“I was on my knees in every sense and I had some industry people telling me that I was biting off more than I could chew.” Filmmaker Maurice O’Carroll talks about bringing his first feature-length film, Dead Along the Way, to the film festival circuit. “The biggest challenge was to stand back up and make everyone believe we were going to make a good a film with the available resources at hand.”
From Shorts to Feature-Length
O’Carroll has years of experience making short films. Feature-length was a whole new experience for him. “Time and effort are the greatest differences. A feature film involves so much time and planning from script to completion to marketing and distribution. I always work hard but I’ve never worked harder in my life these past couple of years.”
O’Carroll’s biggest challenge? No budget.
“Everything is a challenge when you have no budget. And when I say no budget I mean no budget. After a run of horrible luck I was stone broke and principal photography was due to begin in five days. Locations were falling through, we lost a couple of actors last minute, my car died, I got hit with a severe bronchial infection.”
O’Carroll stood up to the challenge. “I’m too stubborn and obsessed with filmmaking to fail. Looking from ‘the outside in’ it was the worst possible time in my life to embark on a feature film. However, I knew that I simply had to make Dead Along The Way. And, as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.”
Dead Along the Way
Dead Along the Way – the Story
“In this Irish crime comedy, hapless wedding videographers Wacker and Tony find themselves unexpectedly dealing with a dead body, overly-enthusiastic Gardaí, fertility treatment, and a vengeful gangster… oh, and an imminent wedding.”
O’Carroll says, “Getting the film made and getting selected for Ireland’s most prestigious film festival, Galway Film Fleadh, has boosted my appetite and confidence to make another film… like now already!” The Galway festival features a packed program with more than 150 films, including 16 world premieres, from over 30 countries around the world.
O’Carroll’s first cinema experience was Star Wars. “I was five years of age and I suppose I’ve been chasing that experience ever since. However, filmmaking was always a world away from me, inaccessible, and I grew up as an aspiring writer until the digital age democratized cinema. As soon as I picked up my first camera – which was 12 years ago – I knew in an instant that I was finally at home.”
O’Carroll on set
Visual storytelling defines O’Carroll’s heart. “Story holds a mirror up to humanity and it helps us explore our emotions, educates us, thrills us, and it sympathises with us. And, for me, story in film is often best when it is a heightened sense of reality that changes us in some small way through its message.”
“I built my own (film) collective,” says O’Carroll. “I used to live in an isolated part of Ireland and when I decided to go on this journey I was on my own. My wife Elaine – who probably has more credits on all my films than I do – promised to support me no matter what it took and I suppose that was the most important launch pad to begin with.
“I met Sinead O’Riordan (the film’s co-producer) and Tom Lawlor (a principal actor) when I was making my first short film and they became long-term collaborators. I stressed from the beginning that it was important to find great people, and I always try to foster a ‘film family’ atmosphere on and off set. Respect, teamwork, and good energy are paramount and a catalyst for good work.”
Film Gear Choices
O’Carroll’s budget limitations applied to the gear as well. “I went into this project with the philosophy: we film with what we’ve got. I own quite a bit of prosumer gear and I also have a Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K which we shot on. FilmEquipmentHire.com in Dublin showed faith in our project off the back of previous work. They were incredibly generous with a deal on Zeiss lenses and many other accessories. The owner, Colin Browne, was literally trying to fill my car with gear.
“Shooting on such a low budget meant that we ran into problems, of course. But I had an amazing crew, guys and girls that I have learned to trust over the years, and they always managed to find solutions.”
Feed Your Crew
“But everything worked out because Dead Along The Way had a simple but concrete cinematic language and we never wavered from it. We all knew and embraced our boundaries and we worked to the best of our creative abilities within those limitations. And we always had great, home-cooked food… that’s more important than any camera sensor.”