome, Closure) in the role of Mia.
Red tells the story of Niklas, a surgeon who lives a life of solitude and is tormented by self hatred. He performs regular illegal surgeries for the red market and works together with Mia, a young prostitute who lures her clients in and drugs them. Niklas is looking for a way out of this dark world, but owes his life to their violent crime boss Ed, who would rather kill him then let him go.
Red started the festival life only in September, screening at the Tangier International Film Festival, the European Film Award qualifying International Short Film Festival in Drama, and picking up awards and nominations at Kraljevski Filmski Festival, the Maverick Movie Awards and Naperville Independent Film Festival.
We caught up with Francesca Fowler for a chat about Red.
How would you describe your character Mia?
Mia is a complicated woman. In many ways I see her as a child that's had to grow up far too quickly. She's vulnerable but can't afford to show it. She was very fun to play for those reasons.
How did you get involved in this exciting short?
Branko and I go back 8 years. We first met through our agent. Then we did a feature film together and became really good friends. So I heard about it at dinner one night. He asked me if I wanted to play Mia and I said yes f***ing please! I was lucky because I saw it develop from a seed of an idea, into a script, into a film, and I got to be apart of it which was lovely.
How did you prepare for your role?
We talked a lot about Mia, who she was, how she should act. We spoke about her look and I worked back from there. Once we got the costume together, I found I suddenly knew who this girl was, or who she was pretending to be at least. Her character was well developed in the script, so that obviously helped. We also had a lot of chats about what she should do while she was waiting in the operations... I was pretty happy when we decided it would be eating sweets!
How was it working with Branko Tomovic as a director?
Working with Branko is always a pleasure. He is one of my favourite people. Obviously on a tight shoot with Branko directing as well as acting, there's a lot less time to muck about. But it was an absolute joy. He knew exactly what he wanted which always helps. And because we're friends, it was a very relaxed environment. Getting to watch him direct was lovely. He's a natural. I felt very proud of him. Even under a tense schedule, he didn't show any signs of being stressed out.
Any funny stories/anecdotes from set?
Oh gosh, Branko makes me laugh ALL the time. He can just send me a random text and I'll be rolling around laughing. He was really focused on this shoot though, we didn't have a lot of spare time. The story that springs to mind is when Dervla smashed the whiskey glass on Branko's head (as scripted) and I screamed for real. She hit him so hard that it really shocked me. Although it was sugar glass, I could tell it hurt. It thudded so loudly before smashing. My reaction to that was totally real. I can't remember if we used that take in the end but Branko had a big bump on his head after we shot that scene. He didn't complain though, he's badass.
What do you hope people will take away from Red?
Well, I hope that people enjoy it obviously. But the film explores good people in bad situations. I think it's very easy to demonise individuals who do unethical things but often the story isn't so black and white. In our story neither Niklas or Mia want to be doing what they're doing but it's do or die. I think those situations are very interesting, so I hope that's what people get from it. Good people can do bad things when shoved between a rock and a hard place.