Magazine article Screen International

Set Report: Pressure

Magazine article Screen International

Set Report: Pressure

Article excerpt

Danny Huston, Matthew Goode and Joe Cole just wrapped the shoot at Pinewood Studios and in Scotland on underwater thriller Pressure, which is directed by Ron Scalpello and sold by Embankment Films. Screen visited the set to take a first look.

"Claustrophobia. Paranoia. Four men. Incarceration. Survival." These are the words director Ron Scalpello uses to describe his follow up to last year's prison set thriller Offender.

Pressure centres on four deep sea divers who become trapped in their saturation bell at the bottom of the ocean off the Kenyan coast. Based on an original story by Louis Baxter, the script was written by Alan McKenna and Paul Staheli.

Origins and influences

Producer Jason Newmark set up Bigscope Films together with Laurie Cook to "produce low budget, high-concept genre movies."

Newmark explains: "Laurie and I sat down and worked out what kind of films we wanted to make. We hired a researcher called Louis Baxter and Pressure is actually based on a story by Baxter. They then approached writer Paul Staheli with Baxter's treatment who wrote a first draft of the script.

Having previously worked with McKenna and Scalpello on urban drama Here Comes The Summer, which had Studiocanal attached but unfortunately failed to complete financing, Newmark approached them for Pressure as he was keen to get "a director's voice".

With Scalpello tied up in another project, McKenna ended up as the sole writer on Pressure creating the second and subsequent drafts, an opportunity he truly relished: "What I liked about it was the survival aspect of it and it felt to me very much like a horror, but a true horror [...] a psychological horror."

After Jason approached him, McKenna set about conducting meticulous research, including meeting several saturation divers. They gave him plenty of ideas for how the plot could develop as they all knew someone who had been in a similar situation as the characters in Pressure.

Despite the involvement of various script writers, the period from McKenna taking over to the first day of shooting on August 19 was about 11 months, a surprisingly quick turn-around for a feature film.

The script of Pressure is reminiscent of films such as Solaris and Apollo 13, with its setting in an environment that offers no escape for its protagonists. And surprisingly, as McKenna reveals, even Danny Boyle's 127 Hours served as an influence as "what I thought was really interesting about Simon Beaufoy's script was, he went into more impressionistic worlds in James Franco's character's head. He took us to those places that he was thinking about and I tried to do that in this a bit, although not in the same way."

Scalpello adds that what attracted him to the project was that it's a "great story, full of suspense" but at the same time not too niche as "on one level it was working as a genre movie and I think what we are trying to achieve with it is not Tony Scott, but also not European art cinema. We wanted to be a bit more expressive with it and more expansive."

McKenna admits that they were keen to keep a masculinity to the film, even harping back to 70s movies, such as The French Connection. And while there is no direct comparison, McKenna is fascinated by the masculine world [of those kinds of films] and contemplates that "we sometimes shy away from that now and always put pretty people in [films]. …

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