25 June 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney discuss their award winning debut feature Lakelands
07 Oct 2022 : Nathan Griffin
We spoke with writer/director duo Patrick McGivney and Robert Higgins to find out more about their award winning debut feature film Lakelands, which picked up the Best Irish Film at the 34th Galway Film Fleadh in July.

Lakelands can next be seen at the 22nd edition of the Kerry International Film Festival on October 22nd followed by a hometown screening at Still Voices Film Festival in Longford on November 12th.

Written, directed, and produced by Patrick McGivney and Robert Higgins, Lakelands was filmed on location in Granard, Co. Longford, and stars Éanna Hardwicke (Normal People), Danielle Galligan (Netflix’s Shadow and Bone), Lorcan Cranitch (The Dig), Dafhyd Flynn (Michael Inside), Dara Devaney (Arracht), and Gary Lydon (Calvary).

Lakelands follows Cian (Hardwicke), a young footballer who after being attacked on a night out, struggles to comes to terms with a career-ending injury. The film follows him as he undertakes a search for his own identity in a small town in the midlands, where Gaelic football is a religion and identity is defined by what you can do on the pitch.

Having both worked their way up the ranks of the PR/Marketing and Business Consultancy worlds, respectively, the two lifelong friends decided to take the leap out of their comfort zone and turn their attention the screen sector, where they co-founded their Longford-based production company Harp Media in 2018.

“We know each other since we were kids,” Higgins adds, “I’m pretty sure we met at under 10s football training, years ago, which is funny consider the film we ended up making.”

“I was working across the media space in publicity and marketing, while Paddy was in financial consulting at PWC at that time,” Higgins explains, “and the two of us just really had that creative itch. I was writing a lot of fiction and did a few plays, but the thing that was really calling out to me was film, so we just got talking about it and started meeting up in the evenings after work.”

Nuts and Bolts
Together with a few friends from back home, McGivney and Higgins began spending their weekends back in Longford making homemade projects out on the bog. “We started learning the nuts and bolts.. making films out in the fields and bog at home, like terrible stuff…” Higgins laughs, “but it quickly told us what we weren’t good at – the technical!

We hired people to help us with that and learned pretty quick - then we felt like we started hitting on something.”

It didn’t take long for the pair to establish a clear vision of what they wanted to film and how they wanted to capture their homeland on screen. Longford is a little bit untouched cinematically, and we felt there was a real rich, veins of material and characters in the county that we could pull from - they're truly interesting and charismatic people so we wanted to feature them as much as possible – and we just kept building from their”

The duos first short film Angels Guard Thee was released in 2018 and starred Brian Fortune (Game of Thrones) and John Quinn (Love/Hate). The short was completed with the assistance of the Longford Arts Office and featured at fifteen festivals including Cork Film Festival, Switzerland Film Festival, and Queens Film Festival, where it won Best Cinematography in New York. The film was sold to RTÉ and broadcast as part of their Shortscreen programme in 2019.

Fast forward to 2022, Higgins and McGivney await the theatrical release of their debut feature film Lakelands, which releases in cinemas nationwide in early 2023 under Wildcard Distribution.

Fleadh World Premiere
Earlier this year, McGivney and Higgins attended the world premiere of Lakelands at the Galway Film Fleadh, where it picked up the Best Irish Film - only one year after winning the Fleadh’s Best Marketplace Project Award.

In 2021, the directing duo also had their previous short film Drifting, starring Paul Mescal, Lorcan Cranitch, and Dafhyd Flynn, selected for the Galway Film Fleadh, but could not experience the festival in its authentic form with the programme moving online like most festivals during the pandemic. Something they final had the opportunity to experience in July.

“It was surreal, for sure,” McGivney tells IFTN, when asked about experiencing the film with a crowd. “I think we could probably count on maybe two hands, how many people had actually seen it prior to the screening,”.

“It's quite the change!” Higgins adds. “We've been doing festivals in COVID for the past few years so we were used to just not seeing anyone… It’s been great to get back in the cinema screen and see it and then talk to people after. We had a lot of people from home who worked on the film down as well, so it was exciting to get their reaction in real time, as  a lot of them are actually in it so it was great.”

One would forget that the pandemic has created a catchment of upcoming filmmakers who have never experienced a live crowd for their productions, something the two directors admit was both exciting and nerve-wracking. “In the build-up to the premiere, we weren’t nervous at all,” McGivney explains, “but then people kept coming up to us saying ‘how are you feeling, you must be bricking it!”

“And we were like, ‘well, the more people that comes up to us to say that, the more nervous we’ll become!’… so by the time it actually roll around, we were probably feeling the pressure a small bit,” McGivney laughs.

The project won the Bankside Award at the Galway Film Fleadh for Best Marketplace Project in 2021, which secured support from Screen Ireland and Wildcard Distribution. This provided the producers with the final key components needed to begin preparation with local funding from Longford Arts Council and Creative Ireland, as well as key cast members such as Danielle Gavigan, Dafhyd Flynn, and Lorcan Cranitch already confirmed.

“That was how we properly got in to talk with Wildcard about coming on board and we started working with them soon after,” Higgins tells IFTN,  “just having their name attached brought a lot of attention and helped a lot of other things fall in place - the final piece of funding helped along with that.”

“I think that whole marketplace initiatives was brilliant in the sense that it provided us with a necessary challenge,” McGivney adds, “Wildcard in particular were super positive about it, but they had certain questions. And I think it became a collaboration from there. You really do need that industry insight and support, especially when you're a first time feature filmmakers and they've just been fantastic - it's been a fun process working with them.”

Wildcard Distribution will release Lakelands in Irish cinemas in early 2023.

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