If you love 1970’s punk-inspired nostalgia, then make sure to pick up a ticket for the Short Films: We are Family programme at the Kerry International Film Festival. Ahead of the Friday screening of her latest short Paddy, we chat with filmmaker Roisin Kearney about her thoughts, her career and the filmmaking process.
So your origins were in theatre; how did you get started in film?
My first “toe” into film was acting. I did a number of shorts for IADT while I was also working as a technician in theatre. I worked across various roles on a number of low budget features, including Pavee Lackeen which also screens in Kerry, as it happens! I was pregnant with my first and will be forever grateful to Rose Maughan for looking out for me and giving me loads of advice.
After I had the kids it was very difficult. Theatre and film are not the most family-friendly careers but I continued doing some script editing and doing reports for production companies. It is slowly improving but still a long way to go. The recent formation of the Irish chapter of Raising Films and, of course, the very substantial work of WFT Ireland gives me hope. I returned to film in 2014 by making a short comedy film The Love Agency and since then I’ve been busy writing, directing and producing a number of shorts since.
Too right. I loved The Ferry, The Family Way and Run – all gorgeous films. And very different. What do you look at in terms of inspiration for a piece like Paddy?
There are a number of themes and issues running through Paddy – identity being the most obvious. The struggle to carve out your own identity is something most people can identify at some level with, in Paddy’s case, this is made more difficult because he is a Londoner born of Irish parents. He appreciates his heritage but wants to find his own place in the world, his own tribe.
What was the funding process?
This film was supported by Creative Ireland and the Clare Arts Office. This particular scheme was developed to allow young trainees to explore their filmmaking skills in a practical environment. On Paddy, our heads of department included Shane Serrano as Director of Photography, Sarah Lally as 1st AD, Philip Shanahan as editor and Eleanor McSherry was script supervisor.
Did Paddy change much from the original script to final edit?
As with all scripts, it evolved as we went along. Keith had done some work with Sinéad Collopy, the writer, before I came on board. Then as we shot we talked a lot about the ending, and how it would work. I really wanted the audience to fear for Paddy, to hear, to experience his emotional journey. The sound, music and score are integral to the whole film, so working with Michael Hickey, who wrote and performed all the songs, and Joe Conlon, who wrote the score was incredible. Phil Shanahan who edited also did an amazing job. So it’s a yes and no. As with most films, things change, are added or taken away but ultimately the script is the template we all follow.
Can you tell me more about the titular character? Who is Paddy?
Paddy is a boy on the cusp of manhood, a son struggling to grow as an individual while still tucked firmly under the wing of his mother.
When it comes to directing a script like this, where do you start? Script edits? Casting? What’s the production process like?
This is the first time I directed something I had not written myself. I found that quite freeing in a way. You can spend months/years developing these people in your head which can make you reluctant to let some things go. (You have the same problem as a director when you get into the edit suite!) The casting of Cian Hughes was a pleasure, as we were shooting in Clare. The auditions had been set up by Keith and Maeve and we had some wonderful young actors in. Cian was not only a wonderful internal actor, his mother was the daughter of Irish immigrants to the UK and he is a musician himself. His gentle but confident nature was a perfect fit.
How did you recreate the era? I heard a rumour it wasn’t shot in England – how did you cheat that?
Again, Keith and Maeve had locations in mind, Sinéad had also picked a number of locations in Ennis she would like to use. It may seem a bit mad shooting a 1970’s London based film in Ennis, but with the help of the local community, businesses and some post magic by Phil and John Talbot, it all became possible! The incredible costumes were designed by Aisling W. Byrne – who is a genius. I had very particular colours in mind and she made everything happen. I really couldn’t thank her enough.
Music is vital in a film like Paddy. Can you tell me about the sound design?
I love sound, and in Paddy, it is 50% of the film. Working with Michael who wrote and performed all the songs was fantastic. Anything that has me listening to hours of punk is always good in my book! He is a real talent. Joe Conlon had done the score for a previous film of mine RUN, so I knew he would understand what I was looking for. When it came to THE scene (you’ll have to watch to know which one), how both pieces of music are used together is crucial – Paul Rowland did a fantastic job in post, not only on this scene but throughout.
These themes are so relevant given what’s happening in the world at the moment… How has the film been received?
Racism and bigotry are having a devastating impact on people’s lives. Institutional racism can not be ignored and we need to take a step back and learn from our past. It is one of the reasons I felt it was important to make Paddy now. Sometimes when making a film like this, there is a feeling that you are opening old wounds. But now more than ever we need to open them, we need to look at the racism and discourse in the world today and learn from past mistakes. I think Imelda May said it best in her poem – You Don’t Get To Be Racist And Irish. We are only beginning our festival journey, but we had fantastic feedback from the Galway Film Fleadh.
Do you think things in the industry have been changing in the past few years?
Women’s voices in film are more than just us being ‘allowed’ to write, direct, produce, films about women. They are a fundamental change in point of view. We have been so conditioned to see things from a male perspective, that how we see the world is somehow wrong. I loved bringing caring, considerate Paddy to the screen, a young man who reflects most young men I know.
Paddy screens as part of the Short Films: We are Family programme at 11am on Friday, 16th of October at the Kerry International Film Festival (15 – 18 October 2020)
About Roisin Kearney
Roisin has worked in theatre, film and TV for over 20 years. Her writing career started when asked to rewrite female characters for pilots produced by RTÉ in the mid 90’s. After a successful 10 years working in theatre helping bring productions to stage from writers including Roddy Doyle, Pat McCabe, and John Banville. She continued on the periphery working in script development and reporting on new talent for producers and production companies while taking time with her three children.
Roisin returned to film in 2014 with her short film The Love Agency and since has worked on a number of short films as producer, writer and director including The Family Way (writer/producer), No Dogs (writer/director) Algorithms (writer/director), Prodigy (producer) We Have Each Other (producer). The Ferry (co-producer) and RUN (writer/director) premiered at Galway Film Fleadh ‘19 and are now touring festivals worldwide, while PADDY (Director) premiered at Galway Film Fleadh ’20. She is associate producer on new format children’s show Gamer Mode which will air on RTE2 shortly.
She is currently working on the feature script Remembrance, a TV comedy based on the The Family Way, a thriller titled The Well, a comedy series Rest In Peace, as well as a number of short film scripts. She is a writer under the pseudonym Grainne on mock problem page Ask Grainne for Head Space online magazine and has had a number of spec TV formats developed.