The Unquiet is a psychological horror film about Ruth, a woman who wants a child more than anything—yet she’s unable to conceive. When her mother begins to suffer from dementia, Ruth becomes her full time carer. This adds extra strain to Ruth’s marriage, and her husband moves out. Desperate to have a child and save her relationship, she prays to her father’s spirit for guidance, but something else answers…
Rob Kennedy takes us behind the screams of his latest horror, which screens atthis year’s IFI Horrorthon (24 -28 October).
We shot The Unquiet with a skeleton crew: I directed and operated camera, Andrew Mahon did the lighting, and Billy Keane recorded sound. Vicki Walsh handled production management, recruiting her sister, Sophie, for the job of clapper loader and their mother, Susan, for make-up. We shot the film over the course of three nights in the winter of 2019.
My last film (Sit Beside Me) was more of a rollercoaster horror experience. This time I took a different approach—less camera movement and no jump scares. One of the big decisions I made was not to use any music, a challenge for horror. But it’s easy to jolt an audience with sudden bangs and musical stings. Instead I enhanced the natural atmosphere and let the unnerving silences stand out. This seemed to suit the tone of the film more.
Katie Doyle—a former child actor and veteran of TV adverts—recently returned to acting, appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the New Theatre. Katie took the role of Ruth above and beyond what was on the page. Beryl Phelan, a longtime collaborator of mine, played Ruth’s mother. Rounding out the cast, I’m thrilled to introduce young Robbie Hart in his first film role. We only hear Robbie’s voice, but he makes quite an impact.
The Unquiet will screen at this year’s IFI Horrorthon (24 – 28 October) in the IFI on Sunday, 27th October—along with Rob’s last short, Sit Beside Me. You can buy tickets here
The Unquiet will also be available to watch online from this Halloween. Check out @robkennedyfilm on Instagram for updates and behind the scenes shots.
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.
In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to Tom Burke, the director of Losing Alaska, which tells the story of a small community in Alaska called Newtok who are dealing with a slow-moving disaster. The 375 inhabitants of Newtok feel the winter storms grow more fierce each year and steal their coastline, they watch their homes disappear into rolling seas as the melting permafrost erodes the edges of their town. The plan is to abandon the town and start again 9 miles up the river on higher, more solid ground. The community is divided between those determined to stay, and those equally determined to move. They are fighting the weather, the indifference of state agencies and now, finally, each other.
As well as discussing the intricacies of the ways of life of the people of Newtok and the challenges they face, Tom talks about how the project came to be, telling a big story through the prism of a small situation, people trying to survive in a changing world, the nature of documentary, telling people’s stories, not taking sides, the joy of seagull eggs, screening the film in Newtok, the practicalities of filmmaking in such an environment, cameras and lenses, discovering a frozen-tripod-head panning technique, working with Gerry Horan on the soundtrack, creating a cinematic documentary and the onset of frostbite.
Losing Alaska is released in cinemas 4th October 2019.
Tom Burke will participate in a post-screening Q&A at the IFI on Thursday, 3rd October & the Light House cinema on Sunday, 6th October.
The Cold Blue is a new feature-length film, digitally restored, constructed from the material of 34 reels of raw, colour, footage shot during bombing missions in Germany.
Captured by William Wyler, it was originally shot for the 1944 documentary The Memphis Belle: A story of a Flying Fortress. This extraordinary, never-before-seen colour footage puts you 30,000 feet over Nazi Germany, battling killer flak, enemy fighters, and minus 60-degree temperatures.
Director Erik Nelson, who was in Dublin recently, talked to Paul Farren about the making of the documentary.
How did this project come about?
It came from a long-term passion of mine for World War II history and aviation and I had a friend who worked with Paul Allen, the reclusive billionaire, who also shared a passion for World War II aviation. They gave me some money to go and look for colour footage of WWII airplanes just because it would be interesting for historical purposes. That’s when we discovered William Wyler’s outtakes – and intakes actually – from Memphis Belle and the moment I saw that collection I realised that there was a feature film in here and pretty much this whole project crystallized instantly.
It’s a very beautiful, very sombre depiction of the B-17 bomber crews coming from England to Germany at the end of the war. How would you describe it?
The film is, in essence, a time portal that immerses you in the world of 1943 and the men who flew over Germany from England and the strategic bombing campaign. It catapults the viewer into a B-17, 25,000 feet over Germany with flak enemy fighters in unbelievable cold and strenuous conditions.
The transformation job on the footage was astounding. I couldn’t get over the beauty of it.
Originally I thought of this as an art film, not an historical documentary, maybe influenced by my work with Werner Herzog. So I tried to create something that wasn’t a traditional documentary but which was much more of an immersive experience, not unlike the Peter Jackson film [They Shall Not Grow Old, 2018] or Apollo 11 [Todd Douglas, 2019].
It’s interesting seeing this kind of restoration because it does have a most unusual and emotional impact, it certainly did for me. Some people might find it controversial in the way that it touches on certain aspects of the violence of the war and where people might see the voice it gives. But I thought it more profound than that because you did talk about the effect the war had on the citizens of Germany and the whole madness of that and so the story is there for people to go and check for themselves.
That’s it. This points you… it opens up the door if you want to walk into it and learn more. But you can’t tell the story without discussing the people on the ground. They often get dismissed in traditional World War II documentaries. It’s very much an unflinching, cold-blooded presentation of the realities of the time and viewers can find in it what they want.
I agree. It was a story is a bunch of 20-year-old men who were put in a terrible situation and made the best of it.
Terrified 20-year-old boys really, who were following the moral dictates of the time and found themselves in this insane position, day after day, mission after mission.
You were very lucky in being able to have anyone left to be able to talk to and give you that narrative. Tell me about that process going about meeting all these 90 year old men who’d been part of that.
We cast them – we worked with someone who knew who the survivors were and we created a composite crew: one guy for each section and we drove cross-country myself and the producer got in a car and paid house calls because that’s where you’ll find them – you go to them; they don’t go to you – and we spent an hour an hour and a half with each of them across the country: 9 guys, 9 different places. I knew they had to speak to the footage. I knew what was in the footage so I focused the interviews to compliment the footage I knew I had.
It was a highly charged emotional thing for these guys to look at themselves after all these years.
Yes. This trauma has never left them and this film opened up that door again for them and my questions opened it up for them, so it was a kind of therapy for them in some ways.
What were the biggest challenges for you once the project really heated up and began. Technically it must have been huge.
No, it pretty much went together very simply. There’s probably 7 active creative participants, 2 people on restoration, 1 person, David Hughes, whose previous film was Black Panther, on sound design, and Richard Thompson, who composed the extraordinary soundtrack.
It was an amazing soundtrack – very evocative and it crept up on you in terms of how it dealt with the emotional moments and how it tried not to be over-melodramatic, I suppose avoiding a propaganda-esque feel.
Exactly. It’s melancholy. That’s something about Richard’s music. He’s always had that kind of melancholy streak, very realistic, cynical streak. I’ve worked with him in the past – he scored my film Grizzly Man and a couple of other films with me.
What was his way into it? How did you discuss it with him?
He did what he wanted. I’d given him a copy of the finished film with what I thought were the appropriate music choices and he pretty much threw out my choices and did what he wanted, which is kind of what I was expecting him to do. And he made it far better than I could have dreamed.
Which is part of the joy of that collaborative process when you meet somebody you totally trust.
And the sound design deserves extra mention as well because that is a huge task to do justice to do something that… not that it was a case of guessing what it was like, but more to evoke that memory.
Well the good news is that we didn’t have to guess because we had access to a real B-17 and state-of-the-art audio recording and we knew where the cameras were placed because we had the footage – so it was probably the opposite of guesswork; it was more duplicate, it was more put the microphone at the right angle and record it exactly how it was. We had to create the sounds of Flak. I worked with the veterans who described what Flak sounded like so we did our best to duplicate that sound.
How’s the response been so far at the screenings for the piece?
It’s been terrific. It seems to be really striking a chord in people. With the success of the Jackson film and Apollo 11 and now my film, there seems to be a real interest in immersive bigscreen history and for some reason people are looking to escape into “the past”.
I couldn’t get over how huge the missions were from England.
Literally thousands of planes. That will never happen again. You’ll never see 1,000 airplanes in the sky at one time ever again in human history – that was once in human history and William Wyler happened to capture those images in colour film in 1943 and the raw footage that he captured has managed to survive for 75 years so that’s pretty extraordinary all around.
The work is phenomenal. Just to say again, I’ve never felt such an emotional touchstone to that time and place, in as much as you can have – it’s a bit of a time machine.
Thank you – that was the intention, to connect you to the past through the footage of men who were there.
James Allen (Laurence O’Fuarain) is a successful, controlling, thirty-something banker living alone and working in Dublin city at the tail-end of the recession. When a family tragedy occurs at the hands of his employer he decides to take action which forces him to face a terrible childhood secret. Meanwhile, his mysterious co-worker Alison (IFTA-nominated Sarah Carroll) has her own agenda, which puts her on a collision course with James, triggering a dark spiral of deceit, revenge, and murder.
Gemma Creagh met up with writer/director Alan Mulligan to talk about his look at modern-day greed and desire, and society’s ever-growing need for control.
Bobby Coote left school at 13 and spends most of his time in his back shed fixing clocks and making violins, but he has never lost sight of a lifelong dream to fly. He has cut a runway in a neighbour’s field and even built a hangar. And now he’s using his life savings to buy a plane! He gets no encouragement from his brother Ernie – another octogenarian in the Coote household, who thinks the whole thing is mad. But Bobby is determined to get airborne, even if it’s the last thing he does.
Director Frank Shouldice spoke to Film Ireland about his film, which is released in cinemas 29th March.
Dave Perry, the cinematographer, and myself have worked on a number of current affairs related programmes and we were looking for something outside of current affairs as a project of our own. Dave is very much into flying. He lives up near Bailieborough in County Cavan and was out flying one day in his paramotor. When he was flying he noticed this white dot in a couple of places underneath him. Later that same day, at home there was a ring of the doorbell. When he opened it, there was an elderly man with a baseball cap standing there. He saw behind the man was this Suzuki IQ, a white one and he figures that’s the white dot. It turns out this man was Bobby and he said “was that you up there in the sky?” and he said yes and asked why. Bobby said “I want to do that”. That was his answer and that was the introduction to Bobby Coote.
The idea that this man in his late 70s at that point was having harbouring this ambition to do something that most people would deem was too late for him – it was something that got us thinking… could this be the story that we’re looking for. The premise was strong, the pursuit of a dream is always a romance in itself. But what really turned it for me was when I learnt that Bobby lived at home with his older brother, Ernie, and that the two were unmarried lads who lived in the same family house but had completely separate lives and separate front doors. That to me, if Ernie would come aboard and if Bobby was aboard, would open up a much richer vein that would be beyond the story of pursuing the flight, which would come off for not come off. It would open up into a lot of other more profound themes about isolation, ageing, love, family.
It was very much a generosity of spirit on their part that they were open to this and shared so much with us over such a long time. We ended up on a journey that from the first day of filming to the last day of the edit was five and a half years. It was inspiring getting to know these men now in their 80s – they have a full lived life experience. There’s a kind of wisdom and humour in the experience they’ve had of life. I think it is really key to the film that’s what’s there is real. It’s absolutely real. Some things just happened as they happened. When Bobby gets a very devastating phone call that brings home to him that his dream is finished… that literally happened as it happened. There was no rehearsal or preparation. It happened and actually it was quite difficult for myself and Dave to witness and almost not intervene – to throw an arm over shoulder and say don’t worry we’ll find a way around this or something. That was hard. We were literally watching someone’s dreams evaporating in front of their eyes. We had to remind ourselves we were there to make a film and not just simply to be friend.
Five and a half years is a long time and before we showed the final cut to anybody, we showed it to Bobby and Ernie. We were a little bit apprehensive that they’d be comfortable in what they shared. Thankfully they were. They felt it represented them. If it hadn’t it would have been very uncomfortable for us because as true and close to the bone as it was, you’d like them to feel that that it does represent them rather than me exposing themselves emotionally in a way that they wouldn’t be happy with. It’s a credit to them for being so generous and it takes a lot of courage to open up and reveal the things that matter to them.
The film hangs on it being real, being genuine. We’ve just been in festivals so far but people are engaging with us. They feel that they get to know the brothers. From the outset, the ambition for me was that the audience would enter into their world for the next hour and a half. Let’s go into that world and stay in the world at that tempo, their tempo, their pace of life. It means slowing down, things don’t happen in a hurry. I hope that we have achieved this with the film. So far it seems to be happening. People accept the life and the community they see and they go with them and engage with it and support it. Maybe it’s an antidote to what else is on offer. This is the world we actually live in. It’s not a make-believe world. It’s out there… maybe we just didn’t notice it before.
The Man Who Wanted to Fly has a preview screening at the Odeon Cinema in Cavan Town on 26th March and opens in cinemas in Dublin, Galway, Cork and Cavan on the 29th March.
In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to Irish writer Stephen Shields about his debut feature film The Hole in the Ground (2019). Stephen also talks about his work on Zombie Bashers (2010) and Republic of Telly (2009) and gives us an insight into the craft of writing.
One night, Sarah’s young son disappears into the woods behind their rural home. When he returns, he looks the same, but his behavior grows increasingly disturbing. Sarah begins to believe that the boy who returned may not be her son at all.
David Prendeville chats to director / co-writer Lee Cronin and actor Seána Kerslake about their horror The Hole in the Ground.
Lee, can we start with where the idea for the film came from?
Lee: It wasn’t a lightbulb moment. It was a combination of things. The first little scene of it all was a news story I read about a man sitting in his armchair in Florida. A sinkhole emerged and took him in and he died. I thought that was terrifying, to have the rug pulled in such a fantastical way. That spawned the title The Hole in the Ground which was then rolling around and around in my mind.
At the same time I was developing a story about a mother and a son and a situation of doubt between them after a trauma in their lives – it was more a concept. The combination of these things over a number of months came together. It felt like the sinkhole that was rolling around my mind would be a great metaphor for the situation that this mother and son found themselves in. The actual development of the film was kind of a slow. Sometimes you have these lightbulb moments when an idea comes fully formed. With this one, it was more a kind of slow creep of different things coming together.
Seána, what was it that attracted you to the role?
Seana: I think the challenge of being in a horror movie but to make it feel real to me and real to the character – that challenge was attractive and one I thought that we could rise to. As well, a lot of the physical stuff was a huge draw, like having to be physically ready to go underground and do the fight scenes… They were huge pulls for me. And, of course, the story. I was always interested in that kind of concept of somebody you know not being who you think they are, or slightly off. There’s the idea there – do you ever really know people fully.
Were there other horror films you were looking at as reference points – either directorially or performance-based?
Seana: Lee had given me a list of some stuff to watch, but I did steer clear of it because there was some female performances that I knew if I watched then I’d feel maybe I’m going to take from those performances. For me, I just had to be totally emerged in this script rather than other ones.
Lee: We had our influences and we discussed them, but we didn’t do a deep dive where we were trying to necessarily analyse other work in any way and emulate that. We were trying to be as fresh as we could be in our own way. The reason I wanted Seána in the role was because she was very different to what I had imagined this character would actually be from the get-go. I wasn’t trying to impress upon her or anybody else’s performance necessarily. It’s a case of what I saw in Seána I thought was going to challenge me and challenge the character on the page. That was the way to go about it. We just jumped in and went for it.
How did the casting of James [Quinn Markey] come about?
Lee: When I met Seána, she was the first performer that I met for the role, we just stopped the hunt right away. We sat down, had a coffee and decided it was right and offered her the role. But when you’re working with young performances you have to do a greater due diligence. You’re not just getting to know them, you’re trying to understand them a little more, meet their parents, get a sense of how this will all work. Especially you have a sudden responsibility when you’re making a horror film and you’re bringing an 8 year-old out on set to be part of that and to be an object of fear in the movie. So the process was a slower one. You have a casting agent that goes out and looks at a lot of different performers and then makes shortlists. You’ll see someone on the shortlist you’ll like and make mental notes. You might dig back into the longlist and look at someone else. You build these little groups and you’re always analysing and looking at what it is you want. What’s really interesting about James is that he’s not in any way a creepy kid at all. He has this ability to just step into different subtle places. But yeah, it was a long process. We did chemistry tests with Seána with a couple of different young actors. We definitely went through it. It’s the one decision, when you’re casting someone that young, that you can only make with so much confidence until you turnover and roll camera on the first day – despite all the rehearsals, because it’s a different environment once you’re on the set, so you are kind of slightly crossing your fingers. Thankfully it worked out great – he’s a little superstar.
Seana, the physicality of the role that you mentioned earlier, how did it compare in reality to what you imagined it to be like?
Seana: It was pretty spot on! It was tough. Brendan [Byrne – sfx coordinator] and his whole team were so amazing. It was exciting to be part of that, but tough work.
Lee: I had said to Seána in advance that it was going to be tough. We didn’t pretend that it wasn’t going to be very physically challenging – that it would be something very different for her to do. Seána had to dive in and do some pretty serious stuff. I don’t want give away any spoilers but later on in the film there are certain physical challenges that are done for real. There’s no hiding.
Seána: I think in hindsight I go “yeh, that was fine” but in the doing off it there were certain moments where I was like ‘suck it up and do it’ or else there’s moments where I’m feeling a little wary – not so much scared – I’d never say it because I knew Lee wanted me to be scared in parts of it!
Lee: Show no weakness.
Seána: Yeh. I’m like, I’m not giving him that! So in my head, I’m thinking ‘go for it!’ But it was a lot of fun – hard work, but a lot of fun.
Lee: Good hard work.
The Hole in the Ground is in cinemas from 1st March 2019.