When a bungled burglary leads to one partner dead and a slew of loose ends, Rab hastens his plans to leave his old employer’s town for good. Already being hunted however, Rab is soon cornered by a mysterious stranger and given a terrible ultimatum.
Carmen Bryce caught up with Shaun Blaney, writer & director of Trespasses, to find out more about his short film, which screens on Tuesday, 28th Jan at the Film Devour Short Film Festival in the Black Box in Belfast.
What is the message behind Trespasses?
I wanted to get across to the audience something they are already well aware of – these are desperate times and people are willing to risk a lot for a little stability in their lives. In Trespasses a relatively small sum of money (£12,000) was enough for Rab to risk his life over. £10,000 is the price of a human life according to The Cowboy, which is what he charges for his services. Rather than heading home Rab checks himself into a nice hotel for a few hours, a sort of escape from the kind of places he usually finds himself. I’m aware that this kind of story has been done many times before, a sort of ‘stranger comes calling’ affair, though by utilising this staple form of cinema experience I could put my own interpretation on to it and create 20 minutes of escapism, which is the kind of thing I want to watch myself.
What were the challenges in portraying this message within less than 20 minutes?
Many and varied. The script was one to begin with. As this was my first time writing for screen, I had far too much material to fit into a 20-minute short when it came to the edit. Of course it’s better to have more, but I had to be brutal when it came to removing some of my favourite material. As we wanted to maintain the pace of the story, the majority of shots concerning dilapidated buildings and TO LET signs around Belfast were the first things to go, shots which may have reinforced the theme. I think for the most part the theme comes across, but sacrifices had to be made to maintain the action and tension for me.
The film is set in Belfast. Was it important to you for the film not to be dominated by politics or the ‘Troubles’ and do you think it’s important for the originality of NI-based films to steer clear of this subject matter?
To be honest, I’m sick to death with plays and films about The Troubles. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we try to forget they happened, but if people from the North pride themselves on dusting themselves off and getting on with things because, “What else can you do?” then we have to let our art do the same thing. Let it be progressive and not continuously retrospective. Our films and theatres are saturated with art concerning the troubles already. Trespasses is a work of fiction set in the present and so for me being a child of the peace process – I’m 26, born after the Troubles had finished and I don’t remember much about them – I felt they had no place in my fictional Belfast. I wanted a more universal subject matter.
What were the challenges in being on the other side of the camera as a director?
The challenges were all technical for me. Developing a working language with my director of photography was a challenge as I didn’t know the proper way to tell him to slide the camera to the left. Learning the procedure which goes into capturing every shot with the clapper board and then we had to start the sound rolling, etc. Also recording sound was quite difficult in some of the locations due to outside noise. We didn’t have the luxury of a closed set.
How did your experiences as an actor aid your role as director?
Working with my actors was a joy because I was lucky enough to be working with people who are the best in the North at the minute. And coming from an acting background I knew when they may appreciate a note on performance and when to stay back and let them do their thing. You also develop a complete lack of shame over the years while acting. This helps when you need to go beg, steal and borrow to get your project off the ground.
What Irish actors/directors do you admire?
They’re all local. It’s talent I see working locally that keeps me going. The indie movie scene in the North is really exciting. There’s a lot of great work happening with all the major Belfast theatre companies like Tinderbox and Kabosh. I’d be too afraid of leaving anyone out.
Do you think the N.I/Irish film industry can survive this climate or is the only chance homegrown talent has for success is in the UK/States?
I think it’s thriving at the minute, especially in Belfast. This is fast becoming a place people in the industry want to come work in. We’re well looked after by the majority of companies who practice fair employment. Of course the big parts go to the established names, but there is a growing self motivation with everyone else to work hard and get things made yourself in order to get yourself seen. There is the worry that the big companies will come for a while, take what they can get and leave, but it’s up to us to carry on this creative wave that’s going so well now.
Trespasses is being screened on 28th January at the Film Devour Short Film Festival in the Black Box in Belfast.