Belly Of The Whale – How We Made The New Irish Film

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Filmmaker Morgan Bushe writes for Culture on his debut as a director, Whale belly, with Pat Shortt, hitting Irish cinemas this weekend.

First day of filming. It is not raining. I resist the urge to do aerial punches.

It’s mid-November and it’s cold. Really cold. It is 5 am and it is still dark outside. I put on long boxer shorts, then pants, two pairs of socks, a long-sleeved thermal vest, two t-shirts, a sweater and some stupid bright red ski pants that I bought from TK Maxx that I need wear with suspenders, Donegal Catch the style. I could have stayed in bed another half an hour and had a hot breakfast there with the cast and crew, but I couldn’t take my set of various medications on an empty stomach, and I couldn’t. reach the car, let alone drive it, without them.

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I had broken my back a few months earlier and had to be flown home after a family vacation. It was first of all a herniated disc which manifested as acute sciatica. I spent the end of the summer pretty much bedridden, then slowly as the pain subsided, confined to the house. Crutches, splint
posture supports, acupuncture, work. Part of the funding for the movie was weather dependent and we had a window with the cast, so when fall came it was all about prepping the movie while patching my back as best I could. There was not enough time to get the operation to fix it properly. This should wait until the day after our packaging.

While eating, I reread the A5 printed sides of the scenes we intended to shoot that day. Almost a year earlier, screenwriter Greg Flanagan and film school buddy Mark Gildea had hit the road in a rental campervan with the daring ambition of retracing the history of our time. A pre-Internet parable of sorts in the vein of John Steinbeck. An unorthodox buddy movie that focuses on two trampled characters who band together to fight a world stacked against them. Get people up to a seated world and shut up. The game was money, but what was at stake was more.

We meandered along the east coast town by town and then turned around, bulldozing through the Midlands to County Clare, staging scenes and scenarios around the places we encountered, eating lots of baked ham. of the camper and meet the weird and wonderful eclectic array of characters found on the outskirts of Irish society. We returned to Dublin in a good mood and wrote four more drafts with the support of Screen Ireland.

Pat Shortt and Lewis McDougall in the belly of the whale

5:20 am: The woman is up now and checking how I am before she goes back to bed. Stapled to the back of the A5 sides, a list that breaks down each shot for each scene we intend to cover on day one. For months on end as producer Rory Dungan and I waited for news from the various financiers, cinematographer Arthur Mulhern and I rocked the style of filming and the blocking of the film with the collective acting skills of Grattan Smith, Matthew Darcy and Emma Eliza. Régan. A mock that involved a Bow Street room, a suitcase of props looted from my house, different colored t-shirts for the different characters, and all shot with a camera borrowed from JJ Rolfe. We knew we couldn’t afford a steadicam or a dolly (or a standby), and in the latter’s case, we had the shooting time to start tracing, so any camera movement would have to be. held by hand or with the five-foot slider out of the Filmbase.

On the way out, I put on the orthopedic hiking boots that my old man had looted in Barnardos. I complete the look with a blue puffer jacket and a Russian-style Leinster rugby hat that will cover my ears for the twelve hours that I’m going to be away from the shoot. I see my reflection in the car window. I look like an extra from Wham’s Last christmas video.

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Watch: Morgan Bushe chats with Arena In regards to Whale belly

My wife has to bring my kids to school, so while filming I ride in a rented bright yellow Fiat 500. We are filming in Bob’s Amusement Arcade in Skerries, in the north of County Dublin. I count my blessings as I rush through the airport tunnel and arrive in under thirty-five minutes. A part of
the crew must travel to the other side of town and try their luck in the M50 motorway parking lot. One hour round trip on a good day.

I arrive twenty minutes before the time of the call. The first thing I do, after I put out my fifth cigarette of the day, is to go through the program with the first assistant director and Arthur. The average number of turning pages for a film is between three and a half and four and a half pages per day. The larger the budget, the lower the number of pages. We have to go through six and five eights including three stunts that involve our fourteen year old leader Lewis MacDougall getting a cigarette shot in the face, a brawl on the sidewalk
between Lewis and Pat Shortt after Pat’s character attempted to tie their wrists by cable, and Peter Coonan sporting a prosthetic nose, an exceptional Navan sled and the head of a dead pig in a cardboard box.

The early joggers and dog walkers cran their necks to see what happens as they pass, completely failing to notice the hunched, wandering-looking man, patiently waiting on a wall next to the arcade. A salt and pepper beard that Robinson Crusoe would be proud of, paired with a thick mullet and Rick Moranis glasses. It’s a testament to the magic that Kathy Strachan and her costume team, Susan Kenny in makeup and Sharon Watson in hair, worked to transform one of Ireland’s most revered and recognizable comedians into his character Ronald Tanner. . Lewis arrives and the couple chew the fat for a while. A stranger pair that I have ever seen. After a week of rehearsals, it is clear that a strong bond has formed. Michael Smiley, one of my favorite actors since I saw him in Ben Wheatley Kill list, shows up tomorrow. I love that a plan goes off without a hitch.

Michael Smiley in the belly of the whale

As the crew finishes their breakfast, I spend a few minutes with co-producer Kathryn Kennedy, executive producer Emmet Fleming and set designer Michael Moynihan inside Bobs. Michael is redeveloping the cavernous backroom, which two weeks earlier was a storage space for the mountain of aging machinery and assorted junk. At the end of the week, we’ll have to film the intricate final chase and shootout. We exchange notes and then I get back to things outside, which is how to thaw the pig’s head so it’s ready before lunch. I leave the stand-by accessories in the capable hands of David Jones. The camera is now set up for the first shot and everyone is ready to go.

6:55 am: As sound engineer Arron Faye hands me headphones, I limp in a chair next to the monitor and remember that I haven’t done my morning ritual yet. It involves finding a bird in the sky, and whatever flight path it takes will determine how your day unfolds. I look up at the sky and catch a seagull as it emerges from the rooftops and heads straight for the Irish Sea. Wherever he goes, he seems to have a plan. Assistant cameraman Sarah Dunphy suddenly appears on the monitor, straining the clapperboard. It reads. Scene 15A. Slate 1. Plan 1.

I have never been so excited in my life. Thank goodness it’s not raining.

Belly Of The Whale hits Irish theaters on Friday, December 7th.


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