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IFTN Interviews Fionn Walton, Star of ‘Out of Here’
06 Nov 2014 : Deirdre Molumby
Fionn Walton first caught our attention in his role as Cian in Lenny Abrahamson’s film ‘What Richard Did’, which stars Jack Reynor. He now takes the lead in Donal Foreman’s feature debut ‘Out of Here’, which was runner-up for Best Irish Feature at last year’s Film Fleadh in Galway and won the CineTALENT award as well as a Dublin Critic’s Circle Award at this year’s JDIFF. ‘Out of Here’, which is a story about coming home too soon, will now get a release in Irish cinemas.

First, in your own words, can you tell us about your character, Ciarán?

“He’s a reasonably ordinary young Irish man, so hopefully he’ll be relatable for the majority of audiences. In his early twenties, he’s on the cusp between adolescence and manhood, and he’s finding the transition quite difficult to navigate. He’s in the all too familiar situation of having expected that he might by now have some degree of clarity of what direction he’d like to take in life, yet feeling dismayed, adrift and conflicted about his future.

“He’s certainly restless and very frustrated, and there’s a great ambivalence to how he feels about his native city, which the film explores. He’s just returned home - reluctantly, out of necessity - from a year spent travelling around Australia and South East Asia, and he’s back living with his parents, which probably feels like a form of regression for him. He’s pretty disconnected and disoriented upon re-entering Dublin (there’s a phenomenon Donal informed me of early on, known as reverse culture shock, which Ciarán may be experiencing), and doesn’t quite know what to do, what he should do. He meets up with old mates, makes something of an attempt to rekindle things with his ex, and just kind of wanders around the city, perhaps in an effort to try to determine whether there’s anything for him in the place.”

What originally appealed to you about the script and the character?

“Various aspects, but initially and primarily it was probably this notion of seeing Dublin from a fresh perspective. Coming home after a year abroad, the city Ciarán grew up in appears strangely new to him when he arrives back. He discovers parts of Dublin he was never aware of; in some ways he begins to explore the city properly for the first time.

“Donal wanted to represent certain aspects of Dublin - geographical and social - that he felt hadn’t yet been depicted in Irish film, which was an admirable and bold ambition, and one which I think he realises very successfully. There are some really striking and beautiful images of Dublin in the film, captured by our excellent DoP, Piers McGrail. About halfway through the film, John (played by Dean Kavanagh), takes Ciarán to one of his favourite hidden spots – this place is a really extraordinary find.

“With regards Ciarán, I could certainly identify with the kind of listlessness he experiences, the difficulty he has in motivating himself, and the uncertainty he feels in relation to his future. I (somehow) spent a total of 6 years in college, during which time I changed courses, took a sort of year off books, and considered dropping out on many occasions. It was a great struggle at times though I eventually got my degree, but I definitely know what it is to feel profoundly directionless. If I wasn’t acting, my life would probably be very similar to Ciarán’s.

“I’d also seen one of Donal’s shorts, ‘Pull’, which I thoroughly enjoyed; there was something really unique about his visual style and the feel of the film was very authentic. Donal and Emmet (Fleming, the film’s producer) had met with Maureen Hughes (casting director), and she arranged for the pair to come in to the Factory to speak about the film to members of the Actors Studio there and to screen the short. They gave a very strong sense of what they wanted the film to be, about Dublin and its youth culture, which is when my interest in the project was first piqued.”

What was your experience of working with director Donal Foreman?

“It was a fundamentally collaborative process from the beginning, which is the ideal way to work, and which is integral I think to all good filmmaking. He definitely made me feel more like a filmmaker as opposed to merely an actor in terms of my contribution to the project, which was great as I felt that I was truly personally and artistically invested in it.

“We spent a good deal of time before and around rehearsals discussing the film at length - its world, its host of characters, Ciarán’s history, what Donal hoped to achieve with the project, how he wanted to depict Dublin, the Dublin Ciarán grew up in, who he hung around with in his teens and where, and so on. Those conversations formed the bedrock of my understanding of the film and its central character, so when we reached the actual shooting stage I felt very much prepared and ready.”

The film feels very realistic and based around very natural, free-flowing conversation – was there improvisation involved in production?

“When I auditioned for the film very little dialogue had yet been scripted. Donal had crafted a 30 page treatment, which gave a clear outline of what would happen in each scene. Roughly three weeks of rehearsals were scheduled, which is a real luxury for film, and which was crucial with regards achieving a sense of ease and familiarity amongst the cast; establishing the various dynamics and relationships between each character; discovering the many elements of Ciarán’s personality; how he interacted with his parents, his sister, his close friends, his ex, and how he might be around people he didn’t know.

“In rehearsal, we always had a pretty clear idea from the treatment where the scene would end up, and we’d know what beats we had to hit, but within that framework there was great freedom and opportunity to experiment. Donal would shoot rehearsals pretty much in their entirety, and he’d then go home each day and review the footage; writing out different versions of the scenes or using the best moments from various takes to construct the version he felt was most truthful. So come the actual shoot we had a full, carefully crafted script, though Donal still allowed us to improvise within scenes if it felt right or if he wanted to try something a little different with a given scene.

“As a good deal of the dialogue emerged organically in the rehearsal process, it meant that, as an actor, you had more of a sense of ownership over what you were saying, which of course contributed hugely towards achieving a seemingly effortless, naturalistic feel to the scenes, and made them a lot easier to perform, I found.”

What did you find the most challenging about the film?

“It was a great experience in all, though I suppose the schedule was a little tight at times. I think the shoot was originally planned for 17 days, and we had a few extra days then to pick up some important shots we hadn’t been able to get, so in total it was a 19-day shoot. Towards the end we were packing quite a bit in, which tends to happen.”

With credits including ‘What Richard Did’ as well as ‘Out of Here’ and ‘Get Up and Go’, you have worked primarily on Irish productions. How are you finding the acting industry in Ireland and would you like to go international as an actor?

“The industry here has been very good to me. I’ve been really fortunate thus far as I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great Irish directors - Shimmy Marcus, Lenny Abrahamson, Donal, Tom Hall, and Lance Daly and Kirsten Sheridan in the Factory. The Factory (now Bow Street) has been great for me. Though I was heavily involved in Players during my time in Trinity, the Factory is where I started professionally and where I got my first opportunities. I did a three-day workshop there back in 2011, which Maureen Hughes had recommended me for. From there I met Jack Reynor, who suggested me to Lenny and Louise Kiely, who then agreed to see me for ‘What Richard Did’, and to his agent, Derick Mulvey, who subsequently took me on. I also learned a great deal from the Actors Studio, which was formed a few months after that initial workshop, as well as from the Programme, Bow Street’s year-long screen acting course, which I took in its first year.

“I’ve been considering moving to London for some time to secure a London agent, and plan to do that early in the new year for a few months initially. Ideally, I’d like Dublin to be my base as it’s my home and I’ll always be very fond of the place, but I’d definitely like to work elsewhere as well. I just finished my first job in the UK the other week - a production of ‘Juno and the Paycock’, directed by Gemma Bodinetz with the wonderful Niamh Cusack as Juno. It was a co-production between the Bristol Old Vic and the Liverpool Playhouse, so I got the chance to perform in a great play while experiencing two really interesting and culturally vital cities.

“Really, I’d like to work all over if I can - Dublin, London, New York, LA - wherever the work is good.”

Fionn Walton will be participating in a Q&A following a screening of IFI tomorrow evening, along with director Donal Foreman and co-stars Annabell Rickerby and Aoife Duffin.

‘Out of Here’ will be showing exclusively at the IFI from tomorrow. See the trailer below:

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