Interview with Filmmaker Imelda O’Reilly (TUMBLING TOWARDS HOME)

TUMBLING TOWARDS HOME was the winner of BEST DOC CHARACTERS at the July 2020 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Imelda O’Reilly: I have a dear friend Malcolm Adams who is an Irish actor and we wanted to create a project together. I wasn’t sure what film we would make, and I didn’t have a huge budget. The process began by interviewing him but eventually a story within the story began to unfold as we chatted about his decision to move to New York in 1989 to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you
to make this short?

The whole process probably took a year and a half as I decided to work with an animator Damarrius Thompson to fill in Malcolm’s backstory in New York in 1989. The animator was working on many different jobs and so it took a while to create this aesthetic element within the film.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Escaping dreams!

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

I would say lack of funding. You need three things to make a film, time, money and imagination. Often you don’t have all three of these elements so in the process the lack of funding can delay finishing the film. Often you spend more on postproduction than on production so each stage in the filmmaking process can be costly. We also shot in Ireland and New York so that delayed the process of filming during the production stage.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking
about your film in the feedback video?

I absolutely love that WildSOUND takes the time to film the audience’s responses to the film. WilldSound FEEDBACK is the only festival who takes the time to visually record the audience feedback and then provide it to the filmmakers.

This is a very personal story for Malcolm Adams and not an easy one to tell so having the opportunity especially during a global pandemic to hear responses to the film is amazing. It gives you the impetus to keep going, telling impactful stories and making films.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I myself am an Irish immigrant and I wanted to explore the relationship one has to leaving and returning home. In Ireland when Malcolm immigrated a lot of Irish people immigrated because there was a lack of employment for the younger generation.

As Malcolm Adams mentions he leaves home because he felt he couldn’t pursue acting in Ireland at that time because it wasn’t a place, he felt he could experiment without failing.

He had to leave in order to embrace failing in the pursuit of his dreams. The reasons one leaves a homeland are complex, a part of me wanted to explore this contradiction.

Every time you make a choice in life you lose something, and you gain something it was the contradiction of these two opposing forces that drew me to exploring this subject matter. That combined with chasing the ghosts of one’s past is always compelling to me to explore as a filmmaker.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

My choices in film changes and I return to films for different reasons. Most recently I watched a German film titled Toni Erdman. It was about a relationship between a father and his daughter.

I’m attracted to films with interesting characters. At first this film moved slow for me but after inhabiting the lives of the characters, I kept mulling them over in my head. That is a true sign the film resonates on a deeper level.

The director was female Maren Ade. In terms of a film I’ve returned to most in my life, there is more than one. I like Sprit of the Beehive, Taxi Driver, Metropolis, Naked, The Mirror, Post Tenebras Lux because those films capture a cinema of loneliness and isolation.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings
of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I like Film Freeway, it is an excellent platform to submit your film as you post everything on the site and it makes the work of submitting your film much easier.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I have one album that I love listening to in the morning, and it’s Something Else by Cannonball Adderley. Often music reminds me of certain times in my life, and playing those songs takes me back in time.

I had three albums that I listened to while living on 8th street and Avenue B in the East Village in the late nineties. The albums were, Cat Power, The covers record, Nirvana Unplugged and Cannonball Adderley. It was a very creative time in my life, so it reminds me of all the amazing memories I had when I lived downtown in NYC. I also loved listening to The Jam, Style Council and The Cure at a different time in life.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I have a feature film titled We’re the Kids in America that the screenplay was an official selection for L’Atélier Cinéfondation Cannes International Film Festival in 2018. I have a US and an Irish co-producer and hopefully we will have the opportunity to shoot it at some point in the future. In addition, I am working on a short narrative film titled Love at White Rabbit.



By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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