Rita-Marie Lawlor - Filmmaker back in hometown for new production

By Aideen O'Flaherty

TWO unassuming people sitting at a bus stop in Ballyfermot strike up a meaningful friendship as they watch the world around them, and the characters who pass by, in Rita-Marie Lawlor’s new short film ‘Des and Peggy’.

Rita-Marie is an experienced filmmaker, who released her feature-length film ‘The Last Show’ in 2015, and this is the first time that her hometown of Ballyfermot will be the backdrop to one of her productions.

Rita Marie Lawlor

The past pupil of Caritas College often works to a tight schedule when filming, sometimes only having hours to secure shots for her productions, as this allows filming to move at a good pace and makes every second count.

Rita-Marie spoke to The Echo about pursuing her passion for filmmaking, the topics that ‘Des and Peggy’ covers and what it meant for her to set the film in Ballyfermot.

What attracted you to working in the film industry?

After I attended drama college and studied photography, where I started off working as an extra for TV and film, I no longer became interested in what the actors were doing, but more so what the film crew were doing. I fell in love with the concept of possibly one day directing my own films but it seemed very out of reach. I enrolled on a two-year film production course, and I knew on the first day that this was exactly what I wanted to do.

You tend to shoot films in really tight timeframes, sometimes hours or sometimes days. What do you like about shooting to such a tight schedule?

I don't like having too many set ups. I like locked off shots that allow the story to unfold with very few cuts and not lots of different angles. I'm not a fan of doing too many takes of the same thing over and over unless there's a need for it.

Your new short film ‘Des and Peggy’ is set at a bus stop in Ballyfermot and centres around loneliness and human connection. Why did you decide to write a film that covers these topics?

I have spoken to many strangers at bus stops over the years, and that’s where you meet some characters. Whether you'll want to continue chatting, or avoid them, you'll hear some stories. I see a lot of older people in particular, sitting alone longing to chat to someone at bus stops, and that's where the idea came from. I needed a focal core to the story with two main characters and to cover emotional topics such as bereavement and loneliness, as they're things we all experience in life.

How important was it for the film to be set in Ballyfermot?

I am from Ballyfermot and I was always keen to make something there. In the past I have made films around different parts Dublin, mainly on the northside. I got the idea for ‘Des and Peggy’ in Ballyfermot, so I thought, “I have to set it there”. The bus stop at Markieveicz Park was ideal because it was fairly private with large trees.  I think it also scrubbed up pretty well on screen too!

‘Des and Peggy’ was shot in eight hours at a bus stop in Ballyfermot. What challenges did you face when filming at the bus stop and having to get all of the shots within such a narrow timeframe?

We began to shoot at 5am, and I picked a Sunday because there was no rush hour, but it was still pretty tough because it was on a main road with a million taxis flying past. We managed to duck and dive a lot of the traffic problems, when it got really bad we'd cut and go again but was pretty amazed to have come away with anything, considering. The weather was perfect too so all in all it was a very easy-going shoot. As soon as we completed filming though, it began to pour rain really heavily so we were very lucky to have gotten it made.

What impact do you hope ‘Des and Peggy’ will have?

I am hoping it will make a good impact on the festival circuit. I'll be sending it out to a few film festivals around the country and eventually outside of Ireland so I have my fingers crossed that it will make a good enough impact to be shown on my home turf. Getting the film seen and getting feedback is really what makes it all worthwhile in the end.

To find out more visit Rita-Marie’s website www.rmlfilms.com, and you can watch ‘Des and Peggy’ below.

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