The Last Right is a comedy-drama road movie telling the story of a man bringing the body of someone he barely knows for burial with his family. His good intentions are motivated by trying to patch up his relationship with his own brother. However, en route from West Cork to Rathlin Island, both romance and family secrets emerge to complicate the trip.
In this podcast Gemma Creagh talks to writer/director Aoife Crehan about her debut feature and guides us through the development process.
The Last Right is released in cinemas 6th December 2019.
Joan and Tom have been married for many years. There is an ease to their relationship which only comes from spending a lifetime together. When Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer, the course of her treatment creates a divide within their relationship as they are faced with two very separate challenges: dealing with the extreme physical suffering of treatment and chemotherapy or contemplating the possibility of living alone.
Ordinary Love is the complex, humour-filled story about love, survival and the epic questions life throws at each and every one of us. Gemma Creagh talks to producer Brian J. Falconer (The Dig) about the film.
Thanks so much for chatting with us. Let’s start at the beginning… how did you become involved in this project?
For each project, it’s always different for a producer. Either you conceive it from scratch or somebody headhunts you for it. For Ordinary Love, it was through my producing partner, David Holmes, who is very good friends with Owen McCafferty. Owen and his wife, Peggy, actually lived through a version of this, which is what inspired the screenplay. David told Owen that he thought he should try this as a screenplay because Owen had been wanting to write something for screen for a while. It was at that point that I was brought into the mix with the job of bringing it from a treatment through development and then into production.
Ordinary Love has been very well-received critically both here and in the UK and is set for a release next year in the States; do you think this is the type of story to travel?
I think the beauty of the film is that it’s a universal story. It’s the type of love story you don’t usually see, about an older couple who’ve lived together for years and then one of them experiences this diagnosis which flips their lives upside down. When we start, their lives have already been flipped upside down by another event. So they are really just getting back to normal. I think the film is going to travel really well because this is the way people deal with illness, also the reality of long-term relationships is very similar to Tom and Joan in our movie.
Cinema is usually so heightened and melodramatic; however, in Ordinary Love, Tom and Joan’s relationship is depicted as natural and understated, making it ‘true’ in a sense, and relatable.
That’s the thing. What you’re going to see with Ordinary Love is closer to real life. We’re a fly on the wall of this relationship and everybody across the world will be able to recognise a bit of ourselves in that as well as the dynamic we have with a partner. But the thing is, real life is as high-stakes as you can get. It’s life and death. In our film, when Joan gets the cancer diagnosis, she, like so many other people – my mum included, goes through the exact same journey with cancer and its treatment. The amount of people our team have been talking to after seeing this film, people who just come up to us at preview screenings and say: “I went through that exact same thing”, nobody else understands how brave they are. You can take it for granted that illness is going to strike us down – cancer is going to get one in three of us. Every one of us will know somebody who has gone through this and sometimes you just palm it off as “that’s just life”. But when you see Ordinary Love, Joan is potentially going to lose her life. Tom might lose the love of his life. Even though he’s just drinking soup or sitting in the car in traffic, the stakes are so high. I just don’t think there’s been a film like Ordinary Love before.
Can we talk a little about the process of getting the film made? When did the directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn become attached?
Lisa and Glenn were actually lined up from the start. David Holmes is good friends with Owen McCafferty, the writer. He’s also good friends with Lisa and Glenn. In his head from the very start he was thinking about building this package. Then they brought me on to produce and bring it through the development process. We all knew McCafferty because he’s so well respected as a playwright. As soon as Glenn and Lisa met with Owen, when he had the first treatment, that was the point where everybody got really excited about it.
And Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville… there’s such amazing chemistry between the pair. They’re so believable and their performances are very celebratory of life. Can you tell me about the casting?
Liam was attached when Owen produced his first draft revision, extremely early. His first draft was just so accomplished – yet he’d never written a screenplay before. Liam climbed on board at that point and then… bang! Everything went nuts! Straightaway, I’m going out to look at finances and talk to sales agents. I brought on another producer called Piers Tempest to help me close the financing of the project. I really didn’t have much experience with that at that point. That’s when we started to build our package. We had to work out what budget we should aim for, who are our partners and then the big question, who’s going to play Joan? It’s effectively Joan’s story.
Way before even Liam joined, I remember having a conversation with the Lisa and Glenn talking about who would be the dream cast and that was Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson. It was very serendipitous and the planets aligned so many times for us but fast forward to the point where we were casting: Liam had a certain availability so we were tied to certain dates. Then we started looking into Leslie’s availability… and she wasn’t available. We thought ‘Oh God, I don’t think this is going to work’. At the same time Lisa and Glenn had talked to Liam about what his thoughts were about who should play Joan? Lesley Manville was his first choice too. He wanted to work with her so much that he moved to accommodate her availability.
You made an interesting point about the financial prep – where did the money come from?
I suppose to clarify, being in the North, Northern Ireland Screen have supported us from the very start of our careers, through all our short films and various projects. They, along with the BFI, had actually developed Ordinary Love. I went for BFI and Northern Ireland Screen Development funding because I really felt they would be amazing partners to help us get the production funded. But we were always going to need more money. Especially then when we secured the incredible talent that we did. We just needed to make sure that we could afford the right budget to provide everybody with what they need. That’s where Piers Tempest is absolutely fantastic. At the same time then we wanted to look at sales agents. We had a lot of interest. As soon as someone sees Liam Neeson in a film, they think: ‘We can sell this’. There was one sales agent in particular, Bankside Films, that’s run by Stephen Kelleher, that went above and beyond everyone else at every stage in just showing his love for the film and his commitment to it.
