Transcript: Belfast Directors’ Q&A

published May 2010
written by

Moderator: They will come and talk to us a bit about the film. It’s a bit with those micros, so if you’ll just shout if you’re asking a question, just loudly.
So someone once said that making a film takes three years of your life. Do you think we’re getting there? Do you think that’s nearly true?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Actually when I’m thinking about it, something like that. It’s certainly been – becomes your life for that much time, whether or not making it takes that much time. We… and I mean actually that’s quite short for a film, you know, there can be films that you work on for such a long time. We got involved with Cherrybomb though very late, I suppose. The script had been written and the production team was sort of in place.

Glenn Leyburn: I think the guys who were working on it before had been working on it for about five years before.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, Daragh Carville, who wrote the script, and Michael Casey, who was one of the producers, they had it going for a while, and, so we got involved with the script about a year before we started to shoot, and that’s about two years ago now. So yeah, three years. It’s been a good three years though, it was great.

Moderator: So that’s true. Did you – it always feels like such a Belfast film for me, but it’s about a new Belfast. It’s more about this new, younger generation in Belfast, new buildings going up, new developments everywhere. And was that actually in the script, or was that something that emerged when you were shooting?

Glenn Leyburn: Well, it was in the script, but actually the script, in one of its carnations, I mean Daragh grew up in Armargh, so more of a country than a suburban environment. And it was really a lot of the story losely based on him and his friend at the time, and I guess when we read it, it really felt like Armargh in the 1980ies. Yeah, and it was called Sin Spree, and it was about boys basically breaking all the sins. And we sort of felt, when we came on board, and the guys had already developed the script in a certain extent, but we were keen to take it to somewhere else, they themselves, Brian and Daragh, they felt that it should go somewhere else, and that’s where we came on board.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, I think they wanted us to bring some sort of fresh look at it and try and place it somewhere a bit more contemporary, so what we really loved about it, I think, the things we were really looking at in the script was the cameraderie and the friendship between the two boys, that there’s a real energy, and, you know, that kind of banter between them, but also a real warmth that you can feel at the very heart of that friendship. But what’s also great is that it takes place over this really crazy weekend, but essentially it’s a coming of age story, and to be able to tell that kind of rites of passage story in a very tightly constructed events, but we’re, we think it’s lovely for a film. But what we also really thought was, you know, for teenagers growing up here nowadays, I mean our generation grew up with the Troubles, being a very defining part of living in Northern Ireland, but for teenagers now, you know, people of the age of the people in the film, that’s something from the history books, you know, and I think that’s something for young people a bit… We certainly talked to teenagers during the time we were developing this, and they were slightly frustrated that the place they lived in was completely defined by this, and they just wanted to continue their normal lives, and do things that kids at any town in the UK or Europe or whereever were doing. So we wanted to, I suppose, reflect that, and the fact that Belfast as a city is looking for its new identity after having been through that very troubled history, really chimed with what the characters were going through that same sort of rite of passage story that they were involved in.

Moderator: I mean, for me it’s a very fresh film, it looks fresh, and it feels fresh, and of course it’s populated by very fresh, young talent, and you can’t talk about it without talking about the cast, obviously…

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Our lovely cast…

Moderator: It’s a fabulous cast, and it’s also probably and, you couldn’t have asked for a better cast anyway, but how did you manage to actually get everybody on board, and what was the process like, really? Can you just, cause I think that’s what sort of everybody is dying to know. How did you get Rupert, and how did you get Robert?

Glenn Leyburn: Well, actually the casting process, initially, we did a Northern casting locally, and around a lot of schools here, and looking for the boys and Michelle, and we went down South and saw a lot of people, but then, you know the script was sent out to various people, agencies, so they passed it on to Rupert.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, throughout the casting process, we sent it out to various agents, and you know, some people come back and say, “Well, this is something we’d really like to do”, and I think that happened with Rupert around the same time we actually met Robbie for the first time down south, and I mean, the characters in the film are sixteen, but the actors are a little bit older as you might know, and it’s, with all the actors we had cast, they all had some, obviously with Rupert, and with the other two as well, they’ve had experience on feature films, and I think they’re all quite big dramatic roles, to be taken on by people who’re just starting, you know, who haven’t done much film work before, and that applies to a lot of really young actors. So, I think the boys, we cast everyone around the same time, and we were always looking out for what the dynamic was going to be between the three, because that was obviously the most important thing about the film. So I think we got lucky, anyways, with the right people.

