Film Ireland spoke to 2 of the 3 co-directors of Monged ahead of the film’s screening at the IFI as part of its monthly showcase for new Irish film. No drugs were taken in the making of this article.
Based on the award-winning play by Gary Duggan, Monged takes place over one drug-fuelled weekend in Dublin and stars Graham Earley, John Connors and Rex Ryan as three mismatched friends. .
Monged was directed by Rory Mullen, David Prendeville and Brian Quinn, and made as part of the Masters in Digital Feature Film Production at Filmbase, which places an emphasis on practical filmmaking to prepare students for a future in film production.
“The course really showed that making a film is entirely doable,” explains Brian. “You get thrown right in the deep end straight away. Our team was responsible for all aspects of the production. Prior to the shoot, we did classes in everything: script writing, pre-production, casting, camera, marketing, funding, music, etc. Then suddenly the powers that be pluck you from the cosy confines of the class room, hurling your feverish limbs into the real world where you have to put what you learned to use. I found the most important thing I learned was how to work with the people around you. Through initial practical class exercises you discover early on who you can trust. Trust is the key component to a healthy relationship and in turn opens up avenues of communication, which, for a director, is everything.”
As one of three directors, Brian animates how they approached the script. “Bash! Mash! Mush! as we squashed our brains together, producing a single cohesive pink wad. Instantly, we tried to intellectually devour the script, harvesting what lay beneath the surface. One of the first things we did as a team was that we wrote down 3 key phrases or words on post-it notes, sticking them in our office wall for all to see. ‘Trapped’, ‘coming of age, ‘duality’ became our story’s spine which would permeate though every directorial decision that was made. This helped to quash out any arbitrary choices so that decisions were solely motivated by story. I find when you make yourself rules or put yourself in a box you become more creative in your approach. Limitation is inspiration. With regard to dividing the script, we thought it best to split scenes among ourselves to direct, thankfully it was an equal spread and straight away we began to prep on our individual scenes.”
In addition to the three lead actors, the film boasts an impressive support cast that includes Aoibhin Garrihy, Clare Dunne, Joe Rooney, Alicia Ayres, Geraldine MacAlinden, Neill Fleming, Gerry Wade, Sharon Skerritt, Shane Robinson and Kyle Hixon. Working with such a cast was something David tells me was one of the highlights of his experience. “We were really fortunate to have such a talented group of actors. The three leads were all phenomenal to work with. They brought a lot of new ideas to the table, that weren’t in the script, and their eagerness to improvise and to create really brought a terrific energy to the film. This really is a film that would live and die by the performances and it was brilliant working with these guys. They are outstanding actors and also their openness, their quick-thinking on set and their creativity made them a pleasure to direct. And it wasn’t just with the leads we were fortunate, all the supporting players did great work on the film and were terrific to work with as well.”
The film is based on the play of the same name by Gary Duggan (RTÉ’s Amber), with a screenplay penned by Barry Dignam. David says, “I don’t think either myself, Brian or Rory were familiar with the play before filming and I think we kind of felt it may be healthier to separate the two mediums and focus on the script we were presented with and let that evolve rather than going back to the play as a point of reference.”
Talking about particular influences the directors brought to bear on the film, David says, “we talked a lot about other ‘drugs’ film, such as Trainspotting. The Wolf of Wall Street was a big influence in terms of its gleeful debauchery. We talked also a lot about Boogie Nights in the sense that you go on a journey along with a character into an exciting new world. Also the film has a strong ‘buddy’ element to it and for that we took films such as Withnail and I as a big inspiration.”
Looking back over the whole experience Brian reflects that “the most important thing for a director is preparation, for me it provides personal confidence, ensuring I don’t run around on set like a headless chicken. Though, and here’s the slight contradiction, I find the ability to adapt is on par with prep’s importance. You really have to be prepared to relinquish some of that preparation up to the impromptu mischief of the day of shooting, salvaging the surprises that intensive preparation sometimes sedates.
“When you’re hidden behind closed doors, composing shot-lists, etching ‘n’ sketching storyboards, there’s no way of illustrating reality’s input. I found it hard at times being flexible with my preparation, so it took a while for me to open up my brain’s aperture, letting in the possibilities that may peek.”
Monged screens on Sunday, 18th October 2015 at 13.00 as part of the IFI’s Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.
The cast and crew will attend the screening.
Tickets for Monged are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie