Jason Branagan: How We Made ‘Jaffa’

 

Jason Branagan tells us about his film Jaffa, which screens at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

Jaffa is about a young man who discovers that he can’t have children. He struggles to come to terms with his new reality while trying to find a way to tell his partner.

 

The idea for Jaffa came to me as a result of my age I think. I’m at that stage in my life where a lot of people I know are settling down – getting married, buying houses, having babies. Being conscious of this around me got me thinking. The thing that struck me most was this idea of someone wanting to have children only to find out that it’s simply not an option for them.

 

I think it’s often taken for granted that men can always have children. And more often than not, if a couple can’t conceive it’s usually the woman who will go for fertility tests first. But the reality is, in a lot of cases it’s the man who is infertile. But, for whatever reason, it’s not something we talk about – the discourse around fertility usually revolves around women. So I really wanted to explore the issue from a male perspective; the more I read and researched the more it felt like an important story to try to tell.

 

The most difficult part of the process was getting the script right. It’s a delicate subject and it’s easy to try and lighten the mood with humor, but the reality of the situation isn’t light at all. So I wanted to make a film that hopefully represents the reality of the situation. That took a lot of research and a lot of re-writing. I work with fantastic cinematographer, Noel Greene. He shot Jaffa but he’s one of my go to people with anything I write – he’s brutally honest and critical of my writing. When it came to this film, he consistently challenged me and pushed me to stay true to the story I was trying to tell. Before we brought the script to anyone we spent a lot of time working on the script and figuring out some of our key visual motifs.

 

 

Once I was happy with the script we contacted our producer, Roisin O’Brien. She came on board right away and we went straight into pre-production. Roisin was amazing – I was very particular about what type of locations I wanted and she was able to find everything for a budget of basically nothing. No easy task, but she killed it. And she actually has a small cameo in a teacher’s lounge!

 

Casting was a pretty easy process – as I wrote the film I knew I wanted Danny Mahony to play the male lead, Sean. We worked together previously on Shoebox Memories and Transitory and we have a good working relationship so I knew he’d knock it out of the park. Thankfully, the rest of the cast fell into place – Aoife Honohan had worked with Danny on the short film, The Ladies. Danny recommended her and once I met her, that was that. The film also stars Brendan Sheehan, Dave O’Neill and John Branagan.

 

The whole film came together very quickly and production itself went surprisingly smooth. I think some of this has to do with our pre-production process – for this film we knew we had very specific shots and visuals that we wanted to achieve so Noel and I actually storyboarded the film by shooting a lot of the film with stand ins. This was important because it meant we weren’t wasting time on location and seeing as we didn’t have any particular budget to work with, we built camera rigs to achieve some of the things we wanted to achieve. When I say we, I mean Noel built rigs. He built a “God’s Eye” rig and a dolly with tracks.

 

The post-production process was a long one. It took a while to get to the point where we were really happy with a cut. Once we picture locked, Noel graded the film. Although we were happy with the film, it was still missing something. I wanted a lot of silences in the film. I think the absence of sound can be as powerful as a good score but we knew the film needed an original musical score. We got extremely lucky that a group of Dublin-based musicians were willing to come on board and score the film. Dara Ryder, Aoife Ruth and Tom Cosgrave (from Irish band The Minutes) created a beautiful score that really ties the whole film together. It can get to a point where you become to close to a film, so for this part of the process I really just let the guys create what the film made them feel and when they sent us the finished piece I was confident that staying out of their way was the right decision.

 

I’m proud of this film so I’m really excited for people to finally see it when it premieres in Galway.

 

Jaffa screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts 1 on Wednesday, 12th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:30.Buy Tickets

 

 

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Short Film: Watch ‘Transitory’

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Transitory, the new short film from writer/director Jason Branagan has been released online. The film was made as part of this year’s March on Film festival and premiered at the festival’s finals event in June, where it won Best Actor and Second Place, Best Film.

Transitory is a drama set over one day in Dublin. It tells the story of a Robin, a young man who lives in his car. After his car is stolen, Robin struggles to find a place to sleep.

Speaking to Film Ireland, director Jason Branagan said “the film came about because there had been so many news stories about families forced from their homes, many of which found themselves living out of their cars because they had no where else to go. This wave of ‘new-homeless’ were often people with financial trouble as a result of the crash so it made me think about how easy it could be to find yourself in that situation, and just how difficult that situation would really be. So the film started with that question of ‘what if’…”.

