Interview - Gareth Evans (Director - The Raid)


  • The Raid
  • Interview - Gareth Evans (Director - The Raid)
  • Iko Uwais

The Raid is almost here, read our interview with the delightful director
From rapturous early reviews at Toronto last year, through foreign sales and finally a local screening at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in February, Click has been following the affairs of The Raid for quite some time. After makes its debut in the States in March, the film is coming to screens in Ireland on the 18th of May and we caught up with director Gareth Evansto find out more about this martial arts miracle.

The Raid was written and directed by Welsh born Evans, who moved to Indonesia after finishing a single low budget feature in his native land. There, he was working on a documentary on a local martial art known as Silat when he met martial artist Iko Uwais and an incredibly partnership was born. They teamed up for 2009s Merantau before putting together the action-packed The Raid.

You can read our full review of The Raid here as well as Jack’s focus on just what makes Uwais so cool but first we’re having words with Evans himself, who stopped in while he was in town for JDIFF 2012, where the film picked up not only the audience award but also Best Film from the Dublin Film Critics circle.

Gareth Evans on the set of The Raid
Gareth Evans on the set of The RaidEnlarge Enlarge

CLICK: How the hell does a Welsh guy end up directing an Indonesian action film?
GE: I haven’t heard this question before! I was based in the UK and trying to get in the industry but I didn’t really do enough to push myself.

CLICK: You made Footsteps in 2006?
GE: Yea, it was very low budget. Me and my DoP financed that but we didn’t use it the way we should have to get more work. And I was in that mindset where I was working full time and my job was steady income. My wife is Indonesian-Japanese and she ended up putting some calls in back home, got me a directing gig on a documentary back there. So that was six months doing this documentary about Silat [an Indonesian martial art] and that was what introduced me to it. I was out there for six months, I got to learn about the traditions, culture and what it was like to live and work there. And that really appealed to me and I also got to meet Iko, who became the actor in Merantau and The Raid as well. It was one of those things where just by doing that documentary it was like being paid to do that research and make a decision that would change where we live.

CLICK: You said you found Iko?
GE: Basically he was a student of one of the masters we were following. The documentary was to follow five different masters from five different areas and it was more about the philosophy of Silat in everyday life. And Iko was one of the students when we were filming some practise sessions and he immediately stood out. It sounds like such a horrible cliché but every time we’d be filming them, we just be drawn to him. And I said to my wife ‘we’ve got to keep an eye on him because he has a good screen presence’. Silat was Iko’s hobby, he’d represented the country in demonstrations and stuff but his 9-5 was he was a delivery guy for a phone company. He’d never acted before but I told him I was going to come back to Indonesia and that we would make a film together. And he just thought I was full of shit! And then when we got back out and spoke to him, we got him to come work with us. And I don’t think he believed me until we were in pre-production on Merantau.

CLICK: Your previous film, Footsteps, was more of a drama. Did you always want to make martial arts movies or did it just happen?!
GE: I’ve always loved martial arts films – Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li. But I never thought I’d be making them. It sounds weird to say that I’m a Welsh guy living in Indonesia and making martial arts movies. To me, inside, it doesn’t feel weird – because it’s just been a natural progression day by day and project by project. But if I take a step back, it’s fucking bizarre! It’s such a strange thing. But for me it’s like I don’t know, I grew up watching them and I was obsessed with martial arts cinema but never thought I’d make those films. Because white guys didn’t really make martial arts films!

CLICK: When I read the press notes about The Raid – from a Welsh guy with little experience - it sounds like it’s going to be a disaster!
GE: I know what you mean!

CLICK: Was it very stressful to come onto your second movie and get so much attention?
GE: I think that stress is going to be on the next film and not this one. On this one, it was just kind of go for broke. We did Merantau and it did ok. But the landscape of film financing in Indonesia had changed so much. All of a sudden we were going back to investors and there was no more money for film. People had lost confidence in film there and it was very hard to find the money for The Raid. So we were looking to finance something else first which was a bigger budget. The Raid was our plan b. For The Raid it was just kind of like – as much as we love Merantau and we’ve very proud of it – let’s just cut to the chase and just do something that’s full on action. We don’t have to introduce Silat or the culture, just go straight into the action really.

Iko Uwais in The Raid
Iko Uwais in The RaidEnlarge Enlarge

CLICK: Well one thing I really loved in The Raid was the gunplay – did you have any specific inspiration for that?
GE: For sure yea. I mean John Woo and Sam Peckinpah were my huge influences on that. We had a little bit of gunplay in Merantau but it was very basic. But in this one I wanted it to be more inventive and we were so restricted in Merantau because I didn’t know what we could and couldn’t do in CG. And all of a sudden we had this flexibility because we were able to completely run around with those guns. We didn’t have the budget to use real blank firing guns. So we used air soft, like gas blowback, BB guns. Once we had those mechanics we just shot everything with that.

