When a mother reads her teenage son’s texts it triggers an awkward conversation which is way too much information. A humorous and touching comedy about miscommunication is what Ita Fitzgerald brings to Underwire this year. Here she talks to us about her inspiration behind the story, self funding projects and the challenges of casting child actors.
How did you find your way into film making?
My Career started in Television working on factual programmes but I always had my eyes on Drama, in particular comedy. I made the leap from TV to Commercials a few years ago and then started writing and directing my own short films.
Tell us more about TMI…
I have 2 kids, my son was approaching puberty and I was thinking about the conversations that I was going to have to have with him and it felt like a rich seam of comedy to mine for a short film, so I did. I think it’s funny that you can get away with saying the most dreadful things to your own family and you wouldn't dream of being so rude to anyone else and that those flashes of anger and rudeness can be so abruptly interrupted by pure love and bear hugs. I wanted to show that. It's also such an interesting age. They are stuck in-between, neither child nor adult and that's such a head fuck for them and frustrating as hell for Parents, but also very funny.
How did you take the news of being accepted into the festival?
All our heads of department were women, so it was particularly good to be recognised by this festival. I've always thought; 'if you can't get in to the club, start your own'. It feels good to be let in to this one.
Funding in this industry can always be a challenge, how did you achieve yours?
I had taken time out of work and was struggling to get back in, but I have always been a firm believer that work begets work, so I decided to make something. I had no money so I wrote an idea with one location and 2 actors and then self funded the project. I recently completed a job that I know I got because they particularly liked my short film, so the gamble/investment paid off.
What was the most challenging aspect of making TMI?
The most challenging aspect was casting the young actor. I wrote the role of the Mother for Sarah Malin. She's an incredible actress and I knew I needed a really natural performance from the child actor to match her ability. I was wary about using 'stage school' actors. I first approached drama teachers in my local area but soon realised that they were busy teaching GCSEs and that because of the risqué nature of the script I was probably better approaching a Casting Director or I'd end up on a register, not the school kind either. I sent the script to the wonderful Tree Petts. She had two teenage sons and told me that the script resonated with her and that she would help me. That's how we found Kai Medford. The actor had to be that perfect in-between age. Not man not boy, but manboy. Kai came in with all his gangly, slouchy charm and acted everyone off the stage. He was just so natural and I knew he'd be a match for Sarah. Everyone comments on their chemistry and I was even asked if they were real mother and son, But the truth is they met that morning (self funding meant I couldn't afford a rehearsal day). We just rehearsed and blocked on set while they were prepping. They had both learnt their lines and I was very clear about how I wanted to block it and it's a simple scene so we had time to improvise.
Underwire celebrates female film making talent in the industry, what female film makers do you look up to?
I particularly love Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsey's work, it is always surprising and unsettling but I also enjoy the slickness of SJ Clarkson. I am looking forward to seeing what Isold Uggadottir does next, she wrote and directed 'And Breathe Normally' (it's on netflix - go watch) Also Nadine Labaki who directed Capernaum and Mayasaloun Hamoud who wrote and directed 'In Between'
What’s the next project for you?
I am about to start on the BBC drama training scheme in Birmingham. I have another short film that I am looking for a producer for and I have written a feature film that is a middle-aged female ensemble road movie set on the Wild Atlantic Way in the west coast of Ireland.
TMI is screening in the Mummy Dearest category on Saturday 14th September at BFI Southabank. For tickets and more information on Underwire 2019 visit their website here.