Glenn Leyburn: So much in filmmaking is the planet’s just alignment and, you know, you can try your best, but these things happen, and they tend to have a way of working themselves to be the way that they’re gonna be. So yeah, I’d like to say it was all carefully crafted, but… *laughs*

Moderator: I’m sure the producer would like to say that now.

Glenn Leyburn: Oh no, we have a wonderful producer!

Lisa Barros D’Sa: But there is a lot of luck involved…

Glenn Leyburn: There is. You know, I think most film producers would say that, just to get everything come together on the day is a tricky thing.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: And I think with the cast as well, you sort of have a feel of the character that you’re looking for, and you know it can take – we had seen a few guys certainly before we found Robbie, before Rupert came along, but it’s not about things like hair colour or height or something like that, you just need to, you need a feel for the character that you want to have there, and then when you find it, you really know. And that’s why it feels like a piece of luck.

Glenn Leyburn: Yeah, and I mean we saw a lot of really talented actors here, but they just weren’t right for these roles, you know. And we hopefully will use those people for the next projects, they’re certainly people that we’re gonna come back to.

Moderator: So that was your first feature obviously, so was it actually intimidating, sort of stepping on the set the first time and that whole thing?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, I think, stepping onto the set for the first time, I think we had, yeah, it’s always a bit scary on the first day, but we had, with the short that we did before, we did a proper short that we did before this, and it had quite a big crew and a big cast, and I think that the first day on that was…

Glenn Leyburn: …petrifying… I forgot to put my headphones off for the first time, and banged them on, I was so frightened.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: So we sort of knew what to expect from the set just from that, how many people are around and the bustle of everything, and going to concentrate with all of that going on. But yes, it was really pretty… you know, it’s pretty intimidating prospect of… to walk onto a feature because it’s month, or five weeks out of your life, and you just hope that everyone’s gonna be last, and that it starts well. There’s so many big-picture things that you don’t really worry about on a short.

Glenn Leyburn: We were really lucky with this feature because we had so many great people around us where, again, a lot of filmmaking is so collaborative, it’s so about the people that surround you, so we were lucky to be working with a director of photography who we’d worked with before and who we know well, so that relationship was in place. Our producer, Mark Huffam, he came in after Michael, and certainly brought us on board.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yeah, Mike and Mark at Generator, they really helped with the production, I mean, the machine just ran really beautifully from the beginning, so that was lovely.

Glenn Leyburn: Mark was, he made some really big movies, so, you know, to have his experience was a sound thing, and you couldn’t have asked for anything better for a first-time director to be working with.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: There is also, I mean, feature is so much bigger, you know, financially even, apart from anything else, and you just feel like, jumping up from a short, you know, people are placing a lot of trust in you, to actually make it happen, and I think that sort of responsibility is pretty huge, wouldn’t you say?

Glenn Leyburn: Yeah!

Moderator: Does it sort of help that you have each other? I was always wondering if you did who-does-what or I imagine that you have these arguments “No, I want to do that scene that way, and that scene that way” or something? I just wonder how you…

Glenn Leyburn: No, we did… Well, the interesting thing is, I guess in the development process, and then in preparation, we are asking each other the difficult questions, and you know, we don’t always agree about everything at that stage of the process, and we’re asking each other backwards and forwards why we want it this way, or “What do you think”. I mean, more often that not we do agree, but there are moments where there is a debate on one side. But the good thing is, by the time you get on set, you’ve worked a lot through these issues, and…

Lisa Barros D’Sa: …no, but you’re absolutely right, there being two really makes you regress in the progression because you’re constantly asking questions all the time about everything, so while there’s a lot of spontaneous stuff happens on set, you know where the answers are going to come from if you need them, you know, to do things. So no, we didn’t really have arguments on the set.

Glenn Leyburn: No, we don’t. And actually we do trust each other’s opinion. I mean, we’ve been working together for years and years and years, outside of filmmaking even, you know, I worked as a graphic designer for many years, and Lisa worked as a writer, and we collaborated on projects even throughout that period, so it’s not like we’ve just come together for this film. It’s a process of probably ten years of doing work on some smaller projects ahead of this, and that certainly helped.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, if we didn’t have a good shared vision there’d be no point in doing this together because it would just be a nightmare, you know, if you would knock your heads all the time. But it’s fun to work together, really.

CB QFT1Glenn Leyburn: I think the other thing is our background, I come from a visual background, and Lisa is from a slightly more literary background, so we do have a slight division in the way we look at things, but…

Lisa Barros D’Sa: …yeah, I tend to work with the actors more, and Glenn perhaps with the cinematographer more, but…

Glenn Leyburn: …it crosses over.

