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Five Minutes with ‘Glassland’ producer Juliette Bonass
18 Aug 2015 : Paul Byrne
Producer Juliette Bonass
With ‘Glassland’ being released on DVD, IFTN’s Paul Byrne talks to producer Juliette Bonass about putting the filmmaker before the box-office.

As with all good art, there’s a need in film to shine a light into life’s darkest corners. It’s in the shadows, after all, that we can often see the truly bright side of life, the acceptance that the Hollywood happy ending is unlikely to arrive before the closing credits merely an acceptance that, hey, real life is no fairytale.

In both of his award-winning, low-budget films, ‘Pilgrim Hill’ (2013) and ‘Glassland’ (2015), rising Kerry filmmaker Gerard Barrett takes us into the dark side of Irish life, the former dealing with a country farmer trying to keep his heart, homestead and dying father together, the latter with a loving son trying to pull his alcoholic mother back from the edge, even if it means doing some well-paid dirty work. Both of Barrett’s films were greeted with good-to-raving reviews, many admiring the brazen bleakness of these very human stories.

As Barrett’s award-winning film is released on the home market, we talk to its producer, Juliette Bonass, about the making and marketing of ‘Glassland’, playing on the downbeat, and the shape of things to come for Irish film...

Paul Byrne: Young writer/director Gerard Barrett hit the ground running in 2013 with no-budget, highly-acclaimed ‘Pilgrim Hill’; guessing it was still tough though to get Glassland up and running...?

Juliette Bonass: ‘Gerard wrote a very brilliant and thought-provoking script with ‘Glassland’ so our financiers were really eager to come on board and with the success of ‘Pilgrim Hill’, he had already shown his huge potential as a very talented writer/director. Therefore in a way it wasn’t the toughest. He was confident that he could do it on a streamlined budget so that also helped. Ed Guiney and I also had the confidence in him and ourselves to make this on a low budget. The script didn’t call for any major SFX, special wardrobe or make-up, numerous locations or music tracks. It was all very pared down and essentially all about the characters, their conversations and their dilemmas. Gerard wasn’t afraid to get right down to the heart of the matter so it’s all very raw and real. This is also his style and he is always is of the opinion that if it isn’t needed, lose it.’

When you’ve got a filmmaker that people want to work with, you’re going to attract a solid name cast such as Toni Colette, Jack Reynor and Will Poulter. Sign on more for love than money, right?

‘Correct. The cast fell in love with the script & also liked the cast already attached. They connected with Gerard as a person and as a talent in their meetings with him so that all clinched it for them. We got really lucky in that every cast member that we wanted and approached for each of the main roles said yes. It was a really small and supportive cast and crew which I think everyone found very special.’

What are your main concerns when producing a movie like ‘Glassland’, beyond Gerard being free to make the movie that he wants to make - that you score an artistic triumph or a healthy box-office?

‘Artistic triumph, definitely. And I think that we gave it the best shot at that and were lucky to get a very experienced and talented cast. It was important to stay true to the voice of the script and of the director, have full faith in both, and make a very honest and important film. Then any fruits that come out of that are very welcome. We were also nurturing a new talent here so we couldn’t put too much pressure on it in that way.’

With both films, Gerard has been almost stubbornly downbeat; not an easy sell, to the financers or those fickle cinema-goers? Is that why you signed on, or deep down, are you searching for the Irish Michael Bay?

‘I am always just looking for a good script and a good director. After that comes cast. As long as I know that we are making or at least trying to make an impactful film then there shouldn’t be too many other factors impeding your decision. Other factors of course, should be very much considered and all efforts should be made to help people see the film at the end of the day. But it should not be the leading and deciding factor in my opinion. Especially for those trying to prove themselves and create a style of their own going forward.’

There’s a very strong chance that Glassland’s biggest audience will be on the small screen - you okay with that?

‘Obviously, we want a big audience for both the big and the small screen, but we really want people to see the film in whatever format, as long as they see it.’

You have Darren Thornton’s ‘A Date For Mad Mary’ in post-production - any good?

‘I am very excited for ‘A Date for Mad Mary’. Darren Thornton has proven that he is an innovative and dynamic talent with ‘Love is the Drug’ and his short films including ‘Frankie’. He is always pushing the boundaries as to what’s fresh in terms of story and storytelling – landing you in hard and then unexpectedly playing with your heartstrings with the sadness of the characters. This is true as well with this comedy drama, written by him and Colin Thornton. Fantastically, it has an all-female cast, starring Seána Kerslake (‘Dollhouse’) in the lead role with brilliant newcomers Tara Lee and Charleigh Bailey along with established talents Denise McCormack and Norma Sheehan. The story sees Mary return to her local town of Drogheda after a spell in prison to a place where everything and everyone has changed. Charlene, her best friend, has appointed Mary the Maid of Honour at her wedding and when she doesn’t give Mary a plus-one for the wedding, on the grounds that she probably couldn’t find one, she is determined to prove her wrong. She throws herself into the local dating scene, which proves not to be easy in a town where everyone knows her reputation. It’s a very different and uplifting film that we are excited to get out there. We should be ready to release early next year.’

Finally, has there been an Irish film over the last few years that you really, really wish you had been a part of...?

‘What Richard Did' was very impressive. And I think 'One Million Dubliners' was very powerful. The last few years have been great in terms of quality Irish films.’

‘Glassland’ is out on DVD now.




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