Interview with director Donal Foreman
SpunOutter Laura Gaynor chats to director Donal Foreman about his new film 'Out of here'
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Of all the films in the Galway Film Fleadh this year, one that I was most interested in seeing was a feature called ‘Out Of Here’. When ‘official’ funding didn’t seem plausible, director Donal Foreman and his producer Emmett Fleming crowd-funded the debut feature online. I got to see the film's premiere on Saturday night with a free ticket I got from his Mum. Crowd-funding is becoming a game changer in filmmaking so it was really interesting to see a crowd-funded feature in the programme. I interviewed Donal in the Rowing Club a few days before the screening.
Could you tell us a bit about Out Of Here? What’s it about?
Out Of Here is about a Dublin fella in his early twenties who dropped out of College and travelled the world for a year. Then he runs out of money and has to return to Dublin and so the film is about his first week back. He’s stuck living with his parents, his friends are just graduating from college and he’s just trying to find his way in the city again. I’ve had the idea for years but it’s developed and changed over time. I like the idea of a character who is from somewhere but was separated from it. Coming back and having this mix of being very familiar with something but kind of estranged from it aswell. Then he would have a different perspective on the city. He would be a good way to take you through Dublin as it is for young people at the moment - a sort of guide to that world.
You started filmmaking really young. What made you want to be a filmmaker?
"It wasn’t a very thought-out event at first. A friend of mine, his father had a video camera. It was one of those shoulder cameras…it took full VHS tapes. We just started messing around with it on the weekend making really basic films shot-in-one-shot. Then we just got obsessed where we were staying up all night shooting stuff. They just gradually got more and more elaborate. We started putting different shots together. When I was thirteen, I got a video camera for myself and started doing it more regularly."
Would you be able to tell us about your very first screening?
"At the Fresh film festival? That was fun! We had a really sick, twisted, superhero movie called ‘Shmerrgh & Bob’. It was these two weird superheroes who got kidnapped and tortured by their enemies. We were very proud it was the only film in the programme that had a warning with it saying: this film may offend some viewers. It totally confounded the audience. They were just, like, disgusted and amused. It was great because we’d only shown it to each other before.
As a filmmaker, I often hear lot of people saying things like ‘I’m waiting until I get this camera for Christmas’ or ‘I’m waiting until I get this’. There’s almost a fear of making a film. What would you say to people that are almost afraid and are making excuses not to make their film?
Well they should just go out and make it for sure. There’s that old saying…oh what is the old saying now..? You know about a musician and his instrument? The musician makes the music, not the instrument. You can’t blame the quality of your work on ‘I didn’t have the best equipment in the world’.
People make excuses to why they’re not doing something. As you get older it can be like ‘oh, well, you know, we got turned down for funding for the film’ and I’ve met filmmakers who’ve waited ten years to make a film and it’s because ‘this person didn’t give us the money’. I suppose, partly from my experiences as a young filmmaker, there’s no point waiting for permission. You can always find a way to make something with very limited resources."
You crowd-funded your feature and didn’t wait for anyone to fund it. Are you glad you did that?
"Yeah, and that again came out of meeting other filmmakers who had waited so long to make something and knowing that it is very hard to get funding – especially when you’re just starting out. I’ve made a bunch of short films but I haven’t got a track record that is very impressive to funding bodies yet. I knew that, plus the way I like to work and the way I worked on the feature film, was using quite a bit of improvisation. I had a thirty page treatment. We raised the money, cast the film and then I rehearsed for two weeks and I wrote the script through the rehearsals. If we had gone to get official funding, we wouldn’t have a full script to show them so that makes it a lot more difficult."
You have ten tips for filmmaking on your website, If you could give an eleventh tip what would it be?
"Well, this isn’t my tip but it’s one that I remember a lot. This old Hollywood filmmaker Howard Hawks - it was after he’d been making films for years. He said something like ‘I’ve been in this business for 30 years and the one thing I’ve learned is there’s nothing in this business that is worth losing your breakfast over’. Which I think of as, you don’t have to worry yourself sick about anything. I think if you get very involved and passionate about something and if you’re a bit of a perfectionist like me, it’s very easy to drive yourself mad trying to do everything perfectly. That’s one I try to remember to give myself some perspective and remember it’s not the be all and end all. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get something right."
To round this up… do you think it’s a better idea to write first and then look for resources or the other way around?
"It’s good to just write a lot. If you have some idea that excites you that would require a lot of resources, there’s no harm in exploring it and maybe holding on to it. I know I have big budget ideas I keep at the back of my head for some day. But if it’s something that you’re looking to actually make soon, I think you need to think of what you have to work with. It is one of the limitations that can make you more creative. If you feel that you can write anything, with all the resources in the world – it’s too much, too much possibility. It’s easier to think: I have this to work with, this is what I can do."
Out of Here made a great impression at the festival winning second place in the audience award. Emmett Fleming was nominated for The Bingham Ray New Talent Award. When South Dublin and the Love/Hate side of Ireland have been so prominent in Irish cinema, it was great to see a film with a different perspective. I was watching it and not believing it was made on €25,000. I thought it was well-shot and made great use of natural and available lighting. Aside from that, it was enormously authentic with charming characters and a very funny script. The lack of fast cutting in editing made the film intimate in a way that I felt like I was there. All in all, a pretty good week for a film that was only finished on Monday!