The New Music: In conversation with the director and star of a crowd-funded film
The New Music is a film that looks at a little know medical condition, as well as the struggle to readjust your life when things don’t turn out the way you initially planned. The film tells the story of Adrian, a classical pianist with extraordinary talent, who discovers he has Young Onset Parkinson’s, a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease affecting sufferers under fifty. Despite this debilitating condition, Adrian joins a punk band as a keyboard player and rediscovers his life through music and love.
The shooting of the film has now concluded, with a crowd-funding campaign underway to ensure the film’s release and raise funds for Young Parkinson’s Ireland. Film In Dublin spoke with the film’s director Chiara Viale, as well as actor Cilléin McEvoy about the film and their efforts to see it released.
Film In Dublin: The New Music is a story about a musical prodigy who has to readjust his life after the early onset of Parkinson’s. Chiara, can you talk about how this story first came to your attention?
Chiara Viale: I am very passionate about music and I always wanted to make a film about musicians. I also wanted to explore the topic of identity and how the life plans we make when we are young can change any moment because of factors out of our control. So I thought that the main character could be suffering from an illness that would affect his ability to play music. In my research I came across Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, a rare condition, and the rest of the story originated from there.
FID: Your film is being produced in association with Young Parkinson’s Ireland, and 20% of the money from the film’s current fundraising campaign will be donated to that organisation. How closely did you consult with them in the making of the film?
CV: We started our relationship with Young Parkinson’s Ireland during pre-production. Clare Connolly from the Young Parkinson’s Ireland committee read the script with the intention to make sure that the picture we were painting of the illness was accurate. We also had meetings and kept close contact with the association, learning from them about Young Parkinson’s and what we could do as a film to help them raise awareness and shine a light on this condition.
They are still a part of the process to this day and they are helping us with the final touches, making sure that our interpretation of Young Parkinson’s is still accurate.
FID: Cilléin, as an actor, how did you find playing Adrian? What were the challenges with playing a character who has Parkinson’s and doing so in a way that does justice to people who have it in real life?
Cilléin McEvoy: It was a very delicate process. It was tough in places and rewarding to go through such a huge change as a character. To be stricken down from the outset of the film, then trying to build everything back up so that Adrian is left with a lot of hope in his future was an incredible joy, the idea of putting him back together again, so to speak. I had to nourish and take care of him while he put up his walls to keep everyone out. I think the justice comes from the fact that we see a truly broken young man lose almost everything within what he believed to be his journey in life. Then with care, love and understanding of the cruel world we can be a part of, he needed to do his best to keep living his life. I do believe this is what is needed not just for Parkinson’s sufferers but for anyone who finds their world turned upside down. Parkinson’s affects everyone differently, so I was able to rely on empathy for a lot of it, while using my research to display different factors of the illness subtly throughout the film.
FID: Can you speak about that research process? How much work did you put into your performance off camera?
CME: The script was an incredible structure for me to rely on. My research was largely based on doctors and patients discussing what really happens to us when Parkinson’s sets in. Mostly I used Michael J Fox’s foundation website for my discovery. An incredible resource with seminars about different aspects of the condition, such as mobility, eating problems and mental health issues. I wrote pages of significant moments from both doctors and patients and I wanted to layer a lot of such feelings/movements within each scene, things I truly felt would be exactly what Adrian would be going through, having understood and read the script a lot by this point. In terms of visual aids for the camera I watched people closely on videos online in how their body language was, and little subtle movements that might not be very noticeable to someone who does not have Parkinson’s, but that everyone who has been diagnosed could see at least a part of themselves on the screen.
FID: Currently there is a crowdfunding campaign underway for the film’s release. Chiara, can you talk about how you have found that process? Are there frustrations associated with it? What have you been doing since finishing the actual shooting of the film while this campaign has been going on?
CV: Crowdfunding is a tough process and it’s hard to raise funds this way, even with the support of Young Parkinson’s Ireland. The New Music is a no budget, non-profit, DIY production and we have very little resources of our own, so the biggest challenge is to keep going step by step with the funds we raise and keep a positive attitude. Amazing people have lent us a hand along the way and everyone involved in the production so far has been a volunteer: we are surrounded by passionate and talented people who are committed to see this film come to life, but we can also use any help we can get to keep us going forward. We also wish to keep donating to Young Parkinson’s Ireland on a monthly basis throughout the campaign, so every little helps. Since completing principal photography we have been working on editing, promoting and putting together our soundtrack. A large number of musicians have donated their song to the film and we are partnering with the pianist, composer and Parkinson’s Ambassador David Sangster, who is composing original music for us. Audio post is also underway and we are going to do a meet & greet with Young Parkinson’s Ireland in occasion of the upcoming Parkinson’s Awareness Week. In May we will be hosted by Hope Collective and We Shall Overcome during Mayfest where we will talk about music as vehicle for change.
FID: What would you say to other directors looking to begin a ‘DIY production’? What’s the most important thing they need to know?
CV: I think it’s fundamental to be mindful of your resources and plan everything to perfection before starting to shoot, so that mistakes can be avoided and little or no time will be wasted during filming. It’s very important to have an achievable script, keep everything as simple as possible and concentrate on story rather than effects or complicated settings to convey your vision. A portion of courage and stubbornness is also essential if you wish to work outside the industry and brave the elements that will surely come thundering upon you, your cast and crew on the way. I am convinced, however, that if you truly have faith in your project and you are able to infect everyone with your enthusiasm, making them see what you see and believe in your film, there is very little you can’t achieve. Make sure people are well looked after, valued and ensure that a positive atmosphere is there on set: a film is a collaboration of different skills sets and you won’t go anywhere on your own.
FID: Finally, a question for you both. What is the main reason people should support the funding campaign for The New Music?
CV: The New Music is a unique project. Its purpose is to shine a light on an illness that is discussed very little and that needs as much support as possible. It also explores what it means to live in Ireland right now for young people and artists, who struggle to keep pursuing their vision and their art. The New Music is the product of a collective effort of Irish and international film makers and actors who voluntarily worked on this project to make a difference. We wish for the film to go far within the festival circuit and we want to be able to reach as many people as possible. This is a film about music, Parkinson’s and friendship, it conveys the message that life is stronger than any illness and that a story can find its way to be told even with no funding or very little resources. It’s a film for everyone, as anyone can all find themselves at a point where they are uncertain of what’s going to happen next.
CME: Having been a part of the production since its earliest stages, I have seen the amount of effort that has gone into making The New Music possible. The film will be finished no matter what, however, we need help to ensure that people can see it in a cinema. It is an Irish film, but what I like about it is that it just so happens to be set in Ireland, it could happen anywhere, there is so much purpose attached to it. We show off Ireland and Dublin in a light I have not seen done in any other Irish film. It will help people see what Parkinson’s can do, but it will also shine a light on our struggles in life, especially those willing to go against the grain. The film was made as a DIY production, which is incredibly fitting for the idea of punk that is celebrated throughout. It is a subculture that exists out there in the world, it is something that brings people together. The film brought many creative minds to the table and now any amount of help will not only support and incredible cause such as Young Parkinson’s Ireland, but will reward so much blood, sweat and tears that occurred on, and including the lead up to, the 26 days of shooting.
Donations to The New Music can be made via gofundme.com here.