Arts

Bronagh Gallagher on 'triple F-rated' film A Bump Along The Way

David Roy chats to actors Bronagh Gallagher and Lola Petticrew about their new film A Bump Along The Way, a Derry-set comedy drama which will be the gala opening night screening at this year's Belfast Film Festival next week

Lola Petticrew and Bronagh Gallgher in A Bump Along The Way. Picture by Vincent O'Callaghan

WHILE A Bump Along The Way might be grounded in familiar dramatic territory with its storyline about an unplanned pregnancy putting strain on the relationship between a teenager and her mother, Scottish director Shelly Love's Derry-set film adds a novel role-reversal twist to proceedings: this time, it's the wayward middle-aged parent who's expecting unexpectedly, much to the mortification of her straight-laced daughter.

When the fun-loving Pamela (Bronagh Gallagher) finds out she's pregnant after a boozy one-night stand, intelligent and arty 14-year-old Allegra (Lola Petticrew) adds her mum's shock news to an already teetering pile of teen anxieties.

Pamela is forced to swap Prosecco-fuelled nights out for a more sedate existence as she attempts to knuckle down for the arrival of a second child she was told she could never have – just as Allegra enters a poorly timed phase of teenage rebellion involving patterns of misbehaviour and a lack of self-respect that feel uncomfortably familiar to her mum.

Produced by Gallagher's elder sister Louise through her company Gallagher Films Ltd and scripted by Derry writer Teresa 'Tess' McGowan, A Bump Along The Way is an often laugh-out-loud funny film stocked with well-drawn, believable adult and teenage characters spouting dialogue that crackles with authentic Derry colour and wit.

Also starring Dan Gordon, Mary Moulds, Gerard Jordan and Aimee McGoldrick, it's an auspicious first feature for both producer and writer – with the oldest Gallagher sister having made it her mission to realise a Derry-flavoured first feature.

"Louise was very much hoping that she would find a story with universal appeal that we could extract from somebody fantastic here – and she did that with Tess, our screenwriter," enthuses Bronagh.

"[Louise] was gunning all the way to make sure it was shot in Derry with local actors and crew. She pulled together a great group of people and artists and now I'm just looking forward to seeing people's reactions. We all worked really hard on it.

"Michelle [Devlin] and everyone at the Belfast Film Festival have always been such champions of local work, so it's great to be able to bring something to this festival from Derry, as Derry girls ourselves and being very proud of our town and our people."

A Bump Along The Way will premiere in just under a week as the gala opening screening at this year's Belfast Film Festival. And, while one of its lead actors might be an old hand at premieres following her movie roles in the likes of The Commitments, Pulp Fiction and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, next week's event will be the first 'red carpet' for Bronagh Gallagher's co-star, Lola Petticrew.

Lola Petticrew as Allegra. Picture by Vincent O'Callaghan

The 23-year-old Belfast performer played alongside Christopher Eccleston in last year's BBC One drama series Come Home and has enjoyed a string of theatre roles including a soon to conclude run in Edna O'Brien's stage adaptation of The Country Girls at Dublin's Abbey Theatre.

"I'd done some stuff in London working with Louise [Gallagher], helping her to develop the script and kind of just figure it out," Lola explains of how she landed the role of Allegra in her feature debut.

"We spent a day reading the script and talking about the characters with Bronagh and the director and then read it through out loud for an audience. When I got a phone call a couple of months later asking would I like to do it, I was like 'absolutely' – because I remembered that day in London as us all just not being able to stop laughing as some of the stuff [in the script] was just so funny."

Happily, it seems the experience of actually making the film was also highly enjoyable for the up and coming Belfast actor, a former pupil at St Dominic's Grammar who trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

"The cast and crew were incredible and we got to spend a month in Derry, which is such a gorgeous city, and really just have the craic," enthuses Lola, who will next be seen in Eoin Macken's film adaptation of Rob Doyle's novel Here Are The Young Men.

"We filmed most of it in a house which was actually our director of photography's childhood home. So that was really special and we really had just so much fun.

"I have a lot of love for Bronagh, I think we have quite similar personalities. What's funny is that my birth name is Bronagh – I told her one day during filming and she was like 'What?!' So it was kind of meant to be.

"And Louise Gallagher is like a workhorse – she's just unstoppable."

Bronagh is also quick to praise her elder sibling's drive and professionalism in terms of how she put the film together and ensured that everyone involved was treated properly – apparently something that doesn't always happen in the world of independent movie-making.

"She played a blinder," says the Derry star, who will next be seen alongside Peter Capaldi in Armando Iannuci's forthcoming adaptation of David Copperfield.

"She was so organised, so honest and straight with people about the budget. A lot of the time with producers there's an air sometimes that you're lucky to be working, which is just not fair. People who don't know this business don't realise how brutal the hours are and how hard the crew work running around all day, but Louise made sure everyone was looked after and got proper breaks, that they were warm and the facilities were really good.

"So I was really really proud of her and impressed, from an actor-to-producer point of view. She was totally transparent and honest while doing her best against the clock. She was fantastic."

The latest project to be developed via Northern Ireland Screen’s New Talent Focus scheme (The Survivalist, Bad Day For The Cut, The Dig), A Bump Along The Way is a genuine 'triple F-rated' feature – a film with a female writer, a female producer and female stars – something that's still very much an exception rather than the rule at the cinema, even in the #timesup era.

"The film industry is such a dog-eat-dog world and I think men are much more comfortable in those positions a lot of the time, whereas [women] will try as much as we can to avoid confrontation," Bronagh suggests.

"It's a densely complicated machine sometimes to get a film from a script to an actual production, and sometimes people lose the will to keep going. It's up to us to try and bring together and support our fellow women in the industry as much as we can.

"But here we are, and we're doing it – so hopefully that's an example."

:: A Bump Along The Way will be the opening night gala screening at Belfast Film Festival on Thursday April 11 at Movie House Dublin Road. See Belfastfilmfestival.org for tickets and full programme details.

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