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IFTN Talks with Writer/Director Rebecca Daly
08 Nov 2018 :
Rebecca Daly
IFTN caught up with Irish writer/director Rebecca Daly to discuss her third feature film 'Good Favour', which opens in Irish cinemas this Friday, November 9th.

Daly made her directorial debut in 2006 with her first short film 'Joyriders', which she co-wrote with writing partner Glenn Montgomery and picked up the 'Best Short Film' award at the 2007 IFTA Film & Television Awards. This was followed by another short film 'Hum' in 2010 before Daly's feature film debut 'Other Side of Sleep' in 2011. Starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Sam Keeley and Cathy Belton, the film was nominated for the Golden Camera & C.I.C.A.E. Award at 2011 Cannes Film Festival and Daly received a nomination for 'Best Director' at the 2012 IFTA Awards.

Daly's most recent project was the dark romantic-drama 'Mammal', which starred Rachel Griffiths and Barry Keoghan. Released in 2016, the film received the Spirit Award for Independent Cinema at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival. Daly was also nominated for the IFTA Rising Star Award in 2016.

Rebecca Daly's new drama 'Good Favour' releases in Irish cinemas nationwide this Friday, November 9th.

IFTN journalist Nathan Griffin caught up with Daly to find out more about her new feature film.

IFTN: The film has a very unique and unusual subject matter. What was the inspiration for yourself and Glenn to write such a story?

Rebecca: "It came from a few things. Glenn found this newspaper article online about this young guy who walked out of the Black Forest into Berlin and said he didn't know what had happened to him before. That he'd been in a car accident with his parents, but they died. Didn't know his name or where he comes from and so on.”

"We followed that story for about a year online and it ended in a pretty banal way, but we liked the setup. This idea of a young guy who arises out of nowhere and has no history and he's a complete mystery so what can he become for a community and what can they become for him? I think a big part of the film is about belonging. It's about the idea of finding community.”

"We were very interested in that. Particularly now with so much in the news about the migrant crisis and the refugee crisis and so on, this idea of people moving and outsiders versus insiders as an individual inside or outside the centre of power is a big question, I think, for all of us. How communities and people are organized. We were interested in it from that point of view as well. Then in terms of the faith aspect is because my grandmother actually has really strong Catholic faith.”

"We discussed many times the various abuses within the church and she didn't deny any of them, but her faith was so strong that it could persevere through all of that. For me, it was very interesting to think about what people will endure or put up with to preserve the idea that they have of their world that they hold dear.”
 

IFTN: Tell me a little bit about your working relationship with Glenn and how the dynamic works between you?  You must have a great shorthand having worked together on your shorts and first two features 'The Other Side of Sleep' and 'Mammal'.

Rebecca: "Yes, we started working on a short-term 'Joyriders' together. It was the first thing we wrote together. We've known each other very long time since college so we're old friends. We definitely have a shorthand and Glenn always says he knows I'm not going to like something before he gives it to me.

"I think we both know what each other will think in advance. What we do is we will get together and we'll do an outline together once we've decided upon the idea we want to focus on. Then one of us will write the first draft. For 'The Other Side of Sleep', it was me. For 'Good Favour', it was me and for 'Mammal' it was him.

"Then the next person would write the second draft and we flip back and forth like that. We don't sit together in a room and write, but it's more that if I am writing a draft plan he's acting as a script editor at that point. Then he'll give feedback with notes and then make the changes and then I'll become script editor at that point. So it is very much back and forth.”

IFTN: Would one person work on character development and the other focus on narrative or is the development as a whole a joint operation?

Rebecca: "It all comes out together because we're following our noses through the story. I suppose we don't break it down in that technical way where we say 'now character, now narrative, now structure..'. We don't break it down like that. We're following the story instead. I mean, I would say that Glenn probably enjoys plotting and I enjoy character psychology. Maybe that's where our strengths come together, but it's all mixed up. It all works together.”

IFTN: This film saw you work with a foreign cast whose first language is not English. How did you find the experience of working in that environment?

Rebecca: "It was really great. The story was always set in Central Europe and the intention was always that it would be a European cast from different countries who would speak English. The idea is that a community has gathered together from across Europe and that the common language that they speak is English, so that they can speak it with an accent and that's justified, and so on.

"Then, I was always interested in Danish actors because I admire so many of them. They do have very, very good English and equally the same with Victoria Mayer who was our German actress who played Maria. The Belgians also had good English, although not as strong as the other two and it became a little tricky with the children, because apart from the two lead children, none of the kids spoke really a word of English. I had to brush up on my French a little bit, and we also had to teach them the song phonetically, this English language song in the film, which they learned phonetically, but they did it brilliantly.

