Trampoline – Roundtable Interview
As Tom Ryan gets set to debut his independent feature film at Indie Cork, IFM caught up with the cast and crew for a roundtable interview.
Tom Ryan – Writer/ Director: Trampoline was born out of conversations that I had with friends of mine who struggled to figure out what their next step in life was going to be after finishing school or college. I even know of some people who regret spending 4 years studying a subject that they have no intention of following up on as a career once they leave college. That sort of self doubt and worry about the future is a rite of passage that many people my age go through. I thought it would be an interesting theme for a feature film, particularly my first feature film. I knew that I’d have to go about making my first movie independently and as a result of that, whatever budget I’d raise was never going to be massive so that meant that I wouldn’t be able to make any sort of big genre movies so I’d have to focus on character and drama. This sort of inner crisis and doubt about your own future seemed like a really good idea to mine drama from and so I wrote a script around this idea. In the very first draft the lead character was male, however once I decided to change that to a female character I was able to get much more material out of the idea and the character. The script really came together once Aoife came on board to play Angie Together we worked on the character and her back story and knew the character so well that we were able to work the plot around her character instead of it being the other way around.
IFM: How did the role of ‘Angie’ come about?
Aoife Spratt – Acresss (Angie): I saw a notice on a casting website for three female roles. Kate, Maria and Angie. I read the short descriptions on each character and immediately had my heart set on playing Angie. During rehearsals Angie’s story became clearer to us and the script went through many changes before filming the final draft.
IFM: You had the dual roles on ‘Trampoline’ as Producer and 1st AD. Give us an idea of your day-to-day duties on the project.
Claire Gormley – Producer/1st AD: It was completely hectic! I had a shooting schedule made for each day and I always left a good bit of extra time in each scene as there was a lot of collaboration involved. There was a great sense that if something didn’t feel right to the Actors or to Tom or myself that we could play around with it and make it feel natural. It was very important to us all that there was enough time to make it just right. At first planning the days was quite tough but as time went on and we all became more versed at how to work together it became a more natural process. As we had such a small crew and cast everyone helped out with everything, we would all cook, do set design, choose costumes, everything really. It was great because everyone worked collaboratively and it meant that, as the story was based on people our age, in our own situations, the film feels real and relative. There was a huge amount of work involved and I think that had the shoot been any bigger it may not have been possible for me to do the dual roles but because of the size and the way that everyone seemed to collaborate on roles it was really fitting for me to take on both.
IFM: As the DP on the film, give us an idea what you shot the film on?
Cian Moynan – Cinematographer: I shot the film on my own Canon C300. The ISO goes to 20,000 which gave us great versatility in low light. There are 2 card slots on the camera which gave us a longer shooting time and it takes all EF lenses which allowed us to borrow from friends with canon cameras. I used a Sigma 30 mm and a Canon 50 mm for most of the close ups and interior scenes and a Canon 16 – 35 mm for the wide shots. The film is shot on C – LOG which is a super flat image and is designed for the intention of colour grading in post.
IFM: When it came to scoring the film, how long did it take and did you draw inspiration from anywhere?
Cian O Brien – Composer: When it came to scoring the film, how long did it take and did you draw inspiration from anywhere?
The writing, recording and mixing probably took around 3 months in total. A lot of scenes were done quite quickly and a few had to be reworked. In terms of inspiration I really just talked to the director about the kind of mood and tone for each scene, which informed the style and instrumentation. The main influences were Post Rock bands like Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky etc. with a focus on melody and texture.
IFM: Tell us a bit about the character you play in ‘Trampoline’.
Audrey Hamilton – Actress (Kate): Kate is a very out going bubbly character in the movie, she brings a bit of positivity to the scenes with Angie. Although she has her own problems with her dad being ill, she tries to stay quite upbeat throughout!
IFM: The film touches on themes that a lot of people can relate to. Was that a conscious choice, and did you include any of your own experiences into the story?
Tom Ryan – Writer/ Director: Yeah this was a conscious effort on my part when it came to writing the script. For me character is always key when it comes to writing a script. If you write real characters who people can relate to then audience will stick with them and follow them through the movie. However none of my own life experiences came into the script at all. I’m the total opposite of my lead character Angie. Angie comes from a broken family, I don’t. I have no experience of any of that. She also ran away from doing what she loved in life and pursued a career in teaching instead. I always knew what I wanted to do and worked hard throughout the years to get there. I really hope I pulled it all off succesfully and that people can relate to Angie, but I’m not going to know that until the film screens publicly to an audience. I’m pretty nervous about that.