Moderator: So, what’s next, there’s been a lot about the film on the internet and on facebook. I know you have your own feelings about the facebook page, but there’s a lot of activity to try and get it released in America, is that right?

Glenn Leyburn: Yeah!

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, we’ve had a huge amount of support from… we’ve got a couple of familiar faces in the audience who’ve come, from Rupert’s fansites, who’ve travelled, you know, with us to various screenings, and who’ve supported the film from, right from the beginning, right from when it was being shot and it’s a difficult time in the last year to get small movies out and distributed, and they’ve been hugely instrumental in helping and in getting attention in chat campaigns campaign etcetera. And I think especially for a film for such a young audience it’s hugely important nowadays.

Glenn Leyburn: Yeah, absolutely, the work of all the fans online has been absolutely amazing, yeah.

Moderator: Yes, the fanbase around Cherrybomb has been phenomenal, really.

Glenn Leyburn: Yeah, we couldn’t be more pleased.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, they have been really good to the film and we really appreciate it.

Moderator: And it wasn’t such a painful experience that it has put you off from doing it, because you’re doing it again!

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes! *laugh*

Moderator: Well, QFT are really excited about the next film and we’re already campaigning to have it here when it starts. It’s called Good Vibrations, and people might already know a little bit about it, but would you like to say a little bit about it, and maybe talk about the open casting that is going on?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, Good Vibrations is a story, it is set in Belfast, mostly around the 1970ies, and it’s really the story about Ulster punk through the life of local legend and record shop owner Terry Hooley.

Moderator: It’s set in Belfast?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, apparently there’s another Facebook campaign that Terry’s created about Belfast, I don’t know how it’s going, but we’ll be surprised if it happened, put it that way. But Terry is an amazing character and during the high time of the Troubles when everything was closing down left and right, and he opened up a record shop on the most-bombed half-mile, Great Victoria Street, and called it Good Vibrations. And it’s really the story of Terry and his discovery of this very dark underground local punk rock scene, and his drive to get these local musicians out there, heard by the world, and through him, punk music really became this kind of engine to break out of this city which, you know, was so oppressed by the Troubles, back to life, in some kind of way. So it’s a brilliant script and really darkly comedic by local writer Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry, and we’re very excited about it. We have to shoot it later in the summer, and we’re having our first casting session on Sunday. We’re looking for young local musicians who, especially for this casting, we’re looking for young guys…

Glenn Leyburn: …16 to 25…

Lisa Barros D’Sa: … to play members of the bands who were around at that time, like the Undertones, Rudy and the Outcasts, so check our Facebook page, it’s Good Vibrations The Film and there are the details there if anybody knows any friends who might fancy coming along to that.

Moderator: Enough of me, I think, does anybody have any questions? It’s a little bit dark in here, so stick your hand up or just yell out. Anybody?

Audiece: We know that in the pool room, the walls are really covered in paintings, but you decided to cover them up with these white walls. How did that come about?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: That was a very practical decision, as I remember. There were lovely murals in the pool rooms, but they were very expensive to do. I think in fact they had been created by a mural painter who had designed the murals in Elton John’s house, or so we were told. Anyway, they didn’t want us to go near them with a grafitty painter and things like that, and really we wanted to rough-up the place a bit for that pool party scene, so we decided to just cover it in mats.

Glenn Leyburn: The result is also an element, in a lot of the scenes, we tried to limit multi-colour on screen at any given time, it was incredibly multi-coloured, so it was quite limiting the palette, so it served a double purpose, that was quite good.

Moderator: Anybody else? Go for it, Lydia.

Audiece: Why did you call it Cherrybomb? Was there a different title for it?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Well, it only had one title before that, when it was still in the early stages in script, when it was still the boys trying to committ the seven deadly sins, one by one. Glenn came up with Cherrybomb, so maybe you should explain it.

Glenn Leyburn: Well, there’s a track by the band Runaways, called Cherrybomb, and David Holmes, who did the score, and we work quite closely with David even in the development process where he puts up CDs and we listen to stuff, you know, and that influences in how the scenes play out and whatever. And one of the tracks that came up on many of the CDs was the Runaways’ Cherrybomb, and it has very appropriate lyrics, and I think David and I were at a party and it was about 4 or 5 in the morning, and it was playing, and suddenly it was like “Should we call it Cherrybomb”, so… and we think it has kind of layered it, so it doesn’t just mean one thing, it means different things, some obvious and some not so obvious.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: I suppose a couple of the obvious ones are that Cherrybomb is a firework, so not only do we have a lot of fireworks, it is one of the things the kids play with during the course of the film, but it’s also a nice metaphor for this character Michelle, who comes and, you know, sort of lands in the middle of these boys’ lives and has a slightly explosive impact. So we thought it’s a nice play on various different meanings.

