Eleanor McSherry reports from the screening of Mattress Men and the Q&A with director Colm Quinn at the Kerry Film Festival.
Mattress Men is an Irish feature documentary film directed by Colm Quinn and produced by El Zorrero Films, which is Dave Clarke and Ciarán Deeney. They are an independent production company based in Dublin, Ireland with over ten years experience.
The Kerry Film Festival premiere of this film played to a packed audience. The film is the true story of Mattress Mick and Paul Kelly, the man who made Mick a legend in the world of mattresses. The story goes that Paul and Mick, were the creators of the eccentric online persona ‘Mattress Mick’ and through the film they have their friendship challenged as they try to earn a living in a recession.
It is a very timely film that symbolises the struggle of the ordinary guy who is trying to make a living in order to provide for his family in a very competitive environment. The documentary is told in a very ‘fly on the wall’ way and at times you feel that the Paul and Mick forget that they are in front of a camera and crew. They are two excellent characters and both are real Dublin men, who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Paul Kelly, though, is the real star of the documentary and was very brave to allow for his family life to be filmed in such an open way. His story adds the real grit to this film.
There was a short Q&A after the screening with Colm Quinn, the director.
Q: How did you do it and make it so endearing?
Colm: The film was made really by the honesty and openness of Paul and Mick. They were so open with us and this made the film. They never stopped us from filming something. By the way, Brian ‘the mattress man’ Traynor is a true hero as well.
Q: It’s a very frank story, you had all the elements, like conflict, how could you know to be there at all the right moments?
Colm: We never left the place and were so lucky to have been there for nearly three years. Paul is the protagonist and Sean was happy to be the villain. Paul’s family were very open and honest. This film though took a couple of years of footage, so you can image there was a lot and we really didn’t know what the real story was until we watched it back. The story takes Paul on a journey, there is no science to it. We waited for the story to evolve naturally and then it hit us.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
Colm: We met Paul on Pearse street and he pitched the idea to me. When we met him, he immediately started talking about himself. I think he heard about us and thought that what they were doing, the Mattress Mick idea, might make a good documentary. All Paul’s goal was to get a good secure job to support his family and this is all he actually wanted. He wanted Mick to give him that job security and he didn’t giving up until he got it. You have to admire him for that.
Q: How well has it done internationally?
Colm: It has gone to Niagra Falls which is amazing. It is a very understandable universal story. It has also gone to Spain, Germany and all over Europe.
Q: When you met Paul first, how did you know then it would be a good story?
Colm: We reckon Paul might have known us as we were only a couple of doors up from the shop where he works. Talking to him, I felt, it was a great story. He wasn’t reluctant and was anxious we knew everything. We never knew where the story was going to go and that was exciting.
Q: So you just let it take you there?
Colm: Yeah, that’s exactly it. The story evolved naturally. We didn’t have funding which at times was scary but we knew we had something.
Q: How did you finance it in the early days?
Colm: It was a labour of love and we did it very cheaply, we had no choice. We don’t get a financial return from it for a long time.
Q: When did you know you had something?
Colm: We set mini goals along the way. You’ve got to remember this was a three-year process. We had to respond straight away to any development. For example a friend in Switzerland told us Stephen Fry tweeted about ‘Mattress Mick’ and we just had to drop everything and go to get something on that.
Q: How’s that we never see anyone buying mattresses in the shop?
Colm: Oh, they did get sold! The shop was doing ok financially.
Q: Did Paul get his house in the end?
Colm: Not yet! He’s doing ok though but is still separated from his family, which is sad.
Q: Did you find it hard to distance yourself from the storyline about his family?
Colm: Paul talked to us and was a mate. It was hard to distance ourselves and get on with Mick when we saw what was happening. Mick is a straight-talker but Paul is the one who was more open about his life and hardships.
Q: Did you expect such an emotional reaction to the film due to the fact of the political (austerity) content/context?
Colm: As a filmmaker you are always looking for that universal subject that people can relate to. From the get-go this felt like it was going to give us that. Austerity, family, Dublin, poverty; there were lovely little moments that located this documentary in a bigger world. It was special in that way.
If you want to get more information about the film please look at their Facebook page
Mattress Men screened on Saturday, 22nd of October, 2016 at Cinema Killarney
The Kerry Film Festival took place from the 19th to the 23rd of October 2016.