7 July 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Director Robert Quinn on Making 'Dead Bodies'
24 Apr 2003 :
When David McLoughlin and Clare Scully set up Distinguished Features, one of the first scripts they received was David Landy's 'Dead Bodies', a story of compromise and corruption in modern day Dublin. The director they approached, Robert Quinn, had two award-winning short films, 'Detour' and An Leabhar as well as two documentary series ('Between Heaven and Nothing' ('Idir Neamh Agus Neamhi') and 'Sundays') under his belt, as well as years of Irish and international experience at 1st AD (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, Far and Away, The Crying Game, Dancing At Lughnasa). "Beside the quality of the shorts he'd already made, his experience as an AD was very significant in that he has a reputation for running a very tight and efficient set, which would be important on the limited budget we knew we'd have to work with", explains producer David McLoughlin.

Quinn had worked in the business since his late teens, having spent 17 years living in Dublin and Conemara with father, filmmaker Bob Quinn, and mother, journalist Helen Quinn, before getting started on films like Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot and Neil Jordan's The Crying Game. As he admits himself, it was quite a transition from 1st AD to director "but I learned so much from the directors I've worked with - not only in terms of craft but also in the way they deal with actors. If I was to walk onto our set without having had that experience I think I would have been quite intimidated - you're asked questions, you're making decisions all day long".

So, he certainly brings a lot of experience to the set and significantly to put a lot of weight behind it, bringing in a lot of talent, including Donal Gilligan (DP), Mark Geraghty (Production Designer), and Dan Birch (Sound Recordist), to an extent that it 'looks more than the money we had'.

When Quinn got the script he read it through, and through again, and loved it's freshness. The script, by newcomer market-gardener Derek Landy, did go through some changes, with Quinn taking out a lot of the pop culture references, "grounding it more in Dublin, and giving it more film noir/thriller aspects", but the structure and general story have remained true to Landy's original script. According to Quinn, a key to the success of that story and characters is down to the casting of the lead Andrew Scott, as Tommy. "Tommy was an aggressive character - what he does is quite extraordinary, so it was important for the audience to maintain sympathy for him, so he needed to lose a lot of aggression and some of the more smarmy aspects of his character. When we were casting, all the actors gave terrific readings, but they didn't sense that need for sympathy for Tommy, they played it stright, whereas Andrew gave that sympathy, even in his reading, and we knew he was the one immediately".

The shooting schedule was tough - one week's rehearsal with leads Andrew Scott and Kelly Reilly, and excellent supporting cast Darren Healy, and Katy Davies. Scott and Reilly are experienced but not very publicly exposed actors, and really did relish their roles. For everyone involved, working with veterans Gerry McSorley and Sean McGinley was a great experience. "These guys can turn on a sixpence" says Quinn, "They really added weight to the story of the younger characters". One key scene, set late at night in Ellis' (McSorley) house, was shot in two days. According to Quinn, these are "not ideal circumstances, as we're under so much pressure, but the background I had gave me the ability to achieve the schedule we had, but it's not a comfortable way to do it. You still need thinking time and time to work things out. We were prepared when we went into it. We weren't nave about it. We had it planned".

This type of planning was essential for the four and a half week shoot. Shot by Donal Gilligan, both DP and director felt that they needed a lot of movement from the camera, and after consulting with Liz Gill (director of Goldfish Memory which was shot on DV), decided to shoot on HiDef. 'Dead Bodies' is the first feature to be shot of Hi Def, and all camera/lighing/grip equipment came through VFG. Quinn was delighted that with some reshoots, both himself and Gilligan were able to re-shoot some key scenes by themselves, "that's the beauty of hi-def" says Quinn, "it gives you enormous freedom. The technology has come so far, so fast." Effects, transfer, editing and post production work was done at Windmill Lane on Hi-Def, the sound mix at Number 4, and the final mix at Ardmore Sound.

Although the film was made through the low budget initiative of the Irish Film Board, it's certainly not a guerilla-style film; it demands cautious and careful planning all the way. 'It's a great initiative' says Quinn, "I'm sure people will feel you shouldn't be making films for this amount of money, but I don't see people jumping up and down to give me 5 million, and that's the important thing if you want to produce work. You're going to have to deal with the dynamic reality of things, so the [Film Board's] scheme is terrific."

The film opens at 30 cinemas nationwide from Friday 25 April, and is released through Buena Vista. It is a confident, stylish and cool thriller set in contemporary Dublin.


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