"They were really committed to doing that, but yes, that was a little bit challenging at times. Also, of course, we had to be careful with things, when they were improvising in the background chatting away, we had to try and give them English things to say so that they wouldn't be speaking French in the background, because automatically they would do that. Things like that, we had to keep a bit more of an eye on. They spent a lot of time together even the extras because they came back again and again and again, and we had the same extras so there was always this sense of community and working together about the whole project.”

IFTN: How did you find directing such a large cast who varied across such a sizeable age range?

Rebecca: "The size I suppose, only really came into it for the congregation scenes, where they're all there together. The same skills apply; also if you have a good assistant directing team which I had, they are really keeping an eye on the extras as well. Another thing that we did with all the cast is that we wrote this thing, this Bible, we called it, which contained the rules and the beliefs of the community that everyone could understand. A common understanding of how people would (in that environment) behave. The way in which they would speak to one another and the things they would speak about, especially for backgrounds. If we're getting chatter and people are talking about stuff in the city or technologically advanced stuff. That wouldn't work for us, in case it came through.

"Also, the basic belief systems of the community because it was really quite alien to most people who were involved in making it; It was very far from their own experience. I suppose there was a lot of preparation went into that. With the congregation scenes there were very long days and it was a hard one on the kids. We had to be careful with managing them because it was hot in the chapel. We had to manage their energy and try to keep them focused. Other than that, the same principles apply.

"I worked with children quite a bit before and I really enjoy that aspect. Obviously, when you're working with a child actor, it's something different that they will be looking for from you in terms of direction than an adult would. It was interesting because our two oldest members of our cast played Sophia and Peter, her husband, and they are actually a married couple in real life and they played this couple, together, but they were so full of energy. They brought a huge amount of energy to the set each day, when they were there, and a lot of laughs. They both had a great sense of humour and sadly, since Baard died, who plays Peter. I remember one time he was on the set and he was doing push-ups on the back of a pick-up truck [laughs] and our 30-year-old cinematographer was trying to compete with him [laughs] and failed.

"Baard had worked with a lot of different directors over the years and he was an extremely respected actor, particularly in Norway where he's from, and Denmark as well. At first, perhaps he was a little like, "What's going on here?", but we really developed a wonderful working relationship over the duration of the shoot. With somebody of that experience level, you do notice how many people they've worked with before, they carry that with them.”

IFTN: Can you tell me a little bit about the casting process itself, what was involved in casting an entire community?

Rebecca: "Dan Hubbard was the casting director who's based in London, and then we had another casting director in Belgium. We were looking for Tom everywhere. We looked for Tom in London, we looked for him in the Netherlands and also in Denmark, and then in Belgium. She was also looking for a lot of the supporting roles then. I went to Denmark, we knew we were going to get the central family out of Denmark because that was the plan. I went there with Dan and we did some castings and some call-backs and so on there. That was pretty straightforward actually.

"Then Belgium was a bit more complicated, because of the language thing actually. Also, for example, with Tom we found a particular difficulty because I saw a lot of self-tapes of young guys that were the right age, but he needs to have a certain presence or a special feel about him. That was hard to find. We were getting a little bit stressed until Vincent came along. As soon as I saw his tape I was really like, "Wow. There's something special.

"He's so intriguing and his look is just mesmerizing. I think you really can watch him for a long time. I felt, "This is the one." Then we did a lot of work, because he had no experience, really, at all. Then through the process of the shoot he really, really grew in confidence as well. We weighted it so that all of his big scenes, all of his more difficult scenes, were towards the end of the shoot. He had really grown in confidence and was really able to really carry those scenes then, which I think he did.”

IFTN: The location plays a key part in this film as it centres on a religious congregation living in solitude in rural Europe. How did you come across the location for filming? 

Rebecca: "We knew we were shooting in Belgium. Actually, I'd been told in advance that Belgium has really great summers and then when I went over there and we were looking at locations every Belgium person I met went, "No, it's like Ireland." [laughs] "Just like Ireland." The script was written for these hot, long summer days so I was slightly disturbed by that. Actually, we ended up with this freakishly hot summer. That was absolutely brilliant, it was really great luck. We looked at various locations, but obviously, it had to be in a woodland setting. Also, we were looking, I guess, for some buildings to already exist that we could add to.

"The budget of the film is not big, and obviously, building a village is a huge amount of cost and time and so on. Where we ended up is actually an agricultural architectural museum, basically, in the middle of nowhere in Wallonia, in the French speaking part of Belgium. It wasn't very busy so they closed down a section of it that we could work in for literally a month. Some of the rooms existed, but we built everything else around them and some houses from scratch, which was wonderful. I've never had that experience before, of being able to build a location where literally everything that's in your imagination can end up in there.”

"The only limit is budget, really. That was extraordinary. The cinematographer started on the film a good five weeks before we shot. We just spent so much there, fleshing things out in terms of shots and so on. The cast were able to spend a good bit of time there and the atmosphere of the place really seeped into everyone, which I think really helped.”

Wildcard Distribution release 'Good Favour' in cinemas this Friday, November 9th.




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