Rebecca Daly, Director/Co-writer of ‘Good Favour’

In Rebecca Daly’s Good Favour, a wounded teenage stranger who stumbles into an isolated village of devout Christians gradually reveals his motives. David Prendeville met Rebecca to discover more about the film.

 

Can we talk about the inspirations behind the film?

There were a couple of ways that we were inspired to make this film. I’m not sure which came first, but one was when Glenn (Montgomery, co-writer) found an article online about this young guy who walked out of the woods into Berlin. He claimed to have been in a car accident with his parents and said that he had no memory of anything before that. We followed the story online for about a year and it ends in a bit of of a banal way. But we liked the set up. The idea of somebody arriving somewhere and not having a memory of where they came from. We were interested in what the possibilities of that were, especially in terms of what they could mean to the people they encountered. There were lots of theories online about this guy – who was he? They didn’t release a photo until quite late as they weren’t sure that that he was over 17. There was a lot of speculation about who he was. We thought that was quite interesting. What can someone be if they say they don’t know who they are?

 

And the religious aspect?

That was the other inspiration. My grandmother had this really strong faith, despite the fact that she understood that there had been various abuses in the church. But still, her faith was so strong that she could hold and contain all of this and still endure and persevere with it. So, I was interested in that – how much can people take an preserve their way of life and maintain the belief systems that they hold really dear. That was an interesting thing for us to explore, this microcosm of an organised religion really.

 

This film calls to mind European art house. Is there anything in particular that influences you formally? Are there other filmmakers you keep in mind?

No, not really. I watch a lot of films and I love a lot of different filmmakers’ work. But I wouldn’t say I have any conscious sense of being influenced. Of course, there are filmmakers I admire, like Haneke. I would be a big fan of his work. And Lynne Ramsay, or Paolo Sorrentino – who is completely different. These are all kind of filmmakers whose work I love. But I wouldn’t say I was influenced. I’m always trying to find the part of the film itself. Also, looking at my other films, I think you can see that they’re made by the same person yet still they are not the same necessarily in terms of tone and form. I think the story, and what we’re trying to get across in terms of theme, really influence how the film is made, the form of the film, the tone of the film – and this film needed to be a mystery for the central story to work; for this central character to be quite mysterious and for there to be lots of possibilities about him. That is the nature of faith itself.

 

There is a mystery at the heart of all your work. How important is it for you as an artist to challenge the audience? Your films are demanding in a very positive way.

I feel that audiences don’t always want to have a passive relationship with what they’re watching. I think they get that a lot in cinema and it’s satisfying to a point. But that’s not what people always want. Sometimes people do want to be challenged and they do want to see that the filmmaker is thinking about the world we live in. Maybe they’re considering our place in it. I want to have a relationship with the audience which, in a way, invites them to be the last piece of the meaning of the film. Of course, the film is itself. It’s a piece of work. It’s finished – but they are the last piece. Until the audience is in front of it, the film doesn’t have the full meaning.

Also, audiences differ. People talk about films as being different from theatre – that they are fixed and they are unchanging. But I think, depending on the audience, they can change quite a lot. I’m interested in the audience being the last piece of the puzzle and part of that dialogue. I found traveling with this film really interesting. People have based a reading of what they think is happening in the film quite often on their own belief systems and their own ideas about faith.  

 

There are very strong performances in the film. Can you talk a little bit about the casting process for this film and also your approach to directing that cast.

Quite a lot of the key cast are Danish actors. We have one German actress and several Belgium actors. We had a casting director, Dan Hopper, based in London working across all of it. And then we had a casting director in Belgium. She actually ended up finding Vincent [Romeo] who plays Tom. It was extensive. A lot of self tapes were sent before I would get in a room with people.I had a particular idea in my head that I wanted to work with Danish actors. They have such a fantastic reputation.

With Tom, he’s so extraordinary looking. We’d seen lot of tapes with a lot of young guys the right age. But there’s just something about him that was so striking, even though he didn’t have a lot of experience. I just knew this has to work. I did work with him quite intensely in prep and we did a lot of casting sessions with him that were about getting him to the place where he was would be ready for the role. We organised the filming schedule so that the most difficult scenes for him were at the end of the shoot. He really grew as an actor through the shoot, because the filming process often will give actors who aren’t experienced a lot of confidence. That really happened for him, which was a really interesting thing to watch.

 

I know on this film you had to build the village – what was that experience like for you?

It was such a pleasure to build a set. I’ve never had a film that had a built set before, for something like that to come out of your imagination really faithfully. When you shoot on location, as I have with other films, you get everything as close as you can to what you can imagine. Some locations will be really suitable and some may be better than you’d imagined. Others will fall short and you make the best of what you’ve got. But this was amazing. I could sit with the designer and the cinematographer, who came on early, and we would plan together. We designed and built this village together. Not only in terms of the aesthetics of it, but also how it would work for shooting and moving walls and things like that. That was an incredible pleasure. Of course, it puts a lot of pressure on a film that’s on a small budget because it’s expensive to build things. But the innovation of the designer was phenomenal, which really helped.

 

Sound is very important in your films. It’s very evocative always and seems like it’s a very important aspect to your style.

I remember when I was studying film, I had a lecturer who said that sound is nearly more important than picture so that it feels right. If the picture is a bit rough but the sound is good, the audience can still feel immersed in the world. Whereas if the sound is really bad and the picture’s great, it’s really jarring. I think it’s because we read visuals in a more conscious way. Whereas sound affects us subliminally. That’s why I think it’s so important as it taps onto our subconscious, into our dreaming states and all these areas of the mind that we’re not conscious of. I’ve been really lucky to work with really strong sound designers. There’s been different ones on each of the there films, which is part of the co-production model, that they come from different countries. I’ve been really lucky that they’ve been really responsive to a very creative approach to the sound and also a detailed approach because I am really particular about it. Or if I feel like that there’s not enough nuance in a moment, I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who go back to those moments and get it right.

 

Good Favour is currently in cinemas.