IFM: Tell us a bit about the audition process you had to go through.
Aoife Spratt – Acresss (Angie): My first audition was an interview. Which i found unusual as I thought I would read sides. At the interview Tom told me about the film mostly about the main themes and style he wanted to use and talked to me about my background in acting. I then did a screen test and was cast as Angie.
IFM: The film was shot on a very limited budget, as a Producer how did you maximise that limitation when it came to hiring a cast/crew and using locations?
Claire Gormley – Producer/1st AD: Well it is strange to say but as a wannabe producer coming straight from college I have never worked on anything that wasn’t on a limited budget. So we were really at the mercy of the good will and generosity of the local people in Nenagh an thankfully they were great! They kept us fed, watered and warm in the winter months. we couldn’t have asked for more really. We tried to structure the script as much as was possible around the facilities and locations that we had available to us. We chose locations that belonged to us, or family members and used any contacts that we already had. The actors and all crew members agreed to work free of charge so we were able to cut costs greatly through that. Overall we called in all favors that we had and were just lucky to have a great, and very small, team on board who wanted to see the film get to completed and were willing to help in any way to make it happen.
IFM: ‘Trampoline’ was shot on such a low budget, how did you go about getting a cast and crew together with such limited funds?
Tom Ryan – Writer/ Director: I auditioned many people for the film and got the word out about it on various casting sites on the internet. We cast the main leads this way and then all of the supporting cast came from a local theater group back in my home town of Nenagh in Co. Tipperary which is where the film is set and shot. We had a very small but talented crew who were all friends of mine before the shoot began. Cian Moynan, Cian O Brien (composer) and Kevin Minogue (editor) were all childhood friends of mine and together we made many short films growing up so it was only natural to ask them to take part in the feature and I’m very lucky that they agreed. My producer Claire was the only person on the crew who I didn’t know before the shoot but thankfully she turned out to be fantastic and we all became friends quite quickly, without her there is no way that I would have been able to make this film. Also we all due to the low budget we all agreed to work on this film for free so it was a labour of love for all involved. We can’t believe that’s it seems to taking off so well at the moment. It’s all thanks to the brilliant team I had making this film.
IFM: Did you actively seek out the role or were you approached to play the part of ‘Kate’, and what unique qualities to you think you brought to the role?
Audrey Hamilton – Actress (Kate): I got sent a brief about auditions for the part of Kate and went along to the IFI to meet with Tom and have a chat about the character, he mailed me a few days later to say I had gotten the part . I think I brought a bit of fun and spontaneity to the character of Kate, Tom wanted her scenes to bring a bit of light to the film so hopefully I did that!
IFM: How did you prepare for the film and taking on the role of ‘Jenny’?
Maggie Donovan – Actress (Jenny): I found preparing for the role of Jenny was eye opening, myself and Tom talked a lot of what would motivate a character like Jenny to behave in this way, and I found that I had a lot of empathy. Realistically shes a girl who is desperate to retain some semblance of her old family life, taking up Angie’s mantle and dealing with issues that she isnt quite ready for. I found that I could relate to that sort of irrational desperation, and when I thought back honestly without trying to paint myself in a positive light, I have behaved similarly. I just found the drive behind her actions equates to her earnest if aggressive attempts to pull her family back together. So a lot of it was having empathy for how family life can force you to do and say things outside of your normal self.
IFM: How closely did you work with Cian Moynan (Director of Photography) to achieve the look of the film?
Tom Ryan – Writer/ Director: Cian and I worked very closely together making this film, there was a lot of trust and respect between the two of us. I was trained as a camera intern by the cinematographer Andrij Parekh. He shot lots of fantastic independent movies like Half Nelson and Blue Valentine. Andrij once told me that the best approach to shooting indie movies is to light the scene and not the shot. This idea meant that the actors would have much more freedom in a scene. For example they were free to pace the room if needs be without having to worry about hitting any marks on the floor or making sure that a light hits them a certain way. Also, we didn’t have any sort of budget for any lights so we decided on the first weekend of shooting to throw the shotlist out the window and improv the camera around whatever the actors movements were. I think that performances are key in character driven films and so it was far more important in my mind in the end to put more time into the acting than the cinematography and thankfully Cian has such a good eye for visuals that he was able to think on his feet and improvise camera movements around the actors without being in anyway intrusive to them so that is a massive testament to his skills as a cinematographer.
IFM: With the limited budget how did you go about lighting the scenes and did you find yourself using more natural light than you normally would?
Cian Moynan – Cinematographer: We couldn’t afford to rent lights with the limited budget so we used whatever available light there was including household lamps etc. The camera performed extremely well in low light and as good as it is to have lights on set we still got great images from the interior scenes and the shooting process wasn’t delayed by having to adjust lighting angles etc. The exterior night scenes were lit by the street lights alone and I found that as long as I didn’t push the ISO beyond 6000 there was minimal noise in the image. We were lucky to have enough natural light with the exterior day scenes to work without lights or reflectors and it gave me the option to use the wide lens more and move freely with the actors.
IFM: Did you bring any of your of personality traits to the character, and if so what were they?
Aoife Spratt – Acresss (Angie): I think you bring elements of yourself to every character. Just when you think “I’m completely different from this cruella deville like super villain!” A little bit of you sneaks in, that’s what
for me helps to make the character a real person.
IFM: What are you hoping ‘Trampoline’ will do for independent Irish film scene? And where can people get to see it?
Tom Ryan – Writer/ Director: I hope that Trampoline will offer up an alternative type of Irish film for audiences, a film that’s a world away from all the crime dramas and horror movies that are currently being shot. I hope that people will watch Trampoline and connect to the characters, go on a journey with Angie and that they can really relate to her and sympathize with her as she goes through her ups and downs and makes all of her mistakes. I think that Trampoline certainly has something new to offer Irish cinema, it’s not gimmicky, it’s a human story with honest characters. I would also hope that Trampoline will open the doors to more female driven Irish films. It will be screened this October at the inaugural Indie Cork Film Festival. We are thrilled to bits to be a part of this festival. It’s the perfect platform for this type of movie and we are all incredibly grateful to the organizers of the the festival, Mick Hannigan and Una Feely, for showcasing the movie and helping us get it out there to an audience.
IFM: After working on Trampoline, what do you feel you could take from the experience that would have a positive impact on your next project?
Maggie Donovan- Actress ‘Jenny’: One thing that I really appreciated from Tom was that if I had an idea or Aoife wasn’t sure about something it was always OKto talk about it and be open in our reservations. So long as we could justify our feelings on the subject he was open to change, so I think that will help me really know that a character has to sit with me, and feel genuine to enable a performance that’s believable and honest. Also tea will do wonders for anything at 6am.
Tadhg Hogan Reddy – Actor: Working with trampoline gave me confidence and experience with working in film. Being a stage actor usually I must present myself to the audience. Working in film means you must act more natural. This was something I’ve never had to do before. It was nice.
Stuart Andrew: After working on Trampoline it gave me an insight into the film makers desires and motivation for making the movie. I believe it was scripted and filmed in such a way as to make me ( as an actor) acutely aware of being a part of this movie and the experience will stand to me for any roles I might play in the future. I enjoyed taking part.
Margaret Walshe – Actress ‘Sarah’: This was my second time to be involved in making a movie – the first time was over twenty years ago. Having performed in many plays since then I found it quite difficult to be ‘natural’ in front of the camera. I worked hard during the filming to relax into the performance and Tom was really patient and helpful to all of us while we worked. He was extremely professional as were all the crew and the rest of the cast. I will take a little more confidence to another movie, a better understanding of what is required for a movie performance (as opposed to a stage performance) and the expectation of a high level of professionalism from any future movie groups.
Mike McMahon – Actor ‘Mr Jennings’: I was delighted to get involved with the Trampoline crew and enjoyed the experience immensely. It was very apparent that the team was very organised and considerate of the cast members. That certainly is something that I would bear in mind for the future – after all, it’s meant to be fun and it was! I think I’ll leave my “Jennings” persona at the door though!
Eddie Murphy – Actor ‘James’: Trampoline gave me a fresh approach to how you go about discovering a character. It was more of a collaborative than individual method as myself, Aoife and Tom would meet and have detailed discussions of each characters relationship with one and other and from there devise simple, natural dialogue that would get to the crux of the themes we were exploring. Filmmaking is a collaboration which I believe is a positive and makes the whole process less intimidating.
Audrey Hamilton – Actress ‘Kate’: This was my first time being a part of a feature film and I gained some good experience from working on this project.
Aoife Spratt -Actress ‘Angie’: I can take a lot from Trampoline. As it was my first feature film, I feel that even from the first day of filming to the last I have learned so much in terms of acting and film production itself. I learned so much from the crew. I got to know them well and their hard work and dedication to the project was inspiring.
