Annika Cassidy, an emerging young film director, talks to Scannain about being a first-time filmmaker and her hard-hitting short film PEEL which is causing a stir, ahead of its World Premiere at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.

PEEL is a raw, powerful short film that captures the painful effects of alcoholism on a family, as witnessed through the eyes of those who pick up the pieces. It is one a just a few Irish films that focus solely on a topic that unfortunately, far too many people will relate to.

The short features emerging talent Lauryn Canny (A Thousand Times Goodnight) as Olivia, the daughter of an alcoholic mother. The film centres on her as she comes home to find her mother, played by Ally Ni Chiaran (My Name is Emily), motionless on the couch.

Peel

Have you made any films before this?

PEEL is my directorial debut.  I’ve been working in the industry for over ten years in various capacities which has been an amazing learning experience. It is so rewarding to be specialising in directing which has always been my passion.

How did you find the filmmaking process –what was the hardest thing about making PEEL?

Getting my first film over the line was a big challenge for me but one which I enjoyed immensely. Paying for the project itself was very difficult as I self-funded PEEL out of my overdraft.  But without the encouragement of suppliers, my crew and many friends in (and out of) the industry who wanted me to succeed, it would have been impossible. Let’s just say however that there will be no summer holiday for me this year!

I also wrote, produced and directed PEEL – so it was a tricky balancing act.  I realised that surrounding yourself with the right team and being able to trust your HODs in their area of expertise is key.

Tell us more about your team –there was a few all-stars in the mix…

I count myself extremely lucky to have attracted some serious talent for PEEL. DOP Eimear Ennis Graham was an outstanding partner throughout this entire process and I am delighted to see her being recognised for her stellar work. She’s been recently nominated for the coveted Rising Star Award at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival this year.

IFTA-nominated editor, Colin Campbell also massively connected with the script from the get-go. I was so delighted with his cut.  Of course, the wonderful Lauryn Canny who played Olivia in PEEL is already on the radar both here and abroad. She has already co-starred with the fabulous Juliette Binoche. I was blown away by her naturalism and broad range of emotion – especially in someone so young.

What is the story of PEEL?

We follow Olivia as she’s pushed to her limit, emotionally. The film tackles the taboo of alcoholism coming from an honest, raw perspective that is fresh and mature.

However the over-riding theme is strength and how despite the sorrow in her young life, Olivia draws on her determination to prevail. We don’t shy away from the uncomfortable nature of the havoc that alcoholism wrecks in the lives of people from all backgrounds. I think people will feel recognition as they watch PEEL – this is a theme that affects us all in some capacity.

Peel

Why did you want to tell this story?

Over 1 in 4 Irish people have reported suffering the negative consequences of someone else’s drinking. I am among that huge 28%  -so this is very much an experience that I have lived through. And although it is one of the country’s biggest problems, it is still a taboo subject. Unless you are on a street corner drinking straight from a bottle, many people find it hard to accept that alcoholism is in their lives. It is especially a problem for the children of alcoholics who are the accidental victims (271,000 children under 15 years of age are living with parents who are regular risky drinkers).

I wanted to start this conversation. I want to move the subject away from teen binge drinking and show that the biggest danger with excessive drinking is when it slowly creeps into a day to day domestic setting.  This has such a devastating ripple effect on the family.

Would you see it as a sad film?

Not at all.  This is a stark and unapologetic short but it is uplifting. It is about drawing on that inner strength and courage time and time and time again – because that’s life.

I think this film will resonate with more people than we think. I also like that I have turned something that has had a big affect on my life, into a vessel that can raise awareness and engage others. It was a hard one to make, emotionally – but I’m really proud of this film.

So where can we see this?

I’m so excited and happy to announce that PEEL will have its World Premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh in July! This will be a really fantastic platform for an issue that is so relevant and important.

Tickets will be on sale soon for the Short Film Programme and can be bought online here.

For more info about PEEL, click on Hopalong Films Facebook page.

Peel

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