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Five Minutes with… Emmett Hughes, Writer, Producer and Star of ‘The O’Brien's’
05 Jun 2013 : By Kevin Cronin
Emmett Hughes stars in Irish modern family comedy 'The O'Brien's'.
Since its selection as the Irish Spotlight film at the Newport Beach film festival in California this April, word of mouth has been steadily building around ‘The O’Brien's' – the film about a modern Irish family made on a shoestring budget in Galway last year.

Directed by 24-year-old filmmaker Richard Waters over three weeks last September, the film was co-written and produced by Emmett Hughes who also stars in the story inspired by the experiences of the Irish diaspora.

The plot sees Irish siblings Fionn, Gareth and Una return from their lives abroad for a reunion with their father at their family home in Galway, two years after the death of their mother- with unexpected results.

An impressive cast also includes Liam McMahon (‘Hunger’, ‘Titanic: Blood and Steel’); Kelly Blaise (‘The Borgias’) and Amber Jean Rowan (‘The Vikings’, ‘What Richard Did’).

Mr Hughes spoke to IFTN this week about the inspiration behind ‘The O’Briens’, how cast and crew helped make the project a reality, and the international response to the film so far.

Mr Hughes, can you explain how the idea for The O’Brien’s' first came about?
It actually goes back to nearly two years ago when Slaine Kelly, who co-wrote the script with me, called me in London. We met up and decided that we wanted to write something real about an Irish family. Initially we were going to have loads of characters like ‘Love Actually’ but then we said no, we’d make it about a modern day Irish family, keep the focus on them, and show what they’re going through.

What were some of your influences in writing the script?
‘Love Actually’ was definitely a big influence. A lot of the characters in 'The O’Brien’s' are based on people I know, so we tried to get the heart of real people in it.

What were the challenges of making it on a shoestring budget?
Absolutely everything was a challenge! But we were lucky with the locations. Headford, my local town where it was filmed, really got onboard and supported the project so all the expenses were taken care of. We knew we had such a short time to shoot the film that we had to hit the ground running right from the start. Luckily, the weather was on our side for outdoor shoots and we had good weather every day.

How did cast and crew cope under such tight conditions?
They were absolutely brilliant. Without everyone agreeing to accept the smallest fee possible, we wouldn’t have been able to make the film. And everyone’s attitude was great! There was no negativity at all and everybody was very supportive of each other. Everybody had to be positive or it just wouldn't have worked. The rest of the cast and I couldn’t have got on better. Everybody got on like a house on fire!

Was the warm reception the film received at the Newport Beach Film Festival very gratifying after all your hard work?
It was actually! It was great just to see people’s reactions. There were people coming up to me after the screening and really opening up their hearts. Everyone could relate to the theme of people coming back home to Ireland from America, and that meant a lot to them. Our aim was not just to do a commercial film but to really hit home with people and connect with them, and make a film that was timeless.

Any plans for an Irish cinema release in the near future?
We’re in talks with distributors for a cinema release since getting back from Newport, so we’re getting our bearings about what to do with the film next and deciding upon other festivals to submit it to.

Were you keen to avoid Irish stereotypes in making a film about Irish characters that would appeal to an international audience?
We kept away from any Irish stereotype and wanted to make the film as real as possible. Each character had to be believable, from the youngest members of the family to the older ones, and show what they were all going through. There is the persona of the Irish as always laughing and joking around and going to the pub but we wanted to show that Irish people go through the same things as everyone else.

Can you tell us a bit about your character in the film?
He’s based on a close member of my family and also partly on myself because I went away to live in London and then came back. It’s just hard when you come back to Ireland. I travelled a lot when I was younger, to Greece and then to Australia, and I went to college in America. So I was always going away for a while and then coming home. I guess I hoped some things would change and they never really did.

How did you first get into filmmaking?
I did film classes in London, mainly in acting, and got into the storytelling side of things. I just started writing and that’s where it took off for me. I got better and better at it and decided to do my own stuff, which gave me more control over what I was doing.

What can you reveal about your other upcoming projects?
I’m working on a script called 'The Joyce Brothers' about two Irish guys in L.A., which I am nearly finished writing. I have one friend in mind for one of the brothers and another actor we’re in talks with. I wrote it for the locations, like I did for 'The O’Brien's'. Their stepsister gets kidnapped and it’s an exciting story. A bit like 'The Boondock Saints' with Irish banter, so hopefully it will all come together. We’re shooting that in August to September in L.A., and there are two other projects I’ve also signed onto. One of them is based on true events and I don’t know how I got the opportunity to work on it. This is going to be an exciting year. I’ll be stuck to the laptop for a while!

‘The O’Brien's’ is written, produced and stars Emmett Hughes and Slaine Kelly; and is produced by Fionn O'Brien, Ciara Byrne, Richard Kearney and Alison Scarff of Mist Media.

The new trailer for the film is available to view below:

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