Gemma Creagh sat down with the creators of The Hardy Bucks, Martin Maloney (Eddie Durkin) and Chris Tordoff (The Viper), while Owen Colgan (Buzz O’Donnell) buzzed around the room shouting incoherently. Following the release of The Hardy Bucks Movie on DVD, the guys chatted about starting out, censorship and their transition to the big screen.
Chris Tordoff: We just started filming each other with a camcorder that we got from Argos and started putting it online, originally on Bebo and then on Youtube. When Facebook overtook Bebo our videos got shared around and we got big in Ireland. When RTÉ did Storyland we went and did that and got the TV series from there. It was just this big snowball effect.
How did you guys promote it at the time?
Martin Maloney: Just through word of mouth. Word of mouth through Facebook and social media.
CT: Yeah I don’t know if you did it nowadays it would take off because there’s so much out there now. It’s all about the idea as well. The West of Ireland isn’t represented at all in media or pop culture in Ireland, you usually get Dublin-centric stuff, which doesn’t really appeal to people where we’re living. It’s a bit silly for us to be always looking at the cosmopolitan stuff, so it was nice to be able to get our own voices out there.
It was great though, I remember it went around all the colleges at the time. So were you guys all friends?
MM: Yeah, yeah all mates and piss-up brothers.
CT: We find it hard to work sometimes and knuckle down because no one wants to be an arsehole and say you are doing this wrong or that wrong.
MM: Yeah no one wants to nominate a leader and no one wants to be led by someone else, even though you do need that one person.
CT: They do say to never work with your friends or family. We do a good job of keeping a lid on it but it’s tough because it’s hard to be professionals.
MM: Your friends are usually there as a distraction from work but when your friends become work you can end up just talking about work all the time. It’s been nice of late because we haven’t been in each other’s pockets and it’s gone back to how it was. But we’ve always managed to still stay the best of friends.
Did you guys have any idea how far it would blow up, was it all part of a plan?
Owen Colgan: Yeah I knew I was going to be the biggest person in Dublin.
MM: To be honest with you when I first saw it, as daft as it was, I thought to myself you’d have to be a dry bastard not to find it funny, or for it to at least get a smile out of you. And obviously since then its changed format and different people have come in in terms of production.
CT: On the internet you’re allowed to say and do things that you’re not allowed to on TV. If you do get on TV or radio you have to narrow it down, be weaker, you can’t swear…
MM: People are worried about hypothetical backlash. I hate being censored because I’m very outspoken usually. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.
CT: We swear a lot and when it got taken to TV we couldn’t say the C-word. That word for us is very desensitised in the West of Ireland and it gets used liberally and can be used as a term of endearment. So that took away the natural feel of it because we couldn’t swear to express ourselves.
MM: It’s about timing and the swearing keeps the rhythm of the speech. A lot of it was ad lib and that often seen as a bad thing because maybe the editor has a hard time cutting around it but I think if you wade through it all and be patient then you get something that has more of that genuine sincere performance because you’re not drawing from a script, you are having to rely on your own life experiences.
It is sometimes ridiculous but it does feel very real, it has this nice natural flow. There’s some of it that you watch and think well that definitely wasn’t scripted.
MM: The film does have a lot of ad lib in it as well but it basically boils down to having a lot of backers and investors that want to see a return on their money and you have to have a script to give them
CT: It’s not yours it’s someone else’s, the paymasters and the people funding it so you have to compromise and do what other people say. If you can try to strike a balance and keep them happy but still manage to do what you originally set out to do then you’re doing a good job. You’ll always get people saying, “You’ve changed man, you used to be cooool”, but how else would you be able to make a living out of this and try to find a larger audience.
MM: It is a job at the end of the day and you have to do things in your job you don’t like, it’s the nature of work. You get a lot of people coming up to you and they don’t realise that. It’s easy to judge people if you don’t know what’s gone into their work. Everyone’s got an opinion.
What was the transition like from online to TV to the film?
CT: It felt like we were losing more power but attracting a wider audience. Some people might look at that as selling out and others might see it as just trying to get on and make it better.
MM: It was a gradual thing. The old stuff felt like it was half documentary. We treated it like the characters were real people.
CT: We’d just go and film situations, and it wasn’t scripted, we’d just get to locations and get people there to be in it, so it looked and felt real. But then on TV everything is scheduled, planned and scripted.
MM: And people are there because they’re being paid to be there, not because they love the show and want to help out. That’s something I found with the first series, there were a lot of people there who didn’t share the same passion for the comedy, they were just like, hurry up lads we need to get this done. If you’re doing comedy it needs to feel right and if you’re doing it in a bad mood then it’s not going to work because it’s all about energy and timing. We basically knew that if we’re making the crew laugh then that’s a good barometer of what’s funny and what’s not. But if you have people there who are like, alright lads stop messing, who are not there to laugh, it ruins it. That happened in the first series, it wasn’t as fun and we weren’t allowed to go off script. Then in the second series they were a lot more lenient and we finally got the crew we were used to. It was good craic then.
You said about social media being saturated now so if you were going to attack it again what would you do differently?
MM: I definitely think that if you have something that you believe will benefit someone’s life then just tell everybody you meet. Even just print out on paper what you do and give it to them.
CT: It would be different now because, at the time, nobody was doing that stuff. I’m not saying it was super cool or highly original but the idea is king and the format, all the social media, is secondary. If it’s good it will find and audience.
MM: And it’s always good to have a bit of healthy competition. In the case of the storyland the competition was brilliant, we certainly weren’t as qualified or seasoned as other competitors.
CT: That’s why I’m saying the idea is so important. The way you tackle it, whether you have a class budget and crew or not, doesn’t matter as long as the idea is something that resonates.
That’s the internet medium, it’s not about the production values or it looking good or slick, it’s about the content. So finally, how was it filming in Europe, was it stressful hitting all the days?
MM: Not particularly. There were some moments, because a lot of what we were doing had to fit into what was happening [the Bucks were filming on location during the Euro 2012 football tournament in Poland], you’d have to have your lines ready and deliver them as quick as possible. There’s a shot of us at the end outside the stadium and we kept going through takes because people would recognise us and want to come over and have the craic.
CT: It was very hard for the crew and director who actually had to get work done, and they were constantly working. For us, we’re not proper actors, it was just nice to be away doing Hardy Bucks on the road.
MM: We had a really small crew and everyone just got on as mates. That was nice because they were long days. When we got back it felt like we’d been to battle. When we landed back in Mayo it was just like, well now what.
CT: Well we did go through Amsterdam on the way back which softened the blow a bit.
The Hardy Bucks Movie is available for DVD rental and purchase now.