Darragh Byrne (‘Parked’) interview

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Out on DVD this week, Parked stars Merlin‘s Colin Morgan and tells the story of a proud man living in his car is inspired by a young drug addict to become a better person.

> Buy Parked on DVD on Amazon.

Here director Darragh Byrne discusses making the movie…

What part of the filmmaking process have you enjoyed most?

“I enjoyed every part of the process for different reasons. The development of the script and financing of the film was enjoyable since I felt I was working with people who also fundamentally believed in the project and respected me as a Director.

“Since the film was shot in twenty days, production was always going to be demanding. But again, with very experienced and good people around me who were all trying to serve the film, I felt the atmosphere created by the producers and the team allowed me to have a very strong intimate connection with the actors, the story and every department head who worked tirelessly on the film.”

What influences are in there?

“During the first and subsequent drafts of the script and right up until production I had some very particular references in mind. For story, the simplicity and clarity of Thomas McCarthy’s The Station Agent and The Visitor. For a ‘direct cinema’ approach to shooting Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams and Darren Aronofski’s The Wrestler were very influential. John Conroy (DOP) and I actually called a recurring POV shot in the film The Wrestler.

“In fact, these influences were so strong that one to two months before shooting the film I couldn’t watch any other films except the above.”

You’ve gathered an amazing cast here. What was it like working with them as a first-time director?

“Well obviously, it was a bit daunting since the entire cast were very experienced. Having said that, not being experienced with actors had certain advantages. I was in a position to ask some very basic and fundamental questions, which I latter learnt, are often taken for granted.

“For instance one of the first questions I asked the actors was “What was their process for finding the voice of a character?” For me, this was essential to determine how I might work with them.

“After that, once you find some common ground and forge an understanding of the essence of the character, I feel you must release an actor to have their own relationship with the character and the story where your job as a director is to guide the actors to maintain a consistent and believable performance.”

How would you describe the genre?

“I think this film is something of a hybrid. It enjoys a balance of ‘social realism’ often associated with European cinema while also indulging in some slightly more contrived elements where more is imposed on the mood and tone of the film. These are subtle distinctions. In simple terms, it’s a drama.”

You come from a documentary directing background. How has that helped you?

“It helped enormously. For the most part, because I wasn’t afraid of changing anything or walking onto the set and trying something different. I think documentary is often a war with reality while drama can be a war against reality.”

Tell us about the location and shooting in Dublin…

“The main location for the film was a car park on the edge of an area of reclaimed land overlooking Dublin Bay. We scouted practically every coastal car park in the Dublin area but in the end this car park was a perfect space to shoot the film since it had very clear cinematic lines in all directions. It was also strangely trapped in it’s own world, cut off from the busy modern ebb and flow of the nearby city. This seemed like a perfect mirror to the central character’s dilemma.”

Tell us about the dynamic between the three main characters…

“Although Fred Daly (Colm Meaney) is the principal protagonist of the film, the two other characters of Cathal O’Regan (Colin Morgan) and Jules (Milka Alroth) share his world as people who are also stuck in a “no mans land” of uncertainty. The three central characters are Parked, unable to move back or forward until their shared experience creates the impetus for change.

“The dynamic between Fred and Cathal was always going to be exciting, since they are such different characters. We were intent on each of the characters to be idiosyncratic and to avoid stereotypes. So, to watch an untypical heroin addict who is like an angel on ‘smack’ rock into the world of a middle aged middle-class man living in his car was always going to be interesting. Finally, adding a bohemian Finnish music teacher was the perfect ‘off beat’ voice to the triumvirate.

“The balance of the characters at script stage was a real challenge since you have to ensure that while the focus is on Fred, Cathal and Jules play into his world in a meaningful and significant manner. The spark between Colm Meaney and Colin Morgan was instant. They both had a very strong instinct for the characters and an immediate rapport with each other as actors.”

What’s it been like working with Colm and Colin?

“Colm Meaney really got under the skin of his character. He is a very experienced and professional actor who demands clarity from a Director. We did some very early work a few months 15 before shooting where we drilled down into the core of his character and developed some clues that began a very strong mutual understanding.

“We both knew that he would wear glasses and that he would have a rather ‘blank’ expression on his face. Within a few days of shooting Colm had found a walk for Fred, at which point he knew that he had ‘found’ the character. Colm has a lot to bring to a film technically. Also, his timing is superb, always aware of where the camera is and where it’s going. I learnt a great deal from him.

“Colin Morgan is a brilliant young actor. His approach to the role of ‘Cathal’ was to research the part meticulously and then to inhabit the role profoundly. We did some work with the Aids Alliance in Dublin advising Colin on the technical realities of drug use and misuse.

“Colin had a little support with some dialogue coaching since he’s from Armagh in Northern Ireland and was playing a young man from Dublin’s north inner city. But, generally Colin found the ‘voice’ of his character himself and required very little guidance on set.”

What sort of character is Fred and how does he respond when Cathal arrives?

“I always describe Fred as this ordinary eccentric who has fallen out of step with the world. His life has been reduced to a series of mundane routines to help him get through the day. He is a man nearer the end of his life who’s afraid to take a chance to change, because he knows from experience that taking chances can hurt.

“So, when Cathal shows up Fred takes his time to take a leap into the unknown, for good reason. But I think the beauty of this film is watching Fred unravel and explore his new friendships, and have the courage to change and grow from what are sometimes painful experiences.”

What do you think the appeal of this movie will be?

“I’d hope that the appeal of the film is that it presents a warm and engaging story with integrity and charm. I’d also hope that the characters resonate with the audience and offer some insight into an off-beat world just as valuable and important as the mainstream. I suppose it’s only by straying off the path that sometimes we can find our way home.”

> Buy Parked on DVD on Amazon.

Watch the trailer…