In his short film Buoy, a young man throws himself off a lighthouse to end it all, but it’s only the beginning. Ahead of the film’s screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, writer/director David Magnier tells Film Ireland how his short film came to surface.
The idea for Buoy wormed its way into my head over the course of a few weeks, in the twilight hours between going to bed and falling asleep. I find this period of time the best for creative musings and if I latch onto something I like as I am about to fall asleep and if it’s good enough to pull myself out of near unconsciousness I write it down in my notes. As a result my notes make for some pretty weird reading but the idea for Buoy haunted me for weeks. It was one of those images I couldn’t shake and I just knew I had to make it as I couldn’t seem to make peace with not making it. So the three-and-a-half-year struggle to realise it began.
The first stage was pulling the narrative together, which was the easy bit as it’s pretty loose and open-ended and the young male suicide anomaly in Ireland is all around us so it was something I wanted to address. I felt the aesthetic of the west coast of Ireland would be the perfect landscape for it due to its sort of magical and attractive bleakness.
The second step was figuring out how to make it. This was the tricky part as I had never seen weightless floating achieved this way before so there wasn’t much by way of a ‘copy that’ reference. I have always had a huge affinity for post-production and using it as a storytelling tool, so this part, although stressful, was a great process to work though. Finally, it was settled on a series of shoots that we could piece together into a final result… we hoped:
- On location in West Cork shooting all the background plates and locations, imagining there was a man floating in the air.
- In the studio shooting the close-ups of his face so we can have some actual reactions and acting
- In an underwater tank in the UK with a green screen behind the actor, which we could then drop onto the plates from the first shoot.
Sounds easy right? Well, nothing about this turned out easy. On the first day on the west coast shoot a heavy lift drone with a full days worth of footage plopped into the Atlantic Ocean (technical fault), which hammered morale of course also our lighthouse location fell through last minute. So we had to make a lot of compromises to get what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted. As a director this can be hard to swallow as you have an idea in your head, but you need to switch to firefighting mode and just get what you can without the production breaking. It’s occasions like this that your crew having your back is so so important and a few heroes tend to present themselves. Burschi Wojnar the DOP saved my bacon more than once on this shoot and without him going the extra mile the whole thing would have certainly fallen apart and Dave Minogue the co-producer pulled some magic to get a second lighthouse for us.
The underwater tank shoot was one of those high risk situations where you wonder, can David Thompson, our lead, act underwater while holding his breath. Thankfully, the answer was yes and he played such a blinder that by the end of the shoot day he was actually nearly blind. Talk about putting your body on the line. It was already becoming very apparent to me that I wasn’t the only one rooting for this film and the cast and crew were, if you’ll pardon the pun, keeping me afloat.
So with all the shoot days behind us the final and arguably the toughest hurdle was looming. Getting someone to do the incredible amount of post production for the meagre budget I had remaining. This took some bouncing around and the guts of two and half years as a few people took it on and the volume of work scared them off. Then Johnny Han introduced me to Brian Ali Harding, the next hero in the story. Brian took it on and although it was a lot more work than he anticipated – think bubble removals, rotoscoping, keying, CGI whales and seas, etc. – he took it on as a labour of love and saw it through. When you are lucky enough to find people who care about your project beyond just the budget available you are very fortunate indeed and that for me is what short film is all about. It’s a collaboration against the odds to make something you all end up emotionally invested in.
Preview of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh 2019
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