Filmmaker Interview by Chris Olson
Filmmaker Interview with Patrick Ireland
Thanks for speaking with us Patrick. Whereabouts in the world are you right now and what are you up to?
I live in London in the UK. Currently, I’m a Producer at ITV working on their flagship breakfast news show Good Morning Britain. I’ve also just finished work on my new short film, Ill Fares The Land, which I’m hoping will help me professionally transition into directing drama.
We previously reviewed your short film Ill Fares The Land, which we absolutely loved! How do you describe the film to a new audience?
I’m glad you liked it! The tagline we gave Ill Fares The Land was ‘mermaids, migrants and the far-right’ which I think pretty succinctly sums it up. The film is a fantasy-drama which revolves around a young boy who finds a mermaid washed up on the shores of his seaside home while his older brother is swept up in the rising tide of far-right nationalism.
The mermaid essentially acts as a metaphor for a migrant attempting to cross the English Channel (which is obviously a big political talking point at the moment) and the film examines this growing problem of right-wing radicalisation and racism within parts of white working-class England.
The film is dealing with some heavy themes. Why did you want to tell this story?
I grew up in a seaside town (Herne Bay, Kent) which was very much a white working-class community. Sadly, over the years, I’ve noticed the rhetoric in these sorts of communities drift further to the right and for racism and xenophobia to become commonplace. Indeed, this is happening everywhere – across not just Britain, but much of Europe and America. Fascism is on the rise again and many of us feel powerless to stop it.
With Ill Fares The Land I wanted to make a film which, unflinchingly, depicted this reality as well as ask this question: Is a second fascist era inevitable? Can this new, growing fascism that is devouring community after community be stopped? At its core, the film is my attempt to answer that question.
What were the challenges of getting Ill Fares the Land made?
Ill Fares The Land was a completely self-funded project, so finding the money to make the film was the first big challenge! I spent years and years squirrelling away money until I was in a position to fund production – from paying cast and crew, to buying props, location fees, to even submitting to film festivals now!
Behind the Scenes – Ill Fares the Land
Aside from budget, the challenge as ever with all independent films is to make something without the machinery and resources of a major studio or production company. Luckily, I was blessed on this film with the best cast and crew I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. As cliché as it sounds, every one of them genuinely went above and beyond on this film. Among others, I had the most brilliant cinematographer in Stephen Roach; a first-class editor in Michael Pentney; and the best score for a short I’ve ever heard (I know I’m biased!) thanks to composer Magdalena Maria Herfurtner. My producers also, Jessica Romagnoli and Annabella Casaburi, were absolutely heroic in fighting the various fires that every new day making a film brings.
How had the experiences on your previous shorts (e.g. The Director, Anonymous: A Million Men) impacted the way you made this new film?
Ill Fares The Land is definitely my most ambitious project to date – and also my best! I couldn’t have made it in the way we made it without the experience and lessons learnt from my previous films (Anonymous, One in a Million and The Director). With Ill Fares The Land, it almost felt like I had finally learnt how to direct a film!
Behind the Scenes – Ill Fares the Land
That I was able to overcome my ego, my insecurities; that I was able to properly channel my creativity and collaborate completely with the other artists involved. I approached Ill Fares The Land as if it were the last film I was ever going to make and that was quite freeing in a way the others weren’t… I guess it was more a state-of-mind type thing, as opposed to something practical. Sorry for getting a little wordy there.
Where can people see Ill Fares the Land and your other movies?
The Director (2018): A satirical black comedy about a ‘serious’ filmmaker’s desperate attempts to make a ‘serious’ documentary on homelessness.
One in a Million (2017): Award-winning drama about an autistic teenager who dreams of one day winning the lottery and escaping the shackles of his impoverished seaside hometown.
Anonymous: A Million Men (2015): A documentary about the Anonymous movement during the lead up to their 2014 Million Mask March in London.
What’s next for you?
For now, I’m focused on taking Ill Fares The Land to festivals. I’d love to make a feature-length film some day, so hopefully that’s an opportunity that’ll arise in the not-too-distant future…
Why do you make movies?
I’ve loved making films ever since I was a kid. My parents bought me a Mini DV camera and I used to make short films in school with my friends when we should’ve been in lessons! I suppose filmmaking is the ultimate form of escapism – literally creating worlds – and that’s what I love about it. From when I was a child, to what I do now, it’s essentially always remained the same.
As well as the joy I get out of making films, I also think it’s important to document this particular era in history. The films I make tend to have political undertones and that’s because we’re living through such a significant historical moment, from the climate crisis to the (seeming?) slow collapse of capitalism. Whatever happens, I like the idea that future people will be able to go back to the films of this time (particularly the indies) to be able to get a sense of how everyday people thought/felt about the world and what was happening around them.