The film stars Danny Mahony (Shoebox Memories, The Devil’s Woods). It is written and directed by Jason Branagan, with Noel Greene serving as Director of Photography. Plain Sailing Films produced the film. 

 

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Interview: Jason Branagan, wri/dir of ‘Shoebox Memories’

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Written and directed by Jason Branagan, Shoebox Memories is an offbeat, musical, romcom. The indie feature tells the story of disillusioned musician and music teacher, Chris, who desperately wants to reconcile with his first love and long time girlfriend, Deb. Wallowing in self-pity after discovering she’s soon-to-be-married, his best friends, Mikey and Al, decide it’s time that Chris gets over her once and for all.

The film’s narrative is written around an album of music, which is also written by Jason, who spoke to Anthony Assad ahead of the film’s screening at the upcoming Dingle International Film Festival.
 

In terms of the film’s structure, it’s arranged episodically with chapter headings in the guise of mix-tape music tracks pre-recorded by the protagonist. What came first – the story or the songs?
 
Mainly the songs. There was an old song from way back when I wanted to be a singer/songwriter that was a dialogue between 2 people. I always wanted to use that idea to maybe write a musical or a stage play. When the idea for the film came around and we were looking at ideas for what we could shoot I had the idea of using a bunch of old songs and structuring a story around them. 6 of the songs were written long before the film and then there’s 3 of them that were written specifically for it. The reason the female lead is Emma Jane was because the song was called Emma Jane. The reason they’re broken up 3 years is because the song is called 3 years. It was an interesting way to approach trying to write a script because you have so much context and content in the songs that you are trying to work out how to fit them into a narrative.

 

It’s interesting – it’s almost like an adaptation of an album.

As it stands the film has a very linear narrative but initially in my head the idea was much more experimental. It was a film built around an album – which is still more or less what it is –  but we just found a way of making it very linear.

 

Did the actors have access to the songs in relation to each scene before shooting?

We spent longer recording the album than making the film. We recorded before we shot. Myself, Colm Gavin [who plays Chris] and a sound engineer friend of mine spent about 4 or 5 weeks in my living room recording the album. So Colm was well aware of all the music. Colm had never acted before. I wanted a musician in the role and I knew Colm through my brother who had gone to school with him. Having come from that musical background myself I felt that a singer/songwriter would hopefully be able to connect to the material and that would probably help them in scenes.

Outside of that, the rest of the actors experienced the music as we shot. Obviously, we would do multiple takes but some of the reaction in terms of when Colm plays was the first time they heard the songs. So there were very honest reactions in those moments.

 

You managed to deliver the film under a microbudget of €2,500. Some filmmakers would consider it a constraint and others believe it pushes them to succeed and think outside of the box. Where would you align yourself?

I believe that constraint leads to creativity. Of course, it’s not always the best – it can be nice to have money to fix problems. But I think it’s good to undertake something like this, even if you never do it again and you only work with bigger budgets. You’re forced to become adaptable and you have to deal with issues as they arise and to deal with them creatively because there isn’t money to throw at them. You’ve got to figure things out on the spot. I think as a director that is half your battle. Still though, I would like to do it with money!

Shoebox Memories screens on Friday 18th March as part of the Dingle International Film Festival (17 – 19 March 2016)

 

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‘Shoebox Memories’ In Production

Shoebox Poster

 

Written and directed by Jason Branagan, Shoebox Memories is set to begin principal photography at the end of June. An offbeat, musical, romcom, the indie feature tells the story of disillusioned musician and music teacher, Chris, who desperately wants to reconcile with his first love and long time girlfriend, Deb. Wallowing in self-pity after discovering she’s soon-to-be-married, his best friends, Mikey and Al, decide it’s time that Chris gets over her once and for all.

The cast includes singer-songwriter Colm Gavin, Jemma Nic Lochlainn, Danny Mahony, Brendan Sheehan and  Zarima McDermott.

 

Shoebox Memories is being produced by Continuance Films and Sharon Crowley and will be shot in multiple locations across Dublin. An indiegogo campaign has just been launched to help fund the film.
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