Young, Irish director Sean Clancy released his short film Cavalier online last week on the tail of a successful run at a number of a short film festivals both at home and in the U.S over the last 12 months. Cavalier is a heartache comedy about a directionless young man who reflects on a life of poor decisions as everyone around him seems to be in full control of their future.
The independently produced film was shot in Galway, Ireland in March of 2014, with a cast that includes Peter McGann, Aoife Spratt (Trampoline), Kenny Gaughan and Roisin Dolan. The crew was comprised of Sean Clancy, who wrote, shot, directed and edited the short. We had a chat with Sean about the success of the film and about what’s next for the young film maker, but first, have a watch of the excellent Cavalier:
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Director/Writer/Camera/Editing – Sean Clancy
Peter McGann // Luke
Aoife Spratt // Jane
Roisin Dolan // Eimear
Kenny Gaughan // Interviewer
Liam Doherty // Tim
Music – Callum Condron
Interview with Sean Clancy:
Could you tell me a little about your own background? Where did you study film making and what were your influences?
I graduated from a film and television production course in Galway in 2010. Since then I’ve been mainly working as an editor. I’ve made some music videos and commercials too. I’m a big fan of both naturalistic and heightened stories and ways of trying to bring them together. I love watching all kinds of films really but for Cavalier at least, Annie Hall and Punch Drunk Love would have been two big influences.
How did you come up with the idea for the Cavalier?
It started as a script I’d written in November 2013. It was essentially just little stories from Luke’s life tied together with the monologues. As it went along I wanted to show another perspective on Luke and the relationship part of the story came from that. With everything I write I’m conscious of how plausible it is to make but I knew I wanted to shoot something more actor centric and that this script would allow me to do that.
Considering you looked after the writing, shooting and editing of Cavalier, you are obviously skilled in all aspects of film making… why did you decide to do it all yourself?
I suppose mainly because I enjoy doing all those different things but there is an element of practicality involved too because it can be a very efficient way to shoot. When there are so few people working on a film everyone has to wear a lot of hats, which can be fun. Callum created the soundtrack entirely by himself, I’d given him the script and rough cuts as I went along and he sent back these brilliant tracks he’d made, more than I could use.
Where was the film shot and what kind of budget were you working on?
There was no budget to speak of, I used my own equipment for shooting and editing and I paid for travel and food. The film was really made by people giving up their free time. I thought that Galway would suit best as it was home to most of the actors. The image of Luke on the bench facing the sea was one of the first places that came to mind when I was writing the script.
How did the zero budget affect the shooting style?
Usually our set ups would be just me and maybe one or two actors. I’d mic the actors with lavalier mics and we’d start running through the script a few times to get more comfortable with it. We didn’t have any time for rehearsals on the days we had to shoot which is why it was important to have a cast that was familiar with each other. Although we couldn’t do any elaborate set-ups, our small size meant that we could go shoot on a bench on a busy Saturday morning and not have passers-by look to the lens. There’s a part of the film that didn’t make the final cut but I used it for the teaser instead. It’s a quick montage of Luke’s routine. I wanted to show Luke drinking on a night out and everything that goes with that. We had no way of organising something that would take that many people so we just went out with GoPros, camera phones, flashlights and shot it for real. You couldn’t do that with a big crew or if you had any concerns about getting sued.
The cast seem very natural and at ease on screen. Where did you find the cast and did the small crew help their performances?
I’ve known Peter since college and we’ve made a lot together in that time. The role of Luke was written for him, over the years we’ve developed a shorthand for working together so we’re usually on the same page. He’s such a sharp minded comedic performer that he always elevates the script too. Aoife was the only person I hadn’t met previously but I had seen her in Trampoline and thought she was brilliant. She’d worked with Pete on a film before so they weren’t complete strangers. Aoife jumped straight in and went with it even though we shot all of her scenes in a few hours, just hopping around to different locations. I’ve known Roisin for a few years but never had a chance to work with her until Cavalier, she’s so versatile she can really play any part. I met Kenny through Pete and Little Cinema, he has a great comedic sensibility so I was looking for an opportunity to make something with him too. It can be helpful having only myself behind the camera but it can make you feel a little overstretched at times. I’m not sure if it helped their performances but them being as prepared as they were certainly helped me make the film.
Were the monologues all scripted or was there some improv during shooting?
The monologues were all scripted, I felt like those scenes had to hit certain beats because they string everything else together. But any scene where you have two actors just speaking to each other it’s always fun to see what else can be done. It’s just a chance to listen to everyone’s ideas and see what sticks. There’s two moments in particular that weren’t scripted at all that made the final film. When we see Luke and Jane talking together on the bench, its entirely Pete and Aoife just trying to make each other laugh. They’d said their lines and we just kept going beyond what was on the page. It works a lot better than anything I could have written because it feels like a really candid, sincere moment. When Luke goes for an interview is another example. As written, the script was probably a little flat but we just started throwing different ideas around to see what else could happen while keeping the basic sentiment. Kenny and Pete took it from there and it became closer to slapstick the more we messed around. When the cast is that inventive and willing to play with ideas it’d be a waste not to get their input. I know what I want to see on screen but if someone has something better then I’m going to go with that.
How was Cavalier received at festivals? What awards did it win and what was the feedback like?
I was delighted with the reception Cavalier got on its festival run, everyone has been so positive. I’ve never had a film get that many screenings before so it was really interesting to watch with different audiences and see the reactions. It ended up getting two screenings in Cork between the 4th Underground Short Film Festival, where it won best comedy and then later in the year again at IndieCork with some incredible short films. It was also a part of Little Cinema’s first ever festival with Chris O’Dowd which was great because they were a big help in making it in many ways. It screened in England as part of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and it just recently screened in Chicago and New York before it went online. It was great to see our no budget short travel around and get in front of an audience.
What’s next for you? Any more films on the horizon?
Some more music videos and commercials for now, but I like to keep writing so there’s a few scripts that I’m keen to make.
You can check out more of Sean’s work at:
Check out Composer Callum Condron’s work at: