‘Out of Here’ di­rec­tor Donal Fore­man tells Tara Brady about shoot­ing boom-era Dublin through the heart

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -


Lenny Abra­ham­son has the smarts and Shimmy Mar­cus has the moves, but the hottest ticket in­Ir­ish cin­e­manowis Donal Fore­man. When his de­but fea­ture Out of Here played at the Jame­son Dublin In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val last Fe­bru­ary, it won over crit­ics and stu­dio folks, equally.

A jury from the Dublin Film Crit­ics Cir­clep­re­sented Fore­man with the Michael Dwyer Dis­cov­ery Award; Univer­sal Pic­tures and Screen In­ter­na­tional handed down the Cine Tal­ent Award. Th­ese plau­dits came as lit­tle sur­priseto long-term in­dus­try­watch­ers who have been keep­ing an eye on Fore­man since 2003, when he took home the Ire­land’s Young Film­maker of the Year gong from the Fresh Film Fes­ti­val.

At 29, he has been do­ing this for quite some time.

“I al­ways wanted to be an artist of some kind,” says Fore­man. “I re­mem­ber when I was very lit­tle I kept say­ing I want to be an artist or an ar­chi­tect, even though I didn’t re­ally know what that was. I used to draw a lot.

“About 10, I just painted non­stop and cre­ated a whole uni­verse in comic books. Film-mak­ing emerged nat­u­rally hang­ing out with my friends. My friend Danny McMa­hon was the star of most of those early films. His dad had a video cam­era. So when I was 11, I gave up all other art forms and fo­cused on that.”


He im­me­di­ately started pay­ing at­ten­tion to how films were made. In common with many from his gen­er­a­tion, Quentin Tarantino was the first au­teur to re­ally cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion. From Tarantino, he re­searched his way through Martin Scors­ese’s back cat­a­logue. From Scors­ese, he found his way to­ward John Cas­savetes.

“I should be care­ful about men­tion­ing Tarantino,” smiles Fore­man. “I started to be­come aware of di­rec­tion watch­ing his work. He makes re­ally strong choices in terms of cam­era place­ment and visual de­sign. But be­cause I had said that in an in­ter­view some­where, the notes for Out of Here in the pro­gramme for the Film Fes­ti­val Mannheim-Hei­del­berg say ‘Tarantino is a ma­jor in­flu­ence of the work’.”

Out of Here may be vis­ually ar­rest­ing but any re­sem­blances or com­par­isons to Tarantino end there. A mov­ing drama about a re­turn­ing im­mi­grant, Fore­man’s first fea­ture ex­presses the melan­choly and dis­ap­point­ment that comes with grow­ing up against the Tiger years. “I’m sick of walk­ing around this place and be­ing re­minded of shit that is over,” an­nounces Ciarán ( What Richard Did’s Fionn Walton), the alien­ated young hero.

“I didn’t want it to be a big state­ment,” the di­rec­tor says. “I wanted it to be a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the city and that mo­ment and with the ac­tors. Too many Ir­ish film-mak­ers say ‘I want to make a univer­sal story, it could be set any­where’. That was some­thing I didn’t want to do.

“Hope­fully it’s re­lat­able for peo­ple who come from else­where, but I al­ways wanted to make some­thing spe­cific, some­thing tied to a spe­cific place and the feel of that place.”


He first con­ceived of the project in 2007 while at IADT. Back

got­ten­tomee­tand­chatwith JoeComer­ford,CathalBlack,Bob Quin­nandPatMur­phy­over theyears and­havea lotofre­spect­fortheir workandtheir­com­mit­mentto chal­lengin­gestab­lished­form­sand norms.Cathal Black’sPig­siso­neof my­favouriteDublin­films.” then, its hero felt ill at ease around the manic en­ergy of the boom years. In 2010, hav­ing honed his visual style through a se­ries of much-ad­mired short films, he re­vis­ited the project.

He couldn’t at­tract a ma­jor in­vestor or pro­duc­tion company, so Out of Here’s ¤25,000 pro­duc­tion bud­get was crowd-funded.

“A lot of the crit­i­cisms I heard were about the character. The nar­ra­tive ‘didn’t have enough of a goal or a res­o­lu­tion or ten­sion’ or ‘ can we see his trav­els abroad?’ so it could be a co-pro­duc­tion. ‘Can we make sure the character is more like­able?’ ‘Can we have more plot?’”

Out of Here fi­nally ar­rived at Mark O’Con­nor’s Stalker Films through its pro­ducer Em­met Flem­ing. Fore­man’s so­cial conscience seems to fit with O’Con­nor’s Dogme95-style man­i­festo, but any philo­soph­i­cal over­lap, he says, is purely ac­ci­den­tal.

“I loved the ges­ture of the man­i­festo,” Fore­man says, “but it didn’t re­ally res­onate with me. I think move­ments have to hap­pen or­gan­i­cally. I think I ac­tu­ally feel more affin­ity with the Ir­ish First Wave than a lot of re­cent Ir­ish films.”

Fore­man was raised in Dublin’s North Strand by his mother, a so­cial worker. He had lit­tle con­tact with his fa­ther, the docum- en­tar­ian Arthur MacCaig, while grow­ing up, but he did know var­i­ous film-mak­ers. Johnny Go­gan al­lowed him to hang out in the edit­ing suite while the di­rec­tor was cut­ting Map­maker (1999).

Vivi­enne Dick, the fem­i­nist film-maker, was one of his mother’s friends and the young Fore­man saw all of her ex­per­i­men­tal films while he was still “quite young”.

His child­hood chum Benji Go­gan is the nephew of Film Base founder Jane Go­gan. “Ev­ery­one we knew was a so­cial worker or a film-maker,” he says, laugh­ing.

Out of Here and sev­eral ear­lier Fore­man shorts seem to marry both pro­fes­sions, right?

“My friend, the ex­per­i­men­tal film-maker Max Le Cain, says the same thing. I make films like a so­cial worker.

“I def­i­nitely would have been in­ter­ested in do­ing what mum does if I wasn’t mak­ing films, al- though film-mak­ing is def­i­nitely a more self­ish pro­fes­sion.”

Fore­man re­calls be­ing a shy, in­tro­verted kid, whose new hobby al­lowed him to so­cialise and col­lab­o­rate in “a re­ally cre­ative way”. That phi­los­o­phy con­tin­ues to de­fine his film-mak­ing.

Out of Here, this coun­try’s first cin­e­matic grap­ple with the post-boom wave of im­mi­gra­tion, is de­fined by nat­u­ral­is­tic di­a­logue and achingly recog­nis­able char­ac­ters. Work­ing from a 30-page treat­ment, Fore­man’s screen­play was crafted through re­hearsals and work­shops.

“In gen­eral I think of my film­mak­ing as ex­e­cu­tion-de­pen­dent. I have my ideas and in­ten­tions. The film is a di­a­logue be­tween in­ten­tions and the cast and the weather and ev­ery­thing else.”

He has been amazed by the re­sponse to Out of Here, not just the ac­co­lades but the di­ver­sity of com­ments from au­di­ence mem­bers. “Peo­ple of the right age have said ‘You’ve put my life on screen’. Some have said ‘You made me wish I stayed in Dublin’ and oth­ers have said ‘You made me wish I’d left sooner’.”

Iron­i­cally, Fore­man has moved to Brook­lyn since com­plet­ing the film. He says he misses the seag­ulls.

Out of Here is out next week

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