Violet by Maurice Joyce is the dark, cautionary tale of a young girl who despises her reflection. Violet, narrated by the beautiful voice of Aidan Gillen, is also the animated winning short film of Irish Film Festa 2016. Here’s our interview with Maurice. Congratulations!
Violet‘s synopsys describes the story as a «dark, cautionary tale»: how did screenwriter Mark Hodkinson develop the script?
Mark was interested in doing something with the theme of low self-esteem and how destructive we can be towards ourselves. It’s a theme that strikes a chord with most of us and is often at its worst when you’re a young teen (like Violet). The story is basically about not standing in your own way – there are enough bullies out there without us bullying ourselves!
So there’s a very contemporary message in the story but Mark wanted to give it the feel of a classic old, cautionary fairytale. So writing the script as a poem for a single narrator helped give it that kind of atmosphere – sort of like an adult reading a scary story to a child.
Reflections play a big part in Violet’s story, as well as symmetry, textures and visual patterns are used in the character design and the composition of backgrouds. How did you work on the visual aspect of the story?
As you say, reflections do play a big part in Violet’s story and I wanted to put that into every aspect of the film. So the backgrounds and compositions are (almost) all symmetrical and from a one point perspective. The idea of reflections is also present in the music and a subtle, slightly disjointed reversal of the musical theme can be heard when Violet’s reflection appears on screen.
There are even some things you may not notice on first viewing, like when Violet’s reflection takes her place in the real world she doesn’t have her own reflection. Dancing around the ballroom, all the children are reflecting on the polished floor except for her. I really got into it!
Why did you choose Aidan Gillen as the Narrator?
Watching Game Of Thrones we thought his voice would be great for narrating Violet – it sounds wise but with a dark edge. But we were very lucky because we know Aidan a little and are good friends with his brother. So getting the script to him wasn’t difficult. He liked it and said he’d be happy to do it for us. Not only that but he very kindly insisted on doing it for free (which was just as well – we only had a tiny budget!). In the end he was paid in whatever he wanted during the recording. So how much does it cost to get Aidan Gillen to narrate your short film? Two bananas and a bottle of water.
When an important pigeon race and a rare visit home by his son Martin coincide, Charlie waits anxiously for a safe journey home: Wait by Audrey O’Reilly is the live action winning short film of Irish Film Festa 2016, and here’s our interview with Audrey. Congratulations!
Why did you choose pigeon races as a background for the story?
My father and brother were both avid hunters and dog men so I always had a particular interest in the way men often bond through their sports and animals. Then, when I studied in Ballyfermot College, I’d see the pigeon racers from exercising their birds and, in fact, made a documentary in the local pigeon racing club as part of a college exercise. For some reason the world fascinates me. I suspect pigeons will weave their way into a feature film at some stage.
How did you work on the set with Owen Roe and Rory Keenan?
The very act of casting Owen and Rory together meant most of my work was already done. Obviously both are exceptional actors, but I’d already seen them play father and son (they’ve worked together since Rory was 12) so I knew they’d have that sense of familiarity I wanted. Then, on set, other than making sure we hit certain moments I knew I wanted in each scene, it was a case of get out of their way and let them do it. (By the way, Owen says it’s the first non-villain he’s played on screen!)
Where was the film shot?
The loft scenes and the house were shot out in Bray in Wicklow, while the scenes in the club were shot in Sarsfield Pigeon Racing in Ballyfermot, where I shot a documentary about pigeon racing many few years ago. Actually many of the same guys are actually in both the documentary and film.
The squeaky hinge gets the oil. But when the squeak escapes the oil its sure to get you! Unhinged by Tom Caulfield is one of the animated short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.
Tom Caulfield worked as animator and character designer on many films, including Cartoon Saloon’s The Secret of Kells, The Book of Life, and Sylvain Chomet’s L’illusionniste.
Here’s our interview with Tom.
How did you come up with the idea for Unhinged?
