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IFTN talks with Dale Longmore & John Quinn, Writers of new RTÉ Comedy Pilot 'Bump'
13 Sep 2019 : Nathan Griffin
Gemma-Leah Devereux and Charlene McKenna in Bump.
IFTN caught up with John Quinn & Dale Longmore ahead of the release of ‘Bump’ on RTÉ to talk about the inspiration behind the pilot, the dynamics of a writing partnership, and the Screen Ireland /RTÉ Scripted Comedy series initiative.

Bump will air on RTÉ One this Sunday, 15th September at 22:30pm.

Written by Dale Longmore & John Quinn, Bump is produced by Ruth Carter (Damo & Ivor, Ends Meet) of Blue Ink Films, directed by Imogen Murphy (Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope) and stars Gemma-Leah Devereux (Judy, Cardboard Gangsters), Charlene McKenna (Ripper Street, Pure Mule, Raw), Keith McErlean (Black 47, Sing Street, Bachelor Boys, Raw), Aoife Duffin (Moone Boy) and Sean McGinley (Fir Bolg, Michael Collins).

The show follows the story of Ciara (Devereux), whose once aimless and madcap life begins to get more than a little bumpy when her straight-laced sister Liz (McKenna) asks her to be a surrogate mother. Bump is a modern, female-led half hour comedy-drama about two warring sisters who are brought together by circumstance.

IFTN journalist Nathan Griffin spoke with Dale & John ahead of Bump’s broadcast on RTÉ this Sunday.

IFTN: Where did the idea for Bump come from?

John/Dale: “The idea for Bump came from our mutual love for the comedy of Sharon Horgan. We initially bonded over our love of Pulling. It was exactly the kind of comedy we both wanted to make. We also have similar backgrounds - we’re both the only son in a family with two sisters. That dynamic that only sisters can have really struck us as key for making a story that resonates.”

“And so focusing on two sisters - for us Liz and Ciara - who are remarkably different and yet have shared hugely intimate moments of life together, but at the same time are completely different kinds of people. That’s the dynamic we wanted to explore. So the story came from trying to push two people closer together who really have no desire to be any closer. We thought what better way to explore that than through a surrogate pregnancy?”

IFTN: The show marks your first venture into comedic writing, how did you approach the project?

John/Dale: “To be honest, we’ve been writing specs for years, and we’ve even written on live light-ent shows, but yeah, this is our first comedy series. Comedy is conflict. So we started with character. For us that’s where everything came from. Trying to understand who these characters are, what motivates them and therefore what they would hate. And then came the process of finding ways to make them uncomfortable but to have to go through the mess to get what they want. Plot had to come from who they were as people.”

“We had a great producer in Ruth Carter on board who always challenged us to push it as far as we could. So when we felt we knew each of the main characters, we were able to sketch out their journeys and push them into increasingly mad situations. Then when we had a plot we thought worked, we wrote the scenes. And then re-wrote. A lot!”

IFTN: Can you tell me a little bit about your writing partnership and dynamic?

John/Dale: “There’s the usual sense of comedy writing partners where one stands looking out the window and the other sits and physically types. Sometimes that’s how we’d do it, but at the very start it’s being in a room together and literally talking about things that interest us.”

“Sometimes this lasts hours, sometimes days. There are rants about all sorts, but then we’ll spitball ideas. The idea is then the other person then picks up what was said and runs with it. If it takes you down a blind alley, then you chalk it down to experience and start again. We’ll rarely waste one of these sessions - usually *something* will come of it. Then when we have a nugget of an idea - it can be a set-up, a character or a funny scene, we then try to drill down to the basics of it. What’s the irony of character? What could make this funnier? How could we make life extremely hard for this character so they’d have to respond? And what would that response look like?

“Then comes an outline - a logline and one-page synopsis plus maybe a paragraph or two on the characters. Then if it floats, we run it by a producer to see if they like it and if there’ll be legs to the Idea. And then we write a breakdown of the pilot ep or even the whole series so we’ve a sense of where it’s going. And then we’ll look at a sample scene or dialogue. Then one of us will start actually writing an episode, send it over, the other edits, adapts and builds and on it goes. And the third part of our relationship is WhatsApp. That’s a constant stream of ideas and thoughts and corrections on there! It can often annoy your wife or whatever, as there's no telling what time a good idea will strike!”

IFTN: The show features Gemma-Leah Devereux and Charlene McKenna in leading roles, did you have particular actors in mind for each part when writing the script? 

John/Dale: “For us, over the years it has been vitally important to have someone in our mind's eye when we're writing. Then you get a better sense of how they'd react and what they might do in a situation. For Bump specifically, we did have a vague idea of who we thought would work. But then as soon as we saw Gemma Leah's tape, we knew nobody would be able to play Ciara like she could. And then on set, when she walks in in costume and all, it's unreal. She just embodied everything we wanted about Ciara - it was amazing.”

“Charlene then coming on board for Liz - she was brilliant. Everything she brought to the table brought nuance and comedy and heart to the lines and ideas we had. They also even LOOK like sisters - so hats off to Amy Rowan for bringing that together! But then Keith McErlean as Graham was honestly so hilarious - effortlessly so - and Sean McGinley's Frank was real and funny with beautiful little additions to the character.

“And then Aoife Duffin as Louise - comic genius! She and Gemma Leah just sparked from the start. And it went on across every single actor. It was a brilliant cast. And so I guess what we've realised is that our imaginations were limited in a way from what the actors could actually bring to the table on the day. Hopefully, if it goes to series, having these actors in mind will allow us to bring it to the next level -- you want to write content fitting of the talent assembled!”

IFTN: The show is directed by Imogen Murphy and produced by Ruth Carter of Blue Ink Films - How did you find working with them and what did they bring to the show?

John/Dale: “Imogen is a brilliant director. She was so open and fantastic. She spent time with us digging down on the script and getting our thoughts on things. But there was one word that sparked it all - Pulling. She also loved that show and so it inspired our rewrites to try reach for those levels. For example, budget and timing etc dictated we needed to approach things in a new way for our final draft - and having had such excellent discussions with Imogen put us on the right track. But then on set she is so focused and relaxed and brilliant with the actors. It truly was amazing to watch her work. She brought a life and energy to the script and we're delighted with what she did.”

“Ruth has been on this almost from the very beginning. We originally had an idea of this as a feature, but she saw it in the vein it could be and name-checked the likes of etc. So she really helped to shape it into what it is today. And she will fight for what she believes is the right thing for the project. She always listened and was a brilliant guide. She also assembled a stunning crew - working their asses off the week before Christmas with not a grumble. To a person, they were brilliant and totally on board to make something really special. Without Ruth and Imogen, this would still just be a script sitting on our hard drive...”

IFTN: Can you walk me through your experience of developing this project through the Screen Ireland /RTÉ Scripted Comedy series initiative?

John/Dale: “It was a long process of developing this as we said, from a feature idea to a TV show. But then we saw this opportunity come up and it was the right fit. We knew this was a brilliant chance to get the show in front of people who could help get it made. It took a while, but we were thrilled then when we were selected as one of the final four. We still had a few drafts to do of the script, but that's so much easier when there's a director on board and cast attached. So it's been really enjoyable and we're just excited now for people to be able to see it!”

Bump will air on Sunday 15th September at 22.30 on RTÉ One.

IFTA Q&A Series: Patricia Kelly on Directing
IFTA Q&A Series: Damien Lynch on Sound Design
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