Interview: Steph Green, director of ‘Run & Jump’

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Run and Jump centres on the vivacious Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), whose happy-go-lucky personality conceals the heartache of holding her family together after her young husband Conor suffers a rare, personality-altering stroke. When American neuropsychologist Dr. Ted Fielding (Will Forte) travels to Ireland to study Conor’s recovery, he finds himself irresistibly drawn into the Casey family, forging meaningful relationships with more than one of its members. Equal parts unconventional love story and intimate family portrait, Stacy Grouden caught up with award-winning filmmaker Steph Green (New Boy) to discuss her feature-length directorial debut and experience working in the Irish film industry.

Run & Jump was your first feature film [after Green’s Oscar-nominated short film New Boy]. What was it about this project that resonated with you, that attracted you to attach yourself as director?

The script really, which was written by Ailbhe (Keogan), it was her first screenplay and it’s just so realised in terms of the authenticity and her signature voice. It’s inspired by true events in her life, her father suffered a brain injury and she watched her family cope with humour and fortitude, particularly her mother. So the script drew me in.

I think also with your first feature you’re looking for something you can get made, it being a slightly smaller film which is very performance-based. It was a beautiful script, it would be really interesting to cast, and it’s a difficult subject matter realised in a really interesting way.

The tone is so well-balanced, which is no doubt informed by Ailbhe’s own experience of the impact of a brain injury on a family.

Absolutely. Although it’s not a true story, it is quite different from Ailbhe’s experience. Particularly Will Forte’s character, who was not a neuropsychologist in the first draft, and there was a lot of research done to develop that character, but he did a wonderful job.

You showed quite a bit of foresight in casting Forte in this film – as an actor better known for comedy, Run & Jump was his first big dramatic role. What led you to cast Forte as Ted Fielding?

I love casting. I think it’s truly an art in itself. You want to be able to bring something surprising to the screen in your casting choices, and I really enjoy that, when I see someone stretch or show a certain depth or a certain type of performance I’ve never seen before. So I did some research on who was around, in that age bracket, in the states, and I just had a feeling… And then it was great when Alexander Payne became interested in him (for Nebraska) because suddenly there was a lot more credence to my choice. I’m so happy for him, he’s extremely talented and he has a long way to go.

He is fantastic in this film. There’s one shot in particular, when Ted is watching a video he’s taken of Vanetia and Forte just closes his eyes, that is just breathtaking, there’s so much nuance in that reaction.

He has a lot of subtlety, that’s what I saw when I started looking into working with him. Then I met him and felt strongly that he could do it, he has that ability to believe in doing less. He’ll admit he struggled with it a bit in the beginning, but it was coming through on the screen from day one and we were all really happy with how it turned out.

I found the film to be very visually poetic – there are a lot of recurring motifs and colour patterns that work on multiple levels. Can you talk a little bit about the look of the film, how you used colour and space to tell this story?

This family is in a particularly dark moment of transition. It’s quite traumatic, the father figure has had a stroke, his personality has completely changed and they’re all trying to adjust to this stranger in the household. And then there’s another stranger in the household. So the colour palatte and the production design was the way to communicate what the family used to be. There weren’t going to be any flashbacks, the nostalgia had to be implied as opposed to represented visually.

I think that was the first thing I remember talking to everyone about, was that I wanted the space and the colour to feel like a more ideal utopia that at least Vanetia remembers her family being prior to the stroke. She’s very creative, the glue that holds her family together. She’s full of humour, she’s warm, so you go from there and think, what does that look like? What is her colour palette?

Also, we just started scouting, and we found a lot of yellows, and bright colours at the locations we wanted to use, in Dingle, and at the farmhouse we used happened to be yellow, so I think with a smaller film like this one you have to let the exploration dictate what you do, you can’t necessarily afford to repaint your key locations, so it’s a culmination of inspiration and sort of adjusting to where you are, and what you can do there.

Were there any other challenges to shooting in Kerry, or any other adjustments like that you had to make working on an Irish film on location, on a budget?

I loved shooting in Kerry, visually it’s so inspiring. The challenges with this film always just came down to time and resources. One thing that came up, there is a zoo sequence in the film – and there’s really no zoo in Kerry – so we invented it for the film. It’s the culmination of an aquatic centre, a bird sanctuary, Wicklow; you have to get creative and visually construct that space, working on a small budget, we couldn’t just fly out to a zoo, so we made one up.

A special screening of Run & Jump launched the Irish Heart Foundation’s National Stroke Awareness week recently, playing to an audience of stroke survivors and their families. What was that screening like for you?

It was really lovely. It was an important way to kick off, in a way, it’s the hardest crowd, they’ve really been through what we’re portraying. It seemed to resonate, which was really satisfying and kind of a relief – You want to feel that you’re accurately representing an experience that’s quite complex.

By all accounts, it went down well. It’s really well-balanced between exploring the aftermath and side-effects of a stroke and the personal, peripheral stories of the other characters.

I do think it’s unique and I hope that’s what draws people in, I think it’s very personal, and it’s exciting that it’s coming home to Ireland. It had a great little run of festivals in the US but it feels right now to be back where it belongs and I’m really looking forward to hearing the dialogue around it when it’s released.

Well congratulations on bringing it home. So what’s next, are you working on anything else at the moment? Do you have any projects in the pipeline?

I’ve optioned a kind of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, believe it or not, which. I’m working with the Irish Film Board again on another project with Ailbhe, just trying to get a few things on the boil. I’m also just reading a lot of scripts, trying to find great writing that inspires me. Having worked with Roddy [Doyle] on New Boy and then Ailbhe on this film, she’s hugely inspiring, I’m more than open to reading whatever comes my way, I have utter faith in Irish writing.

Do you think that the fact that this was Ailbhe’s first screenplay and your first directorial feature helped, or did it affect the way you approached this film at all?

I think it made me braver, in that I had this kind of… naïve bravery as I would call it – I wanted Will Forte and I wouldn’t shut up about it! Maybe on a second feature, you can become a little bit more cynical or a little more influenced by commercial forces. This being our first project, we had nothing to lose, in a way. Being more of a novice just kind of helps you go for it sometimes.

Run & Jump is released on May 2nd.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JH2yuajfBg

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Cinema Review: Run & Jump

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DIR: Steph Green  • WRISteph Green, Ailbhe Keogan  PRO: Tamara Anghie, Martina Niland • DOP: Kevin Richey • ED: Nathan Nugent • MUS: Sebastian Pille • DES: Stephen Daly • CAST: Maxine Peake, Will Forte, Edward McLiam, Sharon Horgan, Brendan Morris, Ruth McCabe

 

Run & Jump centres on the vivacious Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), whose happy-go-lucky personality conceals the heartache of holding her family together after her young husband, Conor (Edward McLiam), suffers a stroke. When American neuropsychologist Dr. Ted Fielding (Will Forte) travels to Ireland to study Conor’s rehabilitation and recovery, he finds himself irresistibly drawn into the Casey family, forging meaningful relationships with more than one of its members.

The film is beautifully photographed, and admirably side-steps most of the tourist-friendly outdoor money-shots in favour of interior, intimate storytelling. Director Steph Green introduces a number of visual and thematic motifs, not only linking the core cast of the film, but introducing a whole other dimension to the narrative. The greens and yellows traditionally associated with the film’s setting of Co. Kerry are warmly incorporated into its world, while cooler melancholy blues creep in to disrupt that warmth, for better and worse.

Ailbhe Keogan’s poignant script is a low-concept affair, which is nevertheless ambitious, exploring different attitudes and concepts of intimacy and how they are affected by numerous narrative events. In addition to the initial trauma of Conor’s stroke, which has dramatically altered his personality and behaviour, and the arrival of Dr. Fielding into the Casey household, the script also throws a number of other twists into the mix, including a suicide attempt, a sudden death, and local homophobic tension. Yet all of these potentially over-wrought issues are handled in an impressively subtle and contained manner within the film. With the exception of an eleventh-hour declaration of love, which feels both out of character and present out of necessity to fit the genre of the film, Run and Jump is, to its credit, more mellow drama than melodrama.

This well-balanced tone and sensitivity to the issues of Run and Jump can equally be attributed to the film’s remarkable cast. Vanetia is not only the glue that holds her family together, but also the emotional core of this film, and Maxine Peake fully succeeds in realising her near-relentless perkiness in the face of incomprehensible emotional challenges. Whether she’s dancing like nobody’s watching, feigning shock over recreational marijuana use, or cheerfully threatening property damage, Peake presents the audience with a heroine whose quirks are for the sake of self-preservation and survival rather than mere ‘adorkable’ idiosyncrasy. ‘I forgot you’re mourning a husband too,’ a newly-widowed character commiserates at a funeral, and so too had the audience: For all of the quick humour and warm energy on display from Vanetia, she is struggling throughout with the fact that the man she loved and married has become an entirely different person.