The idea for Unhinged came about one morning while on my commute to work. I just happened to get on a bus with the squeakiest door in the whole of Dublin. What started out as a mild squeaky annoyance grew to be so distracting I couldn’t even concentrate on the book I was reading. Everytime the doors opened to let passengers on or off the squeak would go right through me. What made it even funny was the bus driver was totally immune to the noises emitting from the hinges.
After getting off the bus, I though the hinges must have really have enjoyed disrupting my usually quiet bus journey and that was the kernel of the idea that eventually evolved into Unhinged.
Can you describe the work you did on the character design of the three squeaky creatures?
The three characters, which I ended up calling Creakers by the end of the production, went through a few design passes. At one point they were musical instruments, then they were just dots with eyes. They were even like little insects at one point. All of those ideas fell by the wayside once I figured out what these little creakers were about. FUN! Just like I imagined the hinges on the bus having a great time making me sit through their metallic chorus, these characters had to be having that same type of fun. So I used big, chunky, fun shapes for the final designs. Of course their main noise making instrument is their mouth. With that in mind I kept all the features close to the top of the head and gave a pretty large belly that would give room for a mouth that could open extremely wide.
The Creakers color scheme is based off the Irish Flag: Green, for their skin; White, for their bellies; and lastly, Gold for the tails.
Unhinged is a great example of classical animation, completely based on action and physical expressions: did you have any particular source of inspiration?
The main source of inspiration for this short was everyday life. Had I not have gotten on that bus I probably would have never came up this little story. My real life reaction to the hinge squeaking on the bus has been transferred in to the doorman in the short. There is one shot in the short where the hotel guests don’t react to the sound, that was just like me on the bus, for some reason it didn’t seem to bother anyone else. Its little tidbits like that, I feel inspire shots or incidents in your work.
For the animation side of things, having been brought up on copious amounts of Saturday morning cartoons, Disney films and the Muppets. I ended up studying classical animation for a few years in Dublin. I wanted the short to be a visual story with realistic characters, so the Disney films forced me to try reach that level of character acting. So there has been years of influences gone in to this short, but ultimately I wanted to celebrate animation and just what it can do and how fun it can be.
What better medium to bring you in side a hinge or a blob of oil?
Once there was a man who was afraid to go out: it’s the opening of The Teacup by Elif Boyacioglu, one of the animated short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.
The Teacup is a 2-D animated short, produced by the students of the Irish School of Animation at the Ballyfermot College of Further Education in May 2015.
Here’s our interview with Elif.
Can you tell us something about the animation technique used for the film?
For the animation we did the initial rough animation with pencil and paper, which were scanned/photographed into the computer. Then we used the Adobe Photoshop plug-in Anim_Dessin developed by Stephane Baril, to do any fine in-betweening that was left and line as well as color the animation. Most of the effects animation (especially the light-motes) were done 2D on the computer, again with Anim_Dessin.
Why are teacups and tea sets so relevant in shaping the relationships between characters?
From the very beginning it was my intention to connect the man and his teacup intrinsically. It was first hisgrandmother’s and then his. The teacup in a sense symbolizes him. Thus once the teacup starts to be affected by the events you realize that the man himself is being affected. The woman’s tea set on the other hand, the very reason the man even opens the door, we wanted to be as different as possible from his, almost opposites, angular and robust.
Without spoiling it, we’d like to know something more about the ending, which comes as an ironic surprise and it’s very important to define the meaning of the story.
The ending was actually the first thing I wrote. Working on the film we all knew that people would perceive the ending differently; some would think it cruel, others would find it funny, still others a bit positive. I always intended it to be funny to some extent, which is why we have the comedic timing as it is. But for me, personally, it is a positive ending especially because of what happens with the teacup at the very end.
Two people at sea, trapped between a rock and a hard place, must face the distance between them: My Bonnie, directed by Hannah Quinn, is one of the live action short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.