CLICK: You also have proper set pieces and some great slow motion. When you write the script, do you see those moments?
GE: The gunplay stuff, it was very detailed in the script. When it comes to the martial arts stuff, I don’t script so much. I’ll give general information. For the martial arts sequences, when Iko’s carrying his friend on his shoulders and is carrying the knife and the stick, that’s what the script will read. I’ll write things like, as he’s fighting, the other guy’s body moves so he has to move to keep his balance. So then that becomes an element of the choreography. And then where does he lose the knife or the stick, how aggressive or violent then fight is. That’s what we script. But the movements we don’t put in.

CLICK: Well you weren’t an action director until you decided you were! What does it take to be an action director?
GE: For me it’s a strange thing because we’re completely in our infancy. We’re inexperienced and learn as we go along. One of the things we try to do, especially with the martial arts, is that we do a lot of preparation. We do a lot of things that kind of act like our safety net. Because we don’t have big budgets, our production time is so limited, we can’t reshoot anything. So basically what happens is that I’ll spend 3 months with the guys and plan out all the fight sequences – just me, Iko and Yayan [Ruhian – who plays Mad Dog]. With just a handycam and crash mats, we design and shoot all of the fight scenes. We’d shoot a video storyboard and at the end we have a template for every fight scene in the film. So every crew member knows what the content of each shot it. And then we figure out makeup and continuity and everything. So we have those edits tomatch to on location and we already know if it’s going to work. But for the gunplay stuff was a little bit more nerve wracking as I decided not to storyboard it. We’d give the guys a sequence of moves to do and I’d have the actors do these long takes. We’d do the whole sequence giving the guys directions and I’ll just give certain shots to the cameramen. And because I edit myself I can tell where the in and out points will be and we’ll piece it together afterwards!

CLICK: It’s extremely violent, almost ridiculously so at times. You mentioned that you did that almost on purpose?
GE: Yea for sure. I'm not a fan of, this sounds like strange thing to say. I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence and what I feel we do in The Raid – I call them sucker punch moments. And while what happens is extremely violent, we don’t dwell on it for too long. With the exception of two moments, we don’t hold on the shot. Like when the guy gets shot in the face, we cut. We have these moments where you get a gut reaction from the audience and then move on.

CLICK: Do you enjoy the reaction from the audience at those moments?
GE: I love it! But the thing is, even that throat slitting. When you really look at it, there’s no detail. It’s more the idea of it than anything else. It’s a wide shot from profile. We were shooting a close up at one point and I thought at the ‘nah fuck this, its bullshit, it’s too aggressive.’ We showed a little bit of restraint. So even then there’s this element of not being too explicit with it. But when were in screenings, when we hear people react to things – the violence or the stunts or unexpected things – I love that reaction. It’s the best feeling because it’s something we’ve come up with that we’ve managed to execute in the shoot sand then people respond to it.

CLICK: And the only change internationally is the new score from Mike Shinoda [Linkin Park]?
GE: Yea it’s just the music that’s changed; I think you guys saw the original score.

CLICK: And you’ve heard the new version?
GE: Yea, it’s great. Here’s one of the things. I’m very lucky because I actually love both versions of the score. Not just in a diplomatic way because I thought the original score was just fantastic but both scores work really well with the film. It’s strange because there are some parts where I prefer one or the other.

The Raid
The RaidEnlarge Enlarge

CLICK: You’ve also been talking about a sequel and the possibility of a trilogy – is that something you’re working on now?
GE: Yea that’s going to be… [sirens outside the hotel] That’s quite apt actually! I’m going to be working on the sequel next. It follows almost immediately on from The Raid and we expand the world more. It won’t be contained in one building this time, I don’t want be tied to the same style just because it’s a sequel.

CLICK: Die hard on a boat, Die hard on a plane…
GE: Yea exactly. So The Raid but on a bus! What we’re going to do is we’re taking it outside and we’re going to meet the people who we hinted at in the first movie. Who are the criminal elements behind the story. A much bigger scale.

CLICK: But the trilogy will be shot and financed there?
GE: Part two yea, part three… still up for question. We’ll see what happens!

CLICK: Are you still surprised by the success of the film?
GE: Yea… we have these little moments where we have a couple of minutes of downtime and it’s just so bizarre. You come to terms with it and then sometime amazing happens again. It continually overwhelming at the moment but in the best way possible.

CLICK: It’s also bizarre because you’ve done so many film festivals but your movie hasn’t actually made any money yet!
GE: I know. Here’s the thing. Everyone’s happy I just have to make sure that I make my investors happy next. We release in Indonesia day and date in the US so hopefully we’ll have good news then!

CLICK: Do you enjoy promoting the film?
GE: Yes I mean it’s fun. It’s bizarre; I really enjoy the Q&A’s. It’s such a good feeling to be able to share little bits of information with people. When they have questions about production or that, its fun to be able to share that stuff. Yea it’s all new to us, it’s all still exciting.

The Raid is in cinemas from the 18th of May. And is awesome. Watch it!

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