Thomas Quain is talking to us about his feature film, which features a young Guard who begins his training out on the M50. Before long he is bored and sick of his boorish college Liam whom he is forced to spend all day in the car with. The film follows Mark’s journey as he discovers a propaganda Radio that causes him to re-evaluate his understanding of the Law and the ups and downs of Irish society.
The film began life many years ago, after reading about Orson Welles’ script for his never-produced film ‘Heart of Darkness’. Welles set his story during the Second World War and imagined Marlow encountering a country ravaged by Nazi warfare. As Marlow proceeds upriver on his journey to find the enigmatic Kurtz, he enounters a Nazi propaganda radio and, going mad, he leaves the boat and enters the jungle to find and destroy the signal. In both the Conrad novel and Welles’ screenplay the journey Marlow goes on is a journey of self-discovery.
I emptied my bank account and credit union in 2015 to begin production of the film. Fired by the imagination of Welles, I had written a 125-page screenplay around this idea of a propaganda radio and an economic crash. The idea of using sound in a more creative way also appealed to me. Later, I would try hard to incorporate this into the final film, though, in my opinion, not always successfully.
This film was produced by Constant Motion Pictures, Victor McGowan and Anna Ginjaume Grivé, who also produced the feature film Demon Hunter and later The Middle Finger. Together we auditioned many, many actors in Dublin and worked hard putting together a shooting schedule we felt we could do on our budget. In the end the budget was about five grand and we spent most of that on the gear, on food and paying our principal actors. I got the money for the film working a variety of terrible jobs and also occasionally working in the Irish Film Industry as a production assistant. Anna and Victor did a great job producing and being AD’s and also found us a lot of great locations early on. They also had a lot of patience with me later when I became less less sure of the script and was uncertain how to finish this film.
We shot the film in 4 blocks over 2015 and early 2016. The prolonged shooting schedule was less a planned decision and more a result of not having enough money, a script I became less and less happy with, people’s availability and re-shoots. Early on I found the script was not the brilliant road map that I thought it was and in fact none of the first two days shooting is in the final film!
Over the course of the six months or eight months we spent shooting on and off we were also constantly editing and rewriting, trying to find the film at the same time. Our brilliant editor, Adam Symes, spent more time than either of us would like to admit helping us shape the story to find what worked and what didn’t. I learned a lot from that and from working with Adam. I think we shot something like 18 hours of footage and eventually our 125-page screenplay got cut and re-imagined as an 80-minute feature. We had a great crew, a great cast led by Aidan Lawlor and Jed Murray, Alice Stands and Robert ‘O Connor, all of whom stuck with us too as we went on this journey to find the heart of the story… and who I can’t thank enough.
Shooting a feature-length independent film is something that is a) very, very difficult and b). very rewarding. During the production you are constantly having to be open-minded and come up with creative solutions to unforeseen issues that will suddenly arise and threaten to cause ruin everything. For example, when we were unable to find a supermarket that would allow us film the climax of the film in, we snuck into a number of chains of a large supermarket in the city over the course of a day and shot the scene guerilla-style almost without anyone noticing. I felt the advantage of this kind of thinking outside-the-box activity was that it freed us from the common trap of stilted camera movements and performances that destroy a lot of independent film work – it gave the film and freedom and a naturalness. It was also something new, and that was exciting, which in and of itself I felt was a positive. All the footage we shot that day was great and is in the final film. We couldn’t have done half of this without our brilliant DOP, Alan Rogers, who was always ready and up for our many, many challenges.
Looking back on it, I feel we too had to go into a jungle a little to make this film. We too had to re-learn things we thought we knew and admit that we had made mistakes and go back to the start. Making an independent film means not having the same structure and security that more conventional, state supported projects can maybe offer. However, now I can’t imagine doing it any other way and I am grateful we made the film the way we did. We needed to make something different, push ourselves out of our comfort zones and for that reason it was important to shoot the film in the way we did. It does not mean it is the right way to make films, only that it was the right way for us and this project.
Everyone who worked on it was on it because they loved film, they wanted to learn their craft and they wanted to make something great, and honestly I feel we did. Looking back, the resulting film is less a product of one person sitting down to write a script and more the product of a group of people coming together and taking a chance on each other all the time feeling that what you are doing might be risky… it might even be crazy but knowing that if you don’t take risks, if you don’t go a little crazy, you can never get to the other side of the film-making jungle.
I’m Talking to You screens at IndieCork @ 3pm on Wednesday, 11th October 2017.
IndieCork runs from 8 – 15 October 2017