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Trampoline Director Tom Ryan Interview

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This time last year, first time director was gearing up for the premiere of indie drama Trampoline at the inaugural IndieCork film festival. Almost one year on, the film has gone from strength to strength, bagging critical acclaim (you can read our review here) and award success in Ireland and America. With the movie currently available to stream from seedandspark.com, with another deal with IndieFlix incoming, and available to pre-order and buy on DVD from the movie's official website from Monday, we caught up with Tom to see how the year has treated him.

The last time we talked, Trampoline was about to make its premiere at last years IndieCork. How does it feel to now have the movie released and seen by the public?
It’s very surreal now to think that the movie has even been completed, let alone having been seen by people all over the world. We had a full year of a festival run so it was quite scary and exciting in equal measure. I tried to make it to as many of the screenings as I possibly could and no matter how many times I watched it over the course of the year I always felt as nervous and as frightened as I did the night it premiered at IndieCork. Whenever you watch it with a live audience you’re always anxious that they’ll respond well to the film so I was always on the edge of my seat hoping and praying that people would enjoy it. It was nerve-wrecking.

One of the most striking things about the movie is that is quite different in style and tone to other Irish films. Was this a conscious descision on your part?
The only thing we tried to do differently on this movie was to make it a world apart from gritty crime dramas that were popular at the time. Love/Hate really took off around the time we made Trampoline and there was a lot of dark Irish thrillers being made then. We wanted to stay away from that and try something different and something personal that was aimed at a young adult audience. The style of the film was heavily influenced by US indie movies but that was simply down to the fact that we couldn’t afford any more equipment than a camera and a microphone. We had no lights, dollys, tripods. It was very limited so in that regard it resembled a ‘Mumblecore’ movie. The other reason was that I received all my on-set training on US indie movies like ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Shame’ so that may be why it’s different in it’s style. We’re very proud to be an Irish film though, especially one set in Tipperary.

This is your first feature. What made you decide to make it?
I always wanted to be a writer/director and I thought that after finishing college that the best way to do that would be to work my way up the ladder in the industry. I moved to New York and got work on some movies out there as a camera intern and that led me to London and then back to Ireland where I was working as 2nd Assistant Camera. After a few years of working on set I thought I had enough experience to try my hand at my own feature and I wanted to make ‘Trampoline’ with the intention of just having it be a calling card. I used to refer to the movie as a ‘demo tape’ during the filming of it. I was hoping that we could get it made and then send it in to a few production companies in the hopes of getting funding for our first ‘real’ film but as luck would have it we got the movie into a few festivals and it really took off from there and had a life of it’s own. That’s all down to the cast and crew though for all the love and dedication that went in to the film. We’ve been very lucky that audiences have responded so well to it. I still see all the errors I made in it every time I watch it and still think of it as my ‘demo tape’ but I owe all it’s success to the talented team I had with me in making it.

The story is one that almost everybody can relate to. How personal is it to you?
I think that almost everyone has those sorts of fears and doubts when faced with the question of where they see themselves going in terms of their career and lives after finishing school and college. The safety net is taken away from you and you can feel a little isolated and afraid whats going to come next. I know a lot of people who have done the wrong course in college and end up regretting it when they land themselves in a job related to whatever their course was. It can be scary situation realizing that you’ve taken the wrong path. I hope that people can understand the ups and downs that the lead character of Angie has in the movie.

Much of the filming was done in your hometown of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. How open was the town to working with you?
The town was fantastic to us. There is now way we could have made the movie if it hadn’t been for all the locals helping us out during the production. We got our budget by approaching local business in the town. My cinematographer Cian Moynan helped me raise the budget. We approached the businesses together and managed to get sponsorship for the budget, which was brilliant. The majority of the cast are from the local theater group ‘The Nenagh Players’ and they were a huge help to us. It was great to find that level of talent in such a small town. Our old secondrary school let us film there on weekends and our former teachers went above and beyond the call of duty for us and even provided the catering for the cast and crew on the days we filmed there. When the film was completed the Ormond Cineplex in Nenagh screened the movie for two weeks which was a dream come true. The entire town has been incredibly supportive towards us and there’s no way we would have been able to make the film on our own without their help.

The movie was made for less than €1,000. Do you think the movie would be the same if the budget was bigger?
That’s an interesting question. I think the film would have lost a lot of it’s charm had the budget been bigger. We had just enough to make such a small personal little movie. The money went on props, travel, food, accommodation. There are some scenes in the movie where I can see that a little bit more money would have come in useful. Because of the budget we couldn’t really afford to do reshoots or even have much rehearsal time so a lot of the film is off the cuff. If the budget was bigger I’d imagine the film would be a lot more polished but that would definitely take from the charm that I like to think it has.

Much of the films schedule was built around the cast and crews everyday jobs, did this make filming harder?
This was probably the trickiest part of the shoot. We were all working on it unpaid so I had to schedule it around everyone’s jobs. It was like musical chairs and I had a difficult time trying to organise that. The cast and crew were very supportive and they definitely all tried their best to get the time off if it was possible. Their paid jobs had to come first and there was no way I was having anyone lose out on that. That being said though everyone was committed to completing the film, it just slowed the production down a bit. Overall it was a 14 day shoot but that’s non-consecutive. It was 14 days spread over 4 months. I had to be patient but that was all just as a result of having such a low budget. Infact, going back to the last question, that’s certainly an example of how the shoot would have prospered from a bigger budget.

Are you taken aback by the great reception the movie is getting outside of Ireland, especially in the U.S. where it won many awards?
We’ve been so lucky that it’s taken off, particularly in the States. I couldn’t believe it when we won ‘Best Film’ and ‘Best Actress’ at festivals over there. It’s a testiment to Aoife Spratt who played the lead role. Her performance is the key to the movie and she did such a great job. I was delighted to see her win that award in LA. It’s mad to think that a little low budget film made on a shoe-string has been so successful in America. Stylistically it’s similar to a US indie movie but it’s an Irish film through and through so it’s brilliant that they've reacted so well to it. We received two distribution deals from the US, one from ‘Seed and Spark’ and another from ‘IndieFlix’. We were over the moon when they picked the movie up. It’s been a wild ride with this film.

What is next for you now?
At the moment I’m working on the next few project and hope to have some news on it soon, but I don’t want to jinx myself or anything like that just yet. I’m hoping to get the team back together for the next film sooner rather than later.

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The Movie Bit: Trampoline Director Tom Ryan Interview
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