Interview with Screenwriter Stephen Rea (ALMOST A MOVEMENT)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Almost A Movement is ostensibly a story about Ireland’s ‘Equality Referendum’ which attracted worldwide attention in May 2015 as Ireland became the first country in the world to vote for same-sex marriage by popular vote. The script tells the transformative dramatic story from the POV of small-scale personal accounts bolstered by worldwide social media and other (mock or real) documentary-style coverage including some prominent political and entertainment industry stars that supported the May 2015 campaign (included in script – some tweets; others active in the on-the-ground campaign).

The film begins with a light-hearted dramatic version of the actual coming out of Ireland’s first publicly gay Government Minister (subsequently he became Prime Minister) in January 2015. It had huge public impact and built on a speech made at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre a year earlier by (real) Drag Queen and gay rights campaigner Panti Bliss (whose important contribution is also covered at the beginning of the script). Both events gave huge momentum to the up-and-running same-sex marriage referendum campaign in Ireland and the storylines reflect how this came about, who drove it at grassroots level and how they made wider use of national and international advocacy from prominent actors, writers, musicians and world politicians.

The script mixes fictional comedic drama in with some of the more roller-coaster emotional aspects of the true campaign story. It is far more of a civil rights transformative drama than one that is focused on ‘deeper individual human relationships’ – there are no sexual scenes, ‘strong language’ or ‘roughness’ of any type (except one scene where it is implied) so it can appeal to a broad-based commercial audience.

The story is built around two former gay female friends who are swept up by the campaign – Sally who manages a pub in ‘Village Ireland’ and Petra who travels with a social media organised group from urban London (real influential aspects of the campaign). Principle story events take place in pubs, on a campsite, a simple ‘radio studio’ and in a mini-bus. Supporting events which ‘give credit’ to key campaigners can be scaled up or down depending on budget. Narrators develop the story of ‘true events’ as acted scenes as well as actual social media (or other media) material such as Twitter feeds (Permission needs to be checked for use in the making of a film).

The outline character story is that Sally and Petra, the two gay female protagonists (who grew up in the same small village and have a childhood friendship) get off to a rocky romantic start which is heightened by the traditional constraints of the time. As they meet more frequently during the campaign though, love blossoms. It is ‘too late’ for an older man who frequents Sally’s Pub but the events of the campaign still prove exiting for him and for others who come out to the Irish Public as gay and build the referendum into something which spurred on even more people to get involved (which was a tenet of the real campaign as prominent journalists and others who were well-known came-out to the Irish public in very emotionally dramatic ways – these are covered in the script). As celebrations are underway after the majority vote Sally proposes to Petra and she accepts her invitation to get married.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Social Justice Drama / Dramedy (USP: Well-planned Referendum Campaign was received positively by most Irish Voters; Contrasts with more ‘hard fought’ civil rights campaigns in Ireland and elsewhere; One Big Message – politicians were involved but in backseat roles, key organisers in Ireland then advised on similar approaches in Australia and elsewhere.

True Story Docu-Drama (reinforced with real news. Documentary and other media footage – available from established worldwide television and other media sources).

Dramedy (It is a serious topic but campaign barriers were not broken down by edgy debates or protest activities. Light-heartedness was key to the Referendum passing and seamlessly becoming part of Irish life within months – film script focus is on informing in ways where people do not feel threatened: contrasting with the modus operandi of populists in the UK, USA and elsewhere).

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It tells a societal story that illustrates how mature communal politics can be the polar opposite of the divisive populism seen around the world in the past decade particularly from a perspective where winning (an election or referendum) is not an ‘enduring solution’ to the complex under-currents that bring varied (proxy) prejudices to the fore amid manufactured rage-driven identities that are pushed to only ‘succeed’ at the expense of ‘another side’.

Ireland used to have a divided society in that mould but has built something very different now (partly, although not covered in the script story – although it could be – because of the low-key but hugely impactful input of key international figures from the European Union, the USA (President Bill Clinton, Senator George Mitchell), Finland (former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri and Brigadier-General Tauno Nieminen) and Canada where former head of the Canadian Defence Forces General John de Chastelain quietly oversaw the lengthy decommissioning of paramilitary weapons in Ireland.

True Societal progress via steady progress made in ways that avoid animosity is the central premise idea driver of the script – it is unifying hearts and minds that truly brings about enduring change and doing this in ways where no single individual can be given credit as a figurehead or ‘freedom fighter’ means ‘many’ are not seen as having ‘lost’ but instead are viewed unthreateningly as standing alongside others to build something bigger. This is a message the world needs right now. This story is a vehicle for the wider message.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Uplifting; Anti-Populist.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?


6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I wrote Almost A Movement in 2015 from around the time of the voiced over scene which I heard live on Irish National Radio and completed it a month after the Referendum where I was a citizen experiencing the story beats that are in the script. A six month period.

7. How many stories have you written?

10 screenplays (over 6 years)

3 novels (over 15 years)

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Astral Weeks by Van Morrison (from album of same name).

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Decisions on structure – I did not want a bio-pic or an overtly conventional form for the screenplay and specifically wrote it while the events covered were fresh. I also wanted to endeavour to ‘explain’ via the diverse story why the referendum succeeded and that it had much more to do with being akin to a ‘national movement’ than something that was opened up ‘more’ with ‘winning’ arguments.

Fits with MODEL 2 of AFM Low Budget Break-Out Films

What Types of Low-Budget Films Break Out?

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Politics / History (anti-populism – Brexit, Trump); Music (watch documentaries; listen widely).

Twitter @stephenrea2

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

Almost A Movement – Reached Finalist List at New Renaissance Film Festival, Amsterdam (March 2017) – Attended the Festival including Awards Ceremony.

Almost A Movement – Drama Finalist + (Film Freeway listed) category winner in 2018 Cannes Screenplay Contest

Almost A Movement – Winner of Best Feature Screenplay – South Carolina Tea Dance Film Festival (September 2018)

Almost A Movement – Finalist in the 2018 South Carolina Underground Film Festival (November 2018)

On Message – Finalist – Oaxaca FilmFest 8, Mexico (October 2017)

On Message – Manchester Lift-Off Festival 2018 (UK) – E-mail received from Festival Organiser that script got close to the Finalist List.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I felt it was a fit for what I had written. The feedback captured the essence of where I was aiming it.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Part Fictional / Part Real transformation drama that focuses on LGBT campaign side of the Irish 2015 same-sex marriage referendum interspersed with recent and historical lead-in events. Attention paid to how the coming out of prominent public figures during the campaign strengthened the strong popular vote result. Generic locations for reality based fictional drama. Social media and stock documentary footage show Irish locations and wide international VIP support.

Narrator: Allan Michael Brunet
Miriam: Val Cole
Leo: Shawn Devlin

By matthewtoffolo

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

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