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Singer/Performer Quinn Lemley Talks “Rita Hayworth - The Heat is On”

Who: Quinn Lemley
What: "Rita Hayworth - The Heat is On!"
When: November 20th, 2023
Where: Don’t Tell Mama
(343 W 46th St.)
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On November 20, 2023, the singer/style queen Quinn Lemley will present her last NYC performance of “The Heat Is On! - Rita Hayworth” at Don’t Tell Mama (343 W 46th St.), the long-established cabaret center in midtown Manhattan, before going on the road. Hayworth, known as “The Love Goddess,” is iconic for her indelible performance in “Gilda,” the film noir classic — performing the sexiest striptease on celluloid, “Put The Blame On Mame.” The hottest sex symbol of the 1940s, Hayworth’s pin-up on the Atomic Bomb gave her the international title of “The Atomic Star.” Courted by the world’s most powerful men -- Orson Welles, Prince Aly Khan, and Howard Hughes among others -- Hayworth was a legend until she had early onset Alzheimer’s Disease which led to her death.

Fire-haired performer Lemley brings the star to life in her sold-out shows. Having headlined various performing arts centers and casinos across North America, she received The Bistro Award and two MAC award nominations. Lemley’s jazz quintet performs internationally and she’s the iconic face of the Half Note in Athens, Greece.The New York Times defines her performances as "Dazzling... with one show-stopping number after another!" 

Besides this show, Lemley has directed and co-produced “Rebel Rebel, The Many Lives of David Bowie,” “Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Wall” and “The Ultimate Queen Celebration.” She;s had a presence on nation TV through appearances on Good Morning America, Oprah and as a finalist on Shark Tank, Lemley also has five CDs available and her music is on Spotify and Apple Music. She’s hosting the locally produced TV show, Secrets of the Stage on with a monthly virtual concert on Zoom -- “Up Close & Personal.” A graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, she's a Distinguished Toastmaster at Toastmasters International and a member of National Speakers Association as well as SAG, AFTRA, AEA, DTM, NSA NY, APAP, and IEBA.

This critically acclaimed concert about Hayworth's life — the star who built Columbia Pictures — is a humorous, heartfelt and heartbreaking look at The Golden Age of Hollywood, the MeToo movement and the price of fame — especially in light of Hayworth's tumultuous relationship with the head of Columbia, the infamous Harry Cohn. The show reflects the price of fame, celebrating a remarkable life with humor, wit and impeccable storytelling. It’s all woven together with tunes from The Great American Songbook and the Golden Age of Hollywood. 

Written and directed by Carter Inskeep (“Always Patsy Cline”), Lemley’s performance is either backed by a quartet or by an 11-piece big band. The show includes hits from such legendary composers and lyricists as Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and Jerome Kern. It includes “Bewitched,” “Zip,” and “The Lady is A Tramp” from such iconic films as “Gilda,” “Pal Joey,” “Cover Girl” and more. 

The following Q&A was conducted online in advance of the upcoming show.

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a performer?

QL: I came out of the womb entertaining. I’ve always known that I wanted to perform. Singing and acting have always been my passion. Even as a young girl from Indiana I was always producing puppet shows, carnivals and musicals for our neighborhood. Luckily, my parents were incredibly supportive and made sure I took lessons and classes. I’m so grateful today! 

Q: Talk about the first time you performed. Can you describe the moment?

QL: My first show was when I was in fifth grade. I played a Far Out Foxy Lady from “A Foreign Land in Whitecloud and the Seven Dwarfs.” I guess I was bound to be a glamour gal from the get-go!

Q: Have you focused on cabaret because of the intimacy of the experience?

QL: I love cabaret. I love its intimacy. It’s taught me to connect to each and every person in the room. It provides an opportunity to try things out and to take a chance, to take risks. 

rita1Although it’s been a big part of my life, I haven’t focused on cabaret. My late husband -– producer, manager and best friend, Paul Horton -- expanded my shows by putting them with 9- to 12-piece big bands. That opened up the scope of our shows. For the past 15 years, I’ve been headlining casinos and performing arts centers like The Kravis Center, Naples Philharmonic, Thousand Oaks Civic Center and BB Kings in NYC. After Covid, Paul suggested I go back to the club where I started my career -- Don’t Tell Mama in NYC -- before going back on the road in theaters. We won the Bistro Award, a MAC Nomination, rave reviews and have enjoyed a 17-month residency. I’m grateful Paul booked these dates leading up to going back to theaters starting in North Carolina at the Tryon Center Nov. 4, The Pheasantry in London on Feb 16 & 17th, and a one-week run at The Cape May Playhouse in July. We have our last NYC date on Monday, Nov. 20 at Don’t Tell Mama. It’s given me a chance to heal and put myself into the performance on another level. 

Q: How do you choose the songs you do?

QL: First, it’s the lyrics. What am I trying to say? How do I want to say it? Where does it fit into the show? Secondly, it’s about melody and structure. How does the melody make me and the audience feel? How do I want it arranged to tell the story? Finally, does it fit me as an artist? I love all kinds of music. But like clothing, not everything fits with my voice and personality or belongs in the arc of the story that I’m telling. I have to try the songs out and see how they feel and sound in my voice. 

Q: How did you develop this show?

QL: “Rita Hayworth - The Heat Is On!” has had three stages of development. The first stage was when I got out of NYU. I was starring in a show off Broadway. A reviewer saw me and said, “You look like Rita Hayworth — you should meet Carter Inskeep and do the story of her life.” That was pre-internet, so we read every biography, watched her films on tape and went to the library. We also read every article we could find on microfiche. The question we kept asking was, “Who is Rita Hayworth -- the public persona?  But more importantly, who is Margarita Cansino? The girl who has hopes and dreams and just wants to be loved?” Just like me, like all of us. We had tremendous success, got rave reviews, were on Oprah, Geraldo, Good Morning America. I was in my mid 20s then. In my 30s, I met Paul Horton. He changed my life. He had us rewrite the show, using the songs from the Great American Songbook during the Golden Age of Hollywood to help tell the story instead of limiting it to songs from Rita’s films. He had it orchestrated for both a big band and a quartet. Now we can play intimate theaters as well as large ones like The Kravis Center, Naples Philharmonic and B.B. King’s. We toured throughout North America. During Covid, Carter rewrote the book to make the story about resilience, accepting our choices with topics like the “Me Too” movement, women’s empowerment and the price of fame. He had us return to Don't Tell Mama’s in NYC where we started the show after Covid, before going back on tour in theaters. Our residency was so successful that we got extended from four to 17 months, had rave reviews, won the Bistro Award and got a MAC Nomination.

Besides this one performance left in NYC on Monday, Nov. 20, I’m going to London in February at The Pheasantry. I am so grateful that Paul put this in motion. It's been a lifesaver since he unexpectedly passed in March. It was his vision to do this residency. The story is so rich, deep, funny and moving. I’ve been able to tap into Rita’s story on a deeper level than I ever could have when I was younger. I’ve been able to put myself into the role in a way I never dreamed was possible. And the audiences are responding. 

Q: Do you try to make your shows thematic, or sometimes just a simple revue?

QL: All of my shows are thematic. “THE HEAT IS ON Rita Hayworth” is about Rita and The Golden Age of Hollywood. “Burlesque to Broadway” is about the women who went from Burlesque to Broadway and Beyond. As a director and producer, I've done these shows: "The Ultimate Queen Celebration," "Rebel Rebel, The Many Lives of David Bowie" and "Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Wall." My TV Talk show on MNN, "Secrets of the Stage" is where I pull back the curtains and explore the creative process. My speaking keynote is about resilience through the lens of my relationship with my shows Rita and Burlesque to Broadway.

Q: You did have a burlesque moment. Did it feel liberating, powerful or what?

