Laura O Shea’s award-winning short film Hold the Line is now available to watch online and below.
The film introduces us to Em, who works in a call centre. She faces a day that’s more difficult than the usual ‘customer care queries’. That’s until she picks up the phone to Patsy.
Here, Laura brings us behind the scenes and takes us from script to screen.
The making of Hold the Line was a very enjoyable process for me. In early 2017, it had been a year or so since I finished full time training as an actor and I was becoming a little frustrated at the lack of work I was getting. I was either not being offered parts I really wanted, or only being offered parts I had no interest in. I decided that I could either complain about it forever until I died or else I could get up and make something myself. The idea of this wasn’t overly daunting for me as I had been in a number of short films over the years previously, so I knew enough about how they worked.
The script for Hold the Line was written roughly in one day. It sounds quick, but the idea had been going around in my head for years leading up to this. When I was living in Limerick, I worked in a call centre for a year so I could save up and pay for acting school the following year in Dublin. That year in the call centre was truly a character study. You talk to dozens of people every day, each one has a personality and a story. While the character of ‘Em’ in the short isn’t entirely autobiographical, the character of ‘Patsy’ was real. I had a very similar experience with a caller while I worked there and it really stuck with me. I was interested in these little connections and bonds we make in life, while they may be fleeting, they can still make a lasting impression.
Getting a crew together was the next task – I was going to act and produce, then I enlisted my very talented friend Karen Killeen as co-director because I needed someone who knew me personally but also someone who I trusted artistically. With casting, I wanted to get just the right person to play ‘Patsy’. In my opinion, Patsy is the main character in the short, even though we never see her. I approached Lesa Thurman Russell about it, having only spent minutes in her company I knew she was the right person for Patsy. Not many people know this, but Lesa is actually American, she does one hell of an Irish Accent! My friend and collaborator, Tony Doyle, lent his voice also while double jobbing as AD. We had a crew of 6 people for the shoot, including me.
The shoot lasted about 8 hours and we powered through for the entire day, filming in chronological order as we shot it all in natural light. It was an intense day, it was my first time ever creating my own work. I didn’t really know what I was doing. We had no shot list, no storyboard – I just knew how I wanted to make people feel when they would watch, so we went from there.
Once we had the shoot done, I passed the footage along to Philip Shanahan. I’d acted on some projects that Phil was involved in over the years and was always impressed with his work. Phil and I went back and forth on the edit for roughly 8 weeks, it’s a challenge editing something that only has one actor for the entire duration. It’s tricky keeping the audience’s attention. Thankfully, Phil edits with his heart and not his head, and we got a finished product we’re all proud of.
The biggest take away for me with the whole experience of Hold the Line was that you don’t need a big budget to make something worthwhile. You just need to trust yourself and the people working with you.