FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
IFTA AWARDS 2024
Iver once brought Leon back from the edge and now Leon is determined to do the same for Iver, only to find that his best friend is being a stubborn bastard. Easy, Leon thinks, nothing a day out in their beloved Dublin won't fix...
Director: Claire Dix Writer: Ailbhe Keogan Producers: Roisin Geraghty
Q: What was the genesis of this film, and how did it evolve over the course of development to production and completion?
- Claire Dix (Director): "Myself, Ailbhe Keogan who wrote Sunlight, and Roisin Geraghty who produced, made a short film in 2017 called Take Me Swimming. It was the first time I worked with the wonderful Barry Ward. That film had a great cast including Olwen Fouéré. Take Me Swimming had a similar theme to Sunlight. After making it Ailbhe felt she had more to say about the right to die, and we all wanted to work together again. Ailbhe had come across a story about a woman in the States who called herself an exit guide and who facilitated assisted suicides. We had an early draft where she was being followed by a guard but then as the script advanced it became more Leon's story. His character had the biggest arc and development and because we had Barry on board from the start, he was involved in creating Leon. And really that character kind of took over! Leon influenced the style of shooting and the soundtrack completely. It was hard to say goodbye in the end."
- Barry Ward (Actor): "We had lots of great chats about the character of Leon which Ailbhe skillfully wove in to the plot, with constant tweaking and inclusion of gags wherever we could. There was also a looseness in some parts to accommodate improv' on the day. And the end-of-film performance on the page written was with place-holding lyrics and general stage directions. Over lockdown I wrote the song which I end up performing. With the help of Seamus Fogarty we wrote a bunch of tunes for Claire to choose from for this scene. We wanted the performance scenes to have a raw, unrehearsed freestyle feel to 'em... so that's what we did! Covid lockdown gave us all time to think on the script and tweak it as & when. We were very ready once green light came and shot it in 20 days (I believe) losing just one day to a case of Covid."
Q: What did you feel was the most fulfilling element of working on this film?
- Claire Dix: "It's difficult to name just one aspect because the whole experience was magical. I had taken some years out from making films, and from fiction in particular, to have a family and making this film was a little bit like testing the waters and seeing was this still something I loved. The answer was a resounding yes. Dearbhla Walsh was my mentor during the whole process (this was a perk of the POV scheme) and talking to her and getting to hear her thoughts on everything was a fantastic privilege. The team Roisin put together was incredible so it was a joy to work on every aspect of the film. Working with Ailbhe was just like having a masterclass in writing as always. I probably enjoyed working with the actors the most. I think we have some great performances in this film and I'm really proud of all of them."
- Ailbhe Keogan (Writer): "The collaborative spirit. Writing can be a lonely aul game but it never is with these lads. We're all in. It's great craic and productive. We alight upon the best narrative routes together."
- Barry Ward: "For me, making music. An unfulfilled life-long desire. And to get to do so with a musician whose work I love, and becoming great friends in the process were amazing life-changing bonuses to what was already a special job. It was also really great deepening & developing relationships established on Take Me Swimming. I'd love to do more with this team. "
Q: To what extent was your on-screen talent vital to the success of the film?
- Ailbhe Keogan: "Absolutely vital. The audiences fell in love with our holy trinity - Barry Ward, Liam Carney and Maureen Beattie. They stole hearts. As well as the lads, the supporting cast, like Lydia McGuinness, Erica Roe, Mark O' Halloran, Gus McDonagh and Tony Doyle brought their talent, experience and goodwill to the table. Nobody was in it for the money, that's for sure. It was made on a micro-budget as part of the Screen Ireland POV scheme."
Q: What’s the most interesting/inspiring piece of feedback you’ve received from people who have seen the film?
- Claire Dix: "Irvine Welsh's tweet was pretty cool. Part of his quote was "It’s a highly original and compassionate piece of filmmaking that shuns lazy cliche.' Cillian Murphy gave us a mention on his music show for BBC radio. We also got a lovely review on the guardian daily podcast when the film came out in the UK. But audiences' reactions have been amazing. I still get emails from people who said how it stayed with them."
Q: Can you speak to the growth in the Irish film industry in recent years and how it helped your film get off the ground?
- Ailbhe Keogan: "SUNLIGHT wouldn't have been made if it wasn't for Screen Ireland's drive to get female-led debuts over the line. They invested in us at the short film stage and kept with us. Keeper (formerly Blinder) also came on board for SUNLIGHT. They were amazing. We're doing our next feature, ORANGE WORLD, with them too because the whole team there is experienced, generous and calm. They understand the creative process. The success of the Irish film industry is thanks to companies like this who have shown grit and vision in oft trying times."
- Barry Ward: "I think it's fair to say we're a global player to a much greater extent than ever before... we have a lot of trailblazing actors and directors to thank for this initially. Now, for presumably economic reasons, we are having a real golden age for Irish cinema. This goes hand-in-hand with the rise of even better more skilled practitioners both in front of and behind the camera."
Q: Why is it important to see your work represented at the IFTAs and to be acknowledged by your peers in the Irish film community?
- Claire Dix: "It is a huge honour to be considered for an IFTA. I've been nominated twice before and it was so exciting. I had a great night both times but that nomination is so valuable to have. It helps to shine a light on the film and on all the hard work. It really meant a lot to me to have had that acknowledgment from my peers."
- Ailbhe Keogan: "I think the IFTAs really help the smaller films who don't have the resources to steer a large campaign. An actor pal of mine was up for an IFTA last year. I asked her if she was going to come over for the ceremony, and her answer has stayed with me. 'I'm going cause this little film needs all the love it can get'. And I thought what a humble way to approach awards. You collect that statue for the project, the team, for the collective creative effort. It's not about me, my social anxiety or my dress. I needed reminding of that."
- Barry Ward: "It's nice to know others, whose work I admire, see some of my work (if a little nerve-wrecking)... a lot of whom I'd love to work with one day."