Hannah, daughter of the great Irish film-maker Bob Quinn (who attended Irish Film Festa two years ago with his documentary Atlantean) worked as an assistant director on many films, including Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and The Martian. My Bonnie is her directorial debut.
Landscape plays a big part in My Bonnie‘s story: where was it shot? And how did you work along with cinematographer Tim Fleming to film the beauty of that shore?
We shot My Bonnie off the Connemara coast in Co. Galway. The rock, Carraig Leathan, is on a beach near a village called Carraroe, where we used to go swimming as kids. Tim is also my husband and I dragged him down to the beach at dawn. We witnessed the most spectacular sunrise (see photo below) and agreed we had to shoot the film on the rock.
Two weeks later, an incredibly talented and generous crew and cast agreed to come down west, to shoot the film with us, and we were all put up and fed by my parents. As the beach is isolated and we had no budget, there was never going to be a lighting crew, so we shot the film with natural light and at sunrise and sunset. The crew got up at 4am to wait for sunrise and then went home for a siesta and breakfast. Myself, Tim and our art director, covered set watch. The crew came back in the afternoon for the evening light and some even swam across to the rock as the tide had come in. We were incredibly lucky and got beautiful weather for the shoot, except for one afternoon when the rain came and made the rock too slippy to work on. So we had to stop filming early on that day and go to the pub… every cloud.
Liz Quinn, who plays Sadie, is also the screenwriter: how did you work on the dialogues with her and Tom Sullivan?
Liz wrote beautifully lyrical and rhythmical dialogue, so it was a joy to hear Liz and Tom play with the lines and make them their own. Tom has terrific comedic timing which added hugely to what is a simple but very insightful two hander about the complexities of a couple going through a break-up.
What about the soundtrack?
For the music, I listened to samples of the top 50 Irish albums of 2014 until I hit upon notes that felt right for the film. Next Time Round was the final track on an album by Hidden Highways who are a terrific folk duo. The song really struck a chord with me and feels just perfect.
Lying Down, one of the short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016, stages a situation which is both physical and metaphorical: Will needs to move on with his life; unfortunately, Will can’t move in any direction at all. Alanna can’t see what his problem is. Can she help him if she doesn’t understand him? Or will Will stay stuck in the same place, forever?
Here are our questions to the two directos, Susan Collins and Brian O’Brien
How did you work, along with screenwriters, on this really peculiar short story?
Our writers Paul McCarrick and Nikolas Fitzgerlad reached out to us as the OFFLline Filmmaker‘s challenge neared, and we were happy and flattered to collaborate with them. We were lucky enough to have them with us for our auditions, so we could work together on refining the script. We asked actors to try the same lines with different emotions – it’s amazing how the meaning of the same lines changes depending on the relationship between the two characters.
This workshop process was a great way for the writers to see which lines worked and which didn’t, and for us to clarify what kind of relationship we wanted to see between the characters Will and Alanna. When we started the process, Will and Alanna were very similar people with similar problems. It was much more realistic – and interesting – when we realized that they are different, they don’t necessarily understand each other, but they still have a bond.
The script touches on something that a lot of young people in Ireland can empathize with, that sensation of feeling lost after college, but we worked with the writers so that the story wasn’t too depressing; you can always find something to laugh at!
How did you choose your main actors, Matt Burke and Hannah O’Reilly?
The auditions were held in pairs where possible to see if the actors had any chemistry. We were lucky enough to have several choices for both characters, and we chose Matt and Hannah because they are very talented actors, who responded to each other really well. They were excellent at showing us how their characters annoy and confuse each other, while at the same time the underlying concern and affection between them is clear. Both worked hard and committed to the story and the shoot.
Where was the film shot?
We shot Lying Down in the beautiful heritage town of Birr, in County Offaly. We found a lovely, narrow street backed by an ivy-covered stone wall, which enclosed all our action into a small, defined space. It was a busy street with lots of people passing by, and their brisk progress contrasts so well with Will’s fixed position. The people of Birr are very welcoming and friendly, and we were delighted to have some local people (including a Birr kitten!) in our film. Finding new ways to shoot this strange little story wasn’t easy, but it was a lot of fun! We had to shoot it over a very small period of time, but having it be set one location was a big help in this regard; our limitations helping us focus on making the most of the script and the actors.
Struggling children’s book writer Harold Finch gains an unexpected house guest, a 20 year old, hyper-intelligent mosquito named Anabel: Harold and Anabel are the protagonists of Love is a Sting by Vincent Gallagher, one of the short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.
Harold is played by Seán T. Ó Meallaigh, who also stars in tv series 1916 Seachtar na Cásca as Seán Mac Diarmada and Gaelic-language western An Klondike, which are going to screen at Irish Film Festa as well, and are both directed by Dathaí Keane. Seán e Dathaí are expected to attend the festival.
Love is a Sting also feature another Irish actor, the great Ciarán Hinds as the Narrator, and is written by Benjamin Cleary, who won the Oscar for best short film this year with Stutterer.
Here are our three questions to Vincent Gallagher.
A mosquito is a very unusual protagonist: how did you and screenwriter Benjamin Cleary create the character of Anabel?
Mosquitos are universally regarded as pests. Myself and Ben were always really interested in the idea of perception. People often judge books by their covers, we wanted to show that when you look closely you might see something beyond the surface.
It was important that when Harold interacts with Anabel in the beginning he sees her just as a pest, just as anyone would. It’s not until we look beyond that, when we see her in close up that we see her true face. We wanted her to have her own personality, she has lived among humans, has been fascinated by them, so she has naturally picked up some human mannerisms.
Why did you choose Ciarán Hinds as the Narrator?
Ciarán Hinds brings such a warmth to the narration. With the storybook quality of the film, we wanted a narrator that had a very distinct voice with gravitas. Ciarán has such a quality to his voice that you would want to hear him reading you a story. Ciarán was playing Claudius in Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch in London and we managed to get in contact with him, and he came on board straight away. With a small window of opportunity I travelled over to London and recorded the narration.
Where was the film shot?
We didn’t want the film to feel like it was set in any particular time or place. To achieve this we shot the exteriors of Harold’s home in an old Victorian tenement which we digitally stitched together with the interior, which was shot in another part of Dublin.
IRISHFILMFESTA returns to Rome from 7 to 10 April 2016: the festival dedicated to Irish film reaches its ninth edition and will be held as usual at the Casa del Cinema, with Irish films being screened in Italy for the first time as well as daily meetings with directors and actors. The competition section, founded in 2010 and reserved for short films, will include 15 works, of which ten will be live action and five animated.
Among the feature films, nearly all of which are Italian premieres, is the winner of the prize for best first film at the Galway Film Fleadh 2015, which had its world premiere at the Berlinale 2015: You’re Ugly Too by Mark Noonan, with Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, Love/Hate) and Lauren Kinsella. Will, released from prison, must take care of his niece Stacey who has just lost her mother. The two attempt, amid great difficulty, to become a family.
Spectators at the IRISHFILMFESTA can also see The Survivalist by Stephen Fingleton with Martin McCann, Mia Goth and Olwen Fouéré, also a debut presented at the Galway Fleadh 2015: a thriller in a post-apocalyptic setting and already the recipient of awards by the British Independent Film Awards and the Tribeca Film Festival, and BAFTA nominated.
From the 2014 edition of the Galway Film Fleadh, and once again honoured best first film, comes the dramatic situation I Used to Live Here by Frank Berry, who tackles the phenomenon of cluster suicides (the copy-cat effect on the direct or indirect witnesses of a suicide) among young people in a small community. Acted mostly by non-professionals, the film is made in collaboration with Headstrong, an association involved in the care and protection of mental health in adolescents and young adults.
Set in Canada at the end of the 19th century, in the gold rush era, but shot entirely in the Galway region, An Klondikeis the first western made in Ireland and filmed mainly in Gaelic. Directed and edited by Dathaí Keane, with his debut in fiction. Starring Owen McDonnell, Dara Devaney and Sean T. Ó Meallaigh, An Klondike is the film version (105 minutes) of a miniseries in four episodes distributed abroad under the title Dominion Creek. In the big screen version, An Klondike was chosen as the closing film of the Galway Film Fleadh 2015.
This year the IRISHFILMFESTA will dedicate a special tribute to the Galway Film Fleadh, from which many of the films in the IRISHFILMFESTA programme come, and which is preparing to celebrate its 28th edition.
The programme features Pursuit (2015), by playwright and theatre director Paul Mercier, in a modern underworld version of the ancient Irish legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne. Gráinne, the daughter of a major crime boss, becomes engaged to rival Fionn in order to consolidate an old alliance. However she’s in love with Fionn’s right-hand man Diarmuid. The cast includes Ruth Bradley, Barry Ward, Liam Cunningham, Owen Roe, Don Wycherley, Dara Devaney, David Pearse, Sean T. Ó Meallaigh and Brendan Gleeson.
Joey, Robert, William and Michael Dunlop, from a small rural town in Northern Ireland, have dominated the world stage for two generations of road motorcycling, the most dangerous of motor sports: Diarmuid Lavery and Michael Hewitt tell their story in the documentary film Road(2014), which is narrated by Liam Neeson.
IRISHFILMFESTA 2016 devotes a special section to the Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the beginning of a long process towards the establishment of the Republic of Ireland. It will be possible to see the Italian premiere of 1916 The Irish Rebellion, a documentary film narrated by the acclaimed Irish actor Liam Neeson, which places the events of Dublin’s Easter Rising in a European and global perspective, analysing it through the prism of a wave of anti-colonialism that gathered momentum on the eve of World War I and would result in the eventual collapse of the British Empire.
The programme also includes a selection of episodes from 1916 Seachtar na Casca (The Easter Seven), a historical-documentary television series directed by the director of An Klondike, Dathaí Keane, scripted by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh, and produced by Abú Media Films for gaelic-language television channel TG4. Seachtar na Casca comprises seven episodes, each devoted to one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising and the signatories of the Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom: Thomas J. Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, James Connolly, Patrick H. Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, Thomas McDonagh and Joseph Plunkett. The narrator is Brendan Gleeson.
In addition the IRISHFILMESTA features nine short films made as part of After ’16, the funding programme established by the Irish Film Board as part of the commemoration initiatives and artistic production linked to the 1916 centenary. The shorts of After ’16 are: A Father’s Letter by Joe Dolan, A Terrible Hullabaloo by Ben O’Connor, Baring Arms by Colm Quinn, Goodbye, Darling by Elena Doyle, Granite and Chalk by Patrick Hodgins, Mr. Yeats and the Beastly Coins by Laura McNicholas and Ann Marie Hourihane, My Life for Ireland by Kieron J. Walsh, The Cherishing by Dave Tynan, and The Party by Andrea Harkin.
Also under the section dedicated to the anniversary of the Easter Rising is the Irish Classic specially selected for 2016: Neil Jordan‘s Michael Collins(1996), twenty years after the Golden Lion and the Coppa Volpi were awarded to the film’s star Liam Neeson at the Venice International Film Festival. The film, whose script took Jordan more than a decade to write and rewrite, focuses on the last six years in the life of Michael Collins, who during the uprising of 1916 was a young officer at the helm of the Irish Volunteers and would become one of the most important figures of Sinn Féin and the fight for independence.
The Casa del Cinema will also house an exhibition, 1916: Portraits and Lives, a selection of 42 portraits of men and women from the Easter Rising, created by illustrator David Rooney for the eponymous book published by the Royal Irish Academy.
