Three questions to… Stuart Graham, director of The Good Word

The Good Word is one of the short films selected for the Irish Film Festa 2015 competition and it marks the directorial debut of actor Stuart Graham.

Stuart was at the festival last year attending the screening of Brian Deane’s Volkswagen Joe, which was awarded as best short film by our live action jury.

The Good Word stars Úna Kavanagh, Conleth Hill, and Paul Kennedy (the director of Made in Belfast, also presented at Irish Film Festa 2014 — Paul runs the KGB Screen company along with Stuart) as the misterious Ivan Cutler, who spreads the good word throughout the townlands of Ireland in the 1950s. The script is by the crime novelist Stuart Neville.

Stuart Graham spoke about his choices as a director and how The Good Word will soon develop into a feature film.


Even if we make sense of it just by the end, the dialogue between the three characters takes the most part of the film: how did you work on the script by Stuart Neville?

Two years ago, I made a list of Northern Irish writers that I was keen to work with. Stuart Neville was at the very top of that list. When we first met, it was primarily to talk about one of his novels, Ratlines, which is now in full development as a tv series.

The Good Word came into being very much as a by-product of that initial meeting, a very happy one. When Stuart first sent me the 18 pages, the richness of the dialogue was instantly recognisable to me as being from a part of the world that I know very well. It made me laugh, out loud, and I fell in love with the three characters. It was a no-brainer for me to keep the directorial style of the piece simple, almost old-fashioned, and allow that richness of dialogue to blossom in the hands of my three wonderful actors.

Since then, working with Stuart (on both projects) has been extremely enjoyable, rewarding, and, perhaps most importantly, easy. He has an instinctively filmic understanding of his own work which makes the development process a joy. So far, anyway! This is not the end for The Good Word. The story continues and we plan to develop it into a feature project. A little hint of which comes at the end of the credits.


Why did you feature the song Beautiful Isle of Somewhere in the soundtrack?

Beautiful Isle of Somewhere was written in the late nineteenth century but I first came across it in an arrangement done in the 1950’s. So, immediately, the timeframe seemed right. It is a hymn, which again felt right given our subject matter. I don’t want to say too much, but it is deliberately joyful and pure. Although the tone of the piece is very specifically set in the north-east of Ireland, thematically it could be set in any rural isolated “beautiful” community. Draw your own conclusions. Most importantly, I liked it! I want to say a big thank you to Andrew Simon McAllister who provided me with two fantastic arrangements of the song.


Where was The Good Word shot?

We shot the film in County Antrim, near the town of Ballyclare. In the home of the Todd Family, who very kindly allowed us in. A big thank you to them. In fact, I would like to thank everyone who worked on the film. We set out to do a lot, with limited resources and time, and we could not have achieved it without the dedication, hard work and talent of everyone involved.