FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
IFTA AWARDS 2024
A Guide To Becoming An Elm Tree
Padraig embarks on a journey to turn a living tree into a coffin for his already dead and buried wife. He bargains his way into an eccentric carpenter's shop. What starts out as an act to help alleviate grief and guilt slowly descends into a harrowing selfish game of discovery; as John pulls Padraig deeper into the world of Irish folklore and ancient magic.
Director: Adam Mann, Skye Mann Writer: Adam Mann, Skye Mann Producers: Adam Mann, Skye Mann
Q: What was the genesis of this film and how did it evolve over the course of development to production and completion?
- Adam and Skye Mann (Writer/Directors): "The film was adapted from Skye’s first novel of the same name and it follows the same rough path set out therein. There are some deviances from the source material with a stronger focus being placed on the magical elements and references to the Celtic and pagan history of Ireland. Through the writing process we also expanded the role of John, the carpenter, feeling he would prove to be an interesting counter to Padraig. A rock against the waves as well as the calm centre of a chaotic spiral for Padraig. Once we actually got to production we had only nine days to film everything. We knew from writing the script and visualising the film that we wanted to have a largely static camera with only the briefest and smoothest camera movements. This fit in with our nine-day shooting schedule too, having fewer set ups meant we could focus as much as possible on expressive framing and actor performance. Finally, when we arrived at the editing process, a process we both consider to be the final draft of the script, we worked to cut any unnecessary plot elements. We wanted to respect the audience, and to have each scene move the plot forward in some meaningful way. Having these rules for ourselves and having our immensely talented mixer and composer, Carlos Solares, we were able to flesh out the haunting and human world we initially aimed for."
Q: What did you feel was the most fulfilling element of working on this film?
- Adam and Skye: "There are a couple moments from across the production phase of this film that stand out to us. Firstly and fittingly, the very first day on set, the first set up was a moment we had talked and dreamed about for many years prior, the first day of shooting on our first feature. That moment was very special and satisfying in a way few things are. Besides that, being incredibly lucky with the cast and crew we had around us and creating a shared creative environment with them. The reassurance to being able to turn to anyone on our small crew and getting valuable input for a shot, frame, piece of direction or costume was a gratifying experience. These being said however, the most fulfilling part was when all that hard work from so many people came together in the final edit. The moment it all clicks into place, the music is worked in and the emotion of the scene is reached, is an endlessly fulfilling experience."
- James Healy-Meaney (Actor): "I felt that getting to work on a film such as ‘A Guide’ really helped me grow as an actor, but getting to work with some amazing filmmakers who were all there for the same reason and with the same passion really put this whole thing into perspective for me. Excited to get to set every day, to make a film that we all wanted to be a part of. Working on this film for me was a dream come true."
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
- Adam and Skye: "We hope that when people see this film, they come out with curiosity. Curiosity for our language, our history and our myths. Ireland is a country dripping with mythology, a great and long depth of stories that match the more famous and mainstream Nordic and Greek. It has the potential and a ready-made audience, for those stories to be brought to life today on screen."
Q: To what extent was your on-screen talent vital to the success of the film?
- Adam and Skye: "To say our film wouldn’t have been possible without the immense talent of our two leads, James Healy-Meany and Gerry Wade, would be an understatement. A film such as this leans its entire weight on the abilities of the cast. The film is very much a character study, a personal deep dive into their psyche and emotional landscape. Their relationship with each other and individually is the core of the film, the spine that everything else is attached to. Without them, it simply wouldn’t work."
Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey as a filmmaker to get where you are now?
- Adam and Skye: "Both of us went to film school, Adam went to DBS and Skye to Ballyfermot College. Our passion for film was really ignited there in our years spent learning the practical and the theory side of cinema and filmmaking as a whole. After college we emigrated to Vancouver, Canada with the specific purpose to work in the film industry there, which we did for several years. Though it wasn’t exactly the area in which we wanted to work, the experience there taught us about the importance of planning, scheduling and logistics. Without these lessons and experiences, we would have never been able to shoot this film in the timeframe we did. Over the years of watching films, discovering different directors, film waves and genre’s we have both come to the realisation that our favourite films are ones about people. Human conflict, characters, stakes, journeys, drama, and life. Largely we discovered this through various film makers such as Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Lynne Ramsay, Jafar Panahi, Asghar Farhadi and Sean Baker. These kinds of social realism films were the ones we found to be the most inspiring and have influenced our work. Particularly the use of location filming, actors using their own accents and cadence when speaking and simple but effective cinematography. Though we were always interested in the darker or more heavy emotions such as grief, mixing that kind of interest with the influences of these filmmakers is currently where our artistic interests lie."
- James: "My journey all started thanks to the two amazing people who directed this film. They got me up and running in the film industry and then they trusted me with something that meant a lot to them and for that I am forever grateful."