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Don vs Lightning
Directed by: Big Red Button
Cast: Peter Mullan, Joanna Scanlan
Synopsis: Don desires a quiet, rural life in the rural Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately, the Universe has more electrifying plans in store for him.
Clearly, the Big Red Button is a superhero. Can we reveal the secret identity? And why the disguise?
Likening us to superheroes suggests we have some kind of noble mission or at the very least a conscience. Perhaps 'cabal' or is a more appropriate term. Really, we're just Johnny Burns and Pier van Tijn - two guys with a similar sense of humor who've given ourselves a more interesting pseudonym than we probably deserve. We picked Big Red Button because we were both the kind of kid that couldn't resist pressing one if it was within reach. And we're now the same kind of adult.
There's a rumor that the film is based on a true story? Are ye joking?
Incredibly, no. There was a guy called Roy Sullivan who was struck by lightning something like 12 times in a decade, back in the '70s. He kept a jerry can of water in his truck to put himself out afterwards and his friends would avoid him on stormy days. We thought this was a fascinating, inexplicable, existential crisis for a character to come to terms with and that was the inspiration for this film.
Veteran actor Peter Mullan is not known for his comedic streak but he's excellent here. How did you get him on board? And did he do his own stunts?
The early drafts of the script were closer to the real story and set in the US but a frank conversation with Sonya Sier, our patient and long-suffering producer, eventually persuaded us to relocate the film within our native UK. Once we settled on Scotland because of its cinematic landscape, we really couldn't imagine anyone other than Peter playing the part of Don. The final draft of the script was written specifically for him and we told him as much when we kidnapped him and forced him to read it. Thankfully, he liked it and could squeeze the shoot it in between two giant Netflix series so everything turned out great and he still has all his fingers. And yes, he was totally game and did all of his own stunts. Up until the point when we accidentally burned him with one of the lit matches poked through the back of his woolly jumper. There were no more stunts after that.
Scotland is practically a character in this film. How do you develop that sense of place?
We'd love to take all the credit for this but Scotland turned up to the shoot with an agenda of its own and simply stole a lot of the scenes. We filmed around the Trussocks and Loch Lomond national park which are some of the most beautiful vistas in the UK. That said, we had always pictured Don as being intimately connected with the landscape and tried to reflect its tones and textures through his wardrobe and props. Our amazing DP John Lynch brought an instinctive sensibility to photographing the environment and helped us frame shots that were wide enough to make Peter feel really impotent and insignificant in comparison to the landscape, which gave it a stronger presence in the film.
Comedy is such a tricky genre. What's the key to a successful laugh?
Timing. No, wait, ask us that again... timi- no, we've fucked it up. Honestly, the more comedy we make the more subjective we realize a lot of it is. Sometimes people only laugh because they're really confused and laughing seems like the least inappropriate reaction. We love all forms of comedy, from bone-dry deadpan to flat-out slapstick and we're still learning how to turn a good laugh every time we shoot, usually by trial and error. Of course, it helps to have actors and crew (DP, editor, sound designer) who intrinsically understand comedy. Both Peter and Joanna are incredibly gifted comic performers and creating the right cinematic space for them to do their thing is really 90% of the battle.
Is the Universe out to get us?
Dur, obviously. Wouldn't you be, if you were the universe and we were us?