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Film Review: Good Favour

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Irish Film Review: Good Favour

 

DIR: Rebecca Daly • WRI: Rebecca Daly, Glenn Montgomery • DOP: Tibor Dingelstad • ED: Tony Cranstoun • PRO: Conor Barry, John Keville, Benoit Roland • MUS: Rutger Reinders • CAST: Vincent Romeo, Lars Brygmann, Clara Rugaard

From its stark opening shot of a looming column of trees, foreboding and seemingly impenetrable, Rebecca Daly’s Good Favour establishes itself as a film that is both visually striking and unsettling in tone.

It is from these woods that a young man (Vincent Romeo), emerges like a spectre, gaunt and malnourished. He staggers his way into a small, rural settlement which appears to be abandoned but, as he soon discovers, is home to a deeply-Christian farming community who take him in as a requirement of their faith. We learn that the young man’s name is Tom, but his past is unknown. Whether he simply doesn’t remember or doesn’t wish to speak about it, is unclear, and this only adds to the mysterious, enigmatic aura that surrounds him. He is met with both distrust and fascination by the members of the community, chief among whom are religious leader Mikkel (Lars Brygmann), his brother Hans (Alexandre Willaume), Hans’s wife Maria (Victoria Mayer), and their eldest daughter, Shosanna (Clara Rugaard).

Mikkel is quick to welcome Tom into the community, and Maria seems content to follow his example. Hans, however, is outwardly suspicious of the stranger in their midst and treats him with reservation. It is thus unsurprising that the thread of ‘otherness’ runs strongly throughout the film, with Tom as its origin. His sudden presence in this close-knit, secluded community, along with his often intense gaze and subdued way of speaking, mark him as peculiar.

Despite skepticism, Tom is able to make steps to integrate himself into the community. The children in particular are enthralled with this newcomer, and we see in their acceptance of him a comment on the ability of the young to look beyond damaging prejudices. Tom also forms a friendship with Shosanna, and their developing relationship eventually shows itself to have its own startling consequences. The first third or so of the film deals with Tom’s struggle to adjust from his isolation to this codependent, intimate way of life, and his presence inevitably disturbs the rhythm of the community. Quite literally, at one point, when the sounds of his hammering to split a tree trunk disrupt and distract the choir practicing in the nearby schoolroom.

This disturbance is underlain by the suggestion that the community may have its own share of secrets. We are given mention of a young boy named Isaac who disappeared in the woods, and Mikkel’s own mother is gravely ill, but he refuses to take her to the hospital despite the wishes of his father. Using this sense of ambivalence, Daly paints the community in such murky colors that its true nature remains unclear. Is it a simple farming settlement content to keep itself to itself? Or are its people more prisoners than inhabitants?

Adding to this uncertainty are startling images of violence and death that are used to great effect. The body of a stillborn calf being tossed into a container of rotting meat, the corpse of a stag that has been struck by a vehicle, even the invasion of bees into Mikkel’s mother’s sickroom, all highlight a grim clash between nature and settlement, and one begins to wonder at the constant misfortune that the community is struck by.

Noteworthy also is how utterly quiet the film is. There is little to no soundtrack, and the backdrop of silence gives the impression of the film holding its breath, which is well-suited to its tones of suspense and unease. The rare occurrences of background music usually accompany a moment of closeness or intimacy between Tom and one of the principal characters, illustrating the significance of his arrival into their lives. But even Tom’s ultimate role is unclear. Did he simply stumble upon the town or was he brought to it? Will the community have saved him, or will he find a way to save them?

Similar to Daly’s film The Other Side of Sleep, Good Favour is not necessarily concerned with providing answers, content to let the audience speculate, assume, and be startled. The film’s undeniably slow pace is not to its detriment; rather it allows the audience an intimate look into the secluded lives of its characters and their tribulations, interspersed with stunning shots of the landscape that surrounds them. A lone tree in a field at sunset or a cliff-top view of untamable woods become as integral to the narrative as the characters themselves.

Aided by strong performances from the main cast (in particular the strikingly expressive Vincent Romeo), Good Favour is a powerful and gripping film that explores the deep complexities of faith and its consequences, particularly in the face of crisis.

Dakota Heveron

100 minutes
12A (see IFCO for details)
 Good Favour is released 9th November 2018

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Interview: Director Rebecca Daly & Actor Barry Keoghan of ‘Mammal’

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Mammal is the story of a woman (Rachel Griffiths) who has lost her son and develops an unorthodox relationship with Joe,  a homeless youth (Barry Keoghan). Their tentative trust is threatened by his involvement with a violent gang and the escalation of her ex-husband’s grieving rage.

Paul Farren talks to the film’s director Rebecca Daly and actor Barry Keoghan.

 

Great performance Barry – really intense. It must have been a big challenge for you.

BarryIt was a great script – not a lot got said and I had to internalise everything. I love doing those roles where you let your actions speak, where one look can mean a thousand words.

 

Which leads me to the script, how do you write that Rebecca? I mean, you know that old principle ‘if it’s not on the stage it’s not on the page’ –  this kind of drama doesn’t come off the page easily.

Rebecca: Actually, our script is quite rich; it is itself a piece of writing. What we are describing a lot is atmosphere, tone and the feel of the thing. I think you get that from the script. It’s true that there’s not a lot of dialogue but film is a visual medium. If you can’t show the thing with the action of the actor then you go to dialogue. To me, I would rather show it first. My characters usually express their emotions through their actions rather than through telling you how they are feeling or having big outbursts.

 

From an acting perspective what was the approach to the subject matter and getting into that level of intimacy that the role required?

Barry: Rebecca kept it fresh. We didn’t really do rehearsals – we just talked about scenes. We joked on set a lot which made it comfortable.

 

Where did the kernel of the film come from?

Rebecca: It was actually Glenn Montgomery, the co-writer of the film. It was his idea to make this film about a woman who doesn’t know how to mother – and it came out of that. He started asking me questions in terms of her character, in terms of her circumstances that led her to making that decision… and then how it impacts afterwards on how she lives her life, how she interacts with people, especially, obviously Joe. It was a succession of steps really.

 

The character Margaret is trying to deal with her tragedy but stay away from it at the same time. Like her function in the charity shop, seems like a subliminal approach to dealing with that.

Rebecca: And she takes in lodgers. She cares for people without having the risk of emotional attachment. She lives in that sort of liminal space. Joe changes that!

 

How did Barry come to play the role of Joe?

Rebecca: Barry was the first person we saw for the part. We did see a lot of people afterwards because I’m painfully diligent! But really no-one came close to Barry – he just kind of was Joe.

Barry: Joe is from my area. He’s one of the lads. I know him.  And there’s bits of him in me. More personality-wise than experience as such. He reminds me of lads I know standing on the canal having a few drinks.

 

He’s a real city lad.

Barry: Yeh he is, but he’s just a mammy’s boy really!

 

There is the sense that when he is on his night time attacks with the gang he’s the runt of the litter. He’s probably cleverer than the other guys – not as tough, I suppose he hasn’t been there that long. He’s the bait.

Rebecca: Yeh, he’s the bait. We can empathise with him. He’s involved in some pretty rough things and cruel things as well. But I think, for Joe, it’s all about survival. He’s doing everything to survive; whatever it takes.

 

I suppose one of the challenges of this piece is its avoidance of types, it’s not simply about good guys and bad guys.

Rebecca: These are the interesting characters. I’m not interested in someone being all good or all bad. Flawed, contradictory, complicated – likeable, unloveable, unlikeable and loveable – that all mixes in people. That’s what people are like.

 

In that way, you are challenging audience’s opinions of these characters. It seems that is what your work does. And that means asking the audience to go the extra mile and in participating with the film.

Rebecca: If I’m in a room with 5 people I’m interested in the quiet one. I want to find out more about them.  I’m drawn to people who have mystery about them – and I think characters in film and films themselves can function like that. And if a film asks you to lean in a bit you can get something very rewarding out of that experience. That’s the cinema I’m interested I’m making as opposed to the type of cinema that jumps out at you. I think if you participate in something more you’ll have a deeper experience.

 

Mammal is in cinemas from 1st April

 

 

 

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Trailer: Mammal

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Rebecca Daly’s new drama Mammal, which has just had its world premiere in the World Drama Competition at the 2016  Sundance Film Festival in Utah, stars Rachel Griffiths as a grieving mother battling both her violent ex-husband (Michael McElhatton) and her interest in the homeless young man (Barry Keoghan) she meets at her local swimming pool. Their tentative trust is threatened by his involvement with a violent gang and the escalation of her ex-husband’s grieving rage.
 
Mammal was produced by Macdara Kelleher and Conor Barry for Fastnet Films  and was funded by the Irish Film Board (IFB), Luxembourg Film Fund, BAI, TV3 and the Netherlands Film Fund.The  film will be distributed by Wildcard Distribution and is set for an Irish cinema release later this year.
 

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Academy Award® nominated actress Rachel Griffiths confirmed for

Actress Griffiths, star of new film Step Up, poses at film's premiere in Hollywood

Academy Award® nominated and Golden Globe® winning actress Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under, Muriel’s Wedding) is now confirmed to star in the lead role of new feature film Mammal. Irish rising star Barry Keoghan (Love/Hate, Trespass Against Us) will play opposite her in the film which will be directed by Rebecca Daly, whose debut feature The Other Side of Sleep premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Directors Fortnight.

Mammal is a compelling and unorthodox love story between a woman (Griffiths) who has lost her son in tragic circumstances and the relationship she develops with a homeless youth (Keoghan).

Written by Rebecca Daly and Glenn Montgomery, the film is being produced by Macdara Kelleher for Fastnet Films (Strangerland, Kisses, The Other Side of Sleep) with co-producers Calach Films in Luxembourg and Rinkel Film in The Netherlands.

Speaking about the project, Kelleher said “Mammal is a powerful moving story and we are excited to be working Rebecca again and with the incredible cast of Rachel Griffiths and Barry Keoghan”.

The film, which will shoot in Dublin and Luxembourg in October, was selected as part of the first Berlinale Residency, a programme organised by the Berlin International Film Festival to support writer/directors develop their new projects.

Funded by Bord Scannán na hEireann / the Irish Film Board (IFB), Luxembourg Film Fund, BAI, TV3, the Dutch Film Fund and the Dutch Production Incentive, MAMMAL will be brought to Irish audiences by Wildcard Distribution with Cinéart distributing the film in BeNeLux countries and Berlin based Picture Tree International (PTI) taking world sales rights.

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‘The Other Side of Sleep’ on iTunes

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Rebecca Daly’s Irish psychological thriller The Other Side of Sleep starring Screen International’s “Star of Tomorrow” Sam Keeley and Antonia Campbell Hughes is now available on iTunes in Ireland and the UK.

 Click here to view

The Other Side of Sleep is the debut feature of director Rebecca Daly. It premiered in the Cannes Directors Fortnight programme in 2011, followed by a great reception at the Galway Film Fleadh, the Toronto International Film Festival and many more as far reaching as India. The film was nominated for three IFTA awards including Best Director, Best Actress for Antonia Campbell Hughes and Best Cinematography for DoP Suzie Lavelle. Antonia was also  nominated as a shooting star at the Berlin International Film Festival 2012 for her performance in the film.

The Other Side of Sleep was produced by Irish company Fastnet Films (Colony, Kisses), and European co-producers Rinkel Film & TV Productions and KMH Film Productions. The film was funded by the IFB, the Netherlands Film Fund and Hungarian Motion Pictures Foundation.

 You can read an interview with the film’s director, Rebecca Daly, here

 

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Competition: Win a DVD of ‘The Other Side of Sleep’ by Rebecca Daly

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Thanks to the fine people at Wildcard Distribution we have 3 copies of The Other Side of Sleep to give away.

The Other Side of Sleep is the debut feature of director Rebecca Daly. It premiered in the Cannes Directors Fortnight programme in 2011, followed by a great reception at the Galway Film Fleadh, the Toronto International Film Festival and many more as far reaching as India. The film was nominated for three IFTA awards including Best Director, Best Actress for Antonia Campbell Hughes and Best Cinematography for DoP Suzie Lavelle. Antonia was also  nominated as a shooting star at the Berlin International Film Festival 2012 for her performance in the film.

The Other Side of Sleep was produced by Irish company Fastnet Films (Colony, Kisses), and European co-producers Rinkel Film & TV Productions and KMH Film Productions. The film was funded by the IFB, the Netherlands Film Fund and Hungarian Motion Pictures Foundation.

The Other Side of Sleep is available on DVD in stores including Golden Discs, Tower Records and the IFI in Ireland now and also on the Wildcard Distribution website here

 

To win yourself a copy of the DVD, simply answer the following question:

What is the name of the character Antonia Campbell Hughes plays in The Other Side of Sleep?

Send your answer to filmireland@gmail.com before 1pm Monday, 2nd December to be in with a chance of winning. The Film Ireland Hat will randomly select the winners minutes before its afternoon nap.

 You can read an interview with the film’s director, Rebecca Daly, here

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Interview: Rebecca Daly, director of ‘The Other Side of Sleep’

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The Other Side of Sleep is released today on DVD. Amanda Spencer caught up with director Rebecca Daly before her debut feature screened at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2011 to chat about the film.  

This interview originally appeared in Film Ireland Magazine. Issue 137. Summer 2011.

Sensitively directed and stunningly photographed, The Other Side of Sleep is on its way to Cannes. The film, which is Daly’s feature directorial debut, follows the success of her short films, Joyriders and Hum and is produced by Morgan Bushe and Macdara Kelleher of Fastnet Films.

Co-written with Daly’s writing partner Glenn Montgomery, the film follows Arlene, a young woman who struggles to decipher between the real and the imagined after a local murder stirs up old grief. Her sense of reality is challenged as sleep deprivation and raw emotion compete and draw her into further disarray. In the telling of a big story, Daly hasn’t forgotten small touches. It’s this light hand that makes The Other Side of Sleep a really superb debut feature and as the film wings its way to Cannes, I caught up with Rebecca.

What inspired the story for The Other Side of Sleep?

It started with a newspaper article about a young woman whose body was discovered wrapped in a duvet in a shopping centre car park in Northern Ireland. What struck me about the article was the way in which the journalist had accumulated lots of different anecdotes about the dead woman from various sources – and how these stories contradicted each other, making it impossible to establish the truth about this girl’s life.

In the earliest treatments the film’s protagonist was the dead girl but as it evolved we became interested in exploring the situation through a person unconnected to the victim. Arlene became our focus and we were looking at the various experiences of shock and grief within the story through her very particular viewpoint. I can’t remember when the sleepwalking element entered the story but this really fascinated us: that a person could be active or acted upon but not conscious – throwing up complications of responsibility – and have no memory of what happened once awake again.

Where did you meet Glenn, your writing partner? Had you written a feature together before? If not, was it a very different process?

We met studying Drama in Trinity years ago. We wrote my first short Joyriders together and had developed another very low-budget feature idea but ultimately both of us felt stronger about The Other Side of Sleep. Glenn and I have different strengths as writers, which seems to work well. Also, we have a bit of a laugh together, which can be really helpful in an intensive writing process, I think.

As the project was selected for the Cannes Résidence du Festival programme, I got to do a chunk of the writing there and then we would get together talk about structure etc., and redraft. It wasn’t often that the two of us would sit in front of the computer and try and write together, we would rather discuss and then I’d do a draft or he would – or sometimes we’d take sections. The script went through many drafts. It was a constant filtration process as we had so many ideas that we wanted to explore in the beginning that we kept having to select from or cut down – this continued to be the process through the making of the film; keeping a handle on the themes and ideas and deciding what was essential and trying to make sure I kept the audience focused on what was important.

Why was the Midlands chosen to locate the story?

My family is from the Midlands so it’s a region I am really familiar with. It has a particular atmosphere that I thought would work for the film – visually also I wanted a pretty worn look and so it was great to be able to shoot it in a region that hadn’t been too affected by the Celtic Tiger.

Thinking back, how did you view the opportunity to direct your first feature – all guns blazing or were you a little apprehensive? Did the Cannes residence programme better equip you, do you think?

I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to make this film. Of course making a feature is a pretty big leap in terms of the demands it puts on the director. It can be daunting at times, but it’s such a great opportunity. Mainly, I was really excited to be able to do it. The Résidence was a brilliant space to write the film in – really this is the main purpose of it. And I was living with five other directors, some of whom had already made their first feature, so this was inspiring in itself.

Shooting your first feature, did you feel your role as director was better supported, coming from shorts where often there isn’t as strict a division of labour?

I think that, like in shorts, in low-budget feature filmmaking the division of labour still isn’t that strict. Maybe it’s the job of the director to delineate this at times when it’s not clear. Honestly, for me one of the most difficult aspects was establishing these lines, for myself as much as anyone else – I learned a lot from this experience.

Had you worked with the key crew before?

No, actually. When I met potential crew obviously I wanted to see how they ‘got’ the script – especially how they responded to and picked up on the detail within it – as that for me is a very important aspect in the maintaining the style and also building the narrative of the film, from small textural details. I had worked with my editor, Halina Daugird, on my last short so this gave us a great shorthand when it came to the edit.

The casting for the film is really perfect. Did you get to spend ample time with the actors before shooting?

For me the actors are my key focus in making the film. The casting was pretty complicated in that the cast is a combination of five professional actors with the rest being non-professionals that we found through open castings in the area. It was important to find the right balance with them; that the acting level and pitch of the non-professional and professional actors would fit. I wanted to create a tone, a kind of naturalism and to keep in mind that in the course of the film some of the key characters are in shock. I wanted to capture that sense of helplessness, paralysis and desperation, a kind of unbearable powerlessness in their means of expression.

I made sure to have as much time with them as possible in advance of the shoot where we explored the key characters as real people with history and context and tried to find ways, particularly for the non-professional actors, to access and identify with the experience of the characters. We looked at the details of specific moments in their pasts as I thought if they could have a vivid picture of certain incidents – it could build up a kind of imagined memory for the character that they could tap in to. Antonia came down to the Midlands two weeks before the shoot – we decided that it was important for her to immerse herself in the world, so she effectively lived as Arlene for the two weeks prior to the shoot. With Arlene it was important to find her way of expressing herself as a product of her past and her lack of understanding of it.

The film is funded from a few different sources, which is increasingly common. What was your experience of that?

I’m not sure how it would be possible to fund this budget level without the mechanism of co-production. It seems to work really well. Also, it meant we worked with some key personnel from the co-production countries which I think was a great experience for everyone.