Moderator: Well, it does have an amazing soundtrack, obviously, by a well-known composer David Holmes…

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, absolutely.

Glenn Leyburn: Yes, it’s really amazing, I mean, again, cause Lisa and I have been collaborating on things for many years, some before film, again with David Holmes, we have been collaborating on many projects before film, and I did a lot of his record covers and stuff, and Lisa did writings for inside his record sleeves, so we’ve all been collaborating for many years.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, I mean, David is one of our best pals, and there’s just, you know, probably fifteen years ago, we all sat around together and said “It would be great if we could all make films together some day” and so it’s really nice that it’s happening.

Glenn Leyburn: Here we are!

Lisa Barros D’Sa: It took us fifteen years!

Moderator: Does anybody else have a question? Go for it.

Audiece: I just don’t know much about making movies, I’m just curious about this: How – I thought the soundtrack was really amazing, especially in certain scenes when it repeated itself, and I was curious about how you collaborated on making these decisions, like when to put which music into the film.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yeah, I mean, it’s a really…it’s a big part of creating the emotion of the film with the music, so those decisions are really important, and ones that you spend a lot of time over. And working with a world-class person like David Holmes is a big part of that, because he brings so many ideas and, I guess, really understands how music and emotion really work together in a film, so that was a good place to start. And he would also, as Glenn said, as we were developing the script even from the early days, he would feed in ideas about sound. I think sometimes music is dealt with really late on in the process and kind of built it on at the end of the film, but we were really keen that the music was a very intricate part of the development. Not just because music is a big part in the life of the two boys, the two friends, but it was also about looking at Belfast in a new way, there are really vibrant local bands here, and we wanted to involve some brilliant local artists, you know, whose songs are featured on the soundtrack, that was very important to us, too. So there are several tracks that you’ll have heard by brilliant local musicians like Cashier No 9 and Robyn Shiels, and various others.

Glenn Leyburn: You know, there are two distinctive traits to the soundtrack as well: the bits that David composed and those are the repeated bits that come up, and also the needle drop, which are just the score tracks which we bring in, you know, by bands, but yeah, having a really talented composer like David is fantastic, cause we can really talk about the emotion of the scene and what we want, and he instinctively has a great grasp of that and he’ll play us things and he will temp-play, he will score as well, tune in what will be his own compositions, even things that we’re not going to use, just to see if it fits the mood of the scene and to see how it plays out. And then we can kind of play around with that a little bit and find a mood that’s right, and then he’ll take that track out and he’ll compose something that has the same mood but is completely different. So that tends the process.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yeah, that’s right, and sometimes you have, you know, you associate certain themes with certain characters, and those themes play again when the characters come along or, when you need a mood again, or when you want to remind the audience of a certain mood, you know you refer to that piece again. So it’s a really fascinating part of the process.

CB QFT2Moderator: One of the other things I like about it, and I think it’s actually you, Glenn, as a graphic designer, is the use of texting.

Glenn Leyburn: Oh, yeah.

Moderator: Am I reading too much into that?

Glenn Leyburn: Oh no, definitely not.

Moderator: I just think it’s that lovely, that novel way of, for teenagers, their life revolves around their mobile phones, so that was a really good way of introducing that.

Glenn Leyburn: Yeah, well, we definitely thought you can’t have a modern-day story about teenagers and not have texting, being a major part of that. And what we didn’t want to do was, and that would be the obvious thing to do, would be to show lots of screens and people typing things, and that would look a bit dull. So, yeah, it certainly does interest me, typography and type mixed with a visual, like the photographs. So yeah, that’s definitely something that we worked on.

Moderator: Oh, I’m glad I got that right, not “But no, it’s nothing we did, someone else came on…” Does anybody have another question? Yes, at the back.

Audiece: I want to ask a little bit about the locations. I was curious about some of the houses, like the one James Nesbitt was in, how do you go about looking for locations, and select them? Cause noone asked to use my house.

