The Dinosaur Project Cast Interviews

This Friday sees the release of the new family friendly “found footage” style dinosaur adventure film The Dinosaur Project. Coming from director Sid Bennett who has worked on numerous dinosaur TV series’ such as Prehistoric Park, the film is set deep in the heart of the Congo. I was lucky enough to be able to chat to two of the film’s stars, Matt Kane and Natasha Loring about the film, the relationship between the characters and actors, their advice for aspiring actors and much more.

Laura: Lets jump straight in, what can you tell us about The Dinosaur Project? How would you describe it?

Natasha: Okay, well the dinosaur project is a “found footage” style dinosaur film, think Jurassic Park meets Cloverfield or Blair Witch Project. It’s about an expedition lead by a very experienced and renowned crypto zoo-ologist accompanied by a film crew. They head into the heart of the Congo in search of a mythical creature that there have apparently been sightings of and people disappearing. What they find is that creatures they believed had gone extinct over 65 million years ago are very much alive. They’re forced to deal with the consequences of that.

Laura: And could you tell us about your character, Liz Draper?

Natasha: Liz Draper is the doctor on the expedition, you know, going into the heart of the Congo with scorpions, spiders and snakes, you need to keep the team safe and healthy. That’s Liz‘s responsibility, to keep everyone healthy. She’s just graduated out of medical school and is looking for something new and an adventure and heard about the expedition so signed up for that. What’s great about her is that even though she is one of the youngest on the expedition she trusts herself and her knowledge to take care of these people and their lives essentially. She’s one of the only people really to stand up to Jonathan, who is the team leader. As a team leader needs to be, he is quite a strong personality and normally everything goes his way and when she senses that maybe things aren’t always the way they should be she kind of steps in, so it’s great to have such a young character but with such self belief to do what she needs to do.

Laura: And how does she fit in with some of the other characters? You’ve mentioned the team leader Jonathan, but how does she get on with his son for example?

Natasha: They have quite a special relationship. Initially she realises he’s flirting with her, you know, he’s a 15 year old boy and she’s a female. It’s great because she treats him like an adult, like his father doesn’t; his father thinks he’s being irresponsible and she’s actually the first one to say to his father that he knows what he is doing and he needs to show him some respect which is great for her. She knows what it’s like to be in a situation and not respected because of her age. She’s in a situation where she sees that he’s smart and might be one of the reasons they survive.

Laura: What was your preparation like for the role? Did you have to do much pre planning? What was your process like?

Natasha: I think that the biggest challenge is working on a subject matter like dinosaurs, but working with a director like Sid who is such a dinosaur enthusiast I didn’t have to go too far for my research. He knows so much about the creatures and obviously based the story on an actual mythical African creature, the Mokele Mbembe, which is the equivalent of the Loch Ness monster. Apparently there’s been over fifty expeditions into the heart of the Congo that have actually gone to search for this creature. So I thought it was really interesting to base this on things that have really happened and he’s so knowledgeable on the subject that he is imparting all his knowledge on us so we all knew what we were doing. And with the wonders of the internet, information is all at your fingertips so if you need to find anything it’s right there. But having such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic director when making a film about dinosaurs.

Laura: His previous work with dinosaurs really does show in his passion for them.

Natasha: Yeah that has kind of been his background, but this, The Dinosaur Project has been his baby. It’s a project that’s been really close to his heart, so it’s great as an actor when you get the gift of being able to work with a director who has wanted to make it for so long and now he finally has the means to be able to make it and now I’m part of making that dream come true. There’s something really exciting about that. All the actors are aware of how precious this film is to Sid and are very mindful of that.

Laura: What was it like filming on location in South Africa? What was it like trying to act scenes set in a hot jungle in the middle of winter?

Natasha: We were shooting in the middle of South African winter and its meant to be in the middle of the heat of the Congo so it’s obviously the exact opposite of what we were trying to depict. We’re meant to be looking like were wearing vests and sweating from walking through the jungle for hours, but we’re freezing between takes and wearing jackets and shivering, but I guess that’s the nature of it. We had make-up artists coming to wipe oil on us to make us look shiny and they were spraying us with water to look sweaty and adding sweat patches. With the “found footage” nature of the film you have to make it look real and so we had to look sweaty and dirty like we had been walking through the jungle for hours. It was good fun but on location, even though the dinosaurs were all CGI, the locations are all real and it’s such a lush country with such beautiful landscapes, so it was great to be able to make use of what the country had to offer. I’m actually from South Africa and it was very different from the area that I’m from so it was great for me to be able to explore a different part of my country and see it through different, dinosaur filled eyes.

Laura: Your character unfortunately doesn’t make it through the film completely unscathed. How is that for you as an actor? Does that effect how you go into playing the character or your experience when you finally see the finished film?

Natasha: Well yeah, it kind of does. I guess you have to remember as an actor that you are one part of a massive picture and for the film to be what it is you have to do your part and accept when your bit’s done. You want to make it to the end, all actors want more screen time, but I quite enjoy the fact it’s a shock when it does happen. She’s one of the female characters and when there’s a romance going on you usually have ideas where the film’s going to go and I like that it goes against expectations. I just got to see the film for the first time last night and you always get a little nervous watching yourself. You have to have to enjoy it for the film that it is and the story and once the character’s gone you just have to let it go.

Laura: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring actors? Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you started?

Natasha: I think that so much of this job is make believe and as a kid you play and come up with all these stories. Kids just have such wonderful imaginations. I think it’s so important for you to keep imagining and keep your imagination flowing. When you are in a situation where you are having to act against dinosaurs which aren’t actually there, you remember that part of you that’s a kid and can pretend and imagine. I think that also so much of acting is truth and to be able to totally believe in what you do. No matter how far-fetched a story like this is with dinosaurs, you just have to be able to find that kid inside of you that can believe that it’s true and can find the truth in it.

Laura: Next up we have Matt Kane, who plays the team leaders son Luke. Matt, could you you start by telling us a little about your character?

Matt: Of course. Luke is 15 years old. He’s a bit of a mysterious teenager. He’s eager, especially with technology and very excited about what his dad does. Even though he doesn’t have a great relationship with his dad he knows that he explores and he is very interested in that and wants to be involved. He is a decent guy I think, looks up to his dad, but there’s conflict between them. He kind of gets his way and you can see how eager he is to be involved when he does something quite irresponsible and puts himself in a position where he can be with his dad and the team and be part of their adventure.

Laura: What was the dynamic like between you and Richard Dillane who played your father?

Matt: It was great, we got on very well, but it took a while for us. Our relationship started really early actually in the audition rounds. We had three audition rounds and I met Richard on the second one and we actually worked together that early, so very early on we were sort of paired together and they liked watching us work together and what we came up with. Both of us got an opportunity to work together before we got the role and once we did it was very interesting to hang out with him off set when we weren’t shooting, to get to know him. And I really respect him as an actor. He’s been doing it for a while and I wanted to prove myself to him, show him I could do it, do justice to the character and do a good job for the film. Both on and off screen there was a similar relationship, but I think ours was a bit closer to begin with than Luke and his dad.

Laura: As you said before, as you have had less feature film experience than some of your co- stars, how did the experience compare to filming for TV?

Matt: It’s very different. The part I found most strange was in fact having more time to focus on a scene or part of a scene. I’m used to having to get things done quite quickly and move on but here I had time to take time, plan it carefully and see where it went. It was difficult, it was a challenge and a huge learning experience to see how it works having at least half a day instead of an hour to get something done. It was certainly a lot on my shoulders, there’s a lot of pressure in terms of my character, a lot of the film is shot from his perspective. Also the diaries were sort of long monologues to the camera but they were something I was very eager and excited to get involved in. It’s a nice way to hopefully show some of what I can do. It was incredible to be offered such an important part of such an ambitious project. I’m incredibly proud to have this filmed now and released and I’m hoping it will show everyone in their best light.

Laura: A lot of people have made surface comparisons to Jurassic Park. What would you say are the main ways this film differentiates itself? I’ve heard a lot of “Jurassic Park meets Cloverfield” and similar.

Matt: I’m a huge fan of Jurassic Park, I was as a child and still am. It’s a film about dinosaurs so that comparison is obviously going to come up. Not too many films come out that solely concentrate on dinosaurs. It’s a very different film; the “found footage” aspect obviously is very different to Jurassic Park. The fact that it’s a British film gives it a unique edge and charm. Its a very strong and ambitious effort by British filmmakers and I think they have done a fantastic job with it. It’s a tense film and it will hopefully be enjoyable for people of all ages. There is no swearing and it doesn’t rely on gore or violence like a lot of found footage films do. They tend to be horror, and I wouldn’t call this horror really, it’s a thriller, it’s exciting, but it has those scary elements in place in a light hearted way. It’s always enjoyable, exciting and fresh.

Laura: If you were faced by the Mokele Mbembe, how do you personally feel you would react?

Matt: Personally I think I would… well I would like to pretend I could just be brave and keep investigating, but I think I would really just be in awe. I think I would feel a lot like Luke did, just amazed at what I was seeing like everyone on the expedition. I would like to think there’s an element of realism in that. Hopefully these are reasonably realistic reactions to these situations. Myself I would be terrified but shocked and amazed. This thing is pretty big and you can’t predict what’s going to happen. I would be fascinated.

Laura: Do you have any advice for aspiring actors? Is there anything you wish you had known when you started?

Matt: Persevere and keep contacting people. Find out any information you can about production companies and contact them. If you don’t have an agent then start somewhere and contact one. Go to a drama group and get into whatever is going on locally and just enjoy it. It was never something I was encouraged into by my parents and I just went along and enjoyed it. After a while I started to take it more seriously and started contacting agents. You just have to enjoy it and after a while that will develop into the drive to do it as a career. As long as you enjoy it and don’t give up you just have to be involved. Never forget the enjoyment aspect, it’s just imagining and playing like you do from a young age. It’s an amazing form of escapist play.

Laura: Anything else you would like to add?

Matt: Very proud to have been part of the film, and amazing to be part of my first feature film. Really proud of everyone involved and can’t wait to move on to my next project.

The Dinosaur Project is released in cinemas on Friday August 10th.

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