The rest of the cast is strong, too: Will Forte shares great chemistry with Peake and proves his convincingly earnest everyman from Nebraska was no fluke, with another standout dramatic performance as Ted Fielding; while Sharon Horgan reliably fills her few brief moments on-screen with humour, and Brendan Morris’ subtle underplaying of the Casey’s troubled son, Lenny, marks him as a bright new talent to watch. While Edward McLiam manages the challenging feat of playing Conor before (in flashbacks) and after the stroke quite well, the representation of this character is the only potentially weak link. In the effort to emphasise how much Conor has changed, his characterisation as withdrawn, obsessive-compulsive and abrasive is almost too negative compared to the flashbacks of the sweet, funny and caring man he was before. While this is, of course, the point – it highlights how difficult it is for Vanetia to cope with this man as her husband if the audience can’t even stick him as a secondary character— the film still takes a little too long to allow any humanity to creep back into Conor.

Run & Jump is an exceptionally well-handled drama about a difficult subject; Enjoyable, accessible and sensitive, without ever succumbing to false, mawkish sentimentality, with a few brisk laughs and an optimistic, heart-warming ending. Run, jump – don’t walk – to the nearest possible place you can see this film and dive into its colourful world.

Stacy Grouden

15A (See IFCO for details)
105 mins

Run & Jump is released on 2nd May 2014

Run & Jump – Official Website

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JH2yuajfBg

 

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JDIFF 2014: Irish Film Preview – Run & Jump

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Run & Jump

Saturday, 22nd February 2014

6:15PM @ Cineworld

Steph Green’s first feature Run & Jump is set to screen at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Green was nominated for an Oscar for her short New Boy. Her new feature, written by Ailbhe Keogan and produced by Tamara Anghie, is an unconventional love story set in rural Ireland about a woman’s relationships with her husband, after he suffers a stroke, and with the doctor treating him.

The film follows Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), who is struggling to return her family to normality after her husband, Conor (Edward MacLiam), suffers a rare stroke that changes his personality. When an American doctor, Ted (Will Forte), comes to stay with the family to study Conor’s condition, relationships are strained. With two children and two men in the house, Vanetia treats Ted with hostility, before seeing the calming effects he has on the family.

Speaking to Film Ireland, producer Tamara Anghie said, “It’s wonderful to be bringing Run & Jump back home after its recent release in North America.  We’ve been blown away by the reviews and positive audience responses to the film in the US.  If the awards at Galway and the standing ovation at Kerry film festivals are any indication, we believe Irish audiences will also love the film, so we’re extremely pleased it will be showing at Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and then released theatrically by Wildcard distribution around the country in May.”

 

Tickets are available to book from Filmbase or online here

 

 

Director: Steph Green

Cast: Maxine Peake, Edward MacLiam, Will Forte

Duration: 99 minutes

 

Check out the rest of our previews of Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014.

 

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‘Run & Jump’ Set for Irish Release

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Wildcard Distribution have announced that Irish film Run & Jump, directed by Academy Award nominated Steph Green, will open in Irish cinemas on 2nd May. The cinema release will follow the film’s Dublin premiere at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival this month. 



 

The film, which was shot in Kerry, stars Emmy nominated Will Forte (Nebraska, ‘30 Rock’, ‘Saturday Night Live’), Maxine Peake (‘Shameless’, ‘Silk’) and Edward MacLiam (‘Holby City’) along with a strong supporting cast which includes Sharon Horgan (‘Pulling’, ‘Dead Boss’), Ruth McCabe (Philomena, My Left Foot) and Michael Harding (Silence, Black Ice).



 

Co-written by Green and Kerry native Ailbhe Keogan, the film tells the story of an American doctor (Forte) who travels to Ireland to study the Casey family after 38-year-old husband and father Conor (MacLiam) suffers a stroke which changes his personality, leaving wife Vanetia (Peake) to run the show. 

 

Speaking about the release, Steph Green, director of Run & Jump said: “We’re delighted that after the warm reception on the Irish festival circuit, Run & Jump will now release in cinemas for the Irish public. It was wonderful to work with a script that was written to be set in Kerry. Spending time in Kerry writing with Ailbhe was important as it grounded me into the environment and characters. To then come back and shoot in the region, with such support locally, was a tremendous experience to have and one that I will long treasure.”

 

Run & Jump is Green’s debut feature following the success of her short film New Boy which was nominated for an Oscar in 2010.  It had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and since then has been selected for festivals across the globe and has won numerous accolades including the Best Irish Feature and Best First Feature awards at the Galway Film Fleadh and the Silver Spike award for Best Film at the Valladolid International Film Festival.

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Short Film of the Week: Watch ‘New Boy’ by Steph Green

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After her success at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh, winning the Best Irish Feature Award for her film Run & Jump; here’s a chance to catch Steph Green’s Oscar-nominated short New Boy,which won Best Narrative Short at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar.

Based on a short story by Roddy Doyle this poignant and comedic short film deftly captures the experience of being the new boy in school through the eyes of Joseph, a nine-year-old African boy.

New Boy was produced as part of the Short Cuts scheme

DIRECTOR: Steph Green
SCRIPT: Steph Green based on a story by Roddy Doyle
PRODUCER: Tamara Anghie
MAIN CAST: Olutunji Ebun-Cole; Norma Sheahan, Simon O’Driscoll, Fionn O’Shea, Sinead Maguire
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Zanzibar Films

 

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‘Run & Jump’, ‘Coming Home’ and Saoirse Ronan triumph at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh Awards

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The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

After a week of Irish and international premieres, short films, documentaries, workshops and panels, the 25th Galway Film Fleadh came to a close with the annual awards ceremony. Taking place on Sunday 14th July before the closing film, The Sea, the awards were attended by international film stars Saoirse Ronan, Zachary Quinto, Fionnuala Flanagan and Will Forte, as well as the President of Ireland, Michael.D.Higgins.

Steph Green’s Run & Jump scooped the awards for Best Irish Feature and the Crowe Horwath Award for Best First Irish Feature. Steph Green’s feature debut after her short New Boy received an Oscar nomination, Run & Jump is an unconventional love story set in rural Ireland and stars Maxine Peake and Will Forte.

Other winners included Dead Cat Bounce’s comedy mockumentary, Discoverdale, which picked up Best International Feature. Viko Nikci’s documentary, Coming Home, which follows Angel Cordero, a man who has served 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, won both the Best Irish Feature Documentary Award and the Amnesty International Award for Best Human Rights Documentary.

President Higgins presented the special Galway Hooker Awards, which this year went to Miriam Allen, managing director and co-founder of the festival, James Morris, former chair of the Irish Film Board, and Irish actress Saoirse Ronan.

Click here for a list of all the winners at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh Awards.

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Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh preview: Run & Jump

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The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

Run & Jump

Saturday, 13th July

Town Hall Theatre

21.00

Oscar-nominated Steph Green’s first feature, Run & Jump, will have its Irish premiere this weekend at the Galway Film Fleadh. Green was nominated for an Oscar for her short New Boy. Her new feature, written by Ailbhe Keogan and produced by Tamara Anghie, is an unconventional love story set in rural Ireland about a woman’s relationships with her husband, after he suffers a stroke, and with the doctor treating him.

Talking about the Fleadh, Tamara Anghie told Film Ireland, ‘We wrapped shooting on 13th July 2012, so it’s particularly exciting to have our national premiere exactly a year later to the day at the Galway Film Fleadh. Having had our shorts play here over the years, it’s a real honour for Steph, myself and Ailbhe to have our first feature as part of the 25th anniversary of one of the most vibrant, fun and noted festivals on the circuit’.

The film follows Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), who is struggling to return her family to normality after her husband, Conor (Edward MacLiam), suffers a rare stroke that changes his personality. When an American doctor, Ted (Will Forte), comes to stay with the family to study Conor’s condition, relationships are strained. With two children and two men in the house, Vanetia treats Ted with hostility, before seeing the calming effects he has on the family.

Tickets are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at www.tht.ie.

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New Boy Nominated for an Academy Award®

The Irish short film New Boy, directed by Steph Green and produced by Tamara Anghie, has been nominated for an Academy Award® in the Best Live Action Short Film category.

Other Irish interests include Martin McDonagh, who has been nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category for In Bruges. Irish producer Redmond Morris is one of the four producers on The Reader, which received five nominations including Best Picture, and Nathan Crowley has been nominated in the category of Best Production Design for his work on The Dark Knight.

The 81st Academy Awards® will take place in Hollywood on 22nd February.

For the full nominee list please click here

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