Ahead of TV3 airing a sneak peak of the show on Sunday 11th December as part of their festive schedule, IFTN sat down with the producer and director of ‘Tallafornia’, Fintan Maguire and Dara Tallon to talk about the series and what Irish viewers can expect.
IFTN- Where did the idea for the ‘Tallafornia’ series come from?
Fintan Maguire - It came from within TV3. Ben Frow, the Director of Programming, loved the idea of the title, ‘Tallafornia’, as a programme. He turned to me and said, I don’t know what the programme is, but go make it. I had known Dara for years, and Dara had been in LA working on similar shows over there. He was home for a bit, so I got chatting to him and we bashed our heads together and that’s where it started. That was the nucleus of it.
IFTN - When you came up with the concept, where was the beginning of it and how did it grow from there?
Dara Tallon - To me ‘Tallafornia’, is something, both myself and Fintan, have been playing with for quiet a while. To us it’s a way of life, it’s a type of person you just don’t find in the greater Tallaght/West Dublin area. You can find them in every city and town around Ireland. They look good, they spend money looking good and they know how to enjoy themselves and have a good time. Love them or like them, they are a fact of Irish life and they are going to be around for a long time. We just found a large concentration of them in the West Dublin area and then we went with Tallaght.
Fintan Maguire - Where it went from there was casting, from a production point of view; we knew that if we cast the right people it would work. We set out to cast four guys and four girls but we struck a balance with the seven people we found. We never would have predicted four guys and three girls but it just worked, they gelled, they worked together, they complimented each other, they contrasted with each other in other ways and we saw glimmers in each of them that kind of worked and we thought ‘they will work individually and as a group’ and then we sort of just went with it.
IFTN - What was the appeal of Tallaght?
Fintan Maguire - It was only going to be ‘Tallafornia’. That was the title from the start no matter what. The appeal of Tallaght, as Dara was saying, it’s not necessarily that is a location based thing. It’s a way of life, it is people who are ambitious, look after themselves in terms of going to the gym, they like looking good, they make sure they are tanned the whole time, they like going out and having a good time. We are hoping that this will appeal, from a broadcaster’s point of view, to a wide audience. It will be countrywide because you will recognise these people, you will know them, and you will know someone who is very like them in your area or in your town and that is really important. It is important that it’s not about Tallaght per say but about young people in Ireland today, living their lives.
Dara Tallon - I worked on a very different documentary about a year ago; we were in Tallaght and we were interviewing young people in schools there and what really blew me away was the confidence and positivity that so many young people, from an area that most people in Ireland know of and which is very synomonous with being a disadvantaged area. There is such a positive change within that area, with the young people there, with the IT Tallaght, with the hospital being there, there is such a buzz about the area, everyone that I met, at a much younger age were so positive.
They would say ‘I want to go to college, I want to get a decent education, I want to get a decent job.’ It was not I want to get a decent education and a decent job and leave. It was more I want to stay here, I am very happy here and it is very much so From Tallaght with Pride and I think we tapped into that with the cast as well. They are very proud of who they are and where they are from and very positive. I think we need that now. The country is still down on its knees, we need positivity. We need a young group of people who are positive about life.
IFTN - What was it like on the shoot? Were there any problems?
Fintan Maguire - Quite the opposite. The Square in Tallaght was brilliant to us. They were really up for it, really open too and positive about the whole experience. We couldn’t have asked for more. I think it was the best place to shoot in Dublin. I have never had the least amount of complaints as I did on this show. Usually, if a producer or researcher has a problem, they come to me and we try and solve it. There was none of that.
Dara Tallon - Everyone opened their doors because everyone got it. Everyone we approached, be it the Square, the Plaza, the Tallaght Leisure Centre, Tamangos, Dandelion, Horse riding, Airsoft, or Rock-climbing. Wherever we went and whatever we did, which is what these guys do, to show the country what these guys lives are like, they said ‘yes, we’d love to be part of it’ because they got it. They got that it is a positive look at Dublin.
IFTN - Where and how did you find the talent for this show?
Dara Tallon – Everywhere.
Fintan Maguire - We searched high and low. We decided that we weren’t going to stop until we got the people that we wanted and we weren’t going to know the people that we got until we got them. There wasn’t a particular type that we were looking for; there wasn’t a particular place that we went to look for them. We went to the Square Tallaght, all the salons around that area, went to liffey valley, we went to the gyms, we did some stuff on facebook, like if you are interested in being on this kind of show contact us.
Dara Tallon - We went to a couple of nightclubs in around Tallaght as well. We got them from various places, and they all kind of came together when we saw them. We met some amazing people out there. This is the tip of the iceberg. There are some amazing characters out there. These are the ones that really worked, these are the ones that are going to portray and sum up what these people are about.
IFTN - How much of it is staged?
Fintan Maguire - They call this genre constructed reality and that is where stuff
Like ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ certainly, and maybe ‘Jersey Shore’ fall into. For us it is much more reality than constructed reality. It ain’t scripted, we didn’t tell them what to say, we let them live their lives and followed the action.
Dara Tallon - Obviously, from a production point of view we can’t just arrive in a bar or a hotel or a gym or a shop and say ‘hello can we shoot?’, we’ve got seven people. We researched their lives ‘where do you guys go? What do you guys do?’ And we contacted all those venues and said ‘can you give us the freedom?’; this is what was so important about the venues we went to; not only to show up unannounced, but show up unannounced with cameras and put up signs saying filming in progress, and do all that side of it which is a nightmare and every time we did that, everywhere we went, everyone was like absolutely, no problem.
We picked venues and places to sum up what these people are about and what they do normally, and that was the extent of our involvement. We let it roll and let them be who they are. Every conversation, every trip, every night out in the club, every conversation and sit down in the jacuzzi afterwards - was them.
IFTN - A lot of people will criticise this show, before seeing it, saying ‘what is the merit of another reality show like this?’ What do you say to those critics?
Fintan Maguire - I think Ben Frow famously said ten years ago that reality TV is dead and gone, and it ain’t. I think it is just a genre now, like any other genre, it has been around for so long at this stage it’s just a genre of TV. What we are doing is a fly on the wall documentary, Reality TV. There is nothing new and nothing different. It is new to TV3 and to we hope it’s new to an Irish audience. We hope it is something that they want to watch. The only thing I have to do in my job is make sure that I make programmes that my viewers want to watch. That is the only thing that I have to do. We really think we have something that people are going to want to watch. I really hope they enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it and editing and watching it back.
Dara Tallon - I would go one stage further to that and say, my job is to make a show that he wants his viewers to watch. My job is to be integral and honest to an audience, a cast, not to portray them inaccurately and not try to pull the wool over an audience’s eyes. I made TV in America for five years and the big difference of making TV in America and making TV in Ireland and the UK is that we have a smarter audience. We see through the attempts to fool the audience. We have to take that on board and go into this and be honest. We made an honest portrayal of a group of young people, who are very much integrally part of Irish society and at the same time, to show how cool Dublin can be.
IFTN – And finally, can we expect more reality TV to come out of TV3?
Fintan Maguire - As long as people are watching and it’s a rating success.