Director Gerard Walsh is no stranger to the Galway Film Fleadh, having premiered two of his features before, A Day Like Today in 2015 and South in 2016. This year marks three-in-a-row for the talented Dubliner, with the World Premiere of his latest low-budget independent Irish feature Release on Friday, July 14th in the Town Hall Studio at 6:30pm.

After spending several years locked up for armed robbery, disgraced boxer Andrew Keating is granted early release. As he struggles to find his purpose in life, he finds the sport of mixed martial arts and begins to thrive, but when his criminal past rears its ugly head, Andrew must face his demons in order to live his life.

The film was made in conjunction with Bankhouse Productions’ Feature Film School, which is run by producer Matthew Toman. Unlike other acting courses FFS is run in conjunction with a film production company and uses working screenwriters, producers, directors and cinematographers to train and develop emerging talent.

Scannain caught up with writer/director Gerard Walsh to take about Release:

Release

Why did you want to tell this story?

The story of Release is something I have been wanting to tell for a while, I hadn’t written anything down or committed to making it until feature film school came along.  Originally it was a web series I wanted to develop on the side, shooting the whole thing and releasing them in 10-minute episodes online but when Matthew Roman (producer) asked me if i had any ideas for films for the Feature Film School, I immediately thought of Release. The challenge then came about when I had to tailor a script around a cast, who I had never met or seen any of their previous work, if any.

Also with Conor McGregor’s popularity rising, and the UFC becoming more and more prominent in Ireland, I figured exploring MMA with this idea could really work on a bigger scale.

Release

Who’s in your cast? 

The cast is comprised of mostly non-actors, actors starting out and some actors with stage experience that wanted to take part in the Feature Film School, a film course which would ultimately produce a feature film at the end of an 8 week course of two sessions a week, ending in a 2 week shoot.

We ultimately needed some extra days after the initial 2 weeks, but they were spread out over a few months as our students availability had to be considered.

What was the hardest thing about making Release?

The hardest thing about working on this film was finding a rhythm, working with the actors was a lot of fun and having Andie McCaffrey Byrne working with the students in the classes leading up to the shoot was a massive help as I’m not an amazing “teacher”. She really brought out the best in them and prepared them for acting on camera from an actors point of view

This was implementable in the making of this film because without those classes, I wouldn’t have been able to monitor the level of acting I would be working with, which was very important to tell this story.

Release

Release is your third feature in a row to play at the Fleadh. Can you describe the feeling of being selected again?

I think it’s an amazing honour to be coming back for a 3rd time, I honestly don’t know if it’s been done before and to get in with a student film with mostly amateur and non actors adds to the excitement.

I didn’t know that the film we where making would be capable of hanging with the big boys and girls but this shows that anything is possible.

What did you learn from your previous two features, A Day Like Today and South, that helped you this time around?

I learned a lot on A Day Like Today and South, but the main thing I learned was that I didn’t want to make another low low low budget film, but on release I must have been concussed because I did it again!

This was a whole different kettle of fish, I went into this project thinking it was something that I could experiment with and work hone in my skills as a director but it was a completely different way of working, it was tough but very rewarding.

I did bring a lot of what I learned from my previous films onto this film but I learned an awful lot working this way too.

Release

What are your hopes for the film?

Right now, I don’t know what the plan is, getting into the Fleadh was a massive surprise which has thrown the best type of spanner into the works. Our thoughts and feelings about the film have really been validated because of this and we now know that we have something as special as we had always thought.

Right now the sky’s the limit, we could potentially do anything now and we sure as fuck are going to try.

Release has its World Premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh on Friday, July 14th in the Town Hall Studio at 6:30pm.

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