T’S the little Cork film that’s become a global sensation — and now we could be seeing The Young Offenders causing mayhem and high jinks in Spanish and Hindi.
Producers from Spain and India have been in contact with the film’s writer/director, Peter Foot, with the intention of doing versions of the comedy for their own countries.
While in Ireland, the movie’s run is coming to an end following an incredible six-month stint at Cork Omniplex and an impressive box-office just shy of €1.3 million, internationally its story is really only beginning.
A strong showing on the international film festival circuit, combined with rave reviews following its recent release on Netflix, means that the local film with universal heart is now being found and cherished in all sorts of unlikely places.
Not a bad response for a debut feature — and now Foott has become one of the country’s most in-demand filmmakers, with several new projects on the way.
“We honest to God had no idea it would have the success it had. Even with the accents alone, we thought it might be an issue outside of the country. It just seems to have translated so well not just from an accent point of view but also in terms of the kind of story it is,” Foott tells me this week, as he prepares to be reunited with his cast at the IFTA Awards, where TYO is nominated in eight categories.
“I think the story’s a big part of it — the characters have big dreams and it’s just great to see people going out and chasing the dream. It’s a feel-good film in that sense.
“Even though they’re chasing a bale of cocaine, and to get the cocaine itself isn’t the most noble thing, the reason they’re doing it is to escape the lives that they have, which aren’t the most pleasant, and to find better ones.”
Foott, who like many first-time filmmakers wrapped TYO simply hoping that he would get to make another movie, is now inundated with film-industry interest.
He has at least three new projects in various stages of development — including a comedy/drama Teaching Vito and a family comedy called The War in the Willows. He’s recently been writing Joyrider, the story of a joyrider who emerges from prison to discover that his best friend, a policeman, is about to marry the woman he loves. The film is being devised as a road trip across Europe, with the final destination the location of the continental wedding.
“It’s been an incredible ride for me. I thought we’d make this film and even if it was a hit, then I thought we’d go fight and struggle to get our next film made. That was my understanding of how it was going to be.
“There’s been a lot of meetings to get to where we are but when the film came out they (his management team) set up meetings and agents in the US. Out of that has come loads of opportunities. Teaching Vito is at the first draft stage so we’re talking to co-producers about it, but I’m very excited about that. I’ve another called The War in the Willows that I’m developing.”
TYO’s success in Ireland was in no small part thanks to the inspired marketing campaign by Patrick O’Neill and his team at Wildcard Distribution, who had both faith in the movie’s appeal and the backbone to release it to a wide number of cinemas nationally, meaning that word of mouth spread fast.
At Mahon Point, the movie was the highest-grossing of 2016, beating blockbusters like Finding Dory and Star Wars Rogue One to the top of the charts. For the very last screening, Peter, his actress wife Hilary Rose — wonderful as Conor’s mother in the film — and their friend went along for the fun.
“We heard the last screening was going to be on so we went into it. Mahon Point gave us free tickets and free popcorn, which was great, and got us to sign the posters.”
At the English Market, fishmonger Pat O’Connell is planning to put up a poster signed by all of the crew. While international appeal has been a delight, the reaction at home is what matters most, says Foott.
“It’s been just great. We’re getting the impression that Cork is as proud of the film as we are, and that’s really special.”
Regardless of where the cameras roll next, Foott is determined to keep telling stories with warmth and heart, he says.
“I’ve been advised very well about what projects to pick, and what to spend my time working on.
“I love working with actors, I love working with projects that have a lot of heart. Those two things — where I get to work with actors and where the audience gets to fall in love with the characters, that’s really my only remit. When I look at projects that’s what I’m looking for the whole time, and keeping on that road.”
- The IFTA awards take place tomorrow. Highlights will be shown on RTÉ One on Tuesday night
Life after release: What the Young Offenders have been doing since
The stars of The Young Offenders say they have been thrilled by the worldwide response to the movie. A recent Netflix release and the film’s popularity at international festivals mean the film is growing globally.
“We hoped it might garner a little bit of attention, but it’s been kind of overwhelming,” laughs Hilary Rose, who plays the mother in the film and is also the wife of director Peter Foott. “It just seems to keep on giving new life all the time.
“UK reviews gave it new life and now it’s a whole Netflix audience, an online audience, which is different again. Sometimes you sit back and go: ‘God this feels as if it’s happening to other people!’”
For Rose, being singled out in a review by top UK critic Mark Kermode was particularly special. “I listen to Mark Kermode every week, I love his show, and I know that he can be quite cutting. I think I was actually jumping around the room, it was one of those little moments.”
Chris Walley spent this week playing another young offender — he’s playing one of the Kray brothers in a stage-fighting course as part of his training at London acting school RADA.
“The reaction has been brilliant,” he said as he prepared to dust down his suit for the IFTAs (both leading actors are nominated). “I’ve been getting messages from people in Mexico, and from a 12-year-old boy in Cork who went to see the fish stall in the English Market after seeing the film.
“It showed at the London Film Festival recently and my whole class came along, which was great fun.”
Like Chris, Alex Murphy has been getting lots of industry attention but is currently focusing on his full-time acting studies, in Dublin’s Lir Academy. “The hours are long but I’m doing what I love and hopefully making friends for life. It’s nearly two years now since we made it and I was only 17. I don’t think I’ll ever really know how lucky I am to have this movie under my belt. I’m really looking forward to having a good night reuniting with everyone at the IFTAs and my mum and dad are coming along too.”