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Director Dermot Malone discusses King Frankie
28 Feb 2024 : Luke Shanahan
King Frankie
We spoke with director Dermot Malone to discuss his feature debut King Frankie, starring Peter Coonan. Wildcard Distribution will release the film in Irish and UK cinemas later this year.

Dermot Malone has a background in directing commercials, and is the founder of Banjoman. The production company has been awarded the Production Company of the Year award twice, in 2021 and 2022, at The Shark Awards, which recognise the best in advertising, design, short films and music videos from around the globe. King Frankie is Malone’s feature debut. It is also the first feature production of Banjoman and many of the film’s cast and crew, including producer Matt D’Arcy and editor Rob Hegarty. The film recently had its World Premiere at Dublin International Film Festival.

King Frankie follows Frankie (Coonan), a Dublin taxi driver, who runs his own taxi firm. On the day of his father’s removal, he comes face to face with something that happened ten years ago, and the first thing that he must do is forgive himself. Malone’s debut film is about those who not only make promises but also keep them.

The cast includes Conor MacNeill (The Sixth Commandment), Ruairi O'Connor (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It), Lynn Rafferty (Taken Down), Olivia Caffrey (Trivia), Ally Ni Chiarain (Calm with Horses), and Owen Roe (Michael Collins). The film also marks rapper Rejjie Snow’s acting debut.

King Frankie was shot on a micro budget in North County Dublin and Kells, County Meath.

We caught up with Malone to discuss premiering at DIFF, directing his first feature, and when we can expect to see King Frankie next.

IFTN: Congratulations on the world premiere of King Frankie, how did it feel to premiere the film at DIFF?

DERMOT: “It was a surreal, beautiful and emotional experience. This is a film set in Dublin and told by a predominantly Dublin based team of filmmakers. It was a very special evening and an honour to have the World Premiere at DIFF. To see the effect this film had on our audience was overwhelming and I believe it is no more than everyone who worked on the film deserves. We won’t soon forget it.”

IFTN: What inspired the Celtic Tiger-set story the film explores?

DERMOT: “It is a very personal story, but with a mask on. My family lived through a very similar experience and although fictionalised, there are many aspects of my lived experience in the film. I wanted to explore this idea of being blinded by materialism and what it can cost, before serving up a story of redemption and change. We haven’t seen a huge amount of that era in film and I felt it was a story I hadn’t seen told before.”

IFTN: How did your background in commercial filmmaking benefit you as you set out to direct your first feature?

DERMOT: “I owe my whole reel and experience as a director to advertising. It is an industry I am proud to be a part of. Every commercial I have made has served as a playground for exploration and learning for the making of this film. Most of my commercial work is emotional storytelling and it has allowed me to hone skills in working with actors and camera in tandem to create a story.”

IFTN: What was your approach to funding the film?

DERMOT: “Our approach was to beg, borrow and steal. We worked with long standing commercial clients and brands to raise money for the film and of course we have to thank the incredible teams at Screen Ireland for their funding. We were also blessed with a huge amount of favour equity, generosity and collaboration from friends made through working in commercials. That goes from casting, production, through to post and delivery. We had an amazing atmosphere of family and collaboration from all angles.”

IFTN: What were you looking for when casting Frankie Burke, and what made Peter Coonan right for the role?

DERMOT: “We meet two versions of the same character in this film and that is no small task for an actor. A brash, fast talker on the edge versus a quiet, humble man recovering from PTSD. To say Peter blew my mind, would be an understatement. This is a role that requires extraordinary range and commitment, which Peter delivers in Spades. Whenever I had seen Peter on screen, he had always engaged me with intense presence and I believed everything he had ever done. Peter deserves every success.”

IFTN: King Frankie also features Dublin rapper Rejjie Snow’s acting debut, what can you tell us about his role in the film?

DERMOT: “Rejjie is a very old friend of mine. He plays one of the casualties of Frankie’s schemes, but also embodies the important theme of forgiveness in the film. Rejjie had wanted the opportunity to act for a while and this was the perfect fit for our first collaboration. We’re already talking about the next.”

IFTN: Following DIFF, where do you hope the film goes from here?

DERMOT: “Well, we were very happy to announce cinema distribution through Wildcard here in Ireland and the UK. This will come later in the year, but before that, we would love to bring the film to a couple more festivals. After that, we are targeting a streaming partner to bring the film to as large an audience as we can.”

Wildcard Distribution will release King Frankie in Irish and UK cinemas later this year.

IFTA Q&A Series: Patricia Kelly on Directing
IFTA Q&A Series: Damien Lynch on Sound Design
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