Louise Gallagher, producer of ‘A Bump Along the Way’

 

A Bump Along the Way tells the story of fun-loving, 44-year-old single mum Pamela who becomes pregnant following a one night-stand, much to the shame of her buttoned-up teenage daughter Allegra. As Pamela deals with the prospect of becoming a mum for the second time and Allegra has problems fitting in with her peers, the challenges they face  provide mother and daughter with a better understanding of themselves and each other.

Filmed entirely in Derry and led by an all-female creative team, A Bump Along the Way stars Bronagh Gallagher and Lola Petticrew and is directed by Shelly Love, written by Tess McGowan and produced by Louise Gallagher. 

Gemma Creagh chats with Louise Gallagher about how the production came together.

How did the project come about?

For this project, myself, Shelly Love [director] and Tess McGowan [writer] were put together through Northern Ireland Screen’s New Talent Focus programme at the end of March 2018. It was fairly intense. We’d never met before. We had to get to know each other in a very short time, make this film and deliver it by March 2019. So we’ve done it all within a year. 

 

That’s a fast turnaround considering how long projects normally take to develop. 

Tess was writing this while she was pregnant with her second baby and she had sent it into Northern Ireland’s New talent Focus Call on spec. It got selected for the New Writers’ Focus. I was asked to come and interview for the job last March or early April last year and once I was on board I had to find a director. Then we hit the ground running. So the actual development that we did would have started from around May last year and then we went into production with the first day of principal photography on the 14th of October. Basically in less than a year we managed to get the film shot and out to festivals and picked up for distribution… completely and utterly mental!

 

Would you be a creative producer? Would you have worked on the script?

Yes, I worked across everything. I had to find the script editor and the director.  Between myself, Shelley and Tess and our script editor, Liam Foley – we worked together remotely most of the time because Tess lives in Berlin, Liam lives in London, I live in Belfast and Shelly lives in Bangor. She had a very small baby at the time so wasn’t in the position to come up and down to Belfast all the time to meet me. A lot of the development happened via Skype and WhatsApp and the like – an international and remote way of making a film. This had its advantages and disadvantages at the same time. Nothing beats being in a room thrashing through ideas and seeing the whites of someone’s eyes. So it was difficult in those terms. But we had a deadline to meet and I think the blinkers were on for everyone. We just had to focus and crack on with it. While we were developing the script, at the same time I was up in Derry scouting locations, trying to get those locked down. At the same time, as the producer, I was trying to deal with the budget, and do the casting and all of that. Last year from about May through to October, it’s all a blur, I can hardly remember any of it. It’s just been insane! 

 

With the casting, was it a case of holding auditions or did you have a list of people you wanted to get?.

A combination of both. Shelly is not originally from the North, even though her father and mother are. She was very much relying on me to guide her in who were the main players and the good people to speak to and audition here. I had, of course, spotted Lola Petticrew on the BBC TV series Come Home. I knew straight away she’s a really good actor and, like I always do, the minute I see someone I like, I Google them. You can see who they are and who they’re with. Coincidentally, Lola’s with Hamilton Hodell, an agency in London. That’s the same agency as my sister, Bronagh. Of course, it’s the director’s ultimate decision – I can always advise, but obviously they have the final say in casting.  

I had directed her towards Lola and I had ideas in my head who we wanted to play some of the other roles like Finn, the good-looking boy, the heartthrob that Lola’s character, Allegra, falls in love with. His name is Dylan Reid and he’d been in the stage version of Good Vibrations.  I spotted him at a promotional afternoon in a Belfast hotel and the cast were playing a few songs from the play and he was there. He came up to say hello afterwards and it turned out he was from Derry and I thought: ‘Here we go!’ I think I’ve found my Finn. Then there’s the baby’s daddy, Barry the plumber. He is also an actor from Derry who I’d had my eye on for a while after watching him in a few shorts. I thought he was a really good actor and had a lot of potential. I put him forward to Shelly. So I had about 3 or 4 people in mind for the main roles. 

It was after this that Bronagh came on board as the lead. We were getting ready for a screening in London, and we were trying to put together a cast and going through who was available or not – and Bronagh was mentioned at one point.  Shelly said, ’Why can’t we have Bronagh as the lead? She’s a mid-40s woman from Derry.’

I was very conscious of being accused of casting my sister in the lead role because it’s my first movie and, to be fair, so was Bronagh. It was the first time she was going to do a lead role and carry a movie. Her agents look at scripts on a case-by-case basis. Just because I’m producing it, doesn’t mean it was definitely going to happen – although they always wanted to help and they really liked the project. But, of course, it all had to be right for everyone and dates had to align. 

Thankfully Bronagh really liked it and once herself and Lola were on board, we knew we had our two main characters. We had casting calls for the other characters. That all went really smoothly over the course of a weekend. The minute that Mary Moulds, who plays Bronagh’s best friend, Sinead, walked into the room,  I just knew it was her. For me, the audition was already done. She just brought such energy and the three of them gelled. It was perfect. The three of them brought that great fun the whole time to what was a very intense situation. We had 18 days to shoot this It was a lot of work to do but Bronagh and Lola were incredible. 

