Kelly (Leah Egan) confronts Johnny (Aron Hegarty) in Leap of Faith
Kelly (Leah Egan) confronts Johnny (Aron Hegarty) in Leap of Faith

#Interview: Scannain Talks Leap of Faith with Mark Smyth ahead of the Galway Film Fleadh

Premiering at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh is Mark Smyth’s Leap of Faith, a sci-fi thriller which was funded through last years Filmbase/RTÉ Short Shots scheme.

The film tells the story of Kelly who longs for a connection in a disconnected world. Leap of Faith will play as part of New Irish Shorts 3 and stars Leah Egan (Fair City, Ros na Rún) and Aron Hegarty (Game of Thrones, Vikings) in the main roles.

Written by Dave Thorpe and produced by Jonathan Farrelly for PIO Media, the film has a host of award winning talent involved. With Jass Foley on board as cinematographer, Margot Cullen as production designer and Greg Burrowes as sound op. The film was edited by both Smyth & Thorpe with post-production completed in Screen Scene.

Leap of Faith was also one of the films selected by IMRO this year to have its score recorded by the RTÉ concert orchestra which was composed by Darren Hendley (Give Up Yer Aul Sins).

This is Mark Smyth’s fifth short film to date – he also directs music videos and TV commercials. Last year he produced and directed a campaign for Škoda which won 2 Irish TV sponsorship awards for ‘Best TV Broadcast Sponsorship’ and ‘Best Low Budget Sponsorship’.

Kelly (Leah Egan) is shocked in Leap of Faith
Kelly (Leah Egan) is shocked in Leap of Faith

Scannain caught up with Smyth to talk about the short:

What is Leap of Faith about?

Leap of Faith tells the story of Kelly, a girl in her late twenties who’s unfulfilled with where life has taken her. One night Kelly sees handsome neighbour Johnny moving into the apartment across the way and over the next few days she finds herself staring across into his world and is shocked when she sees him do something humanly impossible! Kelly goes on a mission to uncover and discover more about Johnny and most importantly prove to herself that what she saw really did happen…

Why did you want to tell this story?

I was captivated by Dave Thorpe’s script, he’s a brilliant writer – I saw huge potential for developing it into something really cool and special. I really connected with Kelly’s sense of feeling unfulfilled and longing for something more but pushing forward with the faith that good things will come your way – I think it’s something many people can relate to. Fundamentally for me the story all boils down to humans longing for some kind of connection and the sentiment that people are special. I’m a huge fan of genre films, especially Sci-Fi and I really wanted to break the mold and make something different and exciting – though it was very important to me that the film was to have a real sense of Irish identity. During pre-production I delved further into the world and its characters to nail down the essence and the tone of the story I wanted to tell. Ultimately the fact that the script was so original and ambitious was what really drew me to it.

Uniquely the film features a number of VFX shots. What was it like trying to get them in on a small budget?

In the script there are certainly a few big moments which was part its appeal. I didn’t immediately just settle on the idea of going the VFX route for the parts that might have warranted it. I wanted to figure out how we could achieve as much as possible in-camera due to our budget limitations and that forced me to be very creative when it came to figuring things out. At the end of the day I knew some of the parts were going to have to be done with VFX so I got to work on the pre-visualisation and shot breakdowns. Visually I kept the look of these moments as simple and as real as possible because I wanted the film to feel grounded and I didn’t want the VFX to be distracting – it really just required being prepared and pragmatic to make it work within our budget. Before pitching to Filmbase and RTÉ I had done a VFX test for one of the big moments as I knew it would be a red flag for them and I wanted to show them that they could trust me with pulling this off.

Shortly before the shoot myself and our producer Jonny Farrelly met with Jim Duggan in Screen Scene and we were very lucky enough to get them on board for our post production requirements. I knew then that that we could do this properly – these guys are the best in the business! Kenneth Coyle and Denny Cahill in Screen Scene went above and beyond for us and delivered on some very impressive VFX work, they absolutely nailed it and I can’t thank them enough for their work.

What was the hardest thing about making the film?

For me the hardest part of making Leap of Faith was dealing with the pressure I had put on myself to create something that had the potential to be great, with Filmbase and RTÉ backing us I just felt that the stakes were higher than ever before and that’s why it was so important to get it right. I was holding myself to a high standard on this project – then I was dealing with the uncertainty of being able to pull it off. Creating the ambitious genre film that I wanted demanded a very intense shooting schedule and extensive post production work all of which on a tight budget was a big challenge. The duration of the project required a lot of patience to be able to stay fresh and oversee all aspects while making the right choices from the edit to the music and everything in between, thankfully our fantastic producer Jonny kept me in line and made everything run smoothly for us. At the time of the shoot I was going through a fairly rough patch personally which made things harder but rather than let it get on top of me instead I turned to the people around me for support and just focused on the job at hand. I have to say I really enjoyed the process of making this film, in the end I think everyone’s hard work has paid off and we have a film we can all be proud of.

What was the casting process like?

We found it a little bit tricky when it came to casting as I was looking for specific qualities for both roles. After plenty of scouring I came across Leah Egan through her agency, we reached out to her and I spoke in detail with her about the story and the character of Kelly. Leah was amazing, she really got what I was aiming to do with the film and where I felt Kelly was coming from. The role was quite challenging for her as there is very little dialogue in the piece so really it was on her shoulders to make the audience understand Kelly’s place emotionally within the story – Leah is so wonderfully expressive and I think she really delivered with a brilliant performance. We cast Aron Hegarty as the mysterious character of Johnny – our writer Dave actually knew Aron from his days of living in Galway and suggested him as a possibility. After I met with Aron I knew straight away that he was the man for the job, he was extremely excited about the story and the character and he did an awesome job in bringing Johnny to life. We also had great upcoming young talent on board in the form of Ava Rose Farrelly, she brought a certain innocence to the piece which was very refreshing and lovely to work with. I have to say we were very lucky with the people we had involved on this project, they are such a committed and passionate bunch.

What are your hopes for the film?

My hopes for Leap of Faith are that when people see it they get pulled into the story and the emotion and come away having just enjoyed the experience of watching it. I’d really love if it stuck in their heads and they were chatting about it afterwards. Ultimately it’d be great if we could get it into plenty of festivals and get as many people to watch it as possible, anything after that is a bonus…

Leap of Faith features in the Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts 3 on Thursday, July 13th in the Town Hall Theatre at 12pm.

Leap of Faith - Poster

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