Jason Branagan tells us about his film Jaffa, which screens at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
Jaffa is about a young man who discovers that he can’t have children. He struggles to come to terms with his new reality while trying to find a way to tell his partner.
The idea for Jaffa came to me as a result of my age I think. I’m at that stage in my life where a lot of people I know are settling down – getting married, buying houses, having babies. Being conscious of this around me got me thinking. The thing that struck me most was this idea of someone wanting to have children only to find out that it’s simply not an option for them.
I think it’s often taken for granted that men can always have children. And more often than not, if a couple can’t conceive it’s usually the woman who will go for fertility tests first. But the reality is, in a lot of cases it’s the man who is infertile. But, for whatever reason, it’s not something we talk about – the discourse around fertility usually revolves around women. So I really wanted to explore the issue from a male perspective; the more I read and researched the more it felt like an important story to try to tell.
The most difficult part of the process was getting the script right. It’s a delicate subject and it’s easy to try and lighten the mood with humor, but the reality of the situation isn’t light at all. So I wanted to make a film that hopefully represents the reality of the situation. That took a lot of research and a lot of re-writing. I work with fantastic cinematographer, Noel Greene. He shot Jaffa but he’s one of my go to people with anything I write – he’s brutally honest and critical of my writing. When it came to this film, he consistently challenged me and pushed me to stay true to the story I was trying to tell. Before we brought the script to anyone we spent a lot of time working on the script and figuring out some of our key visual motifs.
Once I was happy with the script we contacted our producer, Roisin O’Brien. She came on board right away and we went straight into pre-production. Roisin was amazing – I was very particular about what type of locations I wanted and she was able to find everything for a budget of basically nothing. No easy task, but she killed it. And she actually has a small cameo in a teacher’s lounge!
Casting was a pretty easy process – as I wrote the film I knew I wanted Danny Mahony to play the male lead, Sean. We worked together previously on Shoebox Memories and Transitory and we have a good working relationship so I knew he’d knock it out of the park. Thankfully, the rest of the cast fell into place – Aoife Honohan had worked with Danny on the short film, The Ladies. Danny recommended her and once I met her, that was that. The film also stars Brendan Sheehan, Dave O’Neill and John Branagan.
The whole film came together very quickly and production itself went surprisingly smooth. I think some of this has to do with our pre-production process – for this film we knew we had very specific shots and visuals that we wanted to achieve so Noel and I actually storyboarded the film by shooting a lot of the film with stand ins. This was important because it meant we weren’t wasting time on location and seeing as we didn’t have any particular budget to work with, we built camera rigs to achieve some of the things we wanted to achieve. When I say we, I mean Noel built rigs. He built a “God’s Eye” rig and a dolly with tracks.
The post-production process was a long one. It took a while to get to the point where we were really happy with a cut. Once we picture locked, Noel graded the film. Although we were happy with the film, it was still missing something. I wanted a lot of silences in the film. I think the absence of sound can be as powerful as a good score but we knew the film needed an original musical score. We got extremely lucky that a group of Dublin-based musicians were willing to come on board and score the film. Dara Ryder, Aoife Ruth and Tom Cosgrave (from Irish band The Minutes) created a beautiful score that really ties the whole film together. It can get to a point where you become to close to a film, so for this part of the process I really just let the guys create what the film made them feel and when they sent us the finished piece I was confident that staying out of their way was the right decision.
I’m proud of this film so I’m really excited for people to finally see it when it premieres in Galway.
Jaffa screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts 1 on Wednesday, 12th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:30.Buy Tickets