Is there a scene that is particularly special for you? Why?

My favourite scenes are towards the end of the film – so I probably shouldn’t spoil them… One that stands out for me is the scene in which Arlene works late in the factory and she is disturbed by Bill. I really like what her laughter does here in terms of contrast within her character and also what it does to the tension of the film. People watching the film usually laugh at this point, which is kind of strange in the context of the whole film. I like that.

Are you working on other scripts? What’s next for you?

I’m researching a couple of books that I am interested in adapting for the screen plus Glenn and I have a few ideas that we are discussing. I really want to find something that hooks me like The Other Side of Sleep did – it takes so long to make a film that the challenge is to still be interested in it by the end of the process.

Amanda Spencer

This interview originally appeared in Film Ireland 137 Summer 2011.

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Film Ireland 137 Summer 2011: Interview with Rebecca Daly

With The Other Side of Sleep going on release from March 15th, Film Ireland’s Amanda Spencer caught up with director Rebecca Daly before her debut feature screened at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2011.  This interview originally appeared in Film Ireland 137 Summer 2011.

 

 

Sensitively directed and stunningly photographed, The Other Side of Sleep is on its way to Cannes. The film, which is Daly’s feature directorial debut, follows the success of her short films, Joyriders and Hum and is produced by Morgan Bushe and Macdara Kelleher of Fastnet Films.

 

Co-written with Daly’s writing partner Glenn Montgomery, the film follows Arlene, a young woman who struggles to decipher between the real and the imagined after a local murder stirs up old grief. Her sense of reality is challenged as sleep deprivation and raw emotion compete and draw her into further disarray. In the telling of a big story, Daly hasn’t forgotten small touches. It’s this light hand that makes The Other Side of Sleep a really superb debut feature and as the film wings its way to Cannes, I caught up with Rebecca.

 

What inspired the story for The Other Side of Sleep?

 

It started with a newspaper article about a young woman whose body was discovered wrapped in a duvet in a shopping centre car park in Northern Ireland. What struck me about the article was the way in which the journalist had accumulated lots of different anecdotes about the dead woman from various sources – and how these stories contradicted each other, making it impossible to establish the truth about this girl’s life.

 

In the earliest treatments the film’s protagonist was the dead girl but as it evolved we became interested in exploring the situation through a person unconnected to the victim. Arlene became our focus and we were looking at the various experiences of shock and grief within the story through her very particular viewpoint. I can’t remember when the sleepwalking element entered the story but this really fascinated us: that a person could be active or acted upon but not conscious – throwing up complications of responsibility – and have no memory of what happened once awake again.

 

Where did you meet Glenn, your writing partner? Had you written a feature together before? If not, was it a very different process?

 

We met studying Drama in Trinity years ago. We wrote my first short Joyriders together and had developed another very low-budget feature idea but ultimately both of us felt stronger about The Other Side of Sleep. Glenn and I have different strengths as writers, which seems to work well. Also, we have a bit of a laugh together, which can be really helpful in an intensive writing process, I think.

As the project was selected for the Cannes Résidence du Festival programme, I got to do a chunk of the writing there and then we would get together talk about structure etc., and redraft. It wasn’t often that the two of us would sit in front of the computer and try and write together, we would rather discuss and then I’d do a draft or he would – or sometimes we’d take sections. The script went through many drafts. It was a constant filtration process as we had so many ideas that we wanted to explore in the beginning that we kept having to select from or cut down – this continued to be the process through the making of the film; keeping a handle on the themes and ideas and deciding what was essential and trying to make sure I kept the audience focused on what was important.

 

 

Why was the Midlands chosen to locate the story?

 

My family is from the Midlands so it’s a region I am really familiar with. It has a particular atmosphere that I thought would work for the film – visually also I wanted a pretty worn look and so it was great to be able to shoot it in a region that hadn’t been too affected by the Celtic Tiger.

 

 

Thinking back, how did you view the opportunity to direct your first feature – all guns blazing or were you a little apprehensive? Did the Cannes residence programme better equip you, do you think?

 

I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to make this film. Of course making a feature is a pretty big leap in terms of the demands it puts on the director. It can be daunting at times, but it’s such a great opportunity. Mainly, I was really excited to be able to do it. The Résidence was a brilliant space to write the film in – really this is the main purpose of it. And I was living with five other directors, some of whom had already made their first feature, so this was inspiring in itself.

 

Shooting your first feature, did you feel your role as director was better supported, coming from shorts where often there isn’t as strict a division of labour?

 

I think that, like in shorts, in low-budget feature filmmaking the division of labour still isn’t that strict. Maybe it’s the job of the director to delineate this at times when it’s not clear. Honestly, for me one of the most difficult aspects was establishing these lines, for myself as much as anyone else – I learned a lot from this experience.

 

Had you worked with the key crew before?

 

No, actually. When I met potential crew obviously I wanted to see how they ‘got’ the script – especially how they responded to and picked up on the detail within it – as that for me is a very important aspect in the maintaining the style and also building the narrative of the film, from small textural details. I had worked with my editor, Halina Daugird, on my last short so this gave us a great shorthand when it came to the edit.

 

The casting for the film is really perfect. Did you get to spend ample time with the actors before shooting?

 

For me the actors are my key focus in making the film. The casting was pretty complicated in that the cast is a combination of five professional actors with the rest being non-professionals that we found through open castings in the area. It was important to find the right balance with them; that the acting level and pitch of the non-professional and professional actors would fit. I wanted to create a tone, a kind of naturalism and to keep in mind that in the course of the film some of the key characters are in shock. I wanted to capture that sense of helplessness, paralysis and desperation, a kind of unbearable powerlessness in their means of expression.

I made sure to have as much time with them as possible in advance of the shoot where we explored the key characters as real people with history and context and tried to find ways, particularly for the non-professional actors, to access and identify with the experience of the characters. We looked at the details of specific moments in their pasts as I thought if they could have a vivid picture of certain incidents – it could build up a kind of imagined memory for the character that they could tap in to. Antonia came down to the Midlands two weeks before the shoot – we decided that it was important for her to immerse herself in the world, so she effectively lived as Arlene for the two weeks prior to the shoot. With Arlene it was important to find her way of expressing herself as a product of her past and her lack of understanding of it.

