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Paddy Breathnach Talks with IFTN
15 Oct 2018 : Nathan Griffin
IFTN caught up with Irish Director Paddy Breathnach ahead of the launch of his new feature film ‘Rosie’, which many critics are claiming to be the most important Irish film of the year.

Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and having opened in Irish cinemas on Friday, ‘Rosie’ makes its UK premiere to a soldout crowd at the BFI London Film Festival this Monday, October 15th.

A sobering portrayal of the Irish housing crisis currently taking place in the country, ‘Rosie’ tells the story of a mother trying to protect her family after their landlord sells their rented home and they become homeless. Over 36 hours, Rosie and her partner John Paul strive to find somewhere to stay while shielding their young family from the reality of the situation around them. ‘Rosie’ examines how even in times of crises; the love and strength of a family can endure.

Paddy Breathnach (‘I Went Down’, ‘Viva’) directs ‘Rosie’, a film that explores the quietly apocalyptic ramifications of Ireland's housing crisis, from a screenplay by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments, The Snapper) and starring Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful, Rebellion, Black 47) in the title role, alongside Moe Dunford (Vikings, Handsome Devil) as her partner John Paul.

‘Rosie’ is produced by Element’s Emma Norton, Rory Gilmartin and Juliette Bonass. Roddy Doyle serves as Executive Producer alongside Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe for Element Pictures, who previously brought us The Lobster and Room. Dearbhla Regan is executive producer for Screen Ireland.

‘Rosie’ was shot in and around Dublin and is backed by Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, RTÉ and Element Pictures Distribution.

IFTN: Congratulations. This film is coming out at a really important time, isn't it? The timing has been very fortuitous on it.

Paddy: “Yes, it’s almost that at this time of the year it becomes more pertinent and important. Equally, while we were going through development, there were periods where we were thinking, although maybe naively, ‘Will this be sorted?’ Because there was an issue but the government was saying a couple of years ago, that nobody would be staying in hotels by July 2017.

“And there was a moment where we said, ''Oh well, maybe our story will be obsolete, so it won't have a relevance anymore'', but we just kept going away with it. Then, it’s obviously become increasingly relevant and that gave flexibility to it. It has a zeitgeist of its own issue that feels that it’s maybe a defining one for this period.”

IFTN: Tell me a little bit about casting Sarah and Moe?

Paddy: “Very early on, they were both on the list. The Moe list, the John Paul list, was a short enough list, and Moe was in my mind very early on because he has a great almost bear-like quality, which I felt for was great for John Paul - something very solid and steadfast, but warm. I felt that he would work really well for that. He was in my mind early on.

“Sarah was in my mind but because of the role and the importance of it, I felt I needed to really go wide and see lots of different people. When you're casting, the first time you start making the film almost, you'd start hearing the words back and it really lets you begin to recalibrate and define, a little bit more, what you want and then you react to it a little bit. I saw a lot of people and I didn’t audition Sarah. I knew that I would be at some stage but I'd leave it till the end. Then, she sent a tape in and it was just immediately clear that she had the two things that I really wanted, which was the tension between a sort of strength and a drive, and a dogged strength, but equally, somewhere in that, a brittleness and vulnerability.

“That tension between those two things, she carried really well and understood immediately. It became clear to me that she was going to be a great Rosie. As a matter of fact, both of them, aside from being great actors, brought something else that was very important because it’s a film with children and it plays in an ensemble way, I knew that I had to create an atmosphere and I needed actors who could help me with that, and also, at times, be a presence.

“When shooting in a car and in the restrictive circumstances and all that, you need ways of having a presence close to the children, let's say, that sometimes, I wasn't physically able to do because I’m in the boot of the car or something! But they, I knew, were generous of spirit. As well as being great actors, they're very generous in their spirit towards others, so I knew they'd bring that too. That was the journey, let's say, with both of them. Just they were great to work with and fantastic. It was very collaborative which was great.”

IFTN: And amazing collaborative work with Cathal. He's such a talented DOP and you'd obviously worked with him before on Viva.

Paddy: “We established a rapport on Viva, and a sort of style that I followed on with in this film. Aside from being a very good DOP and lighting, etc. Cathal has another aspect as an operator, particularly on a film that's hand-held or has movement in it - he just has a distinctive sense of when actors are going to move or do something, and he can react to that, which in the style that we made it in, is invaluable because it always seems like it’s live. It's like watching or witnessing something, and that's the point of that style that Cathal brings to us.”

“Again, he's a great collaborator. You sit down and you have really good conversations about it beforehand, plan out, and you develop a shorthand. He also brings to set a grace and he's a great engine, and a great positivity that arrives into the set as well. Aside from being very good at what he does, those things have an ineffable quality where people feel that they can find a way to belong to the film, others in the crew and everything. Absolutely, he's really great.”

IFTN: I'm sure that was absolutely vital to it because the set was so small. So much was filmed in the car and on corridors, so that must have been absolutely vital?

Paddy: “It is vital because the style that I like to work in is to try and create an atmosphere where things can happen or become, and you capture them, as opposed to trying to perfect something. It's not about an idea of a shot, that you're trying to do the perfect version of. What it is, is it's trying to find the spirit between the scene or in a tone or an atmosphere, and trying to let that breathe, and being ready to capture it in an interesting way.”

“I would draw a parallel, it's a little bit like playing a sport or being witness to a sport in that you should not always assume you know what's going to happen next, that there can be a randomness about it and you can react in that way. Cathal is so good at doing that and so good at doing that in the right atmosphere, creating the right confidence amongst everybody else.”

IFTN: Was it your first time working with Úna (Ni Dhonghaile), the editor?

Paddy: “It was, yes. It was my first time and I had never met her before.  She’s based in Ireland and I think she's very keen to work here but most of her work is in the UK. That's where her working relationships started, but she's living here, so I think she was quite interested. We discovered that she had a gap in her schedule, she was starting ‘Les Mis’ and she could make that work where she could disappear from them for 10 weeks and then, come back, so it was ideal for us and for her.”

“I met her and immediately-- apart from being a brilliant editor - she has a great zest and a great personality, and there's a sense that you immediately know that it's going to be an interesting and good time in the cutting room. You want to be in there, in a way, working with somebody that is challenging but at the same time, it's a relationship where you're both feeding into the same thing. You can challenge each other but you're working for the same purpose, and she's great like that. Coming up with brilliant ideas and brilliant little perspectives on it, but it's in a really constructive conversation.”

IFTN: Was Roddy Doyle involved? Was he on-set much?

Paddy: “Obviously, in the script development, there’s a lot of engagement in that but once you're shooting-- he'll come and visit set and stuff like that but he's not there in any policing role or that sort of thing. I found him very supportive, always, and positive. I think he has a clear sense that he writes, as in that's what he does. Then, he hands it over to you and he has faith in you because he's brilliant, as well.”

‘Rosie’ released in cinemas nationwide – Friday, October 12th.




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