I’ve been fortunate enough to follow the release of Ant Timpson’s debut feature film COME TO DADDY since its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival back in April 2019. It’s been close to a year since I’ve last spoken to Timpson, but with the theatrical release of his movie, I had the opportunity to chat with him once again to get more insight into his debut film.
For those unfamiliar with the film, COME TO DADDY centers around Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood), a privileged man-child, who arrives at the beautiful and remote coastal cabin of his estranged father, who he hasn’t seen in 30 years. Unfortunately for Norval, he quickly discovers that not only is his Dad a disapproving jerk, but he also has a shady past that is rushing to catch up with him. Now, hundreds of miles away from his cushy comfort zone, Norval must battle with demons both real and perceived in order to reconnect with a father he barely knows.
During our chat, Timpson and I discussed everything from the cathartic release of making this film after the passing of his dad, the anticipate of having the movie released into the world, as well as his love for practical effects.
Last we spoke was back in April of 2019 when COME TO DADDY premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. How does it feel knowing your film is about to be out there for everyone to see?
Ant Timpson: It feels like it’s been a long time coming. I think there’s a certain tipping point after your first premiere that you need to get the film out otherwise it feels old so I think we are right at that sweet spot. It’s about time it goes to a larger crowd because in some ways it feels like you operate in a bubble. It’s like it has had training wheels on and we’ve been scootering around and now we are hitting the freeway and we are going to see how we go in the big wide world (laughs). It feels like we are all grown up now. I’m curious to see how it plays out.
We’ve talked about how this film is about your dad passing, so how cathartic has this entire experience been for you?
Ant Timpson: Yeah, the whole experience was super cathartic and it’s just cool to talk about my dad all the time, you know? It’s just been a lovely thing. You only really do [that type of stuff] when you get together with close family when the stories and the reminiscing and all that good stuff kicks in. Otherwise, the alone time is usually the sad stuff that you’re with. The movie is exactly the type of crazy gallows humor featuring wild characters which are the films I grew up watching with him. I feel like it’s a pretty cool testament to the movie-obsessed kid I was that he supported. He loved movies and introduced me to them. He wasn’t like a fanatic but he loved movies. He loved tough-guy cinema. I grew up with a great lens to look at cinema through, you know?
Having now seen the film multiple times, I’ve been able to pick up on so many small details and layers that I missed during the first viewing. Are you hoping people will want to revisit the film after watching it to pick up on those clues?
Ant Timpson: It’s a tough one you know because in some ways it might not be the type of film that people would want to go back to and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I feel people put so much weight on surprises and once you know them they feel like maybe it doesn’t warrant the second doing. Like you were saying, there are quite a few layers. I feel like audiences get treated like idiots enough out there so it’s better to not over-explain every sort of small detail. Toby Harvard, the writer, and I spoke about these things and wanted certain things to be featured but we didn’t want to use a strobe light to do it. I hope people go back and re-watch it because it will be a different experience completely. I know people who have seen it a couple of times and I’m glad that they got more out of it the second time, but let’s just hope that the first viewing is rewarding enough (laughs).
Let’s chat a little bit about the house as that seemed to be a character in and of itself.
Ant Timpson: Absolutely, the house was always going to have to play a major part. I sort of thought of it like another lead, basically. We put a lot of weight on the necessity of the location, which was critical in so many ways. It’s such a dangerous thing to do, to put all your eggs in a basket and hope that it’s going to pay off because locations drop all the time. It’s hard to get something that special locked in so far in advance for as long as we had it. It just all worked out. It was like beautiful alchemy that it all came together.
Lastly, I would love to chat a bit about the practical effects because there were some truly wild moments in the film.
Ant Timpson: I really wanted the stuff to be quite clean and realistic and not too outlandish. I mean, it’s outlandish but it kind of feels organic in context even though it might be things we aren’t used to seeing. Some of the FX, not just for budgetary reasons but also for timing, took so long to preset. We were under the gun and had to come up with interesting ways to simplify things. I was a special effects kid growing up, I was a Dick Smith wannabe and I would spend ages with his makeup book as well as Tom Savini‘s when his came out. I grew up wanting to be the makeup guy so I was probably a real pain in the ass coming in from that wannabe export who never fulfilled his life long dream of wanting to get my special effects involved (laughs). There aren’t too many of them [in the film] but when they happen I wanted them to pay off for the audience. Also, there is no CGI, thank God.