 

The film is funded from a few different sources, which is increasingly common. What was your experience of that?

 

I’m not sure how it would be possible to fund this budget level without the mechanism of co-production. It seems to work really well. Also, it meant we worked with some key personnel from the co-production countries which I think was a great experience for everyone.

 

Is there a scene that is particularly special for you? Why?

 

My favourite scenes are towards the end of the film – so I probably shouldn’t spoil them… One that stands out for me is the scene in which Arlene works late in the factory and she is disturbed by Bill. I really like what her laughter does here in terms of contrast within her character and also what it does to the tension of the film. People watching the film usually laugh at this point, which is kind of strange in the context of the whole film. I like that.

 

Are you working on other scripts? What’s next for you?

 

I’m researching a couple of books that I am interested in adapting for the screen plus Glenn and I have a few ideas that we are discussing. I really want to find something that hooks me like The Other Side of Sleep did – it takes so long to make a film that the challenge is to still be interested in it by the end of the process.

Amanda Spencer

This interview originally appeared in Film Ireland 137 Summer 2011.

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Rebecca Daly’s ‘The Other Side of Sleep’ goes on cinema release

 

The Other Side of Sleep, the directorial debut by Irish filmmaker Rebecca Daly is released in selected cinemas nationwide 16th March  with previews in the IFI Dublin on 15th March .

The Other Side of Sleep is an acclaimed debut feature by Irish filmmaker Rebecca Daly that features a powerful and compelling performance from Antonia Campbell-Hughes, one of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival’s Shooting Stars award recipients.

This hotly-anticipated suspense drama made history at its World Premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 as it was the first film directed by an Irish woman to be selected for inclusion in the Festival. The film, produced by Fastnet Films, also screened in competition at the Toronto International Film Festival and was nominated for Best Director, Best Actress and Best Cinematography at the Irish Film and Television Awards.

A sleepwalker since childhood, Arlene works in the local factory of the small Irish rural town she grew up in. When a young woman is found dead in the woods, echoes of the past inexorably draw Arlene towards the tragedy. She becomes close to the victim’s grieving sister (Vicky Joyce) and family while at the same time finding herself entangled with the woman’s teenage lover (newcomer Sam Keeley) also the main suspect in the murder.   Barricading herself in at night, afraid to sleep, Arlene’s sleeping and waking realities soon blur, as the community searches for someone to blame..

Film Ireland’s Amanda Spencer talks to director Rebecca Daly in Film Ireland 137 Summer 2011.

Follow The Other Side of Sleep on Facebook.

On Twitter  @SideOfSleep

 

Dublin: The Irish Film Institute 15th – 29th March
  Cineworld 16th – 22nd March
     
Cork Triskel Cinema 18th – 22nd March
     
Galway Eye Cinema 16th – 22nd March
     
Letterkenny Century Cinema 16th – 22nd March
     
Offaly Birr Theatre 16th & 17th March @ 20:00pm
 
Belfast Queens Film Theatre 13th – 16th April
 
Leitrim Carrick Cinemplex 20th – 26th April
 

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Rebecca Daly’s new Irish feature ‘The Other Side of Sleep’, starring Antonia Cambell-Hughes to be released nationwide from 16th March 2012

The Other Side of Sleep is an acclaimed debut feature by Irish filmmaker Rebecca Daly that features a powerful and compelling performance from Antonia Campbell-Hughes, one of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival’s Shooting Stars award recipients. This hotly-anticipated suspense drama made history at its World Premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 as it was the first film directed by an Irish woman to be selected for inclusion in the Festival. The film, produced by Fastnet Films, also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and was nominated for Best Director and Best Actress at the Irish Film and Television Awards.

A sleepwalker since childhood, Arlene works in the local factory of the small Irish rural town she grew up in. When a young woman is found dead in the woods, Arlene is forced to her confront a tragedy from her own childhood. Echoes of the past inexorably draw Arlene towards the tragedy; she becomes close to the victim’s grieving sister (Vicky Joyce) and family while at the same time finding herself entangled with the woman’s lover (newcomer Sam Keeley) and the case’s main suspect. Deprived of sleep and having to barricade herself in at night, Arlene’s sleepwalking and waking reality start to blur as the community searches for someone to blame.

The Other Side of Sleep is Rebecca Daly’s first feature, having come to prominence with the success of her short film Joyriders that picked up Best Irish Short at the Galway Film Fleadh and a Best Short IFTA. Her follow-up short Hum was selected as one of the finalists for the Berlin Today Award in 2010. Inspired by real-life disappearances she read about in the media and memories of her home town’s reaction to a similar tragedy when she was a teenager, Daly creates a unique narrative that captures the trauma of loss, the discovery of vulnerability, and the haunting image of a life frozen in time. The film also provides a sensitive artistic juxtaposition to the sometimes lurid media interest in murders and abductions.

Director Rebecca Daly said ‘With The Other Side of Sleep, I wanted to make a film that got under the skin of a thriller, that looked at grief and loss as confusing, haunting, terrifying. I wanted to get at that feeling of walking down a deserted road at night and suddenly becoming aware of your exposure, your vulnerability.

Leading a fantastic ensemble cast in The Other Side of Sleep, as well as being named one of Berlin International Film Festival’s Shooting Stars, Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ career is at a high point. After her success in Jack Dee’s TV comedy Lead Balloon, the former international fashion designer went on to create her own show Bluebell Welch for MTV as well as being cast in Jane Campion’s Bright Star (2009). This year she stars in another upcoming cinema release, Lotus Eaters. Other key cast members include two veteran Irish actresses of stage and screen, Olwen Fouere and Cathy Belton, as well as hot newcomer Sam Keeley who after being selected at an open casting for The Other Side of Sleep, has gone on to star in RTE series RAW as well as Lenny Abrahamson’s forthcoming film What Richard Did.

The Other Side of Sleep is released nationwide from 16th March 2012. There will be a gala preview of the film at 6.20pm on 15th March at the IFI in Dublin followed by a public interview with director Rebecca Daly.

