After finding a leaflet that offers ‘help’, Naomi seeks a violent end to her problematic neighbours.
An absurd-comedy written & directed by Daniel Harding, starring Ingvild Deila as Naomi, and Bryan Samson as Lucas. Punch Bag is also supported by Justin Hayward, Andrea Newland, Tommy Alexander and Cerys Knighton, with cinematography by Matt Prior and make-up by Ruby Lonsdale.
Punch Bag was somewhat of a shot-gun script, which resulted from a lengthy period Daniel wasn’t writing. It took one solid morning of writing, and then several adjustment drafts before it was ready to shoot. Daniel had worked with Ingvild previously, and always had her in mind for the role of Naomi, and Bryan came to his attention through a short film he had been in.
Even though Daniel had produced over nine short films, Punch Bag is the first of his to be crewed with various people in key roles. Typically, Daniel shot largely by himself, with only a few assistant roles filled, but he wanted Punch Bag to be a step up from the short films he had produced previously.
Punch Bag was shot over two days, in December 2016. Locations included a local community centre and Daniel’s home for the neighbour scenes. It took over a month to edit, and was released online in September 2017.
MEET THE CAST
Q&A WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR DANIEL HARDING
How did the story for Punch Bag come about? It started off as just a bit of fun. I had just come of a feature project as a grip, and needed to be creative. I had no real intention of making it, but rather just wanted to make myself laugh and do some things in a script I hadn’t done before. I can’t really remember what the earliest idea for Punch Bag was, but it fell into place quite quickly. I think I liked the idea of the title, and then the story came after that. I also liked the idea of this mysterious guru-type figure who could manipulate people into acting out or finding it within themselves to do something about the things they were complaining about. After writing the first draft, I felt like it needed to be made.
How would you best describe Punch Bag? I’m really not sure! It’s the weirdest tone I’ve worked in, but people say it still has ‘my voice’. I did want to do something odd, and I love absurdist comedy, and I often laugh at things that really shouldn’t be funny. So I’m hesitant to try and describe Punch Bag to anyone, I just think it’s one of those stories that people will get a variety of things from. It definitely asks questions of you, and allows you to impart your own meaning.
What are you intentions for the film? Well I’ve grown disheartened with film festivals, so really it’s just a project of love, and I want many people to watch and enjoy it. If it can make someone chuckle, or think, then I’ll be satisfied. I just want to make stuff, so in a way, my intentions are already over.
What were your inspirations or influences? I really liked the films of Yorgos Lanthimos, especially Dogtooth and The Lobster. Also Monty Python played a huge part in allowing me to write comedy that wasn’t your typical fodder. I like dark comedy, so I was seeking out many absurdist films around that time. Another one is A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence by Roy Andersson.
Have you ever punched an elderly gentlemen and where did that idea come from? No, I haven’t! But maybe I imagine myself doing it, because it would be so shocking. People’s reactions to seeing something like that would probably make me laugh – as long as the guy was alright. It’s just something you’d never expect to see, and because it’s a bit odd, it’s funny. Or at least, I think it is.
Q&A WITH ACTOR INGVILD DEILA
How best would you describe the story of Punch Bag and your character? Punch bag is an odd little parable on how it’s often easier to notice other people’s shortcomings than one’s own, told in a fun and somewhat unusual way.
What decisions did you make about how you would play Naomi? She’s quite an angry and self absorbed person which was something I hadn’t played before, so finding the character when they’re not that likeable is always an interesting challenge. I tried to find a way to justify where she’s coming from. Part of the process was thinking of things that would make me angry and then link that to what made Naomi tick.
How do you think people will respond after watching? Hopefully there will be this little moment where the audience recognise that they’ve been in a similar situation themselves, where they got the wrong end of the stick. But it’s told in a humorous way it’s not moralistic at all.
If you had neighbours like Naomi, what would be your response? He-he, I would never dare to go about it like she did. I would probably start with sending a text, then ask politely if I were to meet them in passing. I would hate to have a bad vibe going with my neighbours.
And finally, have you ever been in a fight before? He-he, nope!
Q&A WITH ACTOR BRYAN SAMSON
How would you best describe Punch Bag and your character? Punch Bag is a serious, but dark comedy, which shows how people can be manipulated into doing things they may not have believed they could do. Lucas was in my mind a retired civil servant who wanted to give something back to society by helping people to achieve whatever it was they wanted to do. He probably lacked the necessary skills to achieve this in a conventional way and consequently resorted to bullying in an unconventional manner.
What decisions did you make to help create the character of Lucas? I decided that Lucas had two sides to his character – one caring and the other bullying, and tried to portray him in this manner. At the same time trying to force Ingvild into a corner to achieve what she wanted.
How do you think people will respond to the film? Difficult one this as every film is subjective. I think there will be two camps – love it or hate it.
If you had neighbours like Naomi, what would be your solution for dealing with them? Just confront them politely as soon as possible to resolve the situation, although I’m not sure that would have worked.
And finally, have you ever been beaten up before? The only time was when I first started grammar school and was walking across the playing fields when I was attacked by 4 sixth formers who beat me up and stole my cap!
“Resembling the absurdist sketches of Monty Python, it perhaps best draws parallels to the “Argument Clinic”, in which an outlandish situation is used to expound philosophy, logic, and liberal doses of comedy, all of which is done to hit the viewer over the head and make them contemplate what they have just seen” – Filmizon.com
“The interaction between the two main characters is spiky and at times quite distressing. It’s not the most conventional script from Harding and, at times, licks into David Lynch-esque dialogue which Samson and Deila deliver with full intent and malevolent aggression” – IWTfilm.com