Jason Connery (Director - 'Pandemic')
'Don't Panic, Mr Mainwaring!'
A veterinarian finds herself in the midst of a horrifying pandemic where humans and animals are stricken with a horrible, contagious disease. When the military quarantines the area and cuts off all communications, she must pair up with an eccentric conspiracy theorist as they fight to discover the true source of the threat and expose it or risk a viral threat more devastating than anything the world has ever seen!
'Pandemic' was directed by Jason Connery, written by Aaron Pope (Dark Reel, Air Marshal), and produced by Connery (Wired), and Ricki Maslar (The Year the Trembled, Penance).
Exclusive Magazine had the recent pleasure of speaking with the talented Jason Connery about his new film.
Your new film, although filmed in 2008, is named 'Pandemic' and is actually your directorial debut. And watching it I am amazed as it feels like you've been doing it for years now! So, what was it about directing that you knew you had to undertake one day and was it everything that you thought the experience would be? "Thank you! I have been an actor for 28 years and have been on a lot of different sets and been around a lot of different story tellers. I started to really get the directing bug about three years ago, although acting is something I love to do. You are really telling a story from one perspective and there is so much more to experience. When I am directing I am involved in the whole process and that was so interesting and rewarding in its own way. It definitely was everything I had hoped for, although when the buck stops with "YOU" it can be a little frightening!"
In the film a veterinarian pairs up with an eccentric conspiracy theorist to fight to discover the true source of a horrifying pandemic. So, given that you directed and produced the movie, did you personally do any background work on the authenticity of the film and what it was portraying? "The original script and idea came from the writer Aaron Pope, we worked together on the script, and read up about some conspiracies, he had a number of books on germ warfare that had some really nasty illustrations. Obviously we didn't have the budget for big special effects, but we tried to capture some of the nasty things that happen as a virus goes through a body."
It is set in New Mexico but was actually filmed during a heat wave in Arizona, so how did you manage to keep everyone running around so frantically throughout the entire movie under all that heat?! "Lots of water! We all had iced towels on our heads to keep cool. And the most important thing on a low budget film GOOD CATERING, a well fed crew and cast is a happy crew and cast! Good one to remember. Plus everyone was enthusiastic, you can't buy that, if it's there, its a real bonus!"
Is it true that this movie only took 12 days to film? My God, that's incredible! In reflection, do you wish you'd had more time, perhaps? And if so, what would you have changed about any part of the movie? "12days yes. YES I wish I had had more time, although I am sure if you asked any director they would say they wished they had more time! We had that amount of time, and so we did the best that we could in that time. Of course it would have been nice to take more time get more coverage and a whole lot of other things, I don't know what I would have changed, but when I do have more time, I will use it wisely!"
It seems that your DP, Miguel Bunster became your go-to guy on the set after a while, due to his knowledge and camera expertise. Would this film have turned out the same without his involvement? "Well, on any film your DP is your go to guy, he works with me creating the look, I wanted hand held for speed but also to get a sense of being watched and there is a slow disintegration as we get deeper into the story. I wanted high contrast with shadow and sunlight and we worked through the script building on those thoughts together. Certainly he is a great ally, he had been recommended by a director I know and this was his first movie too. He was always up for doing what needed to be done and more, that was fantastic."
And talking of your directing career it seems to have taken off again, as you recently (although I get the feeling it was filmed a while back longer than that) finished your work behind the camera on 'The Devil's Tomb.' Starring such big names as Cuba Gooding, Jr, Taryn Manning, Henry Rollins, Ray Winstone, and Ron Perlman, you must have felt great surrounded by such Hollywood company in only your second outing! So, did they listen to you at all times, or was there one over the others who just did whatever they wanted to do?! "They were all very professional. That film although more money and a longer shoot had a big cast and confined space mostly underground! So it had some interesting elements. What has been great for me is that I have been an actor for 28 years and so I have a pretty good handle on how to talk and how to listen to actors, and I have found that the better known actors are usually that way because they listen to what is wanted and then they bring their own element to it. Which usually improves what was asked for! Everyone has there own different ways of working, but there is nothing better than everyone doing their job with the cast squeezing the most out of a scene."
Back in 1985 you starred in the cult BBC hit show, 'Doctor Who' as Jondar in two episodes. How much fun did you have being part of this great British TV history and what do you remember most about your role? "I had watched Dr Who growing up, and although I always pretended I wasn't scared as a 6 year old, I was very scared of the Cybermen and the Daleks. So when I got to be in the show, and saw the suits and the daleks and how small the Tardis was I was a little sad. I remember we were meant to be being attacked by a huge terrifying monster and when we shot it, it was a grip on a ladder with a piece of gaffer tape - and we all had to look and scream in horror! It felt silly at the time, but it's fun to see it now."
You also, back in 1986 took on the role of Robin Hood, taking it over from Michael Praed for its final season. Knowing your father, Sean had also undertaken the very same role ('Robin and Marian, 1976), I was wondering if he (at the time) had given you any pointers in how to play the role some ten years on? "Playing a role is a very personal thing, and also my Dad played Robin at the end of his life after the crusades when he feels very distant from the lands he used to live in. So I was playing a man who has just taken up the mantle of stealing from the rich to give to the poor! I was nervous because I was the only new addition to the very well established cast, but they were great to me and Immediately started to tease me. I am still friends with them all, and Ray Winstone who you mentioned before came and did The Devils Tomb. It was great to have him on set again."
What can you tell us about your two upcoming projects ... your acting role in 'Glass Houses' as Father Ronald Courier, and as a director on 'Rose of Sharon'? "Very interesting script. They are putting the cast together and the funding. I am not involved in any other capacity than acting, but I think they have a very good script and I hope to see it made. Rose Of Sharon, is a romantic comedy. We have been working on the script and it is out to actors for me to direct."
Lastly, and throwing you a real journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins, .... do you? "How can you not - "Happy Feet", "Madagascar" ("Cute and cuddly boys ... Cute and cuddly"), although in the trailer of "Old Dogs" they look like they can take a good chunk out of John Travolta's ear! I did actually work in a zoo when I first left school, and boy they do smell - rotting fish...... nice!"
Interview: Russell A. Trunk
To keep up with Jason Connery, check out his website once a week!
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