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Rebecca Daly, Chris O’Dowd, John Michael McDonagh and Emmett J. Scanlan nominated for this year’s Rising Star Award

Chris_O_Dowd_in_Bridesmaids

Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board and the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) announced the Rising Star Award nominees for 2012, the winner of which will be announced at the Irish Film and Television Awards ceremony on 11 February 2012.

Writer-Director Rebecca Daly, actor Chris O’Dowd, writer and first-time feature director John Michael McDonagh and actor Emmett J. Scanlan have all nominated for this year’s Rising Star Award.

Selected by a special jury and sponsored by the IFB, the Rising Star Award is a unique IFTA Award in that it aims to highlight exceptional new and breakthrough talent working in all areas of the Irish film industry.

 

About the 2012 Rising Star Award Nominees

Rebecca Daly – Writer/Director (The Other Side of Sleep)

After receiving a BA in Theatre and English and an MA in Film, Rebecca Daly made her first short film Joyriders (Best Irish Short – Galway Film Fleadh 2006, Best Short – Irish Film and Television Awards 2007) and Hum, as part of the Berlin Today Award. In 2008 she was selected for the Cannes CinÉfondation RÉsidence du Festival in Paris where she developed and co-wrote The Other Side of Sleep, her debut feature film, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.

John Michael McDonagh – Writer/Director (The Guard)

John Michael McDonagh wrote the screenplay for Ned Kelly (2003), starring Heath Ledger, for which he was nominated for AFI and Australian Film Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay. He also wrote and directed the short, The Second Death (2000), starring Liam Cunningham.  John Michael McDonagh wrote and directed The Guard, starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle, which was released in 2011 and became the highest grossing Irish independent film of all time at the Irish box office. John Michael has been shortlisted for Best Original Screenplay at this year’s BAFTA Film Awards, in addition to The Guard receiving nine Irish Film & Television Awards nominations.

Chris O’Dowd – Actor (Bridesmaids)

Chris made his TV debut in the RTÉ drama series The Clinic followed by a role in the hugely CH4 popular comedy series IT Crowd. He played the lead in Crimson Petal and the White and Chris’ other credits include: The Boat That Rocked, Gulliver’s Travels, Dinner for Schmucks, Festival and Showbands. Chris has received two Irish Film & Television Awards nominations, Supporting Actor Film for his performance in the 2011 box office smash Bridesmaids and Supporting Actor TV for his role in Crimson Petal. This year he will star in This is Forty and The Sapphires and Chris is currently filming comedy series Moone Boy at Ireland’s Ardmore Studios which he developed and co-wrote for Sky television.

Emmett J. Scanlan – Actor (Charlie Casanova)

Emmett J. Scanlan is a multi-award winning actor best known for his role as Brendan Brady in Hollyoaks. In the last year Emmett has picked up National Television Award nominations for Best Newcomer and Best Actor. He picked up ‘The Villian of the Year’ and ‘Best Newcomer’ at the British Soap Awards, as well as picking up the Best Actor award for his leading performance in Charlie Casanova at the 2011 European Independent Film Festival Awards in Paris. Other awards and nominations include Best Newcomer for the Inside soap awards, RTS/TV choice & All about soap awards. Charlie Casanova has won the Best First Feature Film Award at the Galway Film Fleadh in addition to Best Film at the DMV International Film Festival in Washington Awards at festivals in Washington.  Charlie Casanova is nominated for four IFTAs including Best Film.

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Rebecca Daly’s ‘The Other Side of Sleep’ screens at European Union Film Festival in Toronto

Rebecca Daly’s The Other Side of Sleep will be shown at this year’s European Union Film Festival in Toronto.

The film will screen Tuesday on 29 Nov at the Royal Cinema, 608 College Street.

The film festival’s website is www.eutorontofilmfest.ca

The Other Side of Sleep

A sleepwalker. A body. A family. A small community.

Arlene is like a ghost in her life. She lives in a small town in the midlands – surrounded by field after field, woodlands and laneways to disappear down and never come back…

One morning Arlene wakes in the woods beside the body of a young woman. Someone watches from the trees.  The body is soon discovered and suspicion spreads through the community. Increasingly drawn to the girl’s family – her grieving sister and accused boyfriend, Arlene barricades herself in at night, afraid to sleep. Haunted by grief buried and delayed, Arlene’s sleeping and waking realities soon blur. And all this time someone is watching her.

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An evening of film and wine with Filmbase's Shortspace

 

Every first Thursday of the month, Filmbase selects a variety of short films based around whatever particular theme is currently tickling the fancy and hosts Shortspace. This month the topic is location so at 7pm on Thursday 4th of August, new and emerging filmmakers will get the chance to grill experienced filmmakers about the ins and outs of filming on location.

The line-up includes Oonagh Kearney’s Her Mother’s Daughters, Rebecca Daly’s Joyriders and Hum, and Rob and Ronan Burke’s Runners. So drop in to enjoy film screenings, a bit of a chat and some cabernet sauvignon merlot!

Tickets are available from Filmbase reception. Admission is just €5 for Filmbase members and €8 for non-members. Click here for more details.

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Screening at the Berlinale: An Interview with Kerry Condon

Kerry Condon

Kerry Condon has impressed on stage and screen, adapting herself from the sweet but quietly manipulative Octavia in Rome to the freethinking Masha in The Last Station. This Tolstoy biopic is Michael Hoffman’s latest film, in which Condon stars alongside James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti and Helen Mirren. Kerry features at the Berlinale in the Irish short Hum by Rebecca Daly, which showed as part of the Berlin Today Award 2010 ‘Straight to Cinema.’ Beatrice Ní Bhroin talked to her about her latest works and how the Irish actress has achieved worldwide success without losing sight of her Tipperary roots.

I know you couldn’t make it to the Berlinale this year but have you attended the festival previously? It has the image of being more low-key than other major festivals, does this affect you?

I’ve never been to the Berlinale, but I’ve filmed in Berlin a few times so I would like to go. I have been to Sundance and was under the impression that was low-key too but it was awful. I thought it’d be independent films, relaxed vibe, all about art. It wasn’t at all. It was making me depressed. I aborted the whole thing on day two and went snowboarding for the rest of the trip.

How did you hear about Hum and what was it about this character that had a draw for you?

