Declan Recks • Director / Eugene O’Brien • Screenwriter
"In Ireland cinema has grown thanks to TV"
Acclaimed television director Declan Recks and playwright-screenwriter Eugene O’Brien were on hand at the Irish Film Fest in Rome to present their TV series Pure Mule (2005) and film Eden [+see also:
interview: Declan Recks
film profile], the adaptation of O’Brien’s award-winning play of the same name. Pure Mule won five Irish Film and Television Awards and is one of the biggest hits of Irish television. Eden, Recks’ feature debut, won the Boston Irish Film Festival.
Cineuropa: There are certain analogies between Eden and Pure Mule, starting with the setting.
Eugene O’Brien: Certainly, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Love, loss, madness, the weekend, the pub – they’re all shared elements. But the approach is different. Pure Mule was a six-part mini-series for TV. Eden was created for the cinema.
Declan Recks: The success of Pure Mule allowed us to make Eden.
How is the approach different?
O’Brien: From my point of view as a screenwriter, when you write for television you can create longer and more complex dialogue. Film demands more visual elements. It takes us months to write a television storyline, which is the hardest part to write, writing the teleplay later is simpler. David Chase, the writer of The Sopranos, said the same thing. Making movies is harder.
Recks: We wanted to make Pure Mule as cinematic as possible, to speed up its rhythm. We shot in HD in 16:9. These days many American TV shows have production values similar to film.
Are the characters in Eden based on real people?
O’Brien: I come from the Midlands and the characters are based on two people I know. Obviously, the characters you write are a mix of various elements but you always put something of yourself in them, of your memories and acquaintances.
Two different shooting techniques are used for the two main characters.
Recks: Breda and Billy Farrell live under the same roof but in two completely separate worlds. We had to create different points of view, highlight different inner lives. So there are classic shots for Breda and a hand-held camera for Billy, and different colours for each. But we hoped that viewers would take in these aspects in a subliminal way.
Irish cinema seems to have undergone a crisis in terms of its screenwriters. What has changed?
O’Brien: In Ireland we don’t have the kind of film history that exists in Italy or France. We only have a great literary tradition, with Joyce, Yeats.... We had to learn how to render what we write into something visual. Great courses were organized to teach people to think in more cinematic terms and that allowed us to grow.
Recks: Since 2000, national public television has been investing more in TV series, so we’ve started having faith in ourselves and gaining more experience.
It’s always difficult to make your next film. What projects do you have together?
Recks: We’re going to shoot a two-part special with the characters of Pure Mule, set in the present: the country’s changed, there’s a crisis, there are no jobs. We’re also working on a new project, a one-week workshop with five actors who will work on a story. We’ll write the screenplay later, we think it’s best to invest more time with the actors before writing the first draft.
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