Pat Collins is an IFTA award winning Irish director who has completed over 25 documentaries and films. Sinéad Brennan caught up with him ahead of the release of his latest film, Silence.
Silence tells the story of Eoghan, a soundman from Tory Island who wants to record his perception of silence; natural sound free of manmade noise. On his journey through the West of Ireland we are treated to some awe-inspiring shots of beautiful and remote locations where Eoghan plans to complete his work.
But where did the idea for Silence come from? "It was about 10 or 12 years ago. Originally it was going to be about folklore collectors like Seamus Ennis who used to go around in the 1930s and 40s collecting stories.
"We fell on the idea of a sound recorder who would record places free of manmade sound – the opposite really of what a folklore collector would do, they’d be trying to meet people whereas Eoghan is trying to get away from people."
When you work for so long on a project and put so much into it, it is normal to be overly critical of the finished product. Pat is finally happy with the film, "It screened in Galway last weekend and that was the first time I was able to say that I was 100% happy with it. Our ambitions for it are on the screen so there’s no excuse if it doesn’t work. It is close to what we had imagined and hoped it would be."
Silence may not be to everyone’s taste but Pat assures me he isn’t trying to set Hollywood alight and is aware that it might be criticised, "It lives or dies by its own terms anyway because it’s a very particular type of film. It’s a niche film in a way and people who like it react very strongly to it but it mightn’t be for everybody."
Along his journey from Baltimore to Donegal Eoghan meets people on the way and we hear their stories and what their ideas of silence are. I was curious about whether or not these are real people or scripted actors. It turns out there’s a mixture of both!
"There are a few actors in the film but some are non-actors. It's real people playing themselves for the most part but I would’ve met them beforehand and known what their interests were. We tried to find people who were close to what we had in the script and then we’d adapt the script to suit the person we found."
A particularly strong interaction Eoghan has in the film is with a boy from Donegal, this encounter reveals the most about Eoghan’s character but the boy in the scene was a schoolboy from the area and he and Eoghan were filmed having a normal conversation.
"We didn’t even ask him to say anything but I believe that if you give things time to develop and give enough time to the conversation then things are going to emerge that you mightn’t have even expected."
The Irish Film Board was behind Silence from the very beginning and Pat is very grateful for their support, "They were fantastic. I’ve made maybe 25 films and they’ve funded about half."
He went on to explain their importance in developing the Irish film industry, "They are crucially important for the film industry in Ireland and there are a whole generation of new filmmakers coming up now that are showing real talent."
Pat is involved in a mentorship programme with the Cork Film Centre and even though it’s a cliché, he’s happy to give something back. The programme is beneficial to him too, "It’s good for me as well because it keeps me fresher and on my toes about what makes a film good. When you’re trying to advise other people you have to think about what you would do in a situation so it’s good in that regard."
Even though there are a lot of new talented filmmakers in Ireland, he warns that at the moment it is an uncertain profession, "You might have six months where you’re secure and a few months where there’s nothing coming up. There is no security in it and I think people are being forced to do work on films that mightn’t actually help to develop their own technique or style."
As an established filmmaker Pat is usually kept busy with a number of other projects in the pipeline already.
Silence is out on July 27.