talks to Irish director Kirsten Sheridan about her latest film, Dollhouse

For her latest movie, Irish director Kirsten Sheridan moved a group of teenagers into her parent’s house in the suburbs of Dublin with the intention of wreaking havoc.

Where did the idea for Dollhouse come from?
Kirsten Sheridan: The idea came from a location. It’s my parents’ house in Dalkey; they oddly decided to go to America and shoot ‘Dream House’ – which is my dad’s last movie – and I knew they were going to be gone for months so I just said to John Carney; ‘we should make a film, we have a free house’ and he said ‘No, it’s your house, you should make the film. Then I got an idea of the clash of two worlds; I couldn’t really write about the people who live in Dalkey because it’s not really my world, so I thought I would bring the kids I do know out there. That was it really, that was the start…

So you were being the typical daughter and wrecking the house while your parents were away?
KS: [laughs] I never had wild parties, so I think this was my way of doing it now.

How did your parents feel about you using their house?
KS: They were brilliant; anything for art [laughs] At one point they did hear about some of the goings on and they said ‘Please don’t let anyone die in the house, Kirsten’ [laughs] I said OK, that much, I will promise. [laughs] It was in a very mad time, there was an awful lot going on and I was pregnant as well.

You didn’t have a formal script for the film, you just had a treatment. Why did you decide to make the film in this way?
KS: I had done a film in America that was big budget, called ‘August Rush’, and I had been writing for other people for a couple of years and that was almost like my day job. I wanted to totally challenge myself, turn it on it’s head, do something the opposite of what I was used to. I thought; less control, less traditional structure and less rules. I really thought I’d like to make a story about kids in the present… Not, you know… Then they have a big scene and they talk about their past and pull on the heartstrings. I was like, I know I can do that, but it seems like an easy option so I would prefer to have these very real, and you only get these tiny glimpses into people’s lives. I wanted the characters to speak with their own voices; I am not that generation and I thought if I can get them to speak and improv, I can cherry pick and jigsaw the whole thing together.

The audience does not know much about the back story of these characters; did you know their back stories?
KS: They knew their back stories, I think. They knew that they were a gang… Yeah they knew things about siblings and parents and where they were from… I suppose the four in the gang were almost of a ‘type’ and I wanted to present them as a real ‘type’ and then subvert that a little bit by the end, so you get a glimpse into something that you might not have expected at the start. The boy next door is a ‘type’ but I think he surprises you throughout the film by not doing what you expect him to do.

Dollhouse is the first film to come out of The Factory based in Dublin, can you tell us what The Factory is?
KS: No. I have no idea. Nobody knows. We have never done a mission statement because we can’t figure it out, which we kind of like [laughs]. We don’t have a website because we don’t have a mission statement… I suppose, for want for want of a much better term, it is a filmmakers collective. It came out of a conversation that myself and John Carney and I had at the Galway Film Fleadh three years ago. He was just talking about how isolated it was to be a writer, director in Ireland. In music you have a band and you go into rehearse and record and there is a creative energy that starts to thrive. We just knew it had to be based in a building, so we found the place… I suppose during the Celtic Tiger it would have been impossible, but that’s one of the upsides, I guess, that we are able to run an acting school and an actor’s studio and we have a little cinema. This just happens to be the first Factory film, but there are people here from Directors of Photography to actors to designers to writers who are all working on different material. Whether that will become a Factory film… Who knows!? It’s not really a production company in that sense, It’s much more a place for people to come who are lonely! [laughs] It’s kind of a support / pressure group! [laughs]

What’s next?
KS: I’m going to do another film with The Factory, which is going to be even more crazy in a way in the process because I am going to use complete non-actors for it, but non-actors to the extent that they would have had no interest in film or drama or the industry. I am going to do it again in a confined environment and I’m going to develop the story with the actors this time, so it will be kind of like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; I’ll develop the story and then I’ll withhold the story. I am also writing a biopic on Amy Winehouse for a company in the US and I adapted a book called Mooch for another company in the US. They are all quite edgy and crazy; Mooch is about addiction and I am trying to do the Amy Winehouse one like ‘Alice in Wonderland/Amy Winehouse’; it’s all in her head and you are swimming with her. They are not all easy family movies! [laughs]

Words : Brogen Hayes

DOLLHOUSE is at Irish cinemas now


  • Halani showery

    Sheridan makes a bigger mess of her movie than the character do of her parents’ house.