Director Thomas Ryan takes us behind the beard in his new short film Pognophobia, which features at the Short Film Corner of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival from 12-16 July.
POGONOPHOBIA – an irrational, persistent fear of beards. These were the first words that greeted me as I read the script by the talented Damian Ryan, for what would become my latest film project. To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. I loved what Damian had done with the lead character of Cyril, our hero whose life is upended by this crippling fear. Damian wasn’t seeking to make light of the phobia or play Cyril’s fears for laughs. Whilst it’s a wonderfully funny script, none of the jokes are at the expense of this unusual phobia. It was written with respect and reverence, all while trying to demonstrate how such fears can have a huge impact on the way we live our life and the relationships that we have.
It was a beautifully constructed script and I knew that if I were to do it justice then I needed to assemble a immensely talented team to help bring it to life. Happily, with Victor McGowan from Constant Motion Pictures as producer, the pre-production process was a delight and we were able to secure some tremendous talent both in front of and behind the camera. Casting the role of Cyril was tricky at first. It’s a difficult thing for an actor to have to audition for a role like this without fully knowing the sort of tone that we have in mind for the finished piece. Thankfully, Abe Smyth nailed it as soon as he walked into the room. Once we had locked in our leading man, it was not long before we could cast the characters who orbit his world. Tara Flynn, Jenny Lee Dixon, Nikhil Dubhey and Fillipe Lezo round out the cast and everyone turned in an incredible performance. It was a joy to sit back and watch such talented actors play off one another and bring Damian’s characters to life.
Filming took place over four days in Dublin. These days went by in the blink of an eye and were incredibly productive. The collaboration on set between the cast and crew was gratifying and it was one of the most pleasant sets I have ever had the pleasure to work on.
Once filming had wrapped it was straight off to post-production. Once this process was completed it was spring 2020 and little did we know that the world as we knew it was suddenly going to change. With the sudden impact of a global pandemic and the health advice to stay indoors and self-isolate, we entered into a bizarre case of life imitating art. Suddenly it felt like we were living in Cyril’s world – not interacting with people in public, locking ourselves indoors, becoming more and more isolated as the months went on. Now the movie didn’t seem so surreal anymore. If anything I was worried that by the time it was to be released, it would be perceived as a docu-drama rather than a comedy.
There was also the issue of cinemas shutting down and festivals not allowing crowds to congregate. It was the start of a very difficult period for the industry. However, artists proved once again that they are resilient and robust in the face of such adversity and, as a result, many festivals were now being held virtually. Pogonophobia has proved to be a success on the virtual festival circuit, with our amazing cinematographer Donal Canavan picking up a Best Cinematography award at the Comedy Feedback Festival in Toronto.
This month we received the mind-blowing news that Pogonophobia has been selected to play at the Short Film Corner in the Cannes Film Festival (the only independently produced Irish short to do so). To have our film play at such a prestigious film festival is testament to Damian’s script, the talents of Victor and the incredible work of our dedicated cast and crew. Whilst this has been an incredible experience, I do hope that the cast, crew and myself have the chance to experience the film with a live audience at a film festival at some point in the not too distant future.
Filmmaking is a collaborative process and I was very fortunate on this endeavour to be surrounded by the best in the business.
Pogonophobia will be available to stream at the 2021 Short Film Corner of the Cannes Film Festival from the 12-16th July. A special private screening will take place in the Marche Du Film in Palais F on 15th July 15 at 10.30am. For more information, please contact Victor McGowan at firstname.lastname@example.org.