Philip A McCarthy Interview
He’s gone from drink and drug addiction to become a rising talent in the Irish film industry. IFM caught up with writer/director Philip McCarthy as he gets ready to release ‘The Vein Within’.
IFM: First off Philip, tell us a bit about yourself and your background. You acted when you were younger, but then things took a turn for the worst.
I first appeared in a school production of ‘Treasure Island’ in 1987, I played the main role, Black Dog. This was followed by a play called ‘Rude Peasant Type’, and then a production of John B. Keane’s ‘The Field’. I took on the main role of ‘Bull McCabe’ and subsequently received an award for my performance. Around that time I also had my own demons to deal with, both drug and drink addiction took me out of acting for a number of years. After spending time in recovery I decided to go back to what I did best and returned to the stage. In ‘Losing Steam’ I portrayed a rebellious worker, the play was outstanding. This was followed by ‘The Merchant of Venice‘, both plays were by Corcadorca.
After doing two years of Theatre & Performance, I then turned to writing. I wrote a play called ‘The Dark Room‘ which would go on to win three awards at the Dramfest 2007, including the Beckett Award for best script. In 2009 I got to work along side Vinnie Jones, Micheal Madsen, Richard Chamberlin, Patrick Bergin, and of course not forgetting our own Cork actors Liam Hefferian and Myles Horgan.
IFM: After your battle with addiction, what inspired you to get back to acting and performing?
Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. I think what brought me back to acting was that it was always a way I could express myself, and I really enjoyed acting in school so I applied to CSN for the theatre & performance course. I was accepted and was there for two years.
IFM: Give us an idea the work you’ve done up till now, as you’ve worked on a number of projects.
After years of acting in the theatre circle I wrote a play called ‘The Dark Room’ which was then made into award winning short film selected for Cannes 2011. The first short I wrote, directed and acted in was called ‘A Dark Horse’ which won the Cork Youth International Film Festival in 2007. I then started writing a feature film script call ‘The Vein Within’ which I also produced & directed, and I have just finished this project.
IFM: Do you find any difference between acting on stage as opposed to on camera?
For me the difference on stage is you have to get it right first time after your rehearsals, but with acting on camera you have a any number of takes if you’re not happy with what you have. So basically, I enjoy acting to camera better.
IFM: Moving onto ‘The Vein Within’. The film was 13 years in the making. Take us through the conception of the story, and how did the project get off the ground?
I started writing the script in 2000 with the help of two other gentlemen. As I only learned to read and write in 2000, this script took seven years to write. Then I decided to send the script to the Irish Film Board in 2009. The script was refused funding, they told me that I had to rewrite it concentrating on one character. I did, and then sent it back to them. It was refused again. In 2011 I had a short film in the Cannes Film Festival. While I was in Cannes I met people that told me to come home and find actors, and a film crew with passion. I did, and we started shooting the movie. I was hit with a load of ups and downs, with a lot of refusals from the County Council and got hit with a lot of red tape which put me off in a big way. I met millionaires from my home town that promised me they’d back my movie 100% and three days before we were to start filming, I got a phone call to say they won’t be backing the movie. I was fully determined, whatever knocks I got, I was making this movie with or without backing. And I did.
IFM: How much of the film’s story is inspired by events you witnessed yourself?
The using scenes, the councillor scenes, the graveyard scenes, the hospital scenes, the concerned parent scenes and the struggle of trying to stay clean from drugs.
IFM: Tell us a bit about how the film was shot, and how long was the process from the first day of shooting to the finished edit?
The film was shot from 2010 through to 2013. I tried to work on each scene day by day or week by week. Coming to the end of the movie in 2013, with three days left before paperwork was ready to be sent to Cannes, I got a phone call to say my hard drive crashed which really put us on hold. We sent the hard drive to a forensic lab in Dublin to see could they recover the files and they couldn’t. Lucky enough we had the movie backed up in the Cork Film Centre. We had to go back from scratch and edit the whole movie. Only recently I finally got the chance to look at my movie, and I was very overwhelmed to see 13 years of work completed.
IFM: How did you go about casting the film, and what was it like to work with the cast and crew?
I put up posters in schools, advertised in newspapers and advertised on the Cork Film Centre website and Facebook. I found the actors very easy to work with, they really gelled together to bring out their characters in the movie. So they were really, really very good to work with and very professional. What drove this production was passion.
IFM: What are you hoping the film will accomplish with its release?
I hope I will be recognised as an Irish film director, and this movie will be remembered in time and the 13 years of work that went into it.
IFM: Where and when can people get to see the film?
The movie is going into the film festival circuit as we speak and I’m hoping that a distribution company will pick it up. Then, hopefully, it will be seen in cinemas globally.
IFM: And after the dust has settled on ‘The Vein Within’, what are you hoping to move onto next?
I’m hoping that when this movie comes out my recognition will help me get funding for other projects. I have two short film scripts I want to work on, and I also want to work on another feature film with the backing from the Irish Film Board.