The horror film Dark nature is released today. To mark the event, I spoke with the director, Berkley Brady. Because we couldn’t do it in person, we did it by email.
You place characters who are going away for a “healing” weekend in the woods. They will end-up meeting a scary creature. Was it a way of imagining that to heal from trauma, you have to face it? Because a trauma can be seen as a monster to be overcome…
Very much so! There is nothing easy about healing trauma and it’s generally a long process. Sometimes I think we also talk about therapy or healing as a one-stop-shop, as in “do this and you’ll be better.” While I think that’s true, it also doesn’t mean other traumas and difficulties won’t keep happening along the way. For example, collectively we’re coming out of COVID, but on the news we’re facing mass shootings, War, and environmental crisis. It’s a lot.
We know very little about the character of the doctor. Is it just to let the viewer believe that she is ill-intentioned? Or are there other reasons?
I worked to create a level of subjectivity, meaning that we are with the main character, Joy, and seeing things through her perspective. She is skeptical of Dr. Dunnley, so she sees things that enforce that perspective. In “reality”, Dr. Dunnley is quietly supporting them all and, in my mind, well-intentioned. This weekend could have gone well if they had been somewhere else.
The legend that the doctor tells Joy is very interesting. Is it an indigenous legend or did you make it up for the movie?
We’re definitely in Indigenous territory wherever we are in North America, places with tens of thousands of years of history. But I didn’t want to use any specific stories or creatures from Indigenous cultures, and wanted this to be a work of imagination, one that was rooted in ways of knowing and being as I understand them.
Many Indigenous people report having seen “aliens” and in my mind, the creature in Dark Nature is inter dimensional, something that came from another place but got stuck here. Like any living thing, it’s adapted to its environment over thousands of years, and the Indigenous people who would have been here would also have known about it, and had figured out how to work with it. Because of colonization, that knowledge was lost, to great tragedy for these characters.
By the way, can you give me some information about where the film was shot? The mountains look majestic.
Thank you! We are in Treaty 7 territory, which includes the city of Calgary and it’s surrounded area. We were close to the towns of Canmore and Bragg Creek as well. It’s a gorgeous part of the world and used a location for many shoots.
How was the filming? It’s never easy to shoot in these kinds of places. Were there any specific difficulties?
It’s true. We were also not a big budget production with a ton of transport and location support. It was very DIY and the crew worked very hard to make it happen. Difficulties included not having cellular or wifi service out there, freezing cold nights, and lugging heavy gear over difficult terrain. I hope everyone who worked on the film feels like a badass, because they are!
Apart from the violent lover, there is no man in the film. What was the process leading to such a decision?
Men demand higher pay, so it was a budgetary decision. JUST KIDDING! There are actually two other men in the film, the guys they see on the road on the way in. But the reason there aren’t more men is because this was a women’s retreat, and I was interested in exploring the dynamics between women, which are not always pretty.
A part of your actresses are also writers, directors and creators. Was it hard to direct them? Because it can be challenging to sell our vision to other creators who are in the project as “non-creators”.
The actors on this film are all so skilled at their craft. With the exception of Helen Belay, who played Tara, they also all came to set with years of film experience. Helen comes from a theatre background and this was her first feature. I think she’ll be a star in both worlds, because even with her lack of on-camera experience, she was very adept at finding her way into the character. So, I think even with someone like Madison Walsh, who writes as well, there was a sense among all of them that they were there to do a specific job, and they did it.
I was curious, too, to know why you put at the beginning of the credits a notice acknowledging that the film was shot on indigenous territories? We hardly ever see that, even less directly at the opening of the credits. Was it a way to acknowledge the fact that you are part indigenous? Or to set an example?
Actually, this speaks more to the fact that we don’t see so many features from this part of the world; land acknowledgments are a common, daily thing we do here for works of art, even on the radio. I think it can sometimes become rote, or even obligatory, but that wasn’t the intent here; the intent is always to acknowledge reality, show respect, and be a good relative.
Thank you very much and I wish you all the success with your movie!
Thank you so much as well! I hope you enjoyed it and that your son gets better soon!
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