 

Did you do screen tests?

We didn’t have time for anything like that at all. Bronagh and Shelly did three days of rehearsals for the main scenes, the main emotional beats within the movie. We went into the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast and practically locked them in there for the three days. They just went through their main scenes line-by-line, scene by scene getting into the characters, digging deep and bonding as mother and daughter characters. The rest we worked through on the day because we just didn’t have the time. A lot of the dialogue was obviously written by Tess but some was a wee bit improvised every now and again. We did different takes and let it go under the guidance of Shelly – just to make it real. Most people who’ve watched the movie so far have commented on the authenticity. That’s what we’ve been able to achieve… probably without even realising it.

 

I think that having good strong female leads behind and in front of the camera, can  different atmosphere on set. Everybody really understands the subject and it’s a safe space.

That’s what I tried to create the whole time. It was a 50/50 balance in terms of crew.

 

It’s great to see Derry on the big screen!

I’m incredibly proud that I shot in town. Derry is 75 miles west of Belfast and over 100 miles north of Dublin. It’s doesn’t have  a substantial film/television infrastructure. But for me the heart of this story lay in the city. I just thought: ‘I’m going to make it in Derry. It’s my one opportunity. I may never get another chance.’ And I just did it. Maybe there were a couple of eyebrows raised but I knew I could. I had the contacts there and I knew once I had my production manager Chrissie Gallagher – who’s no relation, but definitely shares my DNA – plus Mark McCauley, our DoP, on board, that it was going to work out. I just knew in my gut it was going to be okay because they know me and between us, we just cracked the whip and got what we needed. We got Shelly up to Derry as soon as possible. We wanted her to get a feel for the city.  It actually went very quickly from there.  We contacted everyone we knew who could help us out in whatever way possible, from facilities to trucks to locations, which were tricky but we got them. The goodwill was just overwhelming.

 

If you love bawdy humour, heart warming plots and strong females leads then don’t miss A Bump Along the Way – in cinemas now.

A Bump Along the Way is in cinemas nationwide from 11th October 2019.

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: A Bump Along the Way

Siomha McQuinn gives up her seat for Shelly Love’s A Bump Along the Way.

A Bump Along the Way, a product of an all-female creative team and winner of Best Irish First Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, is about the tumultuous relationship between happy-go-lucky Pamela and her 15-year-old daughter, Allegra, who does not shy away from scolding her mother’s behaviour. Picture a modern-day Gilmore Girls but the relationship between the Lorelei and Rory is more hostile, Rory is a vegan and Stars Hollow is now a gossipy town in Derry.

After a night of lacklustre romance with a younger man, Pamela is baffled to find herself pregnant. Her situation is far from ideal as the father wants nothing to do with her and she can barely make ends meet in her current situation. The news puts further strains on her relationship with Allegra and the pair must learn to navigate their reality as they prepare for the arrival of their newest family member.

Many of the ideas in this film are already well-trodden paths such as the mother/daughter role-reversal and the absent father. However, both Pamela and Allegra are given narratives that are separate to the central relationship and this makes the world of the film richer.

The role of Allegra is played by Lola Petticrew, who won the Bingham Ray New Talent Award for her performance. She switches seamlessly between being a callous and bitter teenage daughter and a shy, artistic student who falls prey to some of her classmates. Her acting style is very natural as she creates a character who is quietly brave. The way she treats her mother initially seems disproportionately cold and unfair but with the realisation that Allegra is having a difficult time in school, and the knowledge that Pamela’s pregnancy will only act as fuel for her bully’s taunts, it is easier to empathise with a teenager who is doing her best to survive a tough time in her life. 

Bronagh Gallagher, who plays Pamela with big-eyed lovability, is clueless to Allegra’s bullying. She is well-meaning but vulnerable, which makes the growth of her character even more pleasing. A party-girl by nature, she is restless during her pregnancy and it is endearing to watch the pure torture that it is for her stay at home and rest, made worse by Allegra’s increasingly busy social calendar.  

Apart from Pamela’s delightful baker boss and Allegra’s kind teacher, men are painted in an almost entirely negative light; from the father of Pamela’s unborn child, who is fiercely unkind when discovering the pregnancy, to Allegra’s father who kicks up a fuss when asked to contribute financially. Their characters lack much intricacy, but this is easily forgiven as A Bump Along the Way is a film that champions women and delves into their complexities, making a slight dent into the massive backlog of films that represent women through flimsily constructed characters. These typical toxic male characters are there to aid the narrative. Pamela realises that she needs to stand up to the negative men in her life if her daughter is ever to respect her. 

A Bump Along the Way is a sweet and uplifting film about female relationships, the difficulties of life in a small town and the power of standing up for yourself. Despite engaging with difficult topics like bullying and misogyny it remains light and upbeat. It is satisfying and fun and suggests a bright future for the women involved in its production. 

Siomha McQuinn

@SiomhaMcQuinoa

A Bump Along the Way screened 13th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

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