In some of the most significant single location feature films, instead of trying to distract from the fact that the characters are centralized in one location, the filmmakers have fully embraced it, making the location another main character.

Think about what Stanley Kubrick did with The Shining, James Cameron did with Alien and Alfred Hitchcock with Rope. Besides mainly taking place in a single location, what do these examples also have in common?

They are all very character-driven and fall in the horror genre.

While you can shoot any genre in a single location, some categories of films are more conducive to doing this than others, horror being one of them. Through camera angles, sound design, lighting, and the use of shadows, horror films have maintained one rule; there are no rules. Irish filmmaker Ian Hunt-Duffy was fully aware of this knowledge, thanks to The Thing being one of his favorite movies.

So, when he decided to make his first feature film, Double Blind, Ian knew this was the format and genre he wanted to explore.

Touching on the benefits of shooting in a single location Ian says, “This is advantageous from a budget and logistics point of view, as less locations means less unit moves, so you’re hopefully saving time and money. But from a story point of view, you also have this contained environment where you can create a pressure cooker atmosphere. As a director, the single location afforded me more time to focus on performance, and a greater control of lighting and camera to create tension and suspense in a confined space”.

In the below interview, Ian goes into more detail about this topic and much more.

Double Blindis available now on VOD. The following interview is edited for clarity and length.

DOUBLE BLIND Official Trailer (2024)

No Film School: Double Blind came out of a shared love of genre films between the writer Darach McGarrigle and yourself. What genre films have had a large impact on you?

Ian Hunt-DuffY: Darach and I are both children of the ‘80s so we were born and raised on the films of John Carpenter, John McTiernan, and James Cameron. The Thing is one of my all-time favorites and was a big influence on Double Blind.

We both love ensemble stories where a group of mismatched characters are trapped together in one location—rough, but sympathetic characters in an extreme situation, like in The Thing, Alien, Southern Comfort, or Green Room.

We’re also big fans of high-concept horrors or thrillers with a clearly defined rule that the characters must not break. For example,The Ring: “Don’t Watch The Video Tape”; Tremors “Don’t Touch the Ground”. A clever hook for the audience to quickly latch onto.

Our rule for Double Blind is “Don’t Fall Asleep”. It takes something every day and innocent like sleep, and makes it deadly, and I knew if we could make someone closing their eyes scary, we could have a lot of fun with it.

NFS: Double Blind has a great cast, which includes The Walking Dead’s Pollyanna McIntosh and Millie Brady who can currently be seen on Apple TV+’s Surface. How did your casting come about?

IHD: We were very lucky to have a brilliant casting director on board, Amy Rowan, who spent months finding the right actors for each role. The film is an ensemble piece, but our way into the story—our anchor for the audience—is the character of Claire. So we focused on finding Claire first before building out the rest of the ensemble around her.

When I met Millie for the role, we had a long conversation about the character and the story, and she really connected with Claire’s backstory, her relationship with her mother and how she tries to act hard on the surface but is really vulnerable underneath. It’s a demanding role both emotionally and physically, as Claire is really put through the wringer as the film progresses.

So that was something that excited Millie, the chance to not only map Claire’s emotional journey and arc, but also sink her teeth into the physicality of the performance. Millie relished all the stunt-work and fight choreography, and portraying the different stages of sleep deprivation and exhaustion and how that affects the body. I think Millie is phenomenal in this film.

As for Pollyanna, for the role of Dr. Burke I wanted an actor that would excite genre fans. Pollyanna is a horror icon, so we offered her the role and then crossed our fingers.

Pollyanna watched my short film, Gridlock, and was friends with the star of the film, Moe Dunford, and so she reached out to him for a bit of a background check on me. Luckily, he spoke very positively about our experience together, so Pollyanna agreed to come on board.

To work with someone like Pollyanna for my first feature film was an absolute pleasure. She was so professional and put everyone at ease. With only a 23-day shoot, we were constantly under pressure and up against the clock, but Pollyanna was always so relaxed and prepared, and that energy permeated throughout the rest of the cast.

With Pollyanna, we would typically only ever need two takes before we had it, so having an actor with that level of experience realy inspired everyone.

'Double Blind'Epic Pictures

NFS: Double Blind is your feature directorial debut. Was the process of making a feature film everything you thought it would be?

IHD: All that and more! It was incredibly challenging and stressful at times, and exhausting both mentally and physically. But overall, I loved it.

When I first walked onto the set and saw this large crew of people—the props and art department, the camera and lighting team, stunts, costume department, hair and makeup—all these people working incredibly hard to create a film that had been living in my head for years…that was really humbling and exciting. So even when I was under huge amounts of pressure, or things were going wrong, I tried my best to take a moment to stop and smell the roses each day, and appreciate how lucky I was to have this opportunity.

NFS: Now looking back, what was the most beneficial thing you did during pre-production that helped the shoot go smoothly?

IHD: Well, firstly, as we only had 23-days to shoot, I had to be as prepared as possible, so I needed to have a strong vision for the film in my head and then be able to clearly communicate that to my HODs (heads of departments).

So I spent months in advance doing visual research and prep, searching for inspiration and reference material wherever I could—film, TV, art, photography—basically being a bit of a magpie and collecting as much visual material as possible, and then curating it all into an extensive lookbook for the film, something that I could share with each department as a jumping-off point.