Without going into the details, it’s at that point when you’re choosing your partners for your film, you’re getting phoned every minute of every day by everybody trying to undercut the other person and trying to show that they are the one for the film. But we knew we wanted to work with Stephen Kelleher – he’s so well respected. Through Bankside and then Head Gear Films we were able to complete our finance. Head Gear Films is run by two guys, Phil Hunt and Compton Ross, two complete gentleman who are the most incredible financiers and helped make our film happen along with Bankside, the BFI and Northern Ireland Screen.
From my perspective, this was the first time I had to manage closing the finances. It’s a fascinating process. I learned a lot.
In this Film Ireland podcast Gemma Creagh talks to iffy film festival director Duncan McKenna and filmmakers Aoife Nic Ardghail and Jack Thornton, whose films Casual and Love Lane United are screening at the festival, which takes place on Saturday, 23rd November at The Pearse Centre Theatre, Dublin 2.
Maura, an aspiring poet, has been dumped in a voice mail. It was only a casual thing, but she’s still stuck with those grim feelings that come with rejection: self loathing, anger, resentment and an insatiable hunger for chocolate mousse.
Love Lane United (Jack Thornton)
A group of underachievers who decide to start a Sunday League football team leading to hilariously disastrous results.
In this podcast, Gemma Creagh met up with Gerard Mannix Flynn, in The Westbury Hotel in Dublin to talk about his film – co-directed with Maedhbh McMahon & Lotta Petronella – Land Without God, which examines the legacy of institutional abuse by the Irish Church and State over the last century.
In this podcast, Gemma Creagh chats to Shelly Love, the director of A Bump Along the Way which introduces us to Pamela, a boozy 44-year-old single mother whose teenage daughter Allegra disapproves of her care-free lifestyle. Their fragile relationship is further tested when Pamela becomes pregnant after a one-night stand.
her background in film
the choreography of directing
how A Bump Along the Way came together
prepping for the project
the production design on the film
working with Die Hexen on the soundtrack
working with 50 / 50 cast & crew + Abbey the dog
working on the edit with Helen Sheridan at Yellowmoon post-production facilities
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 Focusprogramme 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.
The Souvenir is a gorgeous, thoughtful piece of cinema that’s reminiscent of an era in film that’s long since past. Shot with static wide shots, and on actual film, with no formal script, The Souvenir has the aesthetic and tone of something that was actually shot in the 1980s when it was set. For her fourth feature, director Joanna Hogg recreated her old apartment, went over old letters and correspondence, and recreated the events of the events of her early adulthood to tell the story of a past love.
This film is the first of two parts dramatising her relationship with a charming, older man and the impact – both good and bad – that union had on her. The film follows Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), a quiet yet determined student filmmaker, who embarks on a slow-burning relationship with the mysterious Anthony (Tom Burke). Tidla Swinton, Honor’s real-life mother, and Joanna’s real-life friend, plays Julie’s mother Rosalind.
In a world where many people can barely watch TV without getting the dopamine hits from a second screen simultaneously, the pacing is hard going in the beginning and middle of this film. As an audience, we’re watching a naive, young, middle-class woman going about her daily life for quite some time before any plot kicks in. She takes classes and chats with her friends about the meaning of life at parties – all relatively conflict free. The excruciatingly slow build of her relationship with Anthony takes such a long time to take flight. However, once the complexity of their interactions set in, and truths within their dynamic are revealed, everything changes; The Souvenir becomes an unnerving, honest and engaging watch.
There’s a level of self awareness in this film that seems out of place given the sincerity of the lead and the intimacy of her relationship with Anthony. When the subject of film comes up, Julie and her fellow film students are constantly pontificating about what film is and its purpose, in a way that feels pointed and staged – two things everything else in this film is not. The imperfect dialogue, and playful interactions from these skilled actors improvising scenes work exceptionally well in this context. However, The Souvenir does not fully escape the repetitive banalities that plague the dialogue of this and most other films from the mumblecore movement.
Julie’s arc is minimal. Her confidence and strength builds over time in a manner which appears incredibly truthful, yet she’s hard to root for because her agency is so limited. You could argue that this film is more of a character study of Anthony, and his own complex set of issues. However, here’s so little of his character explained to us that even at the end of the film he still retains so much of his mystery. When he does reveal information about his past, he taunts us by only delivering a few small, fascinating tidbits. Ultimately, this proves frustrating, because it’s not long before you realise not everything he’s saying is true.
This film and its structure, breaks all the rules – and works as a result.
From left to right Katie McNeice, Tom Speers, Maya Derrington, Gemma Creagh and Roisín Geraghty
In this podcast, we welcome three filmmakers whose works are screening at this year’s GAZE International LGBT Film Festival(1 – 5 August). Maya Derrington, Katie McNeice and Tom Speers join Gemma Creagh to talk about their films and filmmaking.
Plus festival director Roisín Geraghty pops in to give us a quick look at this year’s programme.
Frida Think(Maya Derrington)
A woman walks into a party dressed as Frida Kahlo, only to find that her version of unique has mass appeal.
In Orbit (Katie McNeice)
A hypnotic and beautiful love story between two women that crosses both time and space.
Boy Saint (Tom Speers)
A sumptuous short film of friendship and adoration between boys, based on a poem by Peter LaBerge.