Emmet O’Brien tells Film Ireland about The White Rose, which features a budding romance that could wither when a blind date goes a little awry…
The White Rose came from my co-writer and co-director Darragh Keating and his desire to, in his own words, make “a simple, nice film”. He approached me with an image and a loose concept. A man waits on a blind date holding a white rose as his only identifying marker but the date never shows up. I immediately saw a monochromatic world, cool and metropolitan like the best of French New Wave with hints of noir at the edges. This would all be filtered through a silent romantic comedy that we hoped would charm and engage.
Darragh would be the lead, bringing his customary professionalism to the role. He and I have worked together many times over the years, from films, plays and music videos and I often refer to him as my cinematic alter ego (we joke he’s the Kyle MacLachlan to my David Lynch). We are well aware of our individual rhythms. I know he can be a wonderfully expressive actor, an obvious element needed for the silent genre and with this film he trusted in my ability to add to the story and throw in some of my favourite elements. I enjoy playful films with heart and humour and, while I usually derive most humour from dialogue, this was a chance for us to expand our skills and see if we could be effective with only visual elements.
With the script finalized we set out on what we erroneously felt would be a relaxed and laid-back shoot. Cue what our friends and crew have called “the Curse of the White Rose”. The first attempted shoot, while anchored by a lovely performance from Leah Hearne, was plagued by a number of setbacks. The location we shot in closed down scuppering any potential re-shoots, while our D.O.P. came down with an illness that knocked him out for a few months. Tragically relatives of crew and cast passed away and extras went A.W.O.L. meaning continuity became meaningless. It felt like a Terry Gilliam-esque Man from La Mancha style ordeal that finally withered the flower and the project was finally put to (flower) bed.
Until it…rose once again.
Two years later with enough distance behind us in regards to the project, we returned to it with renewed gusto. The mandate remained the same, an unfussy and nice film that would blossom with the feel of a bygone age.
The second go around went as smoothly as a perfect first date and we wrapped it in one day. Our crew of Phil Connolly, Stephen Broekhuizen and Adam McCarthy were exemplary and make the company we have together, deep Red, soar. Leah decided not to return and I don’t blame her. She showed infinite patience first time out and acting is not a passion of hers (the arts in general are however and she continues to do great work) but the rose was re-planted without her.
In her place we cast Norma Howard, an actress we greatly admire and someone whose look could be from the films of the age we are honouring. She has an iconic radiance and natural charm that permeates her scenes. I’d tell you more, but as the elusive date her story should remain mysterious. Over the course of the two shoots a lot of people helped with the production, too many to name, but all were vital in what proved to be unintentionally our longest shoot. Special mention must be made of David Nelligan who created some beautiful music based on songs from 1914. He added another retro element to a film that exists in a romanticised mix of times and eras.
In many ways The White Rose is our simplest and most direct film but left many thorns in many sides. However, Darragh and I hope the scent remains as sweet.
The White Rose screens at IndieCork in Programme 2 of the Creative Cork selection @ 9.15pm on Wednesday, 11th October 2017.
IndieCork runs from 8 – 15 October 2017