Directing a film I didn’t write
Up until now I had directed three short films all of which I had written myself. At the brilliant Fastnet Short Film Festival in Schull last year (2011) myself and Niall Owens were discussing future projects. Niall asked what I was doing next and I told him although I had several ideas and scripts I had nothing jumping out at me saying “shoot me”. I wanted to do something a bit different to my last film “Gemma?”, something a bit more uplifting.
Niall said he had this script called “Where Letters May Fall” and would I be interested in directing it. About a week later I got an email with the script attached. On finishing reading it my first reaction was “Niall, this script is about fucking depression!” But despite it not being as uplifting as I was looking for, I liked it. It was a bit different and I liked the narrative. So I agreed to direct it. I had always wondered what it would be like to use someone else’s material, this was a good a time as any. We would shoot late summer. We didn’t.
So we started discussing the script, what I felt worked, what didn’t and so on and Niall was constantly working on rewrites. One thing that helped from the word go throughout the whole process was that we always seemed to be on the same page, we both wanted to make the same film, there was never any real arguments over “oh it should be this and not that”, although I do remember Niall suggesting we shorten the title to just “Letters”. I was never fully sold on this idea but by the time the next draft arrived, there it was “Letters by Niall Owens”. The bastard!
We brought Jenny Dixon down from Dublin and did a script reading with Timmy Creed, it was good to have them go through some of their scenes together, get a feel for it. We were hoping to now shoot sometime before Christmas, however this coincided with my real life work busy period so didn’t have time to make Cork that often. It was then pushed back to March.
We were having discussions on where the film was going or where we didn’t want it to go. I had fears that people may interpret the ending wrong. Take it up as boy meets girl, boy and girl get together and live happily together for ever and ever. I did NOT WANT TO MAKE THAT FILM! I have no interest in making that clichéd Hollywood bullshit!
I think this might have been one of the occasions when myself and Niall were not completely in tune, possible because I did say “That’s not the film I wanna make.” ‘That’ wasn’t the film we were making.
We needed to nail the final scene, otherwise everything that went before that would have been for nothing. Generally I’m all for the audience making their own mind up on the fate of the characters after the credits roll, but not in this case, not if they went there. Missing entirely what we were trying a achieve.
In January however one of the most important changes to the script happened, Niall came to me and said “What if it went like this?” and I was like “That could fucking work, I like that” now bear in mind these are not actual quotes but just something along those lines, I can’t remember what was really said so just putting them in there for dramatic effect. But this changed everything, for a start the film would no longer be called “Letters” as well it had nothing to do with letters anymore.
Niall was off to Cavan to work on a feature for a few weeks but while there he was going to work on the rewrite. I was looking forward to seeing this new draft more than any, to see how this new approach would play out.
At this point I think I’ll break this post into a few different parts, stay tuned for part 2!