QL: I did a show called “Burlesque To Broadway”. It was so liberating. I was onstage with four beautiful and talented women who celebrated their talent, beauty and humor. It was powerful to claim and own my femininity and fun to tease. As the great poet Mel Brooks said, “When You Got It, Flaunt It”. Every woman should step into her power and “Be”! 

Q: Besides the songs you're already playing, what are your benchmark tunes?

QL: My heroine is Julia Child. I got to have lunch with her at her house in Cambridge with her husband Paul. Her spirit was incredible. She was a woman who took massive action and didn’t let anyone or anything stop her. Other icons of mine are Cher, Ann-Margret, Lady GaGa and Diana Ross. I’m putting a list of songs from '70s and '80s rock, so my benchmark songs are "The Show Must Go On," "You Take My Breath Away" and "Rock and Roll Suicide." I perform Queen and Bowie plus others to celebrate my late husband, Paul’s genius and talent. Plus, “Don’t Fret World” from his Rock Opera which was his anthem.

Q: Who would you like to perform with or what show would like to be in?

QL: My dream is to work with the French artist, arranger and producer Benjamin Biolay. And, of course, I’d love to work with David Foster.

Q: What goals do you have for this show and for yourself?

QL: We are going back on the road in theaters. I’m on a plane now headed to Tryon Arts Center in North Carolina. Going to London. I’m hoping to find producers and promoters who will help us tour and produce a run on the West End of London. I’d like to do a national tour. We’d also like to do a NetFlix special filming of the show for broadcast. Paul was my agent as well as producer, so I need to find an agent that can help me internationally. I am also looking to get my TV show, “Secrets of the Stage”, picked up by a major network with sponsorship. As a director and producer, I’m working on our tour of “The Ultimate Queen Celebration'' with Yvan Pedneault and MiG Ayessa, both endorsed by Queen. It’s the best Queen tribute band on the market. We will be at The Egg in Albany, May 11th, and are routing around that. The audiences are on their feet. It's a Queen party.Starting next month, I’m working on a new show with ’70s and ‘80s rock that’s a tribute to Paul and our incredible 20-year journey together through music. I’m grateful to have so many talented colleagues with me on my journey. 

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Dynamic Sci-Fi Director Gareth Edwards Envisions an Artificial Intelligence-infused World Decades From Now in His Latest Film — “The Creator”

John David Washington & Madeleine Yuna Voyles on the run in "The Creator"

Employing actors with global reputations and locations all over the world, master sci-fi film director Gareth James Edwards has now put out “The Creator.” The film considers the effects of the Artificial Intelligence revolution in technology some 40 years from now. It stands the “Terminator” premise on its head and drives a whole re-think on the supposed “menace” of AI.

As if it’s a metaphor for the Vietnam War as much as anything else, future America and its allies are in a conflict between the human race and the forces of artificial intelligence which have taken root in many South East and Far-East Asian countries. While AI-enhanced androids have merged with the general human population there, the USA has prohibited them and is committed to destroying Asia and its robotic allies.

Entering the mix is Joshua (John David Washington), a hardened ex-special forces agent grieving the disappearance of his wife Maya (Gemma Chan), one of the leaders of the Asian-AI community and resistance. After having been undercover among the AI community — where he met and wed Maya, Joshua had reluctantly been removed from the area. He had then been recruited to return and hunt down the Creator, the elusive advanced AI designer/programmer who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war and destroy Nomad, the American super weapon — a computer-enhanced airborne battle ship. Ironically, it depends on sophisticated computer technology to fight its anti-AI war. Joshua and his team of elite operatives venture into enemy territory, invading the heart of AI-occupied territory to find and destroy Nirmata — an AI in the form of a young child.

Born on June 1, 1975 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, the young Edwards admired movies such as the original 1977 classic “Star Wars” and went on to pursue a film career. The Welshman even cites George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as his biggest influences. He got his start in special visual effects, working on shows that aired on networks such as PBS, BBC and the Discovery Channel. In 2008, he entered the Sci-Fi-London 48-hour film challenge, where a movie had to be created from start-to-finish in just two days (which he won). Then he wrote and directed “Monsters”, his first full-length feature, which was shot in only three weeks. Edwards personally created the film’s special effects by using off-the-shelf equipment. Aside from its two main actors (real-life couple Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able), the crew consisted of just five people. The $500,000 thriller received a riotous reception and was released to great success.

The impact of “Monsters” resulted in Edwards becoming an alt-sci-fi movie-making star. With offers from major studios, Warner Bros. tapped him to direct an English-language reboot of the 1954 Japanese classic “Gojira.” His ”Godzilla” re-visioning garnered mixed reviews but did tremendous box office. Following its success, producer Kathleen Kennedy had Edwards helm ”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” — a “Star Wars” spin-off — for Lucasfilm Limited. The film boasted a cast including Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Mad Mikkelsen and James Earl Jones among others.

Such an ensemble anchors this film as well. And while its story (co-written by Chris Weitz) doesn’t offer much of an innovative leap in a sci-fi narrative, it does have a spectacular view of an AI-infused future. The following Q&A is drawn from an appearance Gareth Edwards made shortly before the film’s release this week.

Q: This is your fourth feature — and your fourth science fiction production as well. What is it about this genre that you just keep coming back to it?

Gareth Edwards: Are there other genres…? I heard about this, films without robots in them and stuff. I think the best science fiction is a blend of genres. With my first film, I saw it as a love story meets science fiction. My second film, “Godzilla,” was like a disaster movie meets science fiction. “Star Wars” is probably a war movie meets science fiction.

Q: That’s a really good point because science fiction is at its best when it holds a mirror up to us. That definitely happens here. How did this come about? When and where did the inspiration hit you for “The Creator?”

creator posterGareth Edwards: It was 7:32 p.m. on a Tuesday. There were numerous things that happened. I guess the most obvious one was after we had just finished “Rogue One.” My girlfriend — her family lives in Iowa — and I drove across America to go visit. As we were driving through the Midwest, there’s all sorts of farmlands with tall grass. I was just looking out the window. I had my headphones on and wasn’t trying to think of an idea for a film, but I was getting a little bit inspired. I just saw this factory in the middle of the tall grass and I remember it having a Japanese logo on it and I was thinking, “I wonder what they are making there? Then I just started thinking —because that’s the way I am — my tendencies, it was like, “Probably robots, right? Then I was thinking, “Ok, imagine you were a robot built in a factory. Then for the first time, you step outside into the field and look around and see the sky. I was like, “I wonder what that would be like. It felt like a really good moment in a movie, but I didn’t know what that movie was and I threw it away. Suddenly he tapped me on the shoulder and went, “Oh, it could be this,” and these ideas started coming. By the time we pulled up to the house, I had the whole movie mapped out in my head, which never happens normally. I was like, “That’s a good sign. Maybe this might be my next thing.”

Q: It’s an original concept that you’re working with, how did you get New Regency on board as a producer?

Gareth Edwards: I need to shout out to New Regency as you probably noticed in cinema recently, there’s very few original films being made. That’s because everyone’s gotten very gun shy with the franchises and IPs getting regurgitated a bit. Hats off to Yuri and Michael from New Regency for having the balls to take a big swing and do something like this. Some of my closest friends are concept artists and that’s probably because I know I need them to make my next film, so I asked all my friends… “Could you do some artwork for this idea I’ve got, I’ll pay you” and I started building up a library of imagery. Basically, I had about 50 images when I went into it. I kept it very secret because I didn’t want to put any pressure on it. I just went to New Regency and laid out all the artwork and talked them through the idea beat by beat — which I hate doing. I hate being a car salesman. I just wanted to hit play on the movie. That’s my favorite thing to do. Trying to sell it and speak with a microphone, it’s not my fun thing. You look at all that imagery and it was incredibly ambitious. The natural reaction was, “This is a $300 million film. We’d love to do it, but we can’t really do it.” I was like, “We’re going to do it very differently. We’ll film it with this very small crew and essentially reverse engineer the whole movie.” In theory, what you normally do is have all this design work and you have to build sets in a studio against a green screen — and it’ll cost a fortune. We were like, “We will shoot the movie in real locations in real parts of the world that look closest to what these images are. Then afterwards, when the film’s fully edited, we’ll get the production designer, James Klein, and other concept artists to paint over those frames and put the sci-fi on top.” Everyone was like, “It sounds great.” But basically we had to really prove it to them.

Q: How many locations did you shoot?

Gareth Edwards: On some of the other films I’ve done, I’m so lucky when I get away from the studio and go to a proper location a handful of times. On this one, we went to like 80 locations. We didn’t really use any green screen. There was occasionally a little bit here and there, but very little. If you do the math, and keep the crew small enough, the theory was that the cost of building a set — which is typically 200 grand apparently — you can fly everyone anywhere in the world for that kind of money. It was like, “Let’s keep the crew small and let’s go to these amazing locations.” We went to Nepal, the Himalayas, to active volcanoes in Indonesia, temples in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Tokyo for mega city stuff. Then we did a bit in Pinewood [Studios in London] using their stage and screen — everyone knows it from “The Mandalorian” — but the kind of special non green screen led screen environment.

Q: Your antagonist in this feature is artificial intelligence — AI — but could your timing be any better?

Gareth Edwards: The trick with AI is to get time in that sweet spot window where it’s before the Robo-apocalypse and not after — which I think is in November or maybe December. I think we got really lucky. The joke is would be that when you write a film, especially a science fiction film, you avoid putting a date on it. I didn’t want to write a date for the movie because even Kubrick got it wrong. I was like, “Don’t write a date and then at some point, you have to. I did some math and picked 2070. Now I feel like an idiot because I should have gone for 2023. Everything that’s unfolded in the last few months or year is kind of scarily weird, especially when we’re showing it now. When we first pitched the movie to the studio, this idea of war with AI, everyone wanted to know the back story. Well, hang on. Why would we be at war with AI? It’s like, they’ve been banned because it kind of went wrong. But why would you ban AI? “It’s going to be great and blah, blah, blah.” It was all these sort of ideas that you have to set up, that maybe humanity would reject this thing and not be cool about it. The way it’s played out, like the set up of our movie, is pretty much as it’s been for the last few months.

Q: Set it up for us as the first scene begins?

Gareth Edwards: To understand what’s going on, I would say, essentially, something terrible happened in America and AI got banned — it’s completely banned in the West. But in Asia, there was no such problem so the world is divided in two camps. They carried on developing it until it was near human-like. So there’s this war going on over there — to wipe out AI [in Asia]. The person everybody’s after is called Nirmata — Public enemy #1 — which is basically a Nepalese word for the creator. From the Western perspective, this is the Osama bin Laden of our story. But from the Asian and AI perspective, this is like God.

Q: When it came to prep and research, consulting with scientists and technological advisors, were you able to really dive into that?

Gareth Edwards: That’s all I did for like, years. It was a bit like researching jet packs because I started writing this, I guess it was like in 2018, and it did feel back then like this was 30 years away. But when we were filming, we were in the middle of the jungle and driving to places when I got a text on my phone. There was that whole whistleblower account from one of the big tech companies thinking that AI had become self-aware. It really wasn’t on my radar back then in terms of being a reality, it was just something that [raised the question of] whether it’s a good or bad thing. In one way, humanity might get wiped out, but on the other hand, I get to make my dream film. So everyone wins.

Q: What were some of the tools, some of the new innovations, when it came to cutting-edge technology, that you were able to take advantage of that didn’t exist when “Rogue One” came out in 2016.

Gareth Edwards: Camera and film making technology has come a long way in the last few years. I needed the actors and me to have total freedom on set. Something we did on this film that was really important was that I wanted it to feel as realistic as possible. We would always be able to shoot in 360 degrees but the problem working against you when you try to do that in a film is [that] you have lights like we have here. The second you want to move the camera, you suddenly see the lights and you spend 20 minutes moving them. It takes forever to shoot a scene. The way we worked there was with really sensitive camera equipment in terms of how we could use the lights. They’re very lightweight. We’re all familiar with how lights have become. We thought we could set it up — you have a boom operator holding a pole with the microphone on. Why can’t you have a person holding a pole with a light on it? We had a best-boy type running around holding the light by hand. If the actor suddenly got up and did something — went over here and suddenly there was a better shot — I could move and suddenly the lighting could really be readjusted. What would normally take like 10 minutes to change was taking four seconds. We would do 25-minute takes where we’d play out the scene three or four times. It just gave everything this atmosphere, this sort of naturalism and realism that I really wanted to get where it wasn’t so prescribed. Like you’re not putting marks on the ground and saying stand there. It wasn’t that kind of movie.

Q: What about the casting process, particularly with leads John David Washington, Gemma Chan and Ken Watanabe.

Gareth Edwards: With John David, we were casting the film during the pandemic. It was really hard to meet anybody but fortunately he lived in L A and I just heard through his agent that he’d meet me any time I wanted to go for a meal. So I went to meet him and he walked in — it’s the pandemic. He’s got his mask on, a Star Wars mask, like with the Star Wars logo on it. I initially thought, “He’s doing this because of “Rogue One.” He sat down and admitted that he’s a massive Star Wars fan and he’s like, “I’ve been wearing this mask every single day for like a year or whatever. It’s been for the whole pandemic. I thought about not wearing it to this meeting, but then it felt false, so I thought it’d be like a good ice breaker.” We hit it off straight away. I’d worked with Ken [Watanabe] before — he’s the only actor I’ve worked with twice. I don’t know if that says something about me. I always want to do something new and so for the longest time, I didn’t think about Ken for this role. The second he turned up on set, I felt like such an idiot, obviously it was supposed to be Ken from the beginning. Every time we held the camera up and Ken’s in the shot, it felt like this strange hybrid — it’s meeting Star Wars or something, which was exactly what we were going for. He gave us goosebumps. There’s something about that guy. He’s just got this face that, I think, is the reason he’s so successful internationally; it’s not really about what he says.

Q: He can convey so much with just his looks; he’s so good. How did you find the right Alphie? What was that casting process?

Gareth Edwards: We basically did an open casting call around the world and I think we got hundreds of videos. Thankfully, I didn’t have to watch all of them. They sent me like the top 70 or something and then we met. I went to meet, I forget, about about 10 kids. The first one was Madeleine who plays Alfie. She came in, and did this scene. We were all nearly in tears at the end. I thought to myself “This is weird and phenomenal. Maybe the mum was just brilliant at prepping her to get really upset just before she came in. There was some little trick going on. So we chatted a bit and we did some other scenes and then right at the end — I was a bit cruel — I was like, “Could we just try one more thing?” I just wanted to see if it was repeatable. “Can we do another scene?” I explained a different scene and we just improvised it and she was even more heartbreaking. I don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t found the right kid. We got really lucky. I’m glad I live in the universe where that happened because the movie lives or dies [with her]. I hate movies about little kids because they can be so annoying and that was my biggest fear — are we going to do one of these really annoying kid movies? It was the biggest relief because she’s beyond her years. She was really something.

Q: How was it working with John David Washington and vice versa?

Gareth Edwards: She’s quite “method.” I can tell she does “method” a lot because we only knew each other during the filmmaking process. But it’s like she kept everybody at arm’s reach. I was allowed in a little bit. But she and John David were inseparable. He became a brother or father figure. I’m not sure which. What’s amazing is that I thought I was going to have to trigger it. So when we deal with sex and all the scenes, I need this to be like a documentary so we can pull this performance out of this, this girl without kind of like her having to act and she could act her pants off, you know what I mean? She was amazing at it. it was a director’s dream, you could just tell her what Alfie was thinking and this amazing performance came out. I’d look at the other actors and[think] be why can’t you be like this — what’s your problem?

Q: Talk about filming those combat scenes and how did they differ from the ones in “Rogue One?”

crator2Gareth Edwards: Obviously we went to the Maldives and that wasn’t bad. We went to shoot real exterior locations. Everything in this movie is the closest thing we could do to be what the artwork suggested it should be. I glimpsed it a little bit when we were in Thailand. We needed to find a really technologically advanced factory. We looked everywhere. There were car manufacturing plants that were nervous about us filming but eventually we found a particle accelerator and it’s one of the most advanced, probably in the whole of Thailand. We were like, “Please, please, please, could you let us film.” It looked amazing. It had that whole circular thing going on. We went to visit and they were like, “There’s no way you’re going to be allowed to film here.” They asked what do you want to do? Why are there people with guns shooting and explosions? This is like a multi-multimillion dollar facility with all these leading cutting-edge scientists. Then, at the very last minute, someone was like, “What filmmaker is doing this?” They were like, “It’s this guy from the States or whatever. He lives over there, but he’s English. And they go, “What films has he done?” They went, “He did this Star Wars film called “Rogue One.” And then, they were like, “Can we be in it?” We were like, “Sure, whatever. Everybody was in those scenes, with everyone running around. They’re nuclear physicists — they really are — and they were amazing.

Q: You did a lot of location work. Isn’t that right?

Gareth Edwards: We went into real locations. We wanted it to feel like we were making a student film to some extent. But it got to the point where like that beach scene where Gemma’s running and there’s all that crossfire. It was the beginning of when the pandemic restrictions were lifted and Thailand was opening up to tourists. They’re like, “You can film on this beach but you can’t close it. so it’s like, “How are we going to do that scene where there’s tourists there. I don’t know what happens normally in Thailand at night on these beaches. But with the stuff that’s in the movie and the trailer, we didn’t close the beach. If you look carefully in the background, you can see cars and tourists, but one person came over and went,”What are you doing.” It was just the four of us with a camera running around so it didn’t look like this big massive movie. The goal hopefully was that it all ends up on the screen. We tried to be very efficient about it.

Q: So further along in the film, what do we see?

Gareth Edwards: Further on the journey, we have Joshua and now Alfie. The best way to say it is that Joshua has infiltrated the AI village and with the insurgents and guerrillas. Basically they’ve abducted the child. As this is happening, it seems that the Americans have also arrived. Essentially these rockets ascend into the air and they smoke out the whole village and then it all unfolds from there.

Q: What would you list as your cinematic influences for “The Creator?” What movies should we see as companion pieces to the creator?

Gareth Edwards: Since my first film, I put up posters in the edit suite of movies that had inspired the film I was doing. There’s some really obvious ones you’d probably predict. But there’s a film called “Baraka.” The cinematographer from that film went on and directed another film called “Samsara,” which is one of the greatest movies ever made. “Lone Wolf and Cub” is a Japanese manga series. There’s a whole bunch of films called “Sword of Vengeance.” The really obvious ones are “Apocalypse Now” and “Blade Runner.” In terms of this film’s dynamic, maybe there’s a little bit of “Rain Man” [in it]. It’s a journey of someone normal and someone who’s a little bit special. And there’s Paper Moon, with its sort of dynamics.

Q: What was your inspiration behind the robot designs? And talk about working with your costume designer for the entire film.

Gareth Edwards: A lot of the costumes were done by the WETA Workshop in New Zealand. Peter Jackson and ILM [Industrial Light and Magic] did all the visual effects — or a lot of them — plus some by the vendors around the world. We tried to summarize the design and aesthetic of the movie as a bit retro futuristic. Imagine if Apple Mac hadn’t won the tech war and Sony Walkman had. everything has this sort of ’90s/‘80s kind of Walkman/Nintendo thing. We looked at all the product designs from that era and riffed off little pieces and tried to put them into the robots. The tricky thing with designing robot heads was to pull from sources. We did a whole pass at one point where we took insect heads and then tried to make it as if that insect had been made by Sony — like the praying mantis — and changed it into product design. Then we took products and tried to turn them into organic looking heads. We took things like film projectors, vacuum cleaners — things like that — and then just messed around. I just kept experimenting; it was like evolution in real life, like DNA getting merged and trying to create something better than the previous thing.

Q: Being a big science fiction director, who are some of the directors and writers that you looked up to and get inspiration from.

Gareth Edwards: There’s the obvious people — Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott. It’s the high benchmark of essentially what we were trying to do. I’m not saying we got anywhere close to achieving it, but the goal of the movie was to try and go back to that style and type of film that we grew up loving, like the film was shot on 1970s anamorphic lenses and things like this. Actually, I hate writing. It’s like doing homework. The worst thing in the world is having to write a screenplay. The only way I can bring myself to do it is to lock myself in somewhere nice. I’m not allowed to leave until I’ve finished. I’ll stay there for like a month or something. I went to Thailand, to the exact place where the beach ended. I didn’t realize I was getting inspired for the movie. I just picked this nice resort and it was like a recurring theme like in the Maldives and now this beach resort in town. Whilst I was there, a filmmaker friend who was in Vietnam said, “Come over and we’ll just do a little trip.” I went there and you can’t just go around that country and not think of all the imagery from films like “Apocalypse Now.” Now I can, but I was writing this science fiction film. So everything I was looking at in my mind was like robots, spaceships and things. You’d see Buddhist monks going to temples and I’d picture a robot buddhist monk. I just spent the whole time going, “Oh my God, what is this movie?” This feels like there was something so appealing about it, this mix of “Blade Runner” meets “Apocalypse Now.”

Q: What was the biggest challenge filming this?

Gareth Edwards: I wouldn’t say it was a particular thing; it was more just the duration of it. We started filming in January 2022 and we finished in June. We were there for six months and it was like nonstop 40 degree heat, people were dying every day. it was a dream looking back at it, to get to do that. But there was a point where you wanted to collapse and you felt like, “He’s only done seven days of filming and there’s still all that is still left.: The first cut of this movie was five hours long and we had so much great, cool material but everything that’s in this film is all the best stuff. The editing process was basically like a game of Jenga where we would pull things out and see if we missed it or it fell apart. We had it packed by the end through the editors, but we finally got it down to two hours. It’s like the old adage “less is more” most of the time.

Q: What are the highest and best values of humanity that you hope this movie ultimately illustrates?

Gareth Edwards: I hope some sort of empathy for others [is there]. That’s a strong value which is very important. When this film began, I obviously didn’t know AI was going to do what it ended up doing this last year. AI was really in the fairy tale of this story. We want to get rid of people who are different from us. All kinds of fascinating things start to happen while you write that script. You start to think, “Are they real? How would you know and what if you didn’t like what they were doing? Can you turn them off? What if they didn’t want to be turned off?” This sort of stuff started to play out which became as strong as the premise and that’s what I’m most proud of.

Q: Two words for you: Hans Zimmer.

Gareth Edwards: Everyone’s iPhone tells you the last 25 most played tracks or something like that. I looked at [mine] out of curiosity and I think 14 were Hans Zimmer tracks. I was like, “I don’t know how we get composer Han Zimmer, but we have to try.” Joe Walker, editor of “Rogue One,” assembled the film. He had worked with Hans a lot and was like, “I’ll talk to him.” We ended up in this strange situation where I had to call Hans whilst in the middle of nowhere; we were going to meet the head of the military in Thailand to get permission to film the Black Hawks for one of those sequences. It was this massive deal meeting that took months and months to organize. It happened to be the same moment that Hans was available to do a Zoom. We had to pull off the road. It was like a hotel in the middle of nowhere and they had wifi. I go in there and get Hans and the worst thing in the world is that they said you’ve got to leave in 30 minutes. You can’t stay because the whole military is waiting for us over here. I was looking at this clock and Hans started telling his anecdotes about “The Dark Knight” and Terrence Malick. All my life I’ve wanted to talk to him about these films and I have to go,” I’m really sorry, Hans, I have to leave now.” It was so against every bone in my body to come away from that.

Q: Talk about working with Oscar-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser.

Gareth Edwards: I obviously worked with Greig on “Rogue One.” Greig had to make this work as well. We were totally on the same page and Greig’s very rebellious. and despite how it might look because he’s, you know, doing his big movies. But we’re both during that, like the build up to this film, I got to go around one of these virtual reality studios where they had this poster on the wall as to how you make a movie. it was every part of the process and I was just looking at it going, “What a strange thing to have. Why are they doing it? Why have they got this poster?” The guy who ran the thing came up to me and went, “Oh, I see you looking at the poster — that’s 100 years old.” When I looked at it, I realized the typography was like 100 years old. We haven’t changed how films are made in 100 years. We still do it the same way. With all these new digital tools and technology, there are other ways to make films. People like Greig and I really want to do things differently because that’s how you make a different type of movie. The process is as important as the screenplay to some extent.

Q: Let’s talk about the opportunity and power of science fiction to drive social commentary and reflection.

Gareth Edwards: I like science fiction because there’s a chance to sneak ideas under the radar. My favorite TV show growing up was “The Twilight Zone” which was in the ’50s and ’60s. Rod Serling, who wrote a lot of those shows, had said the reason he did science fiction was because he could get out from under the radar of the censors and say things you’re not normally allowed to say out loud. If you start to type and work out a film, and you go, “I want to make a film about this. It’s got to have this social commentary to it” — it will be a rubbish film. If you get attracted to an idea, there’s something primal about it that pulls you in. There’s something that needs to be said about this subject matter but about halfway through making or writing a film is when you start to realize what that thing is. It’s like a child who tells you what they want to be when they grow up. You learn what it is and then you try to help it along. Science fiction does it the best because we all go through our lives with certain beliefs and they never really get tested. You do everything you’re supposed to do but science fiction says, what if the world had this different thing about it. Would your little idea still work and you hit against the wall? The thing you used to think was true starts to be false. And you begin to question things. I love that kind of storytelling. I hope our film does a little bit of that.

[For fans of this film or any genre film, go to Big Apple Comic Con‘s Christmas Con, taking place in the New Yorker Hotel this December 16th, 2023, There are many opportunities to steep yourself in sci-fi and other graphic story collectibles. Get posters and other collateral available from “The Creator” and many others as your stocking stuffers.]

Multi-Talented Musician Prem Murti Makes a Song Worthy of Award Nominations and International Recognition


Q&A by Brad Balfour

Never in a million years did I expect that composer/musician Prem Murti and I would cross paths. The Indian-based composer/performer produced the song “Love and Peace” which has won the Best Music Video and Best Experimental Film honors at the Canadian Cinematography Awards (CaCA). It also received multiple Josie Awards nominations — Song: Vocal Event of the Year; World Artist of the Year: Prem Murti of India; Songwriter of the Year: Mike Greenly; Musician of the Year: cellist Tess Remy Schumacher. "Love and Peace" is up for consideration on the Grammy® ballot in “Best Global Music Performance.” There will be a show in Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House on October 22, 2023.

It’s not that Murti doesn’t already have something of a track record — so to speak. He was part of “Divine Tides” — the 2022 Grammy Award-winning full-length release ("Best New Age Album") by Stewart Copeland , former drummer of The Police, and Ricky Kej. He did the official Lo-Fi mixes for the album.

But it was thanks to his connection to my friend Mike Greenly that I was turned on to the song, A multifaceted artist — skilled in singing, music composition, production, mixing, engineering, and voice-over artistry — Murti has worked with several notable record labels, such as Saregama, Zee, and Shemaroo as well as collaborating with numerous artists in India and abroad since 2013. Based inChandigarh, India, Murtigained fame when his rendition of the song “Toofan Ko Aana Hai (Ik Pyar Ka Nagma Hai)” went viral across social media platforms during the pandemic. He also co-arranged and sang lead vocals on “Vande Bharatam” for the Republic Day parade at India Gate as 500 dancers performed to it. With Kej, he made “Salaam” — an anthem dedicated to India’s armed forces.

Though Greenly is gay, he didn’t write the lyrics to “Love and Peace” with Pride or same sex relations specifically in mind. His message was meant to be far more universal than that. But LGBTQ-identified people are reaching some of the highest positions in society now and attaining more cultural relevance. For example, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Eric Varadkar, came out as gay. (He’s of Indian and Irish descent.) Pride Month has become more visible than ever.

Even with Pride month in the rear mirror now, “Love and Peace” struck me as the perfect song to highlight LGBTQ pride by writing about Prem Murti. Greenly’s lyrics squarely keep the sentiments of that recent month in mind while suggesting loving acceptance of every diverse individual among us.

Recognized for his calming and restorative voice, the youthful Murti performs a vast repertoire of devotional songs, mantras, and other spiritually uplifting compositions. Buoyed by Murti’s beautiful and exotic music, “Love and Peace” has a universal quality that makes the message all the more profound. 

Q: Have you always focused on being a musician?

PM: Yes, it was always my childhood dream to pursue a career in music. Despite not having any musical background, I began a journey of self-teaching. Along the way, my friends and audiences recognized my blessed voice, encouraging me to include a focus on singing. As a result, I’ve found a balance between being a composer-producer and a singer. In the song 'Love and Peace,' I not only composed and produced the track but also performed the Shanti (Peace) Mantra section.

Q: It seems like a unique combo of people. Do you always do such eclectic music?

PM: While producing music, I prefer not to confine myself to any rigid style. Instead, I think of whatever serves the song best. Since 'Love and Peace' is about harmony and togetherness beyond any geographical or language barrier, the selection of musicians and singers from different cultures was an obvious choice. For other projects, also, I would go with anything that will make our listeners feel good.

Q: Are you planning a full album?

PM: While I have a deep appreciation for music albums, as they provide a compilation of songs with a shared flavor, I wanted to take a different approach for 'Love and Peace.' Instead of releasing an entire album, I aimed to combine the efforts of 5-6 songs into a single track, with the goal of creating a distinctive and exceptional masterpiece. There are additional factors influencing my preference for singles over albums, one being the shift in how contemporary audiences consume music.

Q: Have you done music for films?

love peacePM: I would love to, but until now, my focus has primarily been on creating music, doing production and mixing for independent artists. That’s kept me occupied. I’ve also been actively involved in singing and providing voice-overs for various projects. However, I’m always open to new opportunities. 

Q: What was the origin of your “Love and Peace” song?

PM: There are certain topics or ideas that we often don't have the opportunity to fully explore when we’re focused on creating 'commercial' music. Love, in its broader sense … peace, in light of the world's current climate of hatred and conflict … and spiritual themes and social issues are a few examples. These subjects have always inspired me and I’ve longed to create meaningful art around them. In this particular song, everything came straight from the heart, without adhering to any typical format. The inclusion of the Shanti (Peace) Mantra in Sanskrit was an unconventional choice, but it’s been widely embraced and loved by everyone. Furthermore, Natalie's addition of some Hawaiian traditional lines beautifully complemented the song and harmonized with its essence.

Q: I assume you had a musical idea but of all the lyricists, how did Mike Greenly enter your sphere of reality. What did he bring to it that you didn’t find elsewhere?

PM: I and Mike Greenly were in contact via email, sharing our thoughts and philosophies. We both had an interest in collaborating and creating something new together, although the specific topic was not yet clear. When the idea for the 'Love and Peace' song emerged, Mike was the first lyricist who came to mind. I believed he possessed the maturity and sensitivity required to write on such a subject. I had trust in him based on his previous works, which I had explored.

When he sent me the first draft of the lyrics, I knew I wouldn't need to seek out anyone else for this song. I truly loved the lyrics. There were a few lines that I asked him to revise, and he graciously made the changes. Mike is an enthusiastic individual and was always prompt in making adjustments to the lyrics whenever I requested. Consequently, there was no need to search for another lyricist for this particular song.

Q: Who did the production and how was it done?

PM: I composed and produced the song 'Love and Peace'. The song is about peace, so I wanted it to sound very ambient and soothing. The selection of instruments like acoustic guitar, flute, cello and violin was done accordingly. However, considering the concept of peace and silence, it was also important to incorporate elements of contrast and dynamics. Just as you can't fully appreciate light without darkness, I wanted to provide a contrast that would capture the listener's attention. This is where my singing part came into play, utilizing large drums, electric guitars, heavy orchestration, and thick layered vocals. These elements added a powerful and intense dynamic to the song, creating a striking juxtaposition against the peaceful elements.

Q: How did you find the musicians you used and what's their backstories?

PM: Before I started working on this project, I had already established connections with so many musicians and singers through various social media platforms. They loved my musical style and singing and were also willing to collaborate with me in future. When the idea of 'Love and Peace' came, Natalie Ai Kamauu was our first choice as a lead singer because of her soothing and peaceful voice which was apt for this song. When it came to the lyrics, we sought out the expertise of Mike Greenly, a highly experienced songwriter who possessed the necessary skills to craft the ideal composition for this particular piece.

Once we had a basic foundation of the song ready, I approached other singers and musicians who seemed suitable for it. Annemarie Picerno has not only provided backing vocals but has also served as a guide throughout the process of releasing the song. Another lovely musician on our team is Tess Remy Schumacher, a talented cellist who, despite being senior to me, has consistently shown tremendous support and enthusiasm. She approaches music with the curiosity and dedication of a lifelong student. An Vedi, as a skilled violin player, and Russ Hewitt, as a talented guitarist, brought an extra dimension to the song.

Q: You and your team were nominated for various Josie Awards. How did the awards organization hear of you and the song?

PM: 'Love and Peace' was my first song with this incredible team of singers and musicians. Receiving recognition at the 'Josie Awards' earned their trust. I was absolutely thrilled and honored upon hearing the news of our song and our team being nominated in various categories for the 'Josie Awards'. It validates all the hard work, dedication, and creativity that went into creating the song.

I’d like to thank my collaborators, especially Annemarie Picerno (vocalist) and An Vedi (violinist), for keeping me informed about the award shows happening around us. Additionally, I actively promote my work through various channels, such as social media, music platforms, and my official website. This helps in gaining visibility. Furthermore, positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations have also played a significant role.

Q: Given the Pride Month that passed us this summer, did you see the song’s connection to universal love … not just personal love, but the general love that Pride Month embraces?

PM: The song goes beyond personal love and does aim to highlight the concept of universal love. It explores the idea of love that transcends individual relationships and embraces love and acceptance for all people. The song celebrates the notion of love that unites everyone and promotes inclusivity and understanding.

Watch the “Love and Peace” music video here:

Prem Murti’s Website:

Irish Director Luke McManus Makes a Doc of Dublin and Life on Its North Circular Road

Luke McManus
Photo: Killian Broderick

Film: “North Circular”
Director: Luke McManus
Opens: Friday, July 28th, 2023
At: DCTV Firehouse
Where: 87 Lafayette St.

Having been to Dublin before, my image of the city is filtered through one idealized version or another. I’ve met buskers on Grafton Street and seen hipster haunts in Temple Bar. I’ve traipsed over to the scene north of the Liffey, and hit the bars there. But I’ve never found myself on the North Circular, meeting the characters and musicians who populate this much talked-about new hybrid doc. “North Circular” makes its New York debut this Friday at DCTV Firehouse with director Luke McManus in attendance.

This film maker has not only traveled the length of Dublin’s North Circular Road — exploring the area’s history, music and streetscapes — he is now bringing his documentary musical to the States, presenting it by making its NYC theatrical premiere.

Told in a black and white 4:3 Academy ratio, the film evokes many narratives from the history of the city and nation to its musical styles and mores. Topics range from colonialism to mental health to the struggle for women’s liberation, all while considering urgent issues of the day. The film addresses the battle to save the center of Dublin’s recent folk revival — the legendary Cobblestone Pub — and looks into its destruction at the hands of cynical property developers. The movie also includes musical performances from artists local to the North Circular, including John Francis Flynn, Séan Ó Túama, Eoghan O’Ceannabháin, Ian Lynch and Gemma Dunleavy.

Numerous themes, characters, and issues bubble up from underneath the surface of this windy thoroughfare when you walk it. It’s couched in darkness at some times while exuding a celebratory energy at others. This single road encompasses so much diversity of human experience. While McManus’s film only offers a glimpse of local life through a couple of moments, audiences also get a taste of the complex history of this multifaceted place. And It’s actually traveling the world now while being linked to some of the Emerald Isle’s most beloved and infamous places.

Music is used as a specific storytelling technique both aesthetically and editorially. The result combines the musical and the factual in a way that makes this neither a simple music documentary nor a road movie. What emerges is a musical-as-documentary. According to the information provided, “This narrative form reflects the tradition of musical storytelling and narrative in Dublin that began with Peader Kearney and Dominic Behan and continues with Lankum, John Francis Flynn, and Gemma Dunleavy today.

“The use of black & white imagery reiterates the connection between the values and culture of the past and those of today. There is a timeless quality to the challenges that face our characters with yesterday reflecting in their eyes as they live their present lives.”

The film had its world premiere at Dublin IFF (Special Mention for Best Doc), screened at Sheffield DocFest and won the American Cinematographer Magazine Award at Salem Film Fest as well as the Grand Prix in Music Documentary Competition at FIPADOC. In Irish cinemas, it has had a very successful theatrical run starting last December — and is still selling out screenings.

Based in Dublin, filmmaker McManus has produced and directed award-winning projects for NBC, Netflix, RTÉ, Virgin Media Television, TG4, NDR/ARD, Al Jazeera and Channel 4. He’s won four IFTAs, a Celtic Media Award, and the Radharc Award in the process. McManus’ debut feature as a producer was “The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid,” which premiered in the Main Competition at IDFA in 2018, won the George Morrison Award for Best Feature Documentary at the Irish Film & Television Awards and the Best Irish Film Award at the Dublin International Film Festival. All of this positive feedback led him to finally direct “North Circular” —his debut feature documentary. 

There will be Q&As with McManus and musician Annie Hughes at select showtimes — and maybe a performance or two as well.

Q: This is a pretty dark film. Did you make it with the idea that it was going to be dark? Or did it become that as you were in the process of making it?

Luke McManus: You kind of follow your instincts a bit. I did know that it was a place that had a bit of a troubled history and I thought that maybe that would be an interesting thing to investigate. I think Irish folk music is quite dark in its tone. Its subject matter typically is dark as well. I was following that path, but I like to think that the end of the film is uplifting enough to give you a sense of the light at the end of the tunnel. I think it’s ok to bring people into the darkness as long as you leave them in the light.

Q: From your experience on the road, were there some dark moments that aren’t in the movie?

LM: Making any movie is a challenge and the creative process tends to lead you into a lot of self-doubt and difficulties. This was no different. In fact, it was difficult. But in my experience, the hard ones are the good ones. You know, the easy ones are mediocre. So even though this was a very hard thing to make, it certainly gave me immense satisfaction to see how it turned out. The success has been incredible.

I suppose I didn’t want to make a film that pulled its punches. And this area of Dublin has a notorious reputation for criminality, poverty, addiction and suffering of various kinds. It’s a humorous place and a cultured place. So I wanted to make sure all that came through in the film.

Q: If you had just lived in a nice, sweet suburban area without any of these elements to it, could you have made this film?

LM: I probably could have, but it might have been somewhat bland and an uninteresting one. I think hard times make good art as a rule. Suffering is like the Irish way of dealing with trauma and suffering: to crack a joke, tell a story or sing a song. I think something that came out of the film as a kind of learning is that it’s not about whether you suffer, It’s about how you deal with and channel that. I was lucky to meet a lot of people that channel that suffering into their art.

Q: You concentrate on a couple of people whose life experience was dark. I wasn’t sure that there was anything else redeeming about them. But in a funny way, like the one fellow who went on a bit, they were intriguing. He had the really cluttered apartment. That was the way he lived. I was trying to say that to myself since I have had issues with clutter myself. I was worried to see if I was being reflected in him and maybe that’s why I was reacting.

LM: They say that clutter and hoarding is sort of a response to loss and bereavement. I mean, we’ve all suffered a loss. I hope you haven’t suffered a too-traumatizing loss. But that sort of thing is a catalyst. I mean, you’re talking about the tin whistle player. He did have a very tough life, but in a way I find him a very inspiring character because he’s managed to find a way, despite being homeless at times, incarcerated in the mental hospital and witnessing some dreadful events. He still might start playing his whistle, cracking his jokes, giving his speeches, talking to people in the community. And he’s managed to go out into the world and make a life for himself which has a bit of meaning. So even though in many ways, inmanyways, he’s a tragic person, he also sort of also inspires me.

Q: I really was being a little bit tongue in cheek when I was asking this. But in any case, I don’t think Tourism Ireland will be promoting this film because I thought of it as the dark side to the tourist vision of Ireland. We’re getting a sense that living in Ireland is not quite what we see when we’re on the tourist bus.

LM: Well, that’s for sure. I think this community has had a very bad press and it’s been in some people’s eyes, too dangerous place to go to. But ultimately, I think it reflects the spirit of the city and of the country very well. We’re not a fancy country, we’re not a blandly bourgeois place. If you want that, France is there. But if you want somewhere where, as I say, hard times are met with the raise of a glass and the cracking of a joke, then Ireland’s the place. I think that as a reality, it reflects a rich, cultural, diverse, always interesting place.

Q: You didn’t try to offer any social solutions. In other words, in some ways, I didn’t get the feeling that any of this could be corrected in one sense or another. Wrong or right? Do you have solutions that are you just going to do in the next film?

NORTH CIRCULAR poster USLM: You’re both wrong and right. I didn’t offer solutions. I don’t really feel that the role of a documentary maker is to offer us allegiance necessarily with a filmmaker. Well, what I like to think I did do is as we were going down the road in the film during the making of it, I realized that not only was it a journey through the city. It was also a journey through the history of the city. We start with the 19th century imperialism, soldiers, the British army and you move through revolution and land war and incarceration and institutionalization. But when you get to the end, you find that these young women are very 21st century characters, very independent, very high achieving, very positive. You have Jennifer Levy the singer who’s a wonderful kind of spokesperson for her area as well as a creative force. You have Kelly Harrington, the boxer who’s a gay woman who’s you know, celebrated her gold medal return with her wife and her family. And it isn’t even a thing that she’s a gay person. It’s not even a, a remarked upon thing. It’s not even that it’s accepted in Ireland. That’s not even remarkable. You have these people at the end who represent contemporary life very powerfully and, I think, are quite inspiring. Part of the thing in the film is that Ireland, even though it has problems around housing and accommodation, it’s also in a good place. I think as a country, maybe, a better place than it’s ever been in.

Q: It’s the women of Ireland who have really been saving the country. in fact, when you show those scenes of the soccer lads, it’s almost like, “I’m really embarrassed to be a guy.” Thankfully, I’m not a sports fan so I’ve never been in that kind of a rally, like a neo-fascist environment — it really did come off like a Hitler rally.

LM: It’s an interesting point because there’s a reason those rallies were so popular. And the reason is that they tap into a very human need or just the need to belong and to escape your own ego by being subsumed into the crowd. That’s interesting for me and has always been a subject I’ve been fascinated with from my own time as an Ireland fan and experiencing the good-natured euphoria of being an Ireland fan. It was something I wanted to capture in the film. But what I find about that scene particularly is that it’s very strongly connected to the start of the film where we have some people talking about the reason young men join armies. You’re looking for excitement, for adventure, for brotherhood and camaraderie. You’re looking for an enemy to focus your aggression on — your masculine energy. It feels to me when I look at that bohemian crowd that I think there’s the same cause that made young Irish men join the army and go to die in the fields. In the first World War or even to join the IRA. There’s a sense of purpose and a mission that’s very seductive.

Q: Do you think that the experience of joining… because women had a more equal position in the NRA, in the IRA, excuse me? Sorry f had a Freudian slip there. But in any case. And I think that in a way part of being involved with the IRA elevated women in many ways, like look at who the leader of Sinn Fein is now.

LM: It’s very true. I mean, the left in Ireland has had a lot of successful women politicians. We’ve had Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese as presidents, obviously. And we’ve got a woman Sinn Fein leader now and there’s a female Labor party leader now. Having said that, I don’t think the IRA by any means had a monopoly on feminist feminism or progression of women. And there has been a lot of very questionable stuff that’s come out about abuse — sexual abuse inside thr organization that was covered up by Gerry Adams and a few other people. So it’s a tricky one. But, generally speaking, I think the story of Ireland now is very much a positive one as regards the quality of gender equality.

Q: One thing I thought about while I was watching the film was how you evolve the songs. You start out with the old kind of sessun type song, where it’s got that ambling sort of melodic quality. Then you start to get into pop music at the end and there’s still a strong lyrical sense there as well. But it’s now connected through a much more up-tempo pulsing experience.

LM: Well, that part of the journey through time was also reflected in the music. The very first song you hear is about Charles Stewart Parnell, the great nationalist leader of the 19th century — “The Sweet Blackbird of Avondale,” that was his nickname: The Blackbird of Sweet Avondale. And that last song with the Flat, which is kind of like a garage R&B type sound of Gemma O’Riordan, very modern sounding. But having said that, when you look at her band, she has a harpist, which is the most traditional Irish instrument of all. And not only is it on our money, it’s also on our pints. and she even has a fiddler as well. So even within that very 21st century slick kind of construct that she has, that heartbeat of folk music is still there. The penultimate songs, “Rock the Machine” is sung by Lisa O’neill and written by O’neill as well. So the performer wrote that song. It’s very much in the folk and traditional idiom, but it’s written in the 21st century. So again, that journey into the present and the past.

Q: I think there’s an Italian film that I saw at a festival that had a similar feeling of the road about Rome. It’s kind of like the circular road around Rome.

LM: That’s Gianfranco Rosi’s “Sacro GRA,” which is a magnificent film and very much an influence in my film. There were also some writers in the UK, in the ’90s, called the Psycho Geographers. A lot of what they did was about journeys and places and wandering about. Iain Sinclair, Will Self and a few others even back in the ’70s. There was a wonderful French film about the road in Paris. So, it’s certainly been done before, this idea of traveling through a place and meeting people on the way. But I don’t think there’s been a film in Ireland like this, in this way. I think every film is built on the shoulders of giants that came before, and there’s very few original projects in this world now.

Q: This is an unusual way to make an American debut. In any sense, it’s a pretty unconventional film, number one. And number two, it’s very Irish-centric. Are you worried about it having a reach a more general audience? Or do you feel it’s going to at least reach Irish audiences who would come out to see it because it’s a portrait of Ireland that they don’t often see.

LM: It’s an interesting question. When I was making the film, I didn’t think people outside of Ireland would be that interested. But what I’ve discovered is, in fact, [there’s an audience beyond Ireland.] I think we’ve done 40 festivals now around the world. I’ve had amazing feedback from Melbourne to Istanbul, to Buenos Aires to Vancouver. We got nominated for an award in Shanghai, and it’s surprising how much global purchase the narratives have, the stories have and the music has. I’ve been doing a lot of Q & As and had a lot of discussions about the film. My favorite question of all was from an Italian man who said, “I don’t have a question, but I’m from Napoli and I’d like to thank you for making a film about Napoli,” which really stopped me in my tracks. I then knew exactly what he meant. There’s a certain type of a place that’s chaotic, dirty, energetic, funny and frightening in nearly every city in the world. I think it is universal.

Q: One thing that’s interesting about the film is that you feel like you walk into it in a way without it starting with a more traditional kickoff of a film. Did you back into that idea of doing it that way or was that always in your mind?

LM: You mean the song at the very start or at the park?

Q: Well, there’s just elements to the film — it doesn’t start like a typical documentary which sets you up in a certain way and says this is a film about this experience or that idea. The idea kind of evolves as you watch it.

LM: Well, a huge thing for me was the fact that this was a cinema film. I’ve done a lot of TV. I’ve done jobs for streamers. And when you make those films, you’re always under huge pressure to get your cards on the table very early on, to try and hook people in. I knew that if you’re in the cinema, you paid your 16 bucks, and you’re sitting in the middle of aisle four… You’re not going to get up and leave after five minutes. You have the luxury of time with people. I thought, “Well, why not just make it experiential and bring people into a world?” The journey begins and you’ve established the grammar of that world, the atmosphere and the tone of that world. It was a rare privilege to do that. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to make a film exactly as I wanted to in a very old commercial way. But the irony of that is the most commercial film I tried to make has been the most successful as well.

Q: You’re from Dublin. You grew up there or you are from a suburb?

LM: I grew up in a little town called Bray, which is somewhere in the county island of Dublin. It’s right on the edge of the city where there’s fun fairs. When I grew up there, there were the movie studios like Ardmore. There were film makers like Neil Jordan and John Boorman making movies there. Bono and Sinead O’Connor lived there and it was quite a creative place. But I moved to the North Circular in the ’90s. And during the making of this film, I discovered my grandmother grew up on North Circular, literally around the corner from where I live now. And her life experience actually informed a lot about this film.

Q: When did you know you wanted to make movies? And when did you have the idea that you’re going to make documentaries? Some people make documentaries, but don’t necessarily move to narratives. But do you want to move to narratives after you’ve done a few or more — or not?

LM: I’ve done a few. I’ve done a web series. I did a TV movie for Channel 4 in the UK and in Ireland. I did a few shorts and I love narrative filmmaking. But I think documentary is sort of my [thing]. Narrative is hard, man. You get one thing wrong and it destroys the entire illusion. You mess up a costume choice or you cast one bad actor and your film is wholly below the water line straight away. The margin for error is miniscule. Whereas with documentaries, there’s always a different way to tell the story and you always have reality there. It’s sort of the wind beneath your wings, carrying you along a bit and just providing a foundation. And in a weird sort of a way. I think documentary now is just as creative, if not more creative than narrative filmmaking because of the freedom it gives.

Q: You have a better opportunity to blame people if it goes awry with a narrative production rather than a documentary. With a doc, you can only blame your editor, maybe your DP, and yourself. Whereas on a fiction feature, you have a lot more people to blame.

LM: That’s very true. In fact, ultimately, I had no one to blame but myself on this project because, for the first time ever, the Arts Council of Ireland gave me a grant to have complete creative freedom. I hired everyone in this job. I didn’t have anyone to tell me what to do. It was a wonderful gift, but it was also terrifying because of exactly that thing. It was only going to be my fault and I bloody lived there. I’d be reminded of how shit it was, every morning when I opened the door. So I’d have to move my house if it hadn’t worked out well. I’m totally relieved and thrilled that it has.

Q: I saw that somebody had ….  There was an “in memoriam” for someone there. I don’t know if anyone else died during the process, but yes, you’d better get it right because some of these people are still on the street. Right.

LM: I meet them all the time and they come to see the film, some of them numerous times. It’s been one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling aspects of the whole process … seeing their pride, happiness and joy in what I’ve done. Even though sometimes it’s maybe not the most flattering portrait of people either, you know. But they accepted my values and approach and the deal I’d done with them. Yeah, it’s been wonderful.

Q: Do some of them join you for Q&A’s?

LM: In New York, I’m being joined by Annie Hughes, who’s the extraordinary singer at the very start of the film, and who’s in the trailer singing “The Blackbird of Sweet Avondale.” She’s going to be in the Q&As and might even sing a few verses of a song or two if you’re very lucky. And we’re also being joined by Maeve Mulligan from the cobblestone who has that very emotional moment when she’s given the speech on the steps of the city hall to the protest. And she’s joining me in New York, too. So I’m really lucky that we’ve got such a high-caliber of talented and interesting people coming over to join us.

Q: How did you pick this time to be the time when you’re putting this film out and bringing it to an American and particularly New York Irish audience.

LM: To be honest with you, it’s probably not the ideal time because it’s the middle of the bloody summer. I’d say half of the people are going to be on the beach. But I was offered the slot by the cinema and they programmed it. They said they wanted a program for a week which is going to qualify us for the Academy Awards, which is incredibly exciting for such a left field film to be on that list. I didn’t want to say no to that. And my wife is very pregnant. I couldn’t wait for the autumn. I won’t be leaving Ireland then, that’s for sure. I’m doing well to leave next weekend, to be honest with you. Its world premiere was in March of last year and it has traveled all around the place. We’re still on at the cinema in Dublin 33 weeks after we released the film, which is mind-blowing. But I think New York is going to be a high point on the end of the journey probably.

Q: Has it changed your ideas of what you want to do next? Or have you an idea of what’s going to be the next project?

LM: It’s been incredibly fulfilling. I feel almost unburdened, as if at the age of 50 I’ve finally fulfilled my potential as a filmmaker. You know, it’s a wonderful sense of satisfaction and sort of calm I have now, and I just did a TV series about homeless people in Dublin. Since I made this film, I did a three-part TV series. I’m now in development on a few more projects. I have a range of things on the development slate, but I think my next project is going to be a baby girl coming in September and I might just give her some attention.

Q: That becomes a project in and of itself and that project never ends. My daughter is in her late 30s and I still feel like I’ve got a baby on my hands.

LM: This is the thing. I’m sitting with a nine-year-old very patiently looking at his Nintendo on his laptop on Zoom. So, yeah, it’s here. It’s a joy and I think as a creative person as well, it’s very easy to become wrapped up in your own bullshit. So I think kids are brilliant at sort of making sure you have a bit of perspective and an outward focus.

Q: This is your second child, right? Do you think that’s going to change your filmmaking perspective?

LM: Hopefully. It’s certainly changing my perspective on many things. It’s just been such a weird time, the last couple of years, with the lockdown and all that. I think this film was a product of the lockdown in Ireland. We were restricted to a very tight radius of our homes during lockdown. And if it’s got that “first film that I’ve been dreaming about for a very long time” quality, well I realized that if I don’t make this film now, it’s never going to happen. Because this is the perfect moment.

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