I heard about it from my agent and I really liked the writing, I liked it as a short story to read. I was also interested in being alone on camera a lot, not saying much, and thought it would be a good exercise in relaxing as an actor. I’m always drawn to sadness too and I felt that’s what was going on with her. She was down and kind of confused about the world, which happens to me a lot.

It was a very atmospheric film, is this more challenging as an actor?

It was challenging but I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t going to be. It’s not like I was going to make it for the money. I hoped it would come across atmospheric, but sometimes it doesn’t always come out the way you planned. So many things happen in the edit but I guessed from the lighting and the set that what I had imagined in my head was very similar to what Rebecca had going on in hers. I also played certain music to myself on set, to set the mood and remind me of what the tone of the film was, as I’d not much dialogue to work off.

Is it important for you to be involved in projects from Ireland?

Of course it is! I always get paranoid that people think I don’t want to do Irish films anymore, just because I’m working overseas. But that’s not the case at all. Like any project, it just has to be good and there has to be something in it that I want to do – to justify the commitment and energy. A film is forever. I did an Irish film last year called The Runway and loved the script. It was so sweet, funny and innocent and the director, Ian Power, was a joy. I got to see people that I knew in school on the crew, shooting. And to shoot inn my own accent too, it was a dream.

You recently appeared in The Cripple of Inishmaan in New York. How did you find being on stage again?

I always wanted to work with Garry Hynes, so it was so great to finally get that chance. I’ve done Martin McDonagh’s plays a lot before; they’ve totalled three years of my life so far. I love theatre and won’t ever give it up. The play was brilliant, the cast was the best and we were in New York. Living the dream, basically. I was so sad when we finished, I always am.

You’re based over in the states now, what are the advantages?

I moved to New York more for personal reasons. I was in London for 8 years and I was bored of it. I have worked here in New York a lot and have more friends here so I don’t feel as lonely and my mother visits me a lot more too. Work-wise, of course I’ve access to more scripts and Americans are so positive, any day anyone’s life can change. There’s no class system. They love my accent too, which gets me away with murder.

The Tolstoy biopic The Last Station is now being released as a major film with a stellar cast. It’s not your first big role but was it a long process getting to where you are now?

I don’t feel like I’ve gotten anywhere different. It’s still the same me in my head, regardless of my achievements. And I’m not really going to a destination, this is my job, and I’ll be doing it for as long as I can, hopefully. I always think I can do better, but isn’t that the way every artist should be? It is nice to be rewarded for my hard work by getting a great job. The hard work is looking for work, not the actual doing it, that part is just bliss.

Funding has been cut hugely in the last year making it tough on people starting out. Do you think the atmosphere for the arts in Ireland is unyielding?

Of course, just look at our history, always fighting. John McDonagh just recently filmed a great script in Ireland that should do us proud. I’m sure there are loads more too, like Hugh O’ Conor… And there are other art forms that we should be supporting, not just film. There are some great artists, painters, musicians. I love what Lisa Hannigan is doing. I was proud to have someone from Ireland nominated for the Mercury Prize. I am really interested in other art forms, just to get a break from the film industry.

What’s next for you?

All will be revealed in a matter of days. It’s going to be something great. It always is for me anyways.

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Irish Film at the Berlinale: An Interview with Rebecca Daly

Snow storms continued to cover Berlin but as the 60th Berlinale celebrations kicked-off, over 1,500 guests managed to brave the weather. Hollywood’s Renée Zellweger, appearing in only a low cut dress, remarked that it was ‘Perfect cinema weather here in Germany.’ Zellweger sat on the judging panel for this year’s Golden Bear Prizes. The Opening film of the festival was Wang Quan’an’s Apart Together. The selection of this film highlights the strong link the Berlinale has always had with Asian film. The gala screening was attended by the festival’s jury president Werner Herzog plus a starry guest list from across European and Asian cinema. Stephen Dalton of The Times remarked on the film: ‘The low-key family drama that follows finds history repeating itself, more as farce than tragedy, with flashes of lyricism and dry humour.’
Belinale festival director Dieter Kosslick commented in a recent interview: ‘Even if we are in the entertainment business, it’s really important to deal with art seriously.’ And while the big hitters like the troubled Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer) and Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island) have featured, European indies reside centre stage throughout the festival. Representing Ireland was Hugh O’ Conor with Corduroy (which premiered on Tuesday 16th as part of Generation 14plus Short Film) and Rebecca Daly with Hum in the Berlinale Talent Campus Short Film (which premiered on Saturday 13th February).
Hum is a project that began almost a year ago as part of the festival’s Talent Campus. The competition was entered by 250 young filmmakers from 65 countries working with the motto ‘Straight to Cinema’. Last year Rebecca Daly, along with 15 other hopefuls, was invited to meet with producers and pitch an idea for a short film. Five were selected (Hum, Jonah and the Vicarious Nature of Homesickness, Reflection, By Night and The Astronaut on the Roof) for the Berlin Today Award 2010. Daly admitted there was ‘a great relationship from the start. I met with producers and the project happened in August.’ The shoot for Hum took place around Dublin and Daly was delighted with the support that she received. ‘It was a hectic two-and-a-half days. Post-production was taken care of in Berlin by Lichtblick Media.’
Hum is anchored by a stellar Irish cast of Kerry Condon (The Last Station) and Lalor Roddy (Hunger). Daly reveals ‘it’s fantastic working with actors like Kerry and Lalor. Both of them brought something special, interesting and sometimes unexpected to the project – which was great. Kerry was particularly drawn to the script, recognising the character of this woman immediately.’ This is not the first festival project Daly has been involved with as she also took up a four-and-a-half month residency with Cannes. She feels ‘it really helps you to gain recognition and is a great way to meet people, to share and work on your ideas. They are a big help when starting out.’ Daly added ‘I really enjoy working in Ireland, the stories I want to tell tend to have an Irish context or at least that’s how I naturally access their themes.’ This is only the start of many successes for Daly as the hard work continues saying ‘it’s exciting and daunting. I’m really looking forward to it. It has been in development for a couple of years and feels ready to be made.’ The Other Side of Sleep, her next project, is in the early stages of planning but Daly hopes to start shooting by the end of the year.

Beatrice Ní Bhroin

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