Interview: Writer Ciaran Creagh on Irish film ‘Parked’

PARKED_Colm_Meaney

A  triumphant story of friendship, hope, and perseverance, Parked tells the story of Fred Daly (Colm Meaney) as he returns to Ireland with nowhere to live but his car. Then dope-smoking 21-year-old Cathal (Colin Morgan) parks beside him, and brightens up his lonely world. Encouraged by Cathal, Fred meets attractive music teacher Jules (Milka Ahlroth). Growing closer, these three outsiders are set on a course that will change their lives forever.

The film’s writer, Ciaran Creagh, tells Film Ireland about Parked, which is released in cinemas this week.

Tell us a little bit about the ideas and issues behind Parked.
Parked tells the story of Fred, a returning emigrant, who has been living in the UK for some decades. On returning and having no home to go to, he has no option but to live in his car. A proud and honest man he finds it difficult to seek out help from the State. Cathal is an honest working-class lad who didn’t get the breaks in life. He too has also ended up living in his car in the same car park as Fred. Homelessness in the current recession can sneak up on anybody and definitely gone are the stereotypical notions. The rule book has been torn up and it is now getting easier to become part of an ever increasing marginalised Irish society.

How did Parked come about – were you approached to do it?
Like the main location in the film it all began in a car park. A chance phone call seeking a writer to hook up with a director for the Catalyst Project in 2007 and the journey commenced. Timing wise it could have been better as I was going on holidays to the Kingdom of Kerry. Holiday activity with the family were squeezed by late nights and early morning writing sessions, the first draft being produced prior to returning home. A very quick second draft was turned around and The Vanishing Point aka. Parked was submitted but the application proved unsuccessful.

How would you describe the relationship between Fred & Cathal?
It is like a father/son relationship with Fred trying to help and protect Cathal from the scourge of drugs while Cathal is pushing Fred to reconnect with the world. Cathal has serious issues with his own father and Fred has become his surrogate father in a way, one that listens but at the same time doesn’t judge. Maybe Fred sees himself in Cathal and that he lost his way when he was young and that drove him to emigrate. The overriding attribute of their relationship is that they are just good friends.

On a simple level I saw it that Cathal is trying to escape while Fred is trying to fit in.
Fred has been away from Ireland for most of his adult life and he has come to realise that he has failed to fit in the UK after all the decades he has lived there. Fred took the decision to return home hoping that he could slip back into his old life but he soon realises that Ireland is now a very changed country and from the start Fred is pushed to the margins of society. In contrast Cathal has disconnected from society due to his family circumstances and his constant drug use. In a way though both Fred and Cathal are very similar in that Fred never wants to draw attention to himself and Cathal just ignores society.

We learn quite a bit about Cathal & Juliana’s characters, but with Fred his story is never revealed – what was the thinking behind this?
Originally in the script we see Fred in London prior to coming home living in isolation and becoming more and more alienated from society. This was part of the reason he chose to come home. The scenes were shot but excluded from the final cut as it felt that it slowed the flow of the film. These type of decisions are difficult to make and does the shot of the ferry arriving and a disillusioned Fred parking up his car in the car park to sleep achieve the same effect? From my perspective I think it was the right decision. Also early on it was decided that we didn’t want Fred to be the typical ‘Paddy’ character, e.g. an uneducated alcoholic Irish builder living in Kilburn. Fred likes classical music, can fix clocks and has an orderly organised mind.

How close did you work with the film’s director, Darragh Byrne?
During the development process of Parked, the director and myself over a period of about six months dissected each character, scene and setting in turn to a stage where we felt that the film was working really well. The intense development really stood to the story and brought the script to a place where it deserved to be. There is no substitute for hard work. Even though the work associated with this process was significant, it proved to be the right choice, and when the Irish Film Board and Ripple World Pictures became involved the film moved quickly through their development process to the production stage very quickly indeed.

What’s it like to see the characters from your imagination come alive on screen?
I have lived with these guys for years now, rattling around my head through all the various drafts and on all the journeys that they took. Through the development process we put Fred and Cathal, the two main characters, in all sorts of scenarios and locations but funnily enough my first thought when I think of them is visualising the two of them leaving the car park in Fairview and walking down towards the Bull Wall having a laugh. I can’t see any other faces now but Colm and Colin probably because they are Fred and Cathal.

What are you currently working on – any more screenplays in the pipeline?
Presently I am working on two screenplays, a Northside Dublin comedy and a period piece and have about five treatments on the go. I am also writing a play about the famine which hopefully will be premiered in 2013.

Steven Galvin

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