Martin Beirne tells Film Ireland about writing and directing his debut feature, a rural coming-of-age drama in which Michael Murray faces down school bullies, isolation and a dysfunctional family to find community, love and confidence.
The feature film Around Here, previously called Seize, was written over three years, from 2007 to 2010. There was a four-year pause before I was able to bring this dream project into reality. In 2014, the screenplay was brought out again and I began editing it. Then in late 2016, I began shooting the film. They say it takes time to make a feature and this certainly has been the case with Around Here. Writing the script was a real joy for me. I had intentionally organised my schedule where I would work three days a week in a regular job and spend two days thinking and writing. During this time, I would often think of my teenage years growing up in rural Ireland. This became the catalyse for the film.
I have always been interested in marginalised people, who, for one reason or another, found themselves to be the butt of jokes or worse. The desperate need to fit in or even be popular and simultaneously the importance of not becoming the target were memories seared into my mind. Around Here enters this world and ponders a narrative as to why or how someone may get unwanted attention and how this may affect them in their private and public lives. How does the private world affect the public? Rural Ireland is plagued by suicide, and this is a theme that I touch upon. However, the film isn’t just about that. It is about being trapped. It is about getting out from under whatever you are under. It is also about a young man or a young woman realising they have an equal chance at life no matter what their circumstances are.
Armed with only the script, I naively set out to tell the story through the medium of film. My journey began by placing an advert on a Facebook film network site. Soon enough replies came in and I eventually built a crew from there. With film locations, I knew pretty much what locations I needed, so I would spend most of my weekends scouting places. Eventually, I contacted Film Offaly, who made this job much easier than I had been making it. From here, I found GAA grounds, a farm, a church, etc. Next came casting. That too proved a slog, but bit by bit I found the characters I was searching for. I think being on intimate terms with the script made my search for actors much easier.
After one false start, the shoot began in mid-October 2016. We were blessed with good weather. We received a very warm welcome and support from the Village of Kinnity, Offaly and the local people, including the local GAA. One family literally provided all the facilities they had and, for this support, I will remain grateful indefinitely. Film truly is a collaboration. Since I had never met most of the crew prior to the shoot, this created both an exciting and a challenging experience. The crew and cast shone through and only for their professional manner, nothing would have been possible.
In post-production – and now in a good deal of debt! – the push was on to edit and complete. It took a further 12 months to get to a rough cut. At this point my spirits were low. I didn’t get everything I had sought to shoot and now I was plagued with gaps in the film. I sought further support, and this came in the form of a very experienced producer. We spent a good deal of time analysing what I had and eventually the story structure came together.
Being accepted into the Galway Film Festival had been a dream. Now it is a reality and a privilege. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity that has been extended. I believe the Fleadh has shown great courage in accepting this film, especially since up until making Around Here I had zero experience in any type of filmmaking. All the credit goes to cast, crew, pre and post-production personnel, and true friends who supported when it was needed most – you know who you are. There are far too many to mention individually and not fair to single any out. I feel blessed and only hope the film may touch someone, even if it is just one person, that alone would define true success for me.
Around Here screens on Friday, 13th July at the Town Hall Theatre @ 16:00 as part of the 2018 Galway Film Fleadh (10 – 15 July)