Interview: Tom Ryan, director of ‘Trampoline’



Trampoline, the independent Irish feature about a woman returning home and having to readjust to the life she left behind, had its world premiere at the Indie Cork film festival last week. Glenn Caldecott bounced some ideas around with first-time writer/director Tom Ryan about the film and the challenges of independence. 


What inspired you to make Trampoline?

Trampoline was born out of a lifelong desire to be a writer/ director. After finishing college I worked within the film industry as a camera assistant for three years which was a huge learning curve for me. Working on shoots with the camera department meant I was always privy to watching how different directors interact with actors. Late last year I eventually felt confident enough to write a feature script and put it into production. I wrote the script around my production limitations. For example, I knew that it would more cost effective to shoot it in my hometown of Nenagh than it would a big city like Dublin, Cork or Galway. I was drawn to the idea of people my age who feel lost and directionless after finishing college. I have many friends in that position so that was the basis of the script. I really didn’t think that there were any Irish movies that dealt with this kind of idea so that was another reason for me to want to make it.


What considerations are there when making an independent film?

Making an independent film is a tough but extremely rewarding process. The only problem is that you don’t get any of the rewards until you have the entire project completed. Being an independent movie means that you have no safety net, no major financial support and absolutely no promise that it will ever be screened. All of this can be quite daunting but it is also an incredible learning experience. You also have to choose your cast and crew carefully, it’s an intense process and you need people that you can count on and who you trust. I was incredibly lucky with my cast and crew. Filmmaking is a collaboration and in order to get through the stress and torture that can sometimes arise from shooting you need a team of people who are all incredibly willing to support each other.


Can you talk about how the film was financed? What was the motivation behind getting local Nenagh businesses to sponsor the film?

We were unable to get any official funding of any kind so we decided to ask the local businesses in the town of Nenagh if they would help sponsor the film. In exchange for a donation they would get a mention in the credits and a shot of their shop-front in the movie. It was product placement of sorts but it worked. One of the major advantages of shooting your first film in your hometown is that there is amazing goodwill and support from everybody there so we were extremely fortunate that the local businesses were so kind to us, otherwise we really wouldn’t be where we are today with the movie.


How did you work with the DOP to get such a great looking film on a budget? 

My DOP, Cian Moynan, is one of those rare talents in the business. He has such a good eye for visuals and he is very confident when it comes to setting up shots. I found early on in the shoot that the best way to get natural performances from the actors would be to let them have free reign of the room during the scene. This way they would not have to worry about hitting marks or delivering lines certain ways as they turn to hit specific lights on set and things like that, so as a result of this Cian had to throw his shotlist out the window and improv his shots around the actors. That might sound a bit crazy but Cian was more than capable of stepping up to that challenge and he did a fantastic job. It is very important for the director to have a cinematographer that he/she can trust implicitely. We didn’t have the budget for any monitors or equipment like that so I put a lot of trust in Cian to get the right shots and he went above and beyond the call of duty for us.


What was the most valuable thing that you learnt while working as a camera assistant that you could apply to making Trampoline?

I have worked on good shoots and bad shoots throughout my years as a camera assistant and the difference between and enjoyable experience and a horrible one is all down to the way the set is run and whether or not there is a mutual respect there for everybody involved. It doesn’t matter if you are the director or the camera assistant, there should be no real hierarchy. Everybody is their to do their job and make sure that things run smoothly so that you can all get the best results for the finished film. Filmmaking is a team effort and every member of that team is essential, that was one of the most important things I learned while working as a camera assist.


The film  played last week at the IndieCork Film Festival, what’s the plan for it going forward?

Going forward we are hoping that Trampoline will have a healthy and successful festival life. We are thrilled to bits with the wonderful reactions that it has been getting so far. We would ideally love for it to get picked up by a distributor. We strongly believe that there is an audience for this kind of film in Ireland and we’re eager to get it out to more people. We are being screened as part of the Clones Film Festival on Sunday, 27th October, which is going to be a great experience. We are also in the early stages of development with our second feature so fingers crossed I’ll get all the team back and we can get cracking on the next one soon!



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