I was so lucky to work with such a talented cast. Each actor taught me something new and most definitely played a major part in shaping the character of Angie.
The experience and knowledge I have gained from doing trampoline will certainly aid me in my next project.
Mairead Ni Threinir – 2nd AD: The whole experience of working with Tom and the crew was really positive. I went into my next project feeling more confident in my role. It was a crazy shoot as it was low budget and everyone was working really hard to hit targets and it was my job as Assistant Director to keep everything running smoothly and on time. Claire, the Producer, had everything really well organized, which made my job a whole lot easier! It was a really fun shoot as we were in a lot of different locations and every actor was really great and a pleasure to work with.Tom has a brilliant method of directing, he got the most out of the actors and kept everyone on a really good buzz. We worked well together and kept each other sane! It was stressful at times, having less money means that you have to get everything you need in less time than you would have on a larger budget film but I think we did amazingly well! If I do say so myself!!All in all, this project will take pride of place on my CV, I am working as a Trainee Producer at the moment with Big Mountain Productions and I think the experience definitely helped me land the job…thanks Trampoline!
Kevin Minogue – Editor: What I can take from this project is how interesting it was to see the directors approach to taking master shots for every angle, as he focussed more on a solid performance rather than have it broken up by cutting to different angles. So should he have the perfect delivery he was looking for he would have the option to hold on that entire take for the scene rather than limiting himself to shooting the required moment’s of a scene.
Liam Delahunty – Sound: Working as part of a small crew was a brilliant experience. Seeing the progress of the film makes me proud that a dedicated team with a small budget can achieve such great things. The most exciting thing was to watch how Tom worked with the actors and got them to where he wanted them to go. His determination and hopefully some of his creative mind is what I will try to take to my next project.
Davi Aquino – Sound Mixer: I will definitely become more selective about future film projects. Blame it on good filmmaking, but ‘Trampoline’ was such an easy, free-flowing process that I am now having trouble picturing myself working on films that I do not respect and enjoy anymore. Unlike many projects, ‘Trampoline’ never bored me as I worked on it, no matter how many times I went through it. Even at the last edit, the film was fresh and engaging, and it made the entire process so much easier for me in post-production. ‘Trampoline’ has such a strong message conveyed in a mature, subtle manner. Working on a film with such integrity makes it harder to imagine myself working on one that doesn’t engage and inspire me in the same way. I feel that I was part of a project that I’m proud of, and in turn, it inspired me to put more of myself into that project. It has enriched my experience as an engineer, and in turn I have ultimately been inspired to invest more in the film. That’s what I’ll be looking for in projects going forward after ‘Trampoline’.
Cian Moynan – Cinematographer: Something positive I would take to my next project is the technical experience I gained from working on Trampoline, I found that a massive budget is not essential to make an independent film and that working with a good crew and maintaining a sense of humour makes the whole process more enjoyable.
Claire Gormley – Producer/ 1st AD: The experience and knowledge that I gained from making Trampoline is immeasurable. Although we had worked on different projects before this, Trampoline was the first time for both Tom and I to be completely in control and responsible for a film. There was a huge amount of pressure and obstacles along the way and it took a lot of quick thinking and problem solving to get it pushing forward. It was almost like doing a jigsaw puzzle and I think that moving forward I would have a much clearer idea of the steps that have to be taken and how to go about taking them to bring the film to completion. I’ve also learned the enormity of the work that people put into making a feature film and I would hope that if Trampoline is successful then all involved might be able to make a professional career out if it. I would love if Trampoline began to open up new avenues for everyone involved because if it shows anything it shows their talent and dedication to their work.
Tom Ryan – Writer/ Director: Trampoline was a huge learning experience for me, every single thing that I learned from making this movie will stay with me as I make the next project. It would be difficult for me to put into words everything that I have learned from making ‘Trampoline’ but perhaps the biggest and most important thing that I will take away from this experience is that anything is possible if you surround yourself with a team that you trust and respect. Making a feature film from scratch on such a minuscule budget and seeing the entire process through from start to finish is a huge undertaking and a lot of hard work. There is no way that I would have been able to do all of this without my cast and crew. Filmmaking is a team sport so it is very important to be collaborative with everyone on the team. As a director, if you surround yourself with incredibly passionate and talented people then you are on the right track to making a decent project that you can all be proud of.