Aoibhinn Garrihy and Seamus Hughes
Liam Ó Mochain tells us about the 5-year journey behind his feature Lost & Found.
Lost & Found is a feature film with 7 interconnecting stories set in and around a Lost & Found office of an Irish train station. All segments are inspired by true stories, share a theme of something lost or found and have characters that come in and out of each other’s lives. It was filmed in 7 segments of 3-4 days per annum over a five-year period from 2011 to 2016 in Ireland. I spent the first 6 months each year researching the stories and characters, 3 months working on the script and 3 months was spent on the production itself from prep, to filming to post work. A good part of the year was also spent looking for and raising money to cover the next film segment. Each year we brought in most of the key production team and core crew three to four weeks before the filming began, depending on how many segments were to be filmed. Each year’s segments were only done after the previous one or ones were paid for and finished. Doing it over this long period gave me a lot of time to think about all the different stories, characters and ways to interweave them together in the overall project. Lost & Found completed principal photography in Summer 2016 and post-production in April 2017.
Lost & Found
We filmed for two and half days in a busy railway station in Co. Laois and an empty prefab building in Dublin which was turned into a Lost and Found office. One of the biggest challenges with this segment was finding materials and props to fill this empty space. We contacted numerous charity organisations and asked to borrow whatever they could spare. I also raided most of my own home including most of my toddler’s beloved toys. Which both bemused and confused my 3 year old and 2 year old when they visited the set and seen their toys in our Lost & Found office. I researched stories from Lost & Found offices all over the world and visited the main L&F office of the national Irish Rail company to incorporate interesting stories, incidents and items into the script.
Ticket to Somewhere
Irish Rail were again crucial for this segment, as the film is set in and about a train station and on a train. The original story and character that inspired the story was in a bus station in Morocco. I met a man with a large suitcase in the main bus station in Marrakesh who seemed to be living there. He said he was waiting for a bus to go to the airport to visit his sister in London. He was telling everyone his story or a variation of it. I wondered what his real story might be and it got me thinking. I decided to adapt and adjust this experience and set it in a train station, as they have always fascinated me. They are busy and diverse places, with train tracks overlapping like veins and blood vessels. Filming in such a site was aesthetically interesting and logistically challenging. Irish Rail let us film once we had insurance and did not disrupt their live services. After a bit of persuading, they allowed us to shoot on a scheduled passenger train for half a day at no cost so long as we did not disrupt their passengers or schedule which was a times a challenge.
The story of the proposal is inspired by an incident that happened to a Canadian couple I heard of at a London airport. I changed the location and some details of the story. This segment took the longest to set up as we wanted to film in a real airport, in all areas including the security section with guards. The Dublin Airport Authority were very helpful but did rule out filming in the security area. Straight away I had to rewrite the ending of the film. Luckily I had contacted them a few months in advance as it gave me time to re-think the crucial end scene and how to still make the scenario work in a different area of the airport. The Alcock and Brown bar in Dublin airport with its widescreen vista of planes landing and taking off was a perfect location to end the story.
The inspiration for the Tent came from two places. A friend of mine from Eastern Europe told me a story about what happened in a neighbour’s garden in the Czech Republic some years back. A couple had asked to camp in their garden for the night; but after a few days of no movement from the tent, the farmer opened the tent and found something mysterious left behind. I had also heard about 100 or so children that lived in a farm in the North of Ireland in 1939. They have travelled there as part of the kinder-transport from Germany and Eastern Europe. After I heard this story I decided to do some researching on both lost treasure of the 2nd World War and children who had been sent from their homeland by their families to the UK and Ireland. I relocated the Czech Republic part of the story to an area in Poland and I created a character who had come to Ireland as part of kinder-transport, settling in Ireland after the war had ended. The countryside area in Poland that we chose to set part of the story in, is very similar to Ireland so we recreated it in Laois with Polish road signs, car signs etc. It was a lot of fun to do and watch being recreated.
The story of The Will is based on an urban myth that is told all over the world and no one knows where the original story came from or who it is based on. All versions of the tale are set in a funeral home which was our principal location. After much searching, we eventually found the ideal funeral home. A week before the shoot the funeral director suddenly kicked out the full pre-production crew and refused to let us film there. It was the most surreal experience being kicked out of a funeral home. I suppose if you are going to be kicked out of somewhere it is one of the best places. We are still not quite sure why he changed his mind and he wouldn’t say but we suspected afterwards that he thought we were going to embalm a body for real for the film. Which we weren’t!
The script for Grand Opening came to me in a dream. I had noticed a bar in Dublin that every few months would change its name and exterior design, but never changed the inside or anything else about the bar. However, no matter how many name changes, they still had no customers. I wondered what it would take to fill the bar. Every scene of the film came to me in a dream. I woke up and wrote it down straight away. After writing the script I was told about a lot of similarly stubborn bar owners; whose traits I tried to integrate in the main character. I travelled most of Ireland trying to find a bar with the right look and found it in a small rural community in Ballybrittas, Co. Laois. It took four days to film this segment because we had to redesign the exterior of the pub every night for the next days’ filming, which caused a lot of confusion in the area and bemused Sean the owner of the Fisherman’s Thatched Inn, Co. Laois.
This story was told to me by a friend about one of her colleagues who was desperate to get married by a certain date; despite the lack of a groom on the scene she booked the church and paid for the venue. I changed some details of the story to fit it into the narrative of Lost & Found. I can’t say any more about the story without giving it away.
Making the film Lost & Found was a great experience overall. We had a great cast, crew and post production team at Screen Scene who stayed with the film throughout the 5 years.
Lost & Found screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh on Saturday 15th July at the Town Hall Studio at 18:30.
The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017
Lost & Found screens at IndieCork at 3pm on Friday, 13th October 2017
IndieCork runs from 8 – 15 October 2017