Director Dave Tynan on capturing a disappearing city in Dublin Oldschool
David Roy speaks to Dublin director Dave Tynan about making his feature debut, Dublin Oldschool, a stylish adaptation of star Emmet Kirwan's hit play about addiction set in the hedonistic world of the city's club culture
"I'M DOING a rain dance to try and make the sun go away," jokes Dave Tynan when we call to discuss his debut feature Dublin Oldschool, which opened in cinemas on Friday.
"It's not great for box office," explains the Dublin film-maker of our current heatwave, which may be denting ticket sales for his new dance and club culture informed film.
"It's funny, because we had the weather with us when we shot it as well. I actually think it's one of the sunniest Irish films I've ever seen."
However, given that the Irish as a race are simply not built for extended exposure to blazing sunshine, 90 minutes of top quality comedy and beats-infused drama enjoyed in air-conditioned darkness could well be a welcome tonic for those becoming bored with sunburn and heat rash.
Starring Emmet Kirwan, who co-wrote this adaptation of his hit 2014 stage play with Tynan (the pair had previously worked on a trio of shorts, including last year's Ifta-winning Heartbreak), Dublin Oldschool tracks troubled wannabe-DJ Jason (Kirwan) through a chaotic weekend of substance abuse-propelled partying at various sweaty clubs and overpopulated 'session gaffs'.
Reality bites for Jason when he unexpectedly encounters his estranged older brother, Daniel (Ian Lloyd Anderson, reprising his role from the play), who's homeless.
Daniel used to be a smart and 'sorted' clubber until heroin wrecked his life and destroyed his relationship with his family. The contrasting and often hypocritical attitudes to recreational drug use and serious addiction were explored in the original play, which was inspired by Kirwan's older brother who eventually conquered a drug problem to become a counsellor, and remain central to the new film adaptation.
"How the f*** do you go from yokes [Ecstasy] to gear?!" demands Jason in one emotional scene between the two brothers. Such moments of heavy drama are offset by regular laughs from a witty script which crackles with authentic Dublin humour, much of it delivered in unrepentantly broad 'Dub' accents.
"It's got a bit of everything," Tynan tells me. "It's hopefully got a lot of laughs, it's got a cracking amount of tunes and it's got some proper meatier drama as well.
"Trying to keep the right ratio between light and dark and keep a tonal cohesion was like spinning plates. It was a big step up from making shorts. Emmet and I had already done a hat-trick of shorts, so it was nice to go for something bigger this time around. It's a great piece on stage, I hope it's its own beast on screen – I think it is.
"Some stuff is the same as the theatrical version, but there's other stuff that's completely new and fresh and stuff that's hopefully using cinema language.
"We got to bring in a bunch of actors who were never in the theatre version, like Mark O'Halloran (Adam & Paul, Garage), Sarah Greene (The Guard, Penny Dreadful) and Seána Kerslake (Dollhouse, Can't Cope, Won't Cope) and we got to use 26 tracks on the score.
"We've expanded the universe of it, I suppose."
Stylishly shot and bolstered by brilliant performances from the two leads as well as the supporting cast, Dublin Oldschool is certainly an auspicious debut feature for Tynan, who attended the National Film School at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire before his MA in Filmmaking at Goldsmiths in London.
"Now I've made a feature and seen what it is, it makes me think even more [highly] of films I've already seen and loved," says the Dublin man of directing his first feature, which follows a series of acclaimed shorts including the aforementioned Heartbreak and 2015's IFTA-winning Rockmount.
"It was a real step-up but I loved the challenge of it. When you're making films, they take f***in' years.
"There are those films that feel perfect to you, where they didn't put a foot wrong. That means they managed to not put a foot wrong for however many days, weeks or years they took to make.
"I'm pigging out on the World Cup at the moment and, to me, that is like watching people doing a [Brazil star] Coutinho or something: an absolutely flawless performance.
"I get off on that."
The film was shot in and around Tynan's native city last summer and includes many of the locations described in the original stage production.
"We didn't make it easy for ourselves," comments the director. "I was adamant that we were going to shoot on the streets, because they are at the raw heart of the story. But it did mean that we were doing these weighty, verbose scenes in public, without the benefit of Garda lock-offs [street closure].
"So you'd get brilliant takes which were then ruined by one of a thousand things that can happen when you're shooting on live streets. Or, we had 40 people in one small gaff [house], which was difficult in its own way because no-one could move.
"So it was tough for the whole crew – but unless you've got a budget of millions, it's the only way to put your city on the screen."
He adds: "It wasn't intentional, but there's a couple of different scenes which actually make the film a bit of a Dublin time capsule.
"Like, they were turning off the water at [soon to be demolished housing estate] Croke Park Villas when we were there and we shot at [much loved Francis Street club] District 8, which won't exist soon."
With that, we leave Tynan to continue his raindancing and World Cup binging in-between working on the script he hopes will become his next feature – "another contemporary Dublin thing".
"Making the next one is the big challenge now," he tells me.
:: Dublin Oldschool is showing at QFT Belfast until tonight, book online at Queensfilmtheatre.com