'I'd like to do that': A tale of a Cavan man who was in flying form

Some film-makers spend ages finding the perfect subject for their first feature. But for director Frank Shouldice, the subject found him.

Bobby Coote was a man on a mission to fly and wasn’t willing to let being almost an octogenarian get in the way of his dream.

And when he spotted Shouldice’s friend, cinematographer Dave Perry, take to the skies near his home in Bailieborough, Co Cavan, Bobby decided to investigate.

“Myself and Dave had worked together on current affairs issues and stories,” Shouldice says. 

“We liked working together and we were looking for a project of our own which would be separate from work that would be something to tip away at on weekends and holidays. We were looking for a story basically.

“Dave is into flying and he flies with a paramotor which is like a one-man flying machine. He was out flying above the fields in Bailieborough. 

"And he noticed at various junctures there was a white dot beneath him and he was kind of curious that this dot appeared in different places. He was back home and there was a ring at the bell.

“There was this elderly man in a baseball cap standing there and behind him was a Suzuki IQ, a white one. That’s the white dot. 

"First of all Dave was a bit worried that maybe the flying was annoying sheep or cattle, because he didn’t know who Bobby was.

Then he says: ‘Was that you up there in the sky? I’d like to do that’. That was the instruction to the story. If he hadn’t spotted Dave and pursued him I don’t think the film would have come into being.

Bobby Coote’s persistence is Irish cinema’s gain. 

The Man Who Wanted to Fly is a charming tale — a story of daring to dream big but so much more. 

By broadening the story out to the lives of Bobby and his brother, fellow bachelor Ernie, and their community, it becomes a moving account of Irish rural life.

“It was kind of charming in itself that this man who at this stage was a young fella in his late 70s had this burning ambition that hadn’t actually fizzled out despite age,” says Shouldice.

“What really got it for me at the story end was when I heard that Bobby shared a house with his brother and that they live independent lives and they had two separate front doors. 

"I felt that if the older brother was prepared to come aboard, well then we’d be into something very rich.

“The engine that drives the story in a way is Bobby, here he is with his dream burning away. 

"He was known around the area as the man who never flew. So it kind of bolstered his resolve.

“The richness for me was where we could go with the other themes and as we went on, both brothers and other people we met and engaged with, they were prepared to share very personal stuff. 

"That’s the backdrop to Bobby’s dream, you know, that he didn’t come from nowhere. It’s where he’s from and who he is.”

Bobby prepares to take to the skies in a tiny plane called a microlight. Its shift-wing format means he would have to be physically engaged in flying the plane.

You are controlling the wings, they’re not fixed wing. We had numerous frustrations in trying to get the plane into the air that were scuppered by wind and also rain.

"I became a bit of a zealot for micro climates. I became an expert in reading weather forecasts.”

This is a debut documentary feature from Shouldice, who has a background in journalism. 

“I was in print journalism but I had a few different hats and I had a background in writing and directing for theatre, and in script writing as well.

“Current affairs would be would be my main work. I’m sometimes asked, why not stick to one? 

"And I actually I find that one genre can inform the other, when you’re looking at telling a story, which is what it all boils down to.”

The Man Who Wanted to Fly is in cinemas now

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