We talk Man to Man with director Andrew Stevenson ahead of his short film screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
What can you tell us about Man to Man?
Well, the film is a poignant short story of a father-son relationship, told through a series of conversations as the two catch up over a quiet pint in their local to discuss life, love, and everything in between. It takes place over a number of years, and – hopefully! – presents a subtly emotional tale of bonding, fellowship, and the circle of life.
It’s obviously quite a personal film – how did it come about?
As you may have guessed, it was inspired by my relationship with my own father, who has been an incredibly influential figure in my life. It struck me one evening, when we met for a pint, that our kind of relationship, and the effect it has on each person, isn’t something you often see in film. Or in real life, actually. Father-son relationships are quite difficult to examine and/or explain, largely because it requires acknowledgement of the underlying emotions involved, and men are traditionally not supposed to have any! I guess that’s why I saw a potentially interesting subject matter in this as a story. It attempts to address that unspoken – often deliberately muted – male connection, and presents the variety of emotions that contribute to the characters’ understanding of, and ultimately love for, one another in a subtle and understated way.
The chemistry between Hugh Gormley and Killian Coyle is key to the film.
Both actors did a phenomenal job, and brought so much to the characters and their on-screen chemistry. Despite having never met before, the pair had a natural, relaxed rapport immediately, and this was so helpful to the realism and believability of the film.
Did you always know you would direct it?
Yeah. In fact, part of the reason I wrote it was to create something for me to direct. I knew what I wanted to achieve with the story – to use inference and indirect narrative as a kind of decoy for what the real story is about. Because of this, the script would probably not have been the easiest to interpret for an outside director. And of course, directing is what I want to do above all else. I really only write and produce out of necessity, to facilitate the directing. The jury is still out on my ability at all three though!
How was your experience as director?
It was amazing. Directing is such a funny role, because your ‘talent’ is recognising the talents of everyone else and combining them. Our crew were incredible – so committed, efficient, and skilled. In particular, Rua Meegan [DoP] made each scene look beautiful and rich, despite only having a tiny pub snug to work with! And Michael Donnelly V [Editor] tied the story together better than I ever could have myself, so to have him involved was a privilege as well. I received all sorts of favours, advice, and help from too many people to mention but needless to say I am so grateful to everyone for what they gave. This was my first professional short film, and it took a long time – from writing and fundraising at the beginning, to shooting, editing, mixing and now festival entering – but I have to admit I’m really happy with how it has turned out.
What were the important lessons you learned from your time as AD that you brought to bear on the director’s role?
Funnily enough, I actually kind of had to 1st AD the shoot due to unfortunate circumstances on the day. This shoot needed to be really efficient, because we only had two days and multiple lighting setups and hair/make-up/wardrobe changes to simulate time passing and the ageing process. As you’ll see in the film, Rua [from above] and Madonna McNamee [Stylist] and her team did an excellent job creating that sense of passage of time. And they also very graciously put up with me being bossy and impatient trying to get everything in place as quickly as possible! It came down to the wire but we got there in the end. I think I stopped crying at that point.
You must be excited about Galway…
Thrilled to be going to Galway. I’ve never been before but I’ve heard it’s a fantastic week of film and fun. The actors and loads of the crew will be coming down as well so it’ll be great to catch up with everyone too! And I’m also looking forward to seeing all the other shorts – just being in the same competition as Jim Sheridan and Ben Cleary is exciting in its own right! And all the Irish features, one of which I worked on. As a heads-up I’ve been told to pack a spare liver. All I’ve got is an old sponge in the boot of my car. Should be grand, right?
The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017