Donal Foreman’s debut feature, Out Of Here, a study of a young man eking out an existence in recessionary Dublin, has been receiving glowing reviews. And Metro Herald’s Luke Holohan had a small part in making it happen…
FOR me, Out Of Here ends just how it started: with a chat to its director Donal Foreman. I first met Donal in a café in the city centre two years ago. Him, a burgeoning director already forging a strong reputation in the industry. Myself, a recent graduate, floating aimlessly on the current of post-college life. Our meeting concerned his proposed debut feature, a study of Dublin youth culture, in which I would end up landing a small role.
With the film going on limited release from Friday, it feels like a good time to revisit old ground with the man who made it happen.
‘Out Of Here follows Ciaran (Fionn Walton), a Dubliner in his early 20s, reluctantly returning home after a year of travelling. He struggles to reconnect to the place, and along the way leads us through the varied social, urban and natural spaces of the city. It gives us an insight into what Dublin has to offer today for Irish youth,’ Foreman explains.
Ireland’s ‘first mumblecore’ and ‘the next Once’ are just two of the epithets that have been bandied about to describe Out Of Here, with the film going on to meet great acclaim at the Galway and Jameson film festivals. I’ve since left acting to the more gifted, such as key cast members: Fionn Walton (What Richard Did), Annabell Rickerby (Get Up And Go), Aoife Duffin (Moone Boy) and Emma Eliza Regan (Love Eternal).
However, I’m chuffed to have been involved in a contemporary story that’s likely to chime with many a returning emigrant as well as those adrift in noughties Ireland. ‘The film is really about what it feels like to be in Dublin now and at this age [Foreman is 29]. Growing up, I never saw a single Irish film that touched my experience of the city, so I was conscious of trying to counteract that.’
Crowdfunded and shot on a micro-budget with backing from Stalker Films, the project could so easily have wilted. Money was tight and actor schedules had to be juggled, so it’s testament to Foreman’s sheer enthusiasm that it didn’t. ‘The biggest challenge was working with such limited time and resources,’ he concurs. But a healthy flexibility allowed him to ‘roll with the punches’.
Talent cherry-picked from the Actors Studio on Bow Street as well as from open casting made for an intriguing ensemble of characters. In fact, actor Jer O’Leary – who makes a wonderful cameo as a hard-up city dweller – was actually a former neighbour of the young director. ‘Basically I had “casting goggles” on everywhere I went, whether I was at a party or popping out somewhere. I was very keen on giving a sense of Dublin’s youth culture, so it was important to involve people who are part of that,’ he says.
During the shoot, I remember a lot of laughs and even more ad-libbing. ‘I like the idea of filmmaking being a process where you are constantly reworking things, being open to ideas as you go along, rather than the approach where you write the script, do a storyboard and then go through the motions’.
But did having people like myself go off on ridiculous improvised tangents grate at all? ‘I think those difficulties are part of the fun of it,’ he says diplomatically. ‘I’d much rather an actor go off on a tangent and be “good” than to stick to the lines perfectly but fall flat in terms of performance.’
Far from relying on pat plot devices or spoon-feeding the viewer, Foreman took a less-is-more tack. ‘I have an issue with films that create problems for their characters that are then perfectly solved by the end. That doesn’t ring true… usually in life when one problem is solved, other questions are raised that need to be dealt with.’ But it doesn’t mean you leave the audience stranded, and he believes it’s interesting to hear the audience’s varied experiences.
As the son of late documentary-maker Arthur MacCaig (A Song For Ireland/The Patriot Game), Foreman’s directorial path might appear predestined but this wasn’t quite the case.
‘There was no conscious connection to my father’s filmmaking. It just emerged naturally with friends. Someone’s dad had a VHS video camera and we started messing around with it. Before long, we were obsessed,’ he says.
Still, if his father’s work wasn’t an influence when Foreman started out, he has certainly learned to reassess. ‘The Irish Film Board has given development funding for a script I’m writing about two Irish brothers in New York,’ he tells me. ‘I’ve also been developing a documentary idea about my father’s films at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris.’
The baton has clearly been passed from one generation to the next.