Sean T O'Meallaigh as Will in Gustav
Sean T O'Meallaigh as Will in Gustav

#Interview: Scannain Talks Gustav ahead of the Cork International Film Festival

Gustav is a new short film written by Ken Williams and co-directed by Ken and Denis Fitzpatrick, his partner in Stanley’s Deathpark Productions. It is a curious tale about a Will, a young man who has Gustav Holst trapped in his head. His mind has been hi-jacked by Jupiter- The Bringer of Jollity a piece from the composer’s well know orchestral movement The Planets.

Very funny….this is a laugh-out-loud, cleverly edited short. O’Meallaigh is perfectly cast and he is in his element playing this comedic role. As with all successful comedies, this film juggled the essentials of good editing and comedic timing with a sharp script

Deirdre de Grae , Film Ireland

The film had its Irish premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh earlier this year and recently screened at the Offline Film Festival and the Clones Film Festival. It won a well deserved Best Director award at the Richard Harris International Film Festival where it was nominated among David O’Reilly’s Kubrick by Candlelight, Martina McGlynn’s The Secret Market, Garret Walsh’s The Observer Effect and Selena Cartmell’s The Date

This week the filmmakers take Gustav home to Cork as it screens twice at the 62nd Cork International Film Festival: this Thursday at 12pm as part of Shorts 4 in the Gate Cinema and on Sunday as part of the “Best Of Cork” shorts programme at 3pm at the Everyman Cinema.

Scannain caught up with the Cork filmmaking duo to chat to them about Gustav and some of their other work together.

Gustav Directors
Co directors Denis Fitzpatrick and Ken Williams

The premise for Gustav is quite unusual, where did this idea of an “earworm” come from and what is the significance of the particular tune used in the film- Gustav Holst’s Jupiter- Bringer of Jollity from The Planets?

Ken: Basically I was sitting at work one day and the person next to me, Lindsey Brackey, said she had Billy Joel stuck in her head all day. Obviously I’ve heard that expression a million times but for some reason that time it occurred to me: what if Billy Joel actually was in your head all day. Immediately followed by “there’s a short in that.”

Trying to stay true to the idea we did try to speak to Billy Joel’s people but he’s kind of a big deal so had no joy. We played with other pop stars but once we landed on the idea of using a classical piece it felt right. Choosing the music was easy from my point of view. I was introduced to Holst when my dad told me my grandad used to play it when he was ill in hospital and it was the last piece he listened to; since then it’s always been in my life so has a personal meaning. But also, in terms of how it works in the film, I like it because people know it but don’t know its origins maybe. It’s the rugby tune but not. It’s perfect really.

Sean T O’Meallaigh has a great screen presence which is lucky, as for quite a lot of the film he fills the screen and we see him mainly looking in the mirror!  How did you come to cast Sean and what was it about him that made you feel he was right for the part ( aside from his humming ability!)

Ken: We had a film doing the rounds the same year as Love is a Sting so I saw that short a lot and I loved it. Sean’s performance is brilliant and just the mix of humour and frustration I was looking for. He’s a really great actor and a pleasure to work with.

Denis: Co-incidentally, he lives near me, and i knew him to see from the set of Vikings. I bumped into him in a local “establishment” and he was wearing a very fetching 1983 Man United jersey.  When I told this to Ken, that was a clincher

Sound and music are obviously very important ingredients in Gustav. Can you tell us about who worked on the sound design and music and how it was all coordinated?

Ken: I love music but know nothing about it so when it comes to trying to explain what’s in my head or what I want it’s really important I’m comfortable enough to sound like an ignorant fool. Brian Lane looked after all the sound and was incredibly patient with my buffoonery. He did a great job with our editor, Shane Callan with a complicated brief.

Denis: Our location sound mixer Enda Callan and boom op Steve Jackson also did some sterling work for us on set, particularly in tricky spots such as Leeson Street bridge.  Very hard to get clean dialogue against the traffic but they got us what we needed.

As Stanley’s Deathpark Productions, you have collaborated together on a number of short films. How did you first meet and what is it about the dynamic you have together that obviously works so well?

Ken: We met when we were two years old I reckon. Denis lived in number 3 Owenabue Drive, I lived in number 6. My mum worked for a wholesale video company so I had piles of samples and Denis’s uncle collected movie magazines so we watched a lot of films together.

Denis: That’s true, between myself and my uncle we had ample copies of Premiere and Empire, which i’m old enough to remember had black and white pictures then.  We didn’t have a vcr in my house until i was a bit older so I started my education in Ken’s sitting room.  I also commemorated his mother’s influence in verse at Ken’s wedding!

Where did you come up with the name Stanley’s Deathpark Productions

Ken: One of the aforementioned VHS samples was a Dean Cameron film called Rockula. It’s amazing. We’ve probably seen it 100 times. It’s on YouTube. Watch it.

What have you worked on before?

Our first film together was Car Film which we shot in 2012. It was based on an incident when Ken’s father woke up in a haze in a strange car and it starred Jack Reynor would you believe?! Our other shorts are The Last Dart, The Final Fairytale (which won the One Minute Wonder Award at the Cardiff Mini Film Festival) , The Daisy Chain ( narrated by Fiona Shaw) and The Break which starred Barry Keoghan, Ronan Leahy, Emmet Kirwan, and Jon Kenny.

What’s next for Gustav after Cork?  And what’s next for Stanley’s Deathpark Productions, is there anything you can let out of the bag?

We’ve been on a good run of festivals and we are really excited about screening at the Irish Film Festival in London( Dec 1st) .We’ve also been selected as Best Film at the Around Films International Festival in Berlin and we are screening at a couple of small festivals in Rome and India this month. We are still submitting and hope to have some more exciting news for the New Year.

We’re working on a few projects at the moment, we’ve just finished a documentary about the Karen Barry, a Cork woman who discovered powerlifting at the age of forty-eight and won a gold medal at the world championships in Minsk this Summer – that was a really different experience. We are developing a feature that we’re really excited about and are hoping to shoot a new short in the new year and there is also another documentary on the cards.

Gustav stars Sean T. O’Meallaigh (Vikings, An Klondike) as the protagonist Will with Charlene Gleeson (Sarah & Steve, Penny Dreadful) as his weary partner Dee and supporting cast Aoibheann McCann and Glen Barry. Cinematography is by James Mather (Frank, Adam and Paul), editing by Shane Callan and the film was produced by Steven Daly of Brainstorm Productions.

We highly recommend checking out the rest of Ken and Denis’s other shorts on Stanley’s Deathpark You Tube Channel.

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