Glenn Leyburn: Do you want it selected? I’m not sure you do…

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Really, oh goodness, let me tell you it wouldn’t have been very much – we were working with very much of a budget, and yeah, I don’t know if you want 50 crew members tramping through your house over the course of…

Glenn Leyburn: …they’re very respectful, but all the same…

Lisa Barros D’Sa: … they were very respectful to all our properties, but…

Glenn Leyburn: … while it’s a new Belfast, it didn’t come across as Belfast all the time…

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yeah, I think that’s what we were looking for definitely. I think the start of looking for locations is, you know, you sort of work out what comes from the characters anyway, you try to get a feel of who they are, and where they come from, and how you express that best by their environments, their home environments, and that’s one thing, I guess. And we just have very detailed conversations with the art department of the film and the people working in the locations department, and these would come back with ideas about the houses. If you’re going to shoot in real places like houses, go to estate agents.

Glenn Leyburn: Yes, estate agents, you know, houses that are up for sale, where people are not worried that there might be some crew tramping through them, and they are quite happy to take the money and, some of the houses could empty, but furnished as well. So that can be a starting point sometimes.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: That’s right. Some of the houses, though, at least one of the places that we shot, Malachy’s house, there was a family living there, so I don’t know whether we had a certain idea of what kind of street we wanted it to be on, or if they just went on an asked people, I’m not sure.

Glenn Leyburn: I think sometimes they do do that, I think there’s just an element of cool cold for that, you know, cold, empty spaces for that area or house. The production team, we just call in and maybe ask them. And also, I remember people mention other people that they knew, who were looking for things and they weren’t keen on it and they said “Oh, we refer you to somebody else”, and they might be, so I think that was the process.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Yes, and I suppose the public locations, like the… well, we had a quite clear idea of what we wanted the Leisureplex to be like and a lot of that is in the art direction, I think. The very kind of heightened world and pattering you find in there. So we went and looked and talked to various people in the leisure centres and find about the practicalities, like what’s available and when, what sort of feels what you want it to feel, so you’re lucky if one of those places turns out through these boxes. But we were really happy with that one, with the Titanic.

Moderator: So, what about the next film, cause it’s obviously set. When it hits Belfast, is that presumably quite a challenge for locations then?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: It’s a challenge for locations, it’s also a challenge for budget, because that’s…

Moderator: It’s a period film?

Glenn Leyburn: Yes, it’s a period film, so that’s a thing that really sucks at money, because every car in that street has to be from that time and that period, and that costs you money, and you can’t just rely on what’s there, what’s around you, you know.

Lisa Barros D’Sa: But you know, lots of it is kind of naturalistic, but we’ve also got some interestic kind of graphic strands, of this sort of comic-bookish arts to it, and also some quite surreal sequences which will be done in completely different stlyle. So we’ve got some fun stuff coming on as well.

Moderator: Can’t wait… Has anybody else another question, we’ve got time for about two more. Yes?

Glenn Leyburn: I was just wondering: What was your process with the actors, because they’re very vibrant characters. Did you spend a lot of time rehearsing, or how did you do that?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Erm, we did have a few days before, and you never get weeks, but we had a few days before the shoot and all three of the lead actors were able to come over, and we didn’t want to over-rehearse the scenes, because you know, you really want to keep a nice freshness whenever you are shooting, but what we really wanted was for them to get a chance to know each other and to feel relaxed with each other, and also, what we did, I suppose, was just trace the emotional journey through this story, just sit and talk about the characters a lot, talk about what they felt was going on with the characters, each others characters, what was going on at the big emotional turning points of the story. So it was really kind of tracing those emotional journeys, wasn’t it, and we did do a bit of rehearsal, but a lot of it was, you know, what the emotional pitch of each moment was, which is so difficult when you’re shooting because everything is out of order, you know, you’re not shooting chronologically. I think that work kind of really helped, cause they felt really… what I like about their performances – I like many things but – they seem to feel really comfortable around each other, and I think, when there’s not much time, it’s great when there’s a bit of a short hand where they can say “This is where I’m in this, this stage in my journey.” I think that was beautiful, don’t you think?

Glenn Leyburn: Yeah.

Moderator: And we’ve got one last question? Anybody? Yes.

Audiece: Well, the characters, are they based on anyone in real life?

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Not really, as far as we’re concerned, but as Glenn said earlier, they were, in a very early stage of the script, the writer took the idea for the boys from himself and one of his best friends when he was younger. But I don’t think they got up to any of the stuff that our characters did. *laughter*

Moderator: Well, thanks, guys, for coming in and show the film, we finally got you

Lisa Barros D’Sa: It was great to be here.

Moderator: And we hope in three years, you’ll be here with the next one! Thanks very much!

Lisa Barros D’Sa: Thanks for coming!

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