HIS & HERS Q&A with Director Ken Wardrop

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 by Tricycle

Join us on Sunday 20 March, 5.30pm for a relaxed afternoon after the festivities of St Patrick’s Day. The Tricycle is delighted to welcome Irish Director Ken Wardrop for an exclusive Q&A alongside a special screening of one of the most successful Irish films of recent times. Book here

Featured in The Irish World (12 March 2011) read Ken Wardrop’s interview on making his award-winning film.

How did the idea for ‘His And Hers’ come to you?

This is one of the toughest questions to answer in relation to our film “His & Hers”. There was no one eureka moment that inspired the idea behind this film. Rather it was a combination of moments and considerations.

Back in 2008 I attended the Irish Film Board’s Catalyst workshop for low-budget filmmaking. This was perfect timing, as my producing colleague Andrew Freedman and I were hoping to make our first feature length film. Our experience to-date had been in short form documentaries and it felt appropriate that our next move should be a long form documentary.

This coincided with being at that age where all my friends were getting married and making those serious life long commitments. I however was very happy single and of course would cynically question my friends’ life choices. I saw the potential in this as idea to investigate in a documentary.

With this in mind, I decided to consider my Mum’s story as a way to create a narrative. She married her childhood sweetheart and they spent a happy life together until my father died prematurely from cancer in his early sixties. I then considered telling this narrative using ordinary stories from characters at varying stages of life. From these “ordinary” stories I hoped to create a composite of an “extraordinary” story of sharing life’s journey.

It’s full of such natural performances – how did you coax them out of your subjects?

We spent a long time in the research phase of this project. From the outset we decided to make the film in the Irish Midlands. This is where my Mum is from and where I grew up. With the help of two dedicated researchers we found characters that could have been my aunt, cousin, neighbor etc. Therefore before we even started filming I knew I could have a natural rapport with these subjects.

Essentially we had a morning or an afternoon to capture each character’s vignette. The film crew and equipment was kept small so as not to intimidate our characters.

Another advantage I had was I tend to personally talk a lot myself. I think this tended to bore the ladies and by the time I’d eventually shut up they were delighted to share their own stories. In fairness we were also just chatting about everyday life and those simple things that connect us with our partners, children etc. Through this chit-chat we would eventually get a little deeper and to more meaningful matters.

This was your first feature documentary – how does the experience differ from making short

Making this film was a seriously long journey. Comparing this to a short film is like trying to compare the one hundred metres sprint to the marathon. From start to finish the film took us more than one year. I had made most of my short films over a weekend.

I also edited “His & Hers” which meant I had no escape and no real break from the process.

I believe stamina actually does come into feature filmmaking and especially documentary making. You have to be prepared for the distance. Moving from the short to the feature was a shock to my system and I ended up run down and getting sick from the experience. Next time I attempt a feature I’ll be hitting the gym a few months in advance.

How did you go about finding/choosing the 70 women featured?

His & Hers is a micro-budget film. The money was so tight that we had fifty miles petrol money per day. We therefore drew a circle of fifty miles radius around our base (a small bungalow in Rhode in Co. Offaly) – all our characters were going to have to come from this area.

The researchers then set about finding subjects in all sorts of manners. We had open castings in the larger towns like Mullingar and Tullamore. We attended ICA meetings, camogie clubs, mother and toddler groups – basically anywhere we thought we’d find women gathered. On one occasion a priest even gave us a plug from his pulpit. Given the small area we were focused on word of mouth also spread. We even found people calling the office to volunteer.

Did the fact that most Irish love having a good chat make your job easier?!

I think this is one of the fundamental reasons that I felt the film could work. I knew there would be no shortage of storytellers.

I heard someone saying that the film reminded them of those simple moments you have around the kitchen table at home. You’re having the chats with your family about nothing in particular and yet you feel there’s nowhere better to be in the world. Nowhere as special or as entertaining as the people you have around you.

Read the full interview in this week’s edition of The Irish World (Issue No. 1252)