We also cut together a sizzle reel from other relevant films in the genre, to further demonstrate the style and tone I was hoping to achieve, and having all this as a solid foundation to build upon really helped I think.

Another thing that was beneficial was a piece of advice that Lee Cronin gave me during pre-production, to do up a “Hierarchy of Scenes” for the film. That is, to identify the big scenes in the film: the set pieces or action sequences; the big dramatic beats; the death scenes; the climax—which are the most important for the story?

I made up a list in descending order and then I knew which would be the priority scenes above all else, which ones I had to fight for and which were not as important.

Lastly, because we were shooting out of sequence, it was important for me and the actors to map out their progression of sleep deprivation and tiredness as the film went on, so that they could easily pinpoint how tired their character was supposed to be at any given time.

I created a 10-Point “Sleepiness Scale” as a reference guide for us during the shoot, describing the physical and mental attributes at each level. I then color-coded the script accordingly, e.g. in this scene you’re at a 5 on the scale; this scene you’re at an 8, etc. That helped us to quickly anchor ourselves during production.

'Double Blind'Epic Pictures

NFS: The underground medical facility almost acts like another main character in the film. Meaning, some locations blend in the background, but this location definitely does not. Was this on purpose?

IHD: Absolutely. I always saw the facility as another character in the film—like Outpost 31 in The Thing, or the Nostromo in Alien, I wanted the location to be distinctive.

I spent a lot time with our art department and production designer Steve Kingston finding the aesthetic and “feel” of the facility. The drug company running the medical trial, Blackwood, are a global pharmaceutical brand with deep pockets, so I wanted to reflect this in our production design, with a modern and minimalist style throughout. I also wanted the warren of corridors in the building to feel intimidating and endless for our characters, so the hard blue lines helped to create a strong one-point perspective and vanishing point.

The facility is also in the lower levels of the building, so there are no windows or sources of natural light, everything is artificially lit. My cinematographer, Narayan Van Maele, and I wanted to have the lighting in the facility change colour temperatures at different intervals throughout the day to mark the passage of time. The only reminder of the outside world then comes from the tree Blackwood have planted in the middle of the common room, but even that has an ominous artificiality to it.

I also had a lot of discussions with our sound designer, Brendan Rehill, about the sound and tone of the facility and how to give that character. I wanted it to feel subterranean, so Brendan created a lot of heavy, deep tones for the “hum” of the facility that reverberates underneath the surface of every scene.

Using the noises of oscillating fans, thrumming machines, synths- all building and adding to the artificial and controlled feel of the place.

NFS: What were the benefits of having very few shooting locations?

IHD: As this was my first feature film, I knew I wouldn’t have a huge budget, so myself and Darach tried to be pragmatic in our approach and find a story that could be self-contained to one location. This is advantageous from a budget and logistics point of view, as less locations means less unit moves, so you’re hopefully saving time and money.

But from a story point of view, you also have this contained environment where you can create a pressure cooker atmosphere. As a director, the single location afforded me more time to focus on performance, and a greater control of lighting and camera to create tension and suspense in a confined space.

'Double Blind'Epic Pictures

NFS: What kind of cameras did you use for the shoot?

IHD: We shot on an Alexa Mini with Atlas Orions Anamorphics, and a Cooke 25-250mm zoom lens.

NFS: What was the hardest scene to shoot in the film? Why?

IHD: I don’t think there was one scene in particular that was the hardest to shoot, but there were a lot of things we had to problem solve and figure out during the shoot.

For example, how to achieve the shot where the camera travels out from the iris of a character’s eye, or how to light inside a closed body bag. I had never done any wirework before, so the levitation scene was a new experience too.

The main challenge though was just an incredibly tight schedule and never enough time, so we always had to find creative solutions.

For example, on day 2 of the shoot, one of our actors got COVID and had to isolate for 7 days, so we had to quickly rework our shot list and schedule to keep the show going.

Luckily our Grip, Charlie, had a very similar hairstyle and physique to the actor, so we put a costume on him and were able to use him as a stand-in: shooting over his shoulder, or positioning him in scenes with his back to camera, and it worked out.

NFS: Can you talk about your process for choosing when to use CGI versus practical effects in the film?

IHD: I tried to do as much practically as possible. Apart from a few scenes that really needed to be done with VFX, such as when the forest mural starts to move, or during certain hallucination scenes, the majority of the VFX in the film was used for clean-ups or set extension.

For example, removing the wires in the levitation, changing the numbers on the countdown clock, extending the corridors to make them even longer. Things like that.

Otherwise, as much as possible, I tried to do things practically as I think it just looks and feels better. There’s a more organic, tactile nature to practical effects than CGI in my opinion.

Ian Hunt-Duffy head shot.

NFS: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about the making of Double Blind?

IHD: It was a long journey. We first started development on the script in 2018 with Screen Ireland, and then pitched the project a year later at the Frontières International Co-Production Market in Montreal in 2019, where our sales agent Epic Pictures came on board. We were aiming to go into production in 2020, but then the world shut down because of COVID.

In the end, it was 2022 before we were able to start filming, and suddenly our story had a whole new resonance.

People were much more aware of pharmaceutical companies and clinical drug trials because of the Covid vaccines, and the term “lockdown” had taken on a whole new meaning. So we were able to use this to our advantage, and take some positives from the delays and setbacks.

Learn more about Ian Hunt-Duffy at