Cathal Kenna, Director of ‘For Molly’

 

Ahead of its release in selected cinemas this weekend we caught up with Cathal Kenna director of For Molly to chat about his feature which deals with the subject of a young Irish couple coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis. 

 

Tell us about For Molly and where the inspiration for the movie come from?

For Molly is a tale about a young father to be who starts recording a series of home-movie messages for his soon-to-be born daughter after receiving a shock cancer diagnosis. It was a concept that I had in my head for some time but it was when I sat down and discussed it with a long-time acquaintance, Kieran O’Reilly, that the concept really started to develop. Kieran went on to write the screenplay and also be lead actor in the role of Evan.

We sat down with our producer Vincent Moran, a highly accomplished actor in his own right, who runs his own touring theatre company ‘Wilde Shamrock Touring Theatre’, and quickly set about assembling a cast and crew and getting everything in place for our tight shooting schedule.

With the team in place, we set about scouting a suitable location for the film. Through our research in Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross we came into contact with the Copperthwaite family who allowed us take over their home for 5 days. A more generous host family you could not wish to meet.

 

Where would we have seen the cast before?

Kieran – Vikings, Love Hate –  in addition to producing a fine script and being heavily involved in production brought in a host of extraordinarily gifted actors including Maura Foley – Love Hate, Acceptable Risk – Tony Doyle  – 11th Hour, Michael Inside, Kissing Candice – Stephen O’Brien – Love Hate, Rebellion – Ally Ni Chiarain – Black 47, The Drummer and The Keeper, My Name is Emily – Nuala Kelly  – The Laws of Attraction, Angela’s Ashes – and Ceara Carney  –Vertex, Indelible.

One of the special unexpected treats working on the film was the passion and commitment displayed by some of our lesser experienced actors, including Steve Vincent, Jennifer Walsh, Paul Copperthwaite and Caroline Kiernan. They brought energy to proceedings that lifted everyone. Finally the youngest members of our cast Emma Ward (2 weeks old) and Sarah Gallagher (6 months old) may have just stolen the show at the very end with their cameo performances.

 

You mentioned the shooting schedule was tight but I don’t think that tells the whole story?

With only 5 days available to film we had no option but to throw the actors in at the deep end. The opening shots we took with Maura Foley and Tony Doyle on the first morning of principal photography will forever be etched in my mind. The quality of performances they delivered from the off was stunning. From there it only went from strength to strength with Kieran O’Reilly delivering a masterful performance with his character Evan. There were several hairs standing on the back of your neck moments over the course of the next few days. Having witnessed these performances at close quarters I’m so excited to see what comes next from these actors and I feel very luck to have gotten the chance to work with them before they move onto very big things, which I’m certain they will do.

 

How do you shoot a feature film in five days on a shoestring budget?

It’s simple – surround yourself with highly talented and committed people, chart a course, get out of their way and let them do their jobs. And keep everybody well fed!

 

You mentioned your crew. Tell us about them?

On the set of, I was fortunate enough to encounter as talented and committed a group of people as one could wish for. Marco Griffini on camera, assisted by Oisin Carney, Caimin Agnew on sound, Colm Sexton on lighting, Ceara Carney on costume and production design and Niamh Matthews and Marty J Byrne on hair and make up.

Post-production kicked in and Dave Thorpe played a critical role in supervising this segment of the process at times coordinating deliverables between Canada, Dublin and Waterford. We are deeply appreciative of some support we received from Peter Brady, Windmill Lane Limited, Eugene Tobin in SGC Dungarvan and also David Lawlor at BrandNew Creative during this time.

Music was provided courtesy of White McKenzie (Kieran O’Reilly), Stand and original compositions were delivered by Gareth Ebbs. The film website was designed and delivered by Paul Lynch.

A lot of favours were pulled in including some assistance from Colin and his team at Film Equipment Hire which was managed by our DoP Marco Griffini. A shot listing was drawn up and we were ready to begin shooting.

 

What has this experience taught you?

Is making a feature film in 5 days a good idea? Probably not if you can avoid it but I wouldn’t change a thing about the experience and the special group of people we somehow managed to assemble for this project. Most importantly, I’m extremely proud of the results we produced on screen and I firmly believe our film will make a positive contribution in creating further awareness about cancer care and prevention measures particularly among younger sections of the population. For that reason alone it was more than a worthwhile endeavour.

 

 

For Molly screens in select Movies@ and Omniplex theatres from Friday 5th October. For screening and film details go to: http://www.formollymovie.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish Film Review: Coming Home

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DIR/PRO/DOP/ ED:Cathal Kenna  MUS Gareth Ebbs, Conor Ebbs, Carol Anne McGowan, White McKenzie, Gavin Mulhall  CAST: Clare Waldron, Gerard Ward, Vera Finnegan, Tom & Evelyn O’Brien, Jimmy Hayes, Mary Lloyd

Coming Home, Cathal Kenna’s debut feature documentary, tells five different Irish emigrant stories. The stories are told by the emigrants themselves. There is no voice-over narrative. It is a style of documentary reminiscent of Alex Fegans’ work on Older than Ireland and The Irish Pub.

The five emigrants at the core of the film sometimes call on a supporting cast to help tell their stories. There are also some interesting off-screen characters present in the narrative. The film manages to encapsulate something of the essence of the Irish diaspora’s experience of emigration through these five interweaved stories.

The title does not apply in the literal sense. It is as much about looking back at the Ireland these people left behind as it is about a physical journey. In one case it is about a journey away from home and in another it involves a decision not to return.

Ireland has embraced emigration since the time of the Famine and before. It is embedded deep in our DNA. It is surprising that more emigration stories have not been told through film. A recent exception was Brooklyn, a 1950’s emigration story that seemed to strike a chord with many Irish people at home and abroad.

Cathal Kenna has given us both a historical and a contemporary take on emigration in this film which he directed, produced, shot and edited. It was clearly a labour of love.  Each story spans several years from 2012, when he commenced filming, up to this year. The time span allows an emotional story arc over that time for each of the participants. The conclusions to the five stories are not predictable.

The entire project appears to have been achieved without any funding from the Film Board, the BAI or the broadcasters. It is a tribute to the determination of Kenna that he succeeded in making a feature-length documentary with such meagre resources virtually single-handed. In post-production, the director added a score with the assistance of five credited musicians/ songwriters. The music complements the stories sensitively.

I would imagine Cathal had to rely a lot on ‘the kindness of strangers’ throughout this project. The credits under the title “Special thanks to:” run to six pages on the press information.

Despite the absence of funding and the small crew (one!), Coming Home is very ambitious. The stories play out in several continents – all of which are seen on location.

The success of the film lies in the candid engaging nature of the participants and in the diversity of their stories. It was quite a feat to source people who committed to sharing their unfolding and sometimes painful personal stories with the director over a number years. The journey was usually difficult and always fraught with uncertainty.

For most of the older emigrants, there was no choice but to leave in order to secure employment. Most of those featured still regard Ireland as the homeland, albeit in a conflicted sense. All were troubled by leaving those left behind. There is a sense that those who remain may miss the emigrants, but they cannot understand the emigrant’s pain unless they experience it at first hand.

There is an enduring emotional hurt bound up with being an emigrant. At the core of that hurt is loneliness and longing. The story of Clare Waldron, a woman in her 50s returning to Ireland after 30 years is particularly poignant. It would be unfair to divulge the content of the stories in any more detail.

Brian Ó Tiomáin

PG (See IFCO for details)

83 minutes

Coming Home is released 18th November 2016

Coming Home – Official Website

Film screenings:

 

 

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