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Dave Tynan on Directing
30 Jun 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Director Dave Tynan.
With the IFTA Awards Viewing Season in full swing, we showcase Irish talent who are blazing a trail across our industry, working in front of and behind the camera.

Hosted in association with IFTA, this Q&A Series connects with Irish talent who represent a range of disciplines across our industry. 

We find out what they look out for in the projects they take on, what their approach is to filmmaking and on-set collaboration; what inspires them; what current trends and techniques they like, and dislike in the industry.

We spoke with IFTA-winning director Dave Tynan, whose debut feature film Dublin Oldschool became one of the highest-grossing Irish films in 2018. Originally a stage play, the Dublin-set feature film was adapted for the screen by Emmet Kirwan (’71) and Dave Tynan (Just Sayin); who previously collaborated on IFTA-winning short film, Heartbreak (2017). The project was also directed by Tynan with Kirwan in the lead role alongside Ian Lloyd Anderson (Love/Hate, Game of Thrones), Seána Kerslake (A Date for Mad Mary, Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope) and Sarah Greene (Rosie, Rebellion). Tynan’s short film Rockmount, about a young Roy Keane, was also the recipient of the Best Drama (Short Film) Award at the 2014 Galway Film Fleadh.

What attracted you to Dublin Oldschool and why did you want to direct it?

“The core of the play when I saw it was the two brothers. Those scenes knew both of them, the subject matter; knew they could make each other laugh and also tear strips off each other.”

Where did you take inspiration from during the process?

“The inspirations was probably films that were more realist; more gritty; to try ground the language, which has a heightened flavour. The decision to go handheld is one example.”

What is your general style of working with the team, cinematographer, etc., and what is the most important focus for you during the whole production?

“Ideally a director is the prism everything goes through; in service of the story. I think at the time my focus was to get the script shot. A better analysis of the job is probably to get the story shot. Let cast or crew be their best through what you do; they might get towards a way of thinking about working. Directing is in some way the intangible job.”


How do you like to approach working with actors in general to get the best results and what advice would you give to aspiring directors on this front?

“Every actor is different. You’re talking to different people. So that’s worth thinking about. It’s a cliché, but casting is so much of it.

“Advice for aspiring directors… you should know why you’re asking anyone to do anything. Directing is a privileged position. You should have watched more than anyone else. Know the text as they should; then help them. Don’t overload them. I find watching rehearsals back before shooting helps me a lot. You miss things. Your radar for a good performance sharpens with time. Film is a synthesis… you should have and actively be cultivating interests outside of the films you like.”

Tell me about your experience on set, and your favourite moment during production?
“I learned a lot; I hadn’t directed a feature before and nobody tells you what prep is like… With a short, you’re never tired on the first-day shooting. I suppose a lot of it was trying to adapt to a big crew (for me) and what that meant for how I work, and where I work too; i.e. we were often shooting in the middle of town. I remember the last scene of the film was the last thing we did in the first week and I knew we had it; that was a great end to that week.”

What was your first role as a director (feature/short), and how has your style changed over the years?
“It would be one of the shorts I directed in IADT. Skinning a Cat was fun; that’s still on YouTube… Teddy Bear too. I don’t feel I’ve arrived at my style. That’s the exciting bit; why you keep going; to move towards that.
“Maybe you’d arrive at a style at the end of a film and probably it would be right for that film only. Maybe you can arrive at a culture and keep that.”
 
What do you think of the current state of filmmaking in independent and mainstream cinema? Are there trends you’re excited about or that you like/dislike?
“There’s more value in talking about what’s good than what isn’t. There has been loads of stunning films released in the past couple of years… Leave No Trace, Monos, Cold War, Shoplifters, Beast, Phantom Thread, You Were Never Really Here… couldn’t recommend those enough, just as a handful of examples. They’re two different questions too: independent cinema has to be excellent to get seen, or so that the average person even hears about it; if they ever do. That’s not true of mainstream cinema. We need both and it shouldn’t be binary either…  I always loved what lived in the middle.”

“It’s not a new trend, but I hate the loss of the communal experience in cinema. That collective sharing will be missed; though how I’m not sure. I think there is so much new “content” (hate that word) on streaming services that is overcut and overscored, and that negatively influences how viewers experience anything that deviates from those attention-hungry forms and that makes me sad.”

What filmmaker or director’s work has influenced or inspired you the most? 

“It’s hard to pick apart your formative influences. I grew up fairly close to the old Laser Video rental shop on George’s St. I want to say there?

But that’s not a film. Maybe it’s a way of thinking about films though? 70s American cinema was the first thing to hit the sweet spot for me; it wasn’t a million miles away from what you knew, but it took you to different places. These days… Andrea Arnold is next level; Khalil Joseph too.”

What other Irish filmmaker have you been most impressed by in recent times?

“I think it’ll be clear sooner or later what a brilliant, committed filmmaker Frank Berry is. From what I understand of his approach, it has to take time, but I’m sure it’ll become an incredible body of work. I’m glad we have someone like that working in an Irish tradition. Rialto and Sea Fever are next on my list, and dying to see Cathy Brady’s feature when it’s out.”

Is there an Irish film over the last few years that you wish you had been a part of...?

“Some of the recent documentaries have been superb, not in a “wish I’d been part of it” way; more I couldn’t do something like that. I, Dolours and Katie are two recent ones. In drama… my first thought is A Date For Mad Mary, so I’ll say that.”

We often are our own worst critics. What is your approach to constructive criticism and inward reflection?

“I suppose knowing where the criticism is coming from is instructive. The more you work; the more you know your own standards and measures of success. That said; criticism can be a useful slap. Mentoring has been worth more than criticism; it’s criticism from practitioners, earned lessons from working life.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career, which you’d give to aspiring directors?

“Keep the faith.”

How have you channelled your creativity during lockdown?

“I’ve been writing fairly hard. I finished a script; a TV pilot, and made a lot of progress on a collection of short stories.”

Click here to read more of our interview series.





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