This Saturday at the Galway Film Fleadh, a short film called Drifting by Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney will get its world premiere. Filmed in Longford, the film charts the experiences of two young men in their 20s trying to get their lives together.
Given its interest in midlands club GAA culture, the film was also going to be of interest to us here at Balls.ie. But because the short features Paul Mescal of Normal People playing a gaelic footballer who never quite lived up to his potential, we were especially interested.
We spoke to Rob and Paddy over email to get their thoughts on the making of the film. You can watch the trailer below and watch the film in its entirety Saturday evening (info on tickets here)
Can you give us a bit of background on how you guys started working together and why you chose to make this film? And also some details about when and where you filmed it?
Robert Higgins: Myself and Paddy grew up down the road from each other and have known each other since we were kids playing up through underage football with St Mary’s GAA club in Granard. I had been writing for a while, mostly in short stories and theatre, but I had been keen to get into film for a long time. Paddy sent me a script a couple years ago he had been working on. We just started kicking around ideas and wrote a couple of scripts together. From there, we kind of set about learning the nuts and bolts of the technical side filmmaking and started making our own stuff.
Paddy McGivney: The film was really personal to us. We were eager to make something about where we came from and a story about youth culture in our area as we feel that the midlands haven’t been depicted too often. We put it together with some other local lads – Tomás Devaney, Jason Gaynor and Chris Higgins – who were producers on the film and we shot it around our hometown of Granard last October. The whole town were hugely supportive and pulled together to make it a reality.
What are your thoughts on the Irish masculinity having made this short - boredom, drink, emigration seem to be its themes. Is that right?
Robert: Yes those are definitely major themes in the film. We were looking to create a raw and accurate portrait of youth life in our locality. With the depiction of masculinity, we were eager to show both sides of the coin. There are the negatives such as the performative side and the idea that expressing emotions is a sign of weakness, but we also wanted to look at the positives such as the emotional support, the craic and the unspoken tenderness.
Paddy: Emigration is also a big theme. We came out of college in the middle of the recession so emigration it is something we’ve seen a lot in our friend group and was an aspect of rural life we wanted to touch on.
It’s something that continues to play a huge part in rural communities and the GAA and we were eager to represent the effect it has on those who could have left and also who chose to stay behind.
Gaelic football features in the film. Can you tell us a bit about how you filmed those scenes?
Robert: GAA and the surrounding culture is something we really eager to explore as we have felt that it’s been underrepresented in Irish film considering its prominence in Irish culture and society.
Paddy: For the football scenes, our Director of Photographer Simon Crowe really helped bring these scenes to life. Sport is so difficult to do well on screen and we knew that to capture the intensity and physicality of a club training session we would have to get in really close to the action. This approach meant that we had more than one near-miss of balls and players hitting the camera but we luckily enough to get away without any damage.
It was also a big help that Paul is a county standard footballer so we were able to let him play as he normally would. I think a few of the lads who marked him were more than a bit surprised by his football skills.
Paul Mescal has become massively famous since you guys finished the film - how did you get involved working with him and how did you find the experience?
Robert: We’d seen Paul’s theatre work around Dublin in the past few years and knew he had a background in GAA so we approached him to see if he might be interested in the script. He was really brilliant to work with and brought a huge amount of creativity and ideas to the character. The whole cast was incredible to work with – Dafhyd Flynn, Lorcan Cranitch, Simone Collins, Jarlath Tivnan and Oisin Robbins. We had a great couple of days making the film.
Judging from the trailer, Paul seems to play a character that’s a bit edgier than Connell in Normal People- is that fair?
Robert: Yes, the character of ‘Cian’ is a bit of a livewire and a troublemaker, but he has a gentler side that emerges throughout the short. We were seeking to examine the sort of characters who are often presented as one dimensional and dig a little deeper. We didn’t want to sanitise any aspects of the character and were hoping to give a nuanced and balanced depiction that ultimately points toward positive development and growth.
Paddy: Cian is the type of footballer who made a name for himself at underage level but never fully lived up to his potential. That frustration manifests itself into bad behaviour that his close friends are getting more and more fed up with. This is a phase that a lot of younger lads go through and it was something that we wanted to explore.
So much of young people’s identity is forged through their association with sport. Cian has been defined by his footballing abilities and has enjoyed an elevated social status because of it. However he’s now slowly realising that he has allowed it to limit his personal growth and development and he can only use his charm and energy to mask these antics for so long.
Pat, Dafhyd Flynn’s character, has grown out this phase as little quicker than Cian and over the course of the film both young men must confront where they are in life and what they want to do next.
What are you guys working on next?
Robert: We’ve written a couple of feature length scripts written that we are eager to get shooting. We have a feature script of ‘Drifting’ written that we’d love to bring to life somewhere down the line which delves further into small town life and explores the less-seen side of GAA. Before that, we have another feature script written that we will aim to make as it might be easier to pull together financially.
Paddy: We are also developing a couple of scripts with other writers for TV and film also so hopefully won’t be too long until we can get back shooting something.
How can people watch Drifting?
Paddy: ‘Drifting’ will be premiering at the Galway Film Fleadh on Saturday the 11th July at 5pm as part of 'Irish Talent: New Shorts Six'. Tickets are available for Irish viewers from the Galway Film Fleadh website here.