Finally, in homage to the Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, whose entire filmography has been screened over previous editions of IRISHFILMFESTA, the festival will screen his latest film, Room. Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, who personally supervised the film adaptation, Room was awarded an Oscar in 2016 for Best Actress, won by Brie Larson, as well as receiving three other nominations (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay).
Joseph is an elderly man who, upon dying, is given the opportunity to relive one day of his life: Joseph’s Reel, directed by Michael Lavers, is one of the ten live action short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.
Shot on 35mm film, Joseph’s Reel stars Robert Hardy (Sense and Sensibility, Harry Potter), Alice Lowe (Hot Fuzz, Sightseers), Oliver Tilney and Ella Road. The film world premiered at Palm Springs ShortFest in June 2015.
In the following interview, Michael tells us that he’s currently working on a feature version of the short.
In Joseph’s Reel cinema and its language are used as a metaphor for time travelling and manipulation. Can you tell us something about this aspect?
That’s an interesting take, and I’m now wondering if the whole thing is this awful manipulation fantasy!
I guess featuring the cinema screen and script was always going to invite those comparisons to filmmaking. Even more interesting to me though was the comparison to our memories. In the film, Joseph has to follow the script of the day as it happened, but where did that script come from? Is it a note-perfect recording of what actually happened (like time travelling), or is it just the subjective script of how Joseph remembered it?
In a way, when we remember things we’re all filmmaking — we take music, images, phrases and emotions and tie them all together (or manipulate them!) into something that makes sense to us. It’s even more relative when you think how fallible memory is and how it can change over time. I thought that was pretty interesting, and I’ve tried to keep that idea front and centre in the feature version I’m writing (shameless what-I’m-up-to-now drop).
How did you cast the two Josephs?
My producer Collie McCarthy (who will be at your lovely festival) and I always hoped we could land a known actor to play Old Joseph, so we sent the script out to a few British heavyweight character actors. We couldn’t believe it when Robert Hardy said he was interested in the role. I’d grown up watching him on All Creatures Great and Small re-runs, so it was a dream to work with him. It was also scary, but only for all of five minutes — he was the sweetest, most dedicated actor I could have hoped to have worked with.
When we knew he was signed on, we went looking for a Young Joseph we thought could look like Robert in his twenties. We looked at pictures of Robert in a BBC series of Henry V from 1960 for reference. However the actor we cast, Oliver Tilney, doesn’t actually look that much like Robert did! But Oliver was so good in his audition he didn’t give us much of a choice; he was totally believable in this weird scenario. Oliver’s trained in both screen and stage performance, so he had the physicality we wanted for all the running around required coupled with an incredible acting talent.
Where was the film shot?
We shot the flashback scenes at a cottage down in Surrey, which is south of London in the UK — it had these great open spaces and our production designer worked hard to get it looking like a 50s household. The cinema/projection room scenes were shot in Hammersmith, London, at Riverside Studios. They knocked the place down a few months later (it’s being re-developed) so I think we were the last to film in the cinema as it was. We got very lucky with the exteriors — a beautiful sunny weekend between two huge downpours — but that’s British summertime for you!
An ode to Love, directed by New Zealand born filmmaker Matthew Darragh, is one of the animated short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.
The film tells the story of a lonely man on a desert island who explores the highs and lows of romantic love when a mysterious companion is washed ashore.
An Ode To Love was awarded for Best Irish Animation in the 2014 Foyle Film Festival where it made its premiere screening, and it was screened at the 2015 Galway Film Fleadh.
How did you come up with the idea for this very original story? And what about the ironic title?
The film is about a lonely man on a desert island who falls in love with a stick. Their relationship starts off wonderfully, but then it all starts to go terribly wrong. It’s a romantic tragedy, I guess!
I wrote it while living in Spain at a time when everyone around me seemed to be experiencing all kinds of relationship drama. I began to wonder just how much of that drama we encourage or even create from some kind of basic need for it. And how much we project onto others who we want them to be, especially in the romantic phases of love. The story then formed around those ideas. Although the stick in the story is just a plain old stick, our hero still somehow contrives to experience friendship, love, and even heartbreak in their relationship.
Yes, the “Love” in the title refers to a very specific kind of love. A friend suggested the film should be called “An Ode to the push and pull dynamics and projection inherent in romantic love” but that doesn’t really roll off the tongue.
Can you tell us something about the animation technique used for the film?
The film is CG animation, using animation software called Maya. I was lucky enough to be able to make it in a great studio called Brown Bag Films in Dublin. It took our core team about a year to make the film. We worked around the TV shows being made, enlisting the artists and production crew whenever they had any down time, and then outsourced some of the animation and lighting when we needed to. It was a delicate balance, but the team really embraced it and gave so much of themselves to it. I think you can see that in the film, how much care was given to each stage of it. I’m very grateful for our team. The film turned out so much better than even I had imagined it!
Music plays a big part in An Ode to Love: how did you work with the composer Stefan French?
Filmbase and RTÉ who funded the film put us forward for an award to have the film’s music scored by a very gifted young composer, Stefan French, and then performed by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
Stefan had a lot of influence with the music. I’d originally imagined the score as being quite quirky, using French popular music from the 60s and 70s, but Stefan suggested making the score more classical to take full advantage of the orchestra, and I think that was a great call. The orchestral score seems to give the film more pathos.
It was special to be there when the 42 piece orchestra played it. They literally read the score once and then recorded it! The collaboration with Stefan and the orchestra happened quite early on in the production, and it really raised the bar for us, giving us a lot of momentum and inspiration.
Andy and Ryan Tohill are the directors of Insulin, one of the live action short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.
Insulin‘s screenplay is written by Stephen Fingleton, the director and screenwriter of post-apocalyptic-drama feature film The Survivalist which is also going to screen at Irish Film Festa. Insulin, The Survivalist and another short film, Awaydays by Michael Lennox (Boogaloo & Graham), are all set in the same dark, violent dystopian world.
Insulin tells the story of a man, holed up in a run down pharmacy, helping his diabetic wife to survive on scarce supplies of insulin, and trading medicine for food from the outside world. The film stars Barry Ward (Jimmy’s Hall), Tara Lynne O’Neill, Ciaran Flynn and Sophie Harkness.
Insulin is part of a bigger project which includes The Survivalist and Awaydays: can you tell us something more about this fictional world created by Stephen Fingleton?
Stephen Fingleton’s Survivalist world is not just about the collapse of society but natures’ power to regain control over the decaying, man made world.
In our film Insulin we wanted to approach his Survivalist vision from another perspective, to remove nature from the film. Instead, telling a story in a very different environment; in an urban, oppressive interior. The bleakness of the outside world is never seen and the characters cling on to a doomed hope of survival from the inside of their depleted pharmacy.
How did you work with the actors on this emotionally challenging story?
The film was shot in two days so we didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time, but I think Stephen’s script was brilliantly bleak and simple and that the stakes for each character jumped off the page. All the actors knew the film is about survival at any cost, so it was a matter of getting them into that head space. The character Trader remained for the majority of the shoot on the other side of the door, so he was always removed from the other actors in that sense. That distance and lack of familiarity was important for their performances, as the film hinges on whether to trust a stranger or not.
Where was the film shot?
There was a lot of set design needed to convince the audience of a decaying society, that all had to be obvious from the interior of one or two rooms, so we were really looking for four walls an a ceiling to build a set. It had to be somewhere we could do a lot of design without fear of destroying a place, so gaining access to a pharmacy and trashing it was out. Then we thought of an old bakery which had been vacant for a decade or so across the street from our family home in Belfast, and that’s were we ended up shooting. There was a strange nostalgia filming in our own childhood neighbourhood, the same place were we grew up making films with our friends.