22 July 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network

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Newport Beach Spotlight: director Declan Recks discusses Tarrac!
03 Oct 2023 : Luke Shanahan
We caught up with director Declan Recks ahead of the theatrical release of his feature film, Tarrac!, on October 6th. The film is set to have its Southern Californian Premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival on October 18th.

As a director, Declan Recks has worked in both film and television. His latest film Tarrac!, an Irish language film funded through the Cine4 scheme, is not the director’s first foray into Irish language drama, having directed all four episodes of the 2007 TG4 comedy-drama The Running Mate.

Tarrac! follows Aoife, who returns home to her father in Kerry following his heart attack. They get long, but much remains unspoken about the loss of Aoife’s mother. Meanwhile, Aoife is lured back into the competitive world of Naomhóg racing. With a big race coming up, the grief she has suppressed for years over the death of her mother surfaces.

The film was written by Eugene O’Brien, a close collaborator of Recks, who has worked with the director on multiple projects such as Pure Mule and Eden, and produced by Clíona Ní Bhuachalla (The Clinic). The cast includes Kelly Gough (Raw), Lorcan Cranitch (Lakelands), and Kate Nic Chonaonaigh (An Cailín Ciúin).

We sat down with director Declan Recks to discuss his ongoing collaborations, using his "School Irish" to direct as Gaeilge, and shooting in Kerry.

IFTN: What was the genesis of Tarrac?

DECLAN: “I had worked with the producer Cliona previously and she had asked if Eugene and I would be interested in working on a script for Cine4. We got together to discuss ideas and the world of the Naomhóg and father-daughter relationships were suggested and the story came from that starting point.”

“Cliona is very familiar with Dingle and the Regattas down there and I had been at the Spiddal Regatta many years earlier and thought the races would be an exciting backdrop for a film. But the heart of the film is a story of a father and daughter who haven’t come to terms with the grief of losing a wife and mother. This was something Cliona and I were interested in exploring on film having both lost a parent in recent years.”

“Our two main characters, Bear and Aoife have dealt with their grief in different ways. Bear has just got on with things, burying himself in drink and the races, while Aoife ran away to Dublin and buried herself in her work, cutting off ties with her hometown. The world of the Naomhógs and the camaraderie that comes from being part of a rowing team seemed like an interesting way to lift our lead character out of her slump and pull her back into the land of the living again.”

IFTN: You’ve worked with screenwriter Eugene O’Brien many times, how has your collaboration with one another evolved over the years?

DECLAN: “Working with a regular collaborator is a luxury and I’m very lucky to have found someone like Eugene who shares a lot of the same experiences and interests. We’re both from the midlands, as a result a lot of our work has been set in that environment. We’re also both really interested in stories about family and relationship dynamics. I think with every project we’ve learned something new and hopefully gotten better at telling the stories we want to tell.”

“We were very fortunate that the TV series we made together, Pure Mule, was well received and was made at a time when it was ok to make a TV series that was aimed primarily at the domestic market. With TV now, it’s become the norm to have at least one international co-funder in order to finance a show, which has the result of narrowing the field of what’s possible. I’m not sure a show about a bunch of young people partying in the midlands would make it to the screen at the moment, not unless we threw in a murder or two to attract some international sales!”

“Similarly our first film together, Eden, was made at a time when RTÉ, Screen Ireland and the BAI were working together to make local films, without the need to find international money. RTÉ, in their wisdom, withdrew support for those films. Luckily TG4 has picked up the mantle and we now have Cine4! I’m currently developing a new script with Eugene and with Pure Mule and Eden producer David Collins, which we plan to shoot late next year.”

IFTN: How did you find the experience of creating a film through the Cine4 scheme?

DECLAN: “It was relatively straightforward. We sent in a treatment, they liked it, and we were given development finance to produce a draft of the script. There were notes to be dealt with, but both Deirbhile Ní Churraighín at TG4 and Lesley McKimm at Screen Ireland were always very supportive of the project. We were given a green light in late 2019 and were set to shoot in early 2020, but had a number of false starts when Covid hit, and we postponed twice. As a result we kept refining the script, and I think during that time we managed to solve some of the script problems that might otherwise have come back to haunt us in the edit. We eventually shot in October/November of 2021.”

IFTN: Tarrac was filmed on location in Kerry, what effect did those landscapes have on the production?

DECLAN: “Shooting in Kerry is very special. The sea and the mountains obviously provided a unique backdrop for our story. But more importantly, both the Irish language and the culture of Naomhóg racing are alive on the peninsula, so it was the natural place to set our story. I’d directed a series for TG4 in Dingle many years ago called The Running Mate, produced by Treasure Entertainment, and it was such a great experience that I jumped at the chance to film there again.”

“The people are terrific, we got so much cooperation from the rowing community. Karen and Monza from the Dingle Rowing Club in particular, who took our four actors under their wing and gave them their final weeks training and supplied all the boats and crews for the races. I think it’s been really interesting that almost all the Cine4 films have been shot in locations outside of Dublin, the stories are rooted in the areas they’ve been shot, and have had a real authenticity to them as a result.”

IFTN: I understand you don’t speak Irish yourself, how did you find directing actors who are delivering dialogue as Gaeilge?

DECLAN: “I have ‘School Irish’, which isn’t very good, but when I was approached to direct Running Mate I was convinced by the two leads, Don Wycherley and Denis Conway, that we could make it work. Both of them had trained as teachers before they became actors and probably thought they could re-educate me. The scripts I’ve worked with are usually dual language, and I would discuss the scene in English with the actors and then I would have an Irish language advisor on set to help with any dialogue and interpretation issues.”

IFTN: You’re directing Baz Ashmawy’s upcoming series Faithless, what can you tell us about your work on that project?

DECLAN: “I was approached about Faithless when it was still just an idea with one episode written. I thought it was a really fresh take on a multi-racial family living in Dublin, a very modern Irish Family. Baz had written the first episode already and we were all set to shoot some scenes from it as a teaser when Covid happened. But when the first lockdown ended we got the teaser done, Michael Garland shopped it around and put together the finance. It’s a show about family relationships. The scripts have a lovely balance of humour and pathos. We have an amazing Irish-Egyptian cast, with the two youngest members of the family, Noor Salem and Carmen Rose Youssef, making their acting debuts. The wonderful Amir El-Masry, Raad Rawi, Eleanor Methven, Suzie Seweify, Dawn Bradfield and Art Campion make up the rest of the family.”

Tarrac releases in Irish cinemas from October 6th, 2023.

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