Film: Summon Her Children
Producer: John Delaney
What is your film about?
The film tells the little known story of how a group of Laois Volunteers came to fire the first shots of the Easter Rising in 1916. The Fleming brothers, the Muldowney brothers, the Brady family’s two brothers and four sisters, along with Paddy Ramsbottom, Michael Gray, Colm Holohan and others set about destroying the railway line at Colt Wood near Portlaoise to prevent British reinforcements travelling to Dublin in response to the Rising. The Fleming brothers nephew, Jim, is an executive producer on the film along with his daughter, Malvina and his son, Micheál, wrote the script, so our narrative benefits from first hand accounts and records of how the events of those few days unfolded.
Who are the characters?
Apart from the real life protagonists, we created two characters, Ruairí and Saoirse O’Moore, played by Aron Hegarty and Leah Egan, to represent an everyday family/couple in Ireland who got caught up in the events, not just of the rising, but of the war of independence that was to follow. Their narrative is a vital element of our story.
Can you describe a typical day on set?
In one word, busy. We had a cast and crew of over fifty people filming a low budget, twenty minute short in four days. It was all hands on deck. There was a lot of movement from one set to another each day, we relied on the good humour and enthusiasm of everyone involved to get the job done. This was a new experience for most of us. We had a first time director, Wesley O’Duinn, first time execs, Jim Fleming and Malvina Breathnach, first time writer, Micheál Fleming, first time producer, me, but thankfully we had experience dotted about our cast and crew in important roles and it was the cast and crew, and their faith in us, which kept our heads above water. We also had extraordinary support from the local community in The Swan and in it’s surrounding areas. From my own perspective I was producing with Martin Twomey and his steady hand on the tiller was vital. He also did an amazing job as production designer and the look of the film is something that stands out for me.
Best experience during the making of the film?
I have to say, for me one of the best experiences was in the week leading up to filming, working to get the sets ready for the shoot. We had three amazing people, Caoimhe Valerio, Jason Kearney and Richie O’Leary who worked so hard that week to realise Martin’s production design on location and I cannot tell you how hard that cheap diazepam no prescription work was. My wife, Mags, and I helped with a lot of the manual labour and Johnny Carey and his daughter Eilis were fantastic while we were working on the transformation of the Carey’s old and disused four roomed cottage and shed into no less than seven different sets for filming, but the skills and energy of Caoimhe, Jason and Richie were invaluable. Each evening they’d sit down to one of Maria Fleming’s wonderful supper dinners back in the Fleming homestead in The Swan and discuss plans for the following days work. They never switched off from the task in front of them and that’s a strong memory of our time in Laois for me.
Who is your biggest influence?
On a personal level, my dad is a wonderful photographer and his attention to detail, the care he takes with every image he produces, that’s a big influence as I move forward to start directing myself next time out, (I have a project on the boil at the moment). In general, I’d have to say I grew up in thrall to the films of Sergio Leone. I think I’m influenced by almost every aspect of his filmmaking, particularly the way in which he surrounded himself with artists who he had great respect for and how he allowed them to express themselves fully within his overall vision.
What is your favourite film?
Francois Truffaut’s Day For Night. I’d love to get to work on a set like the one we see in that film.
What are your plans for the future/What’s your next step?
Summon Her Children’s director Wesley O’Duinn is currently working as 1st AD on a documentary called Fingals Finest, producing an advert for Polo USA and is soon to direct a feature film called Ciara. Along with Martin Twomey, Kara Sweeney and Tris Dalton, who all worked on Summon Her Children, I’ve just produced a short film called Chips And Kissin’ which we hope to have ready for release very soon. It is set and was shot almost entirely in Fingal, so it might be nice to see it in the Fingal Film Festival next year, (hint hint).
Advice for people who have just picked up a camera and want to make a movie?
As someone who is still seeking much needed advice from others, what I can say I’ve learned so far is that you need to prepare properly, embrace the need for compromise on set and remember you can only edit the footage you shot, not the footage you intended to shoot. Let the editor work his or her wonders and hope you got enough coverage for them to do so. Filmmaking is a team game.