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“It is just one story and there are so many stories to tell about this issue” - Writer/Director Tom Ryan on ‘Twice Shy’
23 Jun 2017 : Katie McNeice
The much-anticipated Irish title releases today to Irish audiences with a special opening night in the Light House Cinema, followed by a Q&A session with Ryan moderated by Tara Flynn.

‘Twice Shy’ is one of the first contemporary Irish films to approach the topic of abortion and has come to be one of the most well-travelled pieces of independent Irish cinema we have seen in the last twelve months.

As Ryan reminds us however, his vision was always to make a love story, and it is the leading performances of the young Iseult Casey (Maggie) and Shane Murray-Corcoran (Andy) which work hard for this success.

Produced by Fionn Greger and supported by a cast which includes ‘Father Ted’ star Ardal O’Hanlon and ‘Smalltown’ leading man Pat Shortt, ‘Twice Shy’ follows a young couple on their journey to have an abortion, while reflecting on the ups and downs of their relationship.

IFTN: What were your earliest influences and what drew you to working in film?

“I grew up in Tipperary with a love for cinema and film. I got my first job when I was sixteen in the local cinema as a projectionist. I sound like such an old man, but this was back in the days of film reels. That was an education in and of itself because I got to watch films I loved over and over and without even realising it, I was learning about filmmaking.

“My parents got me a little video camera and I started shooting these silly short films with my friends. I went to Colaiste Dhulaigh then in Dublin for two years of film production and did a third year in St. John’s College, Cork. I started to panic at that point about how I was going to get a career in film, so just before I finished college I took a week off to go to Barack Obama’s inauguration. I just wanted to be present and watch it happen, and they suggested I bring a camera.

“I interviewed people while I was there and made a half-hour documentary with those and some other footage. It got into quite a few American film festivals, more so than Irish ones. I thought to myself there might be a career in America so I moved to New York and managed to get unpaid work as a camera intern on a movie called ‘Dark Horse’ that Todd Solondz directed, starring Christopher Walken and Maria Farrell. It was a huge learning curve because I was working under Andrij Parekh as the director of photography he shot a film called ‘Half Nelson’ which is one of my all-time favourite movies, with Ryan Gosling as a teacher. He taught me an awful lot about indie filmmaking and gave me the spark and the courage to make my own.

“This spurred me on to save up and shoot my own feature so I move to London and got working on commercials, where I met Fionn Greger who produced by first feature, ‘Trampoline’. I moved back home and local businesses in Tipperary sponsored the film. It sold to Amazon and had moderate success, which opened a few doors to help me make ‘Twice Shy’. I got a budget then which was still relatively small, but larger than the last.”

IFTN: Did you hold off on making ‘Twice Shy’ until you had that extra momentum or was it something that came up naturally at the time?

“It came up naturally at the time because the issue of abortion became really prevalent over the last five years and I think it’s something that people were hesitant to talk about. When things started to change a conversation began happening that I was very interested in and keeping up to date with. While the whole intent of ‘Twice Shy’ was to make a love story, that story goes hand in hand with that theme.”

IFTN: Shane and Iseult are so young looking, even for the stage of life they are at in the film. How deliberate was this?

”Because the film takes place over three years with flashbacks, we had to be able to differentiate between the beginning and the present. It was important as well that they have a bit of naivety to see how the characters grow from when we first meet them. In the first flashbacks they’re just out of school and they fancy each other, to three years later, when they have all this water under the bridge, they both have baggage, and they’re on this journey to have an abortion.

”It’s a good character arc and I also think it’s important they look young because it reflects contemporary Ireland and the fact that these two characters have their whole lives ahead of them adds a bit more dramatic weight to the fact that they are having this procedure done.”

IFTN: It’s fair to say that there is another character which is not spoken about but is seen. You’ve got so many drone shots showing off this gorgeous landscape in Tipperary, and the way space is introduced it’s as though you’re introducing the disapproving character of Ireland versus the character of London, which holds a different point of view.

“Yes and the story is so intimate, so personal and the shooting style we had was quite low-key and handheld. I think by contrasting that with these wider scenic and city shots it opened up the scope of the film to make it more cinematic. We wanted to play into the fact that it’s a big world out there and this is such as personal story and what’s affecting these characters, no one else knows; no one in the city stops to take any notice of them. That’s just the way lis is, isn’t it? Everyone has their own troubles and their own crosses to bear, but on the outside no one sees that.”

IFTN: We’re all interested in IFTN in the supports people are getting outside of Galway, Dublin and Cork. What was your experience of filming in your home county with the ‘Twice Shy’ team?

“It was an absolute pleasure. My first film ‘Trampoline’ was shot in Tipperary due to the confinements of the budget, as I had to film in places I had access to. The whole town got behind that film and helped make it so it only felt natural when it came to making ‘Twice Shy’ to go back and film there again. Tipperary looks lovely on camera and isn’t represented much in film.

“The team came from all over the country as well; our make-up artist is from Kerry for instance, and our cinematographer is from Tipperary as well. We just had a wide mix of people but had to meet up initially in Dublin at the IFI Café as I was based there at the time. I think the interesting thing is that you almost have to come to Dublin first to get everyone together and get that team going, before you can move outside it. All roads lead here in a way but that’s going back over a year now and I think things are changing. Galway has a really good film scene now, like the Little Cinema are a national treasure and really support filmmakers with things like the 48 Hour Film Challenge.

“There are definitely groups popping up outside of Dublin and it’s great to show a part of Ireland on screen that hasn’t been seen too much before. Dublin is very important as well and it is the hub of creative Ireland in a huge way, isn’t it?”

IFTN: You’ve got so many other heavy themes in the film as well, like depression, suicide and other sexualities. Were you ever worried about having these in the background of such an emotional relationship?

“I wanted to reflect the Ireland that I know and lived in. I think it’s important for film to show different aspects and be open to different issues and topics. It was very important to me to include all of that in the film but not have it take away of the love story which is the essence of the film. The characters which surround Andy and Maggie are all different, just like everyone in life is.”

IFTN: All genres and themes have conventions or rules audience sometimes expect to be followed. Do you think people expect something specific of ‘Twice Shy’ as one of Ireland’s first contemporary films dealing with abortion?

“We’re not setting out to make an abortion film as such, or have it be the de facto, definitive movie that deals with Irish abortion. We’re just observing how it affects a young couple. It’s just one story. Abortion affects so many people in so many different ways. We’re not trying to make a statement on it or offer answers for any questions raised. It’s just an observation on Irish life.

“So if someone comes back and says, ‘You’ve left out this’, or ‘You’ve left out that’, it is just one story and there are so many stories to tell about this issue. We’re not asking is abortion right or wrong and the characters don’t debate it at any point in the film. What we’re asking is this going to strengthen their relationship or is this going to break them up? We don’t have Maggie justify her reason either. She never says why she wants to do it. That was quite important.”

IFTN: It’s great to see Irish films travel so far. You’ve mentioned your film on Barack Obama travelled better in the States than Ireland. What has it been like to have a film about Irish times, culture and people travel internationally?

“I was hardly able to think about it being released in Ireland, let alone internationally [laughs] because when you’re working on it, you’re in a bubble, you’ve got tunnel vision and it’s hard to see the wood from the trees. To have it do so well on the festival circuit was such a pleasant surprise and I think that’s a testament to the fact that it’s a love story rather than just a topical Irish film. I think that’s what audiences connected to, because we don’t get into the politics of abortion through debate. Hopefully it just goes to show that Shane and Iseult did such a good job that audiences are able to connect and empathise with them.”

IFTN: What dates will we be seeing this in Irish cinemas?

“It’s being released in the IMC Cinemas in Dun Laoghaire and the Lighthouse, and five counties in Ireland from the 23rd of June and it’s also going to be released on Volta on the same day so people can stream it. We have a special opening night in the Lighthouse on Friday at 7pm hosted by Tara Flynn and screening in the Lighthouse for the next week after that as well as Dun Laoghaire, Cork, Galway, Tipperary and Mayo.”




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