Scannain caught up with writer/director Alan Mulligan to talk about his independent financed Irish feature film The Limit Of…, ahead of its world premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh.
James Allen is a man in control. He lives alone and works as a banker. He does his best to look after his widowed mother. What he doesn’t know is that the bank he works for is about to repossess her home. When the stress of this provokes a family crisis, James begins to question his whole life and to glimpse the ruthless, manipulative black heart behind the glossy veneer of the banking world. He decides to take action. Meanwhile, Alison Leonard, his beautiful co-worker, has her own agenda which puts her on a collision course with James. Her actions trigger a dark spiral of deceit, revenge and death. The film explores limits imposed upon us by choices we make – limits set by our careers, desires, needs and even the choice of who we love.
The Limit Of… stars Laurence O’Fuarain, Sarah Carroll, Ally Ní Chiaráin, and Sonya O’Donoghue. It was written, directed, and produced by Alan Mulligan (Trust, Communion Day), with Tim Palmer, Anthony Mulligan and Taine King also producing.
Before embarking on his career in filmmaking, Mulligan had a successful career as working for a major bank. The lifestyle, the obsession with faster, newer, shinier things, and the blatant disregard for money, led him to quit and get out while he still could. Last weekend the Irish Independent published a great article where Donal Lynch interviewed Mulligan about his backstory. We recommend reading that article to give some more insight into his journey.
That was a huge leap that you took giving up banking to pursue film. Did the tragedies that befell your mother and then brother make you see life in a different way? “Most definitely, but it happened slowly over the years after my mother, first you start to not care about things and become more reckless with you daily decisions, but then I started to realise that I wanted to care, that I needed to care about something. That clinched saying “that life is short” is started to ring true and it became important to me to spend my life doing something that I wanted to do, and not to be working at something because everyone else approved of it. It just felt like I was working in a job I didn’t want in order to make money to buy things I didn’t want.”
Making the film itself seems to have been a personal torture. At any point along the journey to finishing this film did you have second thoughts about it? “I think a lot of the personal torture was brought on by myself and the high expectations I always place on myself. If there was part of my vision that seemed like it was going to be impossible to create I would get a pain in my stomach that would drive me to do whatever had to be done in order to make the best attempt at achieving that vision. Looking back on it I guess I was punishing myself for years of not achieving and just following the crowd. For instance, I have never been to the Galway Fleadh before as I wouldn’t let myself go the last few years because the film wasn’t made and I didn’t feel I deserved to enjoy myself. It’s hard to explain the personal feeling, but there were so many heavenly and utterly satisfying moments along the way too.”
How did you put together your cast and crew? “The main core of my crew came from my two short films. My DOP Daniel Balteanu and my AD Carmen Reig Liabata. They waited patiently for the script…which took 18 – 24 months. I found most of them through Irish short films I liked, where I would look up their crew and then contact those people through social media outlets and request a coffee. It was an amazing part of the journey as I got so much of my energy from their passion for film and I need to find a talented crew who would commit to the project fully, even though there were no salaries to reward them with. A lot of my cast came from Bow Street, including Ally Ní Chiaráin, Sony O’Donoghue and of course Laurence O’Faurain who plays James Allen. I remember meeting with the Irish Film Board very early on when I had a first draft of the script. They told me that I should rewrite the script to suit a different type of actor, as they character I had written and the style of the film script required a Michael Fassbender or a Cillian Murphy and at that time they said there was no up and coming actor who was able to play those type of roles that would be affordable to me. Had I written an unplayable character? I was worried. As I was looking for my lead for over 6 months and couldn’t cast anyone else until I knew I had my James Allen… I was searching through 100’s of YouTube videos from Terry McMahon’sbeginnerss acting course and came across this guy who had a skin head and a heavy dublin accent. He most definitely was not James Allen, but at 1 min 36 seconds in there was a moment where I knew…. that was my character. I found out he was brand new to acting and in his first year with Bow Street… the casting began then. I cast Sarah Carroll opposite him immediately as I had her in mind from when the first word of the script went onto paper. But I needed to cast James Allen first. When it came to post and I had strong footage to show people and I was able to get experienced people like IFTA-winner Nikki Moss, producer Tim Palmer (Into The West, Patrick’s Day), John Talbot of Panic Post Production who was the grader who worked on The Young Offenders, and Barry Reid who owns Gorilla Post Production did the sound mix. And God, there were so many talented people involved at all points of the journey.”
Music as a driving force can work very well in films, especially if you have the right music. What led you to bring in Mick Flannery… “One of our producers Taine King introduced to me a new song of Mick’s that came out in 2016 called I own you, as a potential for the opening song of the film. It fitted so perfectly. I became obsessed with his music and just felt like it was the character singing the lyrics. In essence, the music is part of the character and having one artist exclusively on the soundtrack seems fitting.”
Must be nice to have your debut feature premiere at the Fleadh! “Yes, 5 years ago when I decided I wanted to write a film, the main stage at the Fleadh was my goal for its premiere. I sometimes felt I had aimed too high but deep down, it really felt like Galway was the place for its premiere and I geared towards it 100%. When I was starting out, Galway Film Fleadh made filmmaking seem possible to me, seeing so many first timers getting their careers launched at the Fleadh.”
You were editing right up to the end. They say pressure focuses the mind… “I don’t know if I would say it focuses the mind, more that it separates the people who are willing to die for their movie and those who are willing to compromise. It ended coming down the last day before the screening as I was always wanting to avoid compromise. As I am very aware that there are certain compromises on low budget films from the outset, but anything that was within my power, I would not choose the easy option. So pressure is for the focused I think.”
The Limit Of… will World Premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh on Thursday, July 13th at the Town Hall Theatre at 10pm.