Shooting on location in Swanlinbar

The Rogue’s progress

Saturday was the world premiere of Redemption of a Rogue. There were no fancy gowns or red carpets as the 32nd Fleadh moved online for this year.

The mantra of these strange times is “everything’s different now”. In the last few months it’s been repeated over and over, and each time it takes on different nuances. As of Sunday night that mantra has very positive connotations for Philip Doherty.

The Cavan playwright, now filmmaker, had his directorial debut selected for two prestigious awards at the Galway Film Fleadh. The Fleadh jury, consisting of Keith Carradine, Liam Cunningham, Kirsten Smith, Fionnula Flanagan, Ruth Negga, Michael Smiley, Allison Anders, Laura Ní Cheallaigh, and Stuart Forrest, selected the award winning playwright’s directorial debut as the winner in two categories.

Saturday was the world premiere of Redemption of a Rogue. There were no fancy gowns or red carpets as the 32nd Fleadh moved online for this year. On Sunday Doherty watched the awards that mark the culmination of the festival from his own home in the company of close friends in front of “a big, obnoxious, vulgar, brand new TV screen”.

As the evening unfolded the phrase “everything is different now” must have cropped up a few times.

“What a way to finish it off; to win the top two awards at the Galway Film Fleadh, unbelievable,” the director told the Celt on Monday as the magnitude of his achievement started to sink in.

Making an independent film is a gargantuan task. Once that’s concluded the work really begins. Distribution is all about getting in a position where people can actually view your work. The Fleadh win is an enormous fillip in that regard: “We’re just going to enjoy this moment. That’s the main thing at present. The film is there for people to see and enjoy. We are just so proud. I want to enjoy that because this doesn’t happen very often in your life.

“It’s a really cool thing to happen for the film and the arts community in Cavan and for everyone involved in the making of the film. It’s just a moment to have a really big smile on your face and be proud.”

Feels right

Work on ‘getting it out there’ was in train before the festival win. The production company for the film, Pale Rebel Productions, announced they were linking up with Wildcard Distribution prior to the Film Fleadh.

“To have them come on board is fantastic. We are going to a couple of more festivals and then having a cinema release. We get the opportunity to watch it in cinemas in Ireland. I can’t wait to sneak in somewhere and watch it on the big screen.”

Doherty identifies bringing the film home for a screening as a priority.

“We definitely want to do a cinema premiere in Cavan, as opposed to the online premier that was the Galway Film Fleadh. I don’t know where or when that will take place, but it just feels right to have it in Cavan or Swanlinbar.”

Getting the nod in Galway should open the door to more festivals. Doherty is reluctant to engage in speculation.

“Up to this we were just working hard to get it over the line for the Galway Film Fleadh. That’s the pre-eminent film festival in Ireland, but now after winning the two awards - I don’t know. It’s very exciting for the film. We definitely want an international premiere, hopefully in the next four months. Winning the award opens up a lot of possibilities.”

Throwing out the bait of Cannes, Sundance, Berlin doesn’t elicit a bite.

“I don’t know what one, but we will be aiming to be part of one of the internationally renowned ones. It will probably come before the cinema release, so probably be in the next four or five months. Then the whole world can see the glory of Cavan, perhaps with whatever subtitles they need,” he laughs.

The previous recipients of the Irish film winners in Galway is an impressive honour role of Irish productions. This is a source of pride for the Cavan director.

“Today I saw a post on some of the previous winners; The Guard, The Young Offenders, Song for the Sea. They are some of the most successful Irish films in the history of Irish cinema, so to have Redemption of a Rogue alongside those names feels almost surreal and unbelievable. It’s a testament to all the brilliant people who helped make the film.” He may have his hand on the tiller, but the captain keeps gesturing to the support of his crew: “Cavan Arts, and what we have done for the last number of years has been recognised in these awards,” he says.

The quality of the judging panel made the win even more enjoyable for the director.

“What an amazing jury; with actors of the calibre of Fionnula Flanagan, Ruth Negga and Liam Cunningham. This win gives us a chance to build momentum, to have a wide audience see a production that’s been a labour of love for over a year and half, but really is over 10 years in the making because of all the people involved in it.”

Can’t wait

Doherty says he wants to take what comes step by step.

“We learned so much. It was an education from start to finish. For most of the crew it was the first full length feature, it was the producers’ first feature, and it was Aaron’s first [film] lead. There’s this wonderful spirit behind it and it had an energy.

“Now that it won this award we may have a chance to make a second film with all that experience and all that education after going through that whole journey. “Most of the screenplay of the next film I want to do is written and I can’t wait. It would be an amazing opportunity to build on it, but for the moment I just want to enjoy Redemption of a Rogue and focus on just being happy about the whole thing,” he concluded.

Sometimes when everything becomes different, it is a good thing.

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