We’ve really come to look forward to sharing new work from Michael Sugrue on the pages of DN. Although described by the director as ‘performance exercises’ which he squeezes into the off-hours between his commissioned gigs, the improvised spontaneity of Sugrue’s work, as seen in pieces such as Charity, seems to lend his films a believable, naturalistic tone which is sometimes beaten out of other shorts during an over-worked pre-production period. His latest film Dalston – shot over a six hour period in London – is an abstract examination of the way relationships are interpreted through the eyes of others and once again demonstrates what can be achieved with a solid idea, good actors and a ticking clock. We asked Sugrue to take us through his breakneck production process.
This was done while I had two nights in London before flying out for another shoot. I reached out to an actor through a friend and he brought along another. I wanted a couple more, so my DP Sergio Delgado put me in touch with an actor’s teacher there called Giles Forman. He generously provided two more actors.
I arrived on a Thursday afternoon with a rough outline, knowing I had at least a hotel room as one location. I was looking for a restaurant, a club, and a quiet outdoor space. I was somehow able to secure all three within about 2 hours walking around Dalston.
After confirming with the actors, I wrote a more detailed treatment that evening and emailed it out. The basis being that each scene would simply explore an interpersonal dynamic where each character had unique motivations. Everyone’s busy schedules didn’t allow us to meet until 2pm Friday. We shot the hotel scene until about 3:30pm, the outside conversation from about 4-5pm, the restaurant until 6:30pm. After a great dinner at Floyd’s, where we were graciously allowed to shoot until the dinner rush, we headed to Dalston Superstore where they allowed us to shoot from 10-10:30pm. After a few pints we wrapped the gear back at the hotel around midnight, then joined the actors for a couple more before catching an 8am flight from Heathrow.
Going forward, I’m writing a feature with the same actors to hopefully shoot this winter, but not before tentatively shooting a feature in Hong Kong, my first as a director, starting early-November. I’m really looking forward to doing something I can finally feel represents what I can do. All of my shorts have been some sort of abstract exercise, primarily getting to know and working with actors. Features will allow me to put everything together, from performance, edit, sound, and imagery.