The summer season may not be delivering much thus far in terms of the big blockbusters, but thankfully as ever, anyone interested in supporting Irish cinema has plenty of options. Today sees the release of Darndale crime movie Cardboard Gangsters, but next week will deliver independent Irish cinema too, in the form of Twice Shy, a romantic drama by director Tom Ryan that has had success on the film festival circuit, including a screening at the Galway Film Fleadh, and a showing at the Irish Film Festival Australia that bagged Ryan an award for Best Young Director. Twice Shy tells the story of two young people falling in love, taking them from the debs in Tipperary to life attending college in the big smoke, interspersed with a car journey with a very important destination for them. Film In Dublin spoke to Tom Ryan about directing the film and the challenges of balancing its love story with more serious topics.
Twice Shy is a story about young people and a story about young love. How was your experience working with the two leads and what do younger actors bring to the table in terms of their performances?
We were very fortunate with Twice Shy to have two incredibly talented lead actors in Shane Murray-Corcoran and Iseult Casey. They bring so much to the table in terms of their performance. The whole movie rests on their shoulders and they carried it off so well. Their chemistry on-screen really carries the movie. Twice Shy is essentially a story about young romance and about whether or not a first love relationship like this can either be strengthened or broken apart by the unplanned pregnancy. Shane and Iseult were very tuned into this and put in so much work to their respective characters before shooting even began that it was always a pleasure to watch them bring the roles to life on camera.
My job as a director was made all the easier by their commitment to the roles and their professionalism. All I really needed to do on set was just take a step back and watch them perform. They were terrific to work with and were very supportive of each other throughout the shoot.
Can you give an example of the kind of work they’d out into their characters off screen?
Shane and Iseult would always make a point of meeting up in their free time to rehearse outside of our planned rehearsal times. They put a lot of work into developing the characters that every week when all three of us would meet up they would be contributing so many great ideas to their characters and to the story in general. They were always open to improvising during the rehearsal period aswell which was a great way for us to refine the script throughout various drafts up until we began shooting. All of the work that they put in to the pre-production meant that when it came time to shoot they knew the characters of Andy and Maggie inside out.
You were helped as well by having very experienced actors around them in the cast, like Pat Shortt and Ardal O’Hanlon. How helpful were they to the younger performers and for the shoot in general?
Pat and Ardal were a pleasure to work with and it was very exciting, not only to Shane and Iseult, but for all the cast and crew to have two actors of their stature on set. Even though Pat and Ardal have had plenty more experience on camera, Shane and Iseult were more than capable of holding their own on-screen alongside them and the rapport and chemistry between all four of them was instantaneous. It was very impressive to watch the two generation of actors share scenes together. And as a huge fan of both Ardal and Pat, it was a dream come true to work with them both and have them involved with the project.
While the film has this central storyline of Andy and Maggie’s relationship, it manages to use their relationship, and Andy’s relationship with his father, to look at abortion and depression, things that Irish people can find it difficult to talk about. What made you want to explore these issues?
I wanted to explore some issues that I feel are important to me and that helped to give this romantic drama some weight. Abortion and depression are two huge issues in Irish culture at the moment and I thought that through this story I could hopefully do them justice by presenting them in a compassionate and non-judgemental light. All too often these issues are mentioned in either hushed tones or as part of a debate so we had a responsibility to present them in a balanced, humanistic way.
Ardal’s character commends the courage it takes to ask for help and the courage that it takes and you mention the hushed tones these topics can be mentioned in. Do you think Ireland is improving in these regards?
Yes, absolutely. People are becoming more vocal which is fantastic. It does take courage to open up about these issues and there is more that we can be doing to improve things further when it comes to speaking out depression and abortion but these things will take time to change and if Twice Shy can allow for conversations to take place then all the better.
Maggie says at one point that she needs to joke about the situation, in order to deal with it. Twice Shy has plenty of humour in it as well, was it hard to find the balance between the humour and the more serious aspects of the story?
I think that having elements of humour in the movie was very important because it helps make the characters more relatable and human. When dealing with heavy subject matter a light touch at times is needed just to bring some balance to the story and allow the characters to breath. That being said we needed to make sure that we never made light of the issue at hand and that all the humour came through naturally through character and not from the situation itself.
Part of the film is set in London. What was it like shooting over there and how does it compare to shooting in Ireland?
It was very exciting to film scenes in London and really opened up the movie visually by giving it more scope. It’s such a vibrant, wonderful city with an energy all of its own. It was really wonderful city to film in and alongside the scenes shot in Dublin and Tipperary helped turn what is ultimately a very intimidate character driven drama into a more cinematic story.
The funding of your previous film Trampoline was a difficult process, with you getting sponsorship from local businesses. What was the funding process like for Twice Shy?
Funding for Trampoline was tricky in regards to trying to find a way to fund a feature film during a time when there was crowd-funding fatigue. Luckily local businesses in Tipperary helped out and sponsored the shoot which lead to it getting off the ground. It was a huge learning curve and thankfully the success of Trampoline opened a few doors me going on to this project. It was off the back of that project that I was offered private funding for Twice Shy which was a very unique situation to be in. But it never would have happened were it not for all the groundwork that was put in to making Trampoline.
Twice Shy has been shown at the Galway Film Fleadh and at Irish Film Festival Australia. How wide an audience do you think the film can find, in Ireland and abroad?
We’ve been incredibly fortunate with how audiences both domestically and internationally have responded so far. We had a wonderful festival run starting at the Galway Film Fleadh last year, they were incredibly supportive of the movie and helped launch us. We were very lucky to pick up some awards overseas over the course of our festival run, Iseult won a Rising Star award in LA and our composer Patrizo Knight won Best Score in London for his amazing work on the soundtrack. It caught us all by surprise to learn that we had been accepted to screen at the Marche in Cannes last month. It was an honour to be included alongside some absolutely incredible Irish movies. It’s been getting a great reaction everywhere it’s played so far, and that is testament to Shane and Iseult’s performances and all the hard work from the rest of the cast and crew. Hopefully we’ll be as fortunate once it’s released theatrically here on June 23rd!
Finally, what was the biggest lesson you took from working on this film?
To be honest it’s hard to say. I don’t know if I’ll really know that until hindsight, after the movie has been released. I suppose it’s important to note that if you put in the work and surround yourself with a very talented cast and crew, then that helps make the impossible possible. It’s something I learned on Trampoline and I’ve carried through with me to Twice Shy. Filmmaking is a team effort and I’ve been very fortunate on both projects to work with amazing people. It’s a lesson that I’ll no doubt carry with me throughout my career.
Twice Shy is released on June 23rd. Tickets are available now from the Light House Cinema.