HAVING a star of the film Transformers look on as you direct a movie comprising predominantly of friends and family would be considered daunting for any aspiring film director.
Nonetheless, embarking on the ambitious comedy Forgive Us Our Sins taught me that with the right level of self-belief, anything is possible. Of course, this being my second venture into the word of filmmaking I was aware of the pending challenges.
In my last “quest of self-discovery”- — a short film titled Route 2.0.8 — I had a mixed experience with casting. This time around, I figured my best options were friends and family. I called on my only movie star pal Harry Nagle who, after being lured by Hollywood’s beacon of glamour, landed himself a role alongside stars Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding) and Jack Reynor (Transformers) in Glassland back in 2014.
What made Harry even more remarkable was the fact he spent his infancy battling a serious heart defect — a common health issue among children with Down Syndrome. However, as the years went on it was clear that nothing or nobody was going to stand in the way of his dream. When a chance scouting led to a part in a major production it seemed everyone was surprised but Harry. To this day he’ll just shrug his shoulders, insisting he was “always going to be a movie star.”
Both cast and crew were more than a little taken aback when, on his first day of filming, Harry’s former co-star Jack Reynor paid a visit to the set. It just so happened the celebrity had a prior engagement in the area and was keen to see his old pal in action. By this stage we had already secured Cork’s most famous double act Michael Twomey and Frank Duggan — formerly Cha and Mia — to reunite for a pivotal scene alongside locally renowned actress Jean Law. The surreal encounters prompted me to reflect on how we had made it this far at all.
Rewind a few months and I was musing over conceivable storylines. These emerged from the most unlikely of places. You never know where a mind walk might lead. While bored at Mass one evening I pictured myself locking the priest in the sacristy to conduct my own sermon. It prompted me to worry for my own sanity. Fortunately, unlike those inclined to act on their psychotic visions I use mine for film plots.
Already I could see the film in mind’s eye. It started off a little obscure. The camera hones in our hero local GP Dr Sheehan who calls on the minister of the eucharist — played by Harry — to create a distraction while he ties up and gags the priest before locking him in the sacristy. What, you ask, would motivate a GP to falsely imprison a man of God? The answer is simple. In Dr Sheehan’s possession is a list of the male churchgoers his wife has been unfaithful with… and so Forgive us Our Sins was born.
Of course, with the film’s sordid context, finding a church to shoot in was easier said than done. It got to the point where we considered actually locking up a priest just to be able to film our key scenes.
Luckily, it didn’t come to that and we were lucky enough to secure one of the most beautiful attractions in West Cork — Glandore Church.
There was also the matter of the dreaded “f” word. In order to attract investors the film had to project a message or tap into some social crisis. I wasn’t out to create some black and white artsy drivel. The self-righteous image of developers attempting to devour €100 notes after realising they’ve drained all of Earth’s natural resources just didn’t appeal to me. For me, even short films should have a beginning, middle, and end. So I uttered the death knell words of any local aspiring film maker — “Just put it on my credit card!”
In all, the bill worked out around €1,000. This was before props, along with lunches for the cast and crew —a modest helping of crisps, coke and sandwiches. Luckily, most crew members assisted for free while others requested just basic expenses.
One of the first public showings of Forgive Our Sins will be a significant date for my husband Paul and I. It turns out our screening date at this year’s Fastnet Film Festival on May 27 at 11am coincides with the due date of our baby girl who we hope will grow up keeping mummy and daddy company on glittering movie sets.
Perhaps she’ll have a promising career as a Hollywood star too, but instead pursue work as Ireland’s most glamorous female car mechanic.
Truth be told it doesn’t really matter to us. Whether shooting self-funded shorts in West Cork or cinematographic masterpieces in LA, we will already be living the dream.