Based on the highly acclaimed play, ‘Dublin Old School’ tells the story of Jason, a wannabe DJ who stumbles across a familiar face from the past, his brother Daniel, an educated heroin addict, living on the streets. The brothers haven’t spoken in years but over a lost weekend they reconnect and reminisce over raves, tunes and their troubled past.

What was it about Emmet’s play that appealed to you for big screen adaptation?

It felt like it knew the world it was talking about. I think sometimes you go to the theatre – I love theatre, I try and go to it a fair bit – but sometimes theatre can feel like making an effort and this felt like there was no effort at all. The more you went back to it, every time the audience got bigger and had the same response. Then it had funny and heavy scenes with Ian who played Daniel’s character. And then just really funny, mad, hilarious stuff.

So what kind of challenges were there adapting the play? Because there are so many things they do in the play, obviously it’s only Ian and Emmet, and in this, you have a full cast, you had a proper full Dublin to work with.

Well, maybe you’ve answered the question! One of the ways to answer it is in having – it felt like it knew Dublin and its world and you want to do that, you get to do that with location work and I think it’s one of the things I’m really proud about in the film. It’s geographically accurate, it knows the city, it’s bang in the middle of town even if it’s not the Ha’penny Bridge it’s the Boardwalk. so that definitely one way to kind of put a stamp on it or something.

Was there a particular challenge – because obviously in the play Jason has his monologues that he would give the audience – was there a particular challenge for yourself and Emmet doing the inner monologues, giving them as kind of punch points for the film?

There’s so much in it that tries to – like the lads throw the kitchen sink at you in the play – and then it’s a slightly different beast in the film. I think if you’ve seen the play it’s win-win because then you see the film and some of it’s the same, same spirit and then other bits are different or new like there are more brothers scenes. It’s an act of translation, he goes from being a narrator to a character I suppose. It’s a different path to the audience. He’s not directly addressing you as he does on the stage, but you’re still with him. It’s that little element of tweaking how that works. There are loads and loads of new though. A lot of the other stuff that people liked from the play remained, some of the lyrical stuff, the opening, but yeah you get a mix. you get some of the old and also the new.

What was it like assembling your cast because as you stated earlier we only had Ian and Emmet in the play, but in this, the cast is, it’s Seána Kerslake, it’s Sarah Greene, it’s Ciaran Grace, it’s Mark O’ Halloran. What was it like finding that cast and building that cast because obviously, I imagine Emmet had people in mind because obviously, he voiced many of them.

It’s interesting because they’ve nearly all changed in different ways. Like Lisa, Sarah Greene’s character, is from Clondalkin in the play but Emmet was really clear and I was straight on board with it that we’ll just give that to Sarah Greene and let her go and let her do Cork, and she’s done Cork so few times actually on screen, compared to the amount of amazing work she’s done. That’s a treat for her, that’s a treat for us. It’s a new thing but not in a bad way, not in the spirit of the film version. So there are loads of things like that. things like I wanted to work with Seána, I wanted to work with Mark, and people you get to discover like Leah Minto and Ciaran Grace. Liam Heslin I think is really funny in it, and we haven’t seen him on screen. Loads of good theatre actors, a real sense of a collective. Bryan Quinn, just one of the funniest people in Ireland. Getting to have all of them, it’s one of the gifts, good location work, or tunes – getting to have twenty-six tracks on it plus the score. Getting to kind of expand it and it’s like “there, that’s a gift”. That’s great. That’s one of the things I love about movies that sense of you get to drag in all these different things and put them all in front of people in a cinema in one go.

You’ve worked with Emmet before on several projects so what was it like joining together for this one to help him bring Dublin Oldschool to the big screen?

Loads of drafts of scripts first, then it was great to have somebody – I think sometimes when you’re casting stuff you know you don’t have the lead reading with someone else we can always get Emmet in the room and read with people. That kind of stuff is great. Then rehearsals then as well. Rehearsals were a real treat because actors and schedules, it’s tough to get everyone into a room. Then we got one week where we got to get all these funny people in and you have the writer there who can come up with a new line and know how to deliver it. that kind of stuff is a treat. Then I think you go out and make the thing and it’s like tougher for the actors because it’s nothing like that. We do a shoot on city streets, that’s always the work we’ve done together before, that thing of shooting if you’re shooting at night in town there are a lot of pissed people so it’s that thing of “can we get through it quicker?”, you know it’s a race against time then, to make sure that you serve enough of the script, or how many takes are you going to get where seagulls are going to be an issue! Getting it across, there’s something weird about films where you do this massive amount of writing time and then you go on set and then there’s just never enough time, and with a great cast, you want to let them do their work. There’s a mad, like a bottleneck or something but then you hopefully – fine wine comes out of the bottle!

This isn’t just a great work with yourself and Emmet. this is also your first feature film because you’ve done so many shorts and other projects. So what has that been like for you? How have you felt making this?

Yeah, the scale of it’s great, it’s great to be able to do it with the lads that I’ve known from college, like one of my producers produced my grad film. I’ve known my D.P. since we were in college that kind of stuff is lovely, and it helps with that. It’s just the scale of it,  a movie is a big puzzle, you have to keep working out what it is, and keep finding it, then you find it again. Something like the editing, that would be the example to use because I’ve never cut a short film for longer than, I think like four days? we wrapped in the middle of September, and it was sunny outside, a gorgeous day like today, and then you go to an editing room and we’re showing the film now, and that’s quick you know? Because it’s not taken way longer than normal and the sun is back out but there were six months of like, yeah. The amount of refining you get to spend while doing your craft. It’s amazing. I’ve done a Masters and this was way more than a Masters in terms of what it teaches you about your job. I think more and more, with this job, the more you do it. It’s complicated but I genuinely think it’s the best job in the world. Making movies is f**king interesting!

What’s been your biggest takeaway from the production? You got to work with, as you said, so many talented people. I imagine you learned a lot and it’s a one of a kind sort of thing to be able to adapt with someone you’ve worked so well with over the years.

The one thing? There’s like twenty things. And you don’t, I don’t know. I wish I’d kept a diary, but it’s too manic for something like that. A good cast? I mean, that sounds really obvious or something but we were really rare and lucky that with a big cast the amount of trust, if you’ve got the right few pages and you know they’re cracking lines and you know you’ve got someone like Seána Kerslake or Ian, well obviously you’ve got Emmet in every day, then you’re like – that’s a headstart. So yeