Máire Robinson talks to writer/director Paul Ward about his first feature Fur Coat & No Knickers, a romcom which puts the lives of gay characters centre stage and which will have its upcoming debut at GAZE, Dublin’s annual lesbian and gay film festival.
Over the years, Paul Ward has been a loyal attendee of Dublin’s GAZE film festival, an annual showcase of LGBT films. Despite enjoying the festival each year, he felt there was something missing. ‘There was never an Irish movie,’ says Paul, ‘With all the successful Irish writers, they wouldn’t dream of writing an Irish gay story. I thought, if they can make films in the Middle East, Europe, South America and, God knows, every other country going, why can’t we have one in Ireland?’
Deciding to take matters into his own hands, Paul wrote Fur Coat & No Knickers a romantic comedy set in Dublin’s theatre world. He wanted to write an Irish film where gay characters could take centre stage, and not be limited to supporting roles, ‘This is the first time it’s been all out, completely gay characters. Although we do have one token straight guy in it,’ he laughs. Paul has his own theories as to why it has taken so long for what is essentially Ireland’s first gay romantic comedy to be made. ‘People probably think that it’s hard enough to get a movie made, so they definitely won’t be given money to make a gay story. You have to be crazy like me! It’s the only way.’
Fur Coat & No Knickers is Paul’s first feature film as writer/director. He honed his craft by writing and directing several short films, starting back in the early ’90s, when cameras were less user-friendly. ‘I shot films with a camcorder – a big huge yoke and you’d traipse around with it. Then the cameras just got smaller and smaller. You can get brilliant equipment now, compared to those days, which makes it more democratic for everyone making films.’
Paul’s involvement in theatre helped to prepare him for his debut feature film. He set up his own theatre company, Misty Productions, and produced, directed and acted in several plays. ‘It was the best training ever for doing a low budget movie,’ he explains, ‘I was used to doing everything, so it made it easier.’ His background in theatre also provided writing material for Fur Coat & No Knickers. ‘A lot of it is based on carry-on we used to get up to in the theatre. In gay life, there are a lot of romantic stories and characters you meet – you wish you never did, in some cases.’
The film offers a glimpse into a Dublin not seen often on screen. Scenes shot on location in The Panti Bar and Outhouse lend an authenticity to the film, which Paul feels is important, ‘It rings true with the gay crowd. There are a few scenes that might be, “Oh my God!” but nothing embellished from what does goes on. It’s probably even tamed down, to tell you the truth. It might raise a few eyebrows, but that’s a good thing.’
The low budget film was shot in Dublin city over seventeen days. Despite operating on a deferred payment system, there was no problem finding willing cast and crew members. ‘When you treat people right and tell them up front what the story is, most people are happy with that,’ says Paul. The film has already caught the attention of several buyers, prior to its official premiere. ‘We have had some interest already from sales agents to get it sold in the different territories for DVD deals. We’ll try to get the best deal and get everyone paid.’
Paul Ward will be in attendance next week at the GAZE film festival, now in its 17th year. Fur Coat & No Knickers will have its world premiere at the festival, on the 1st of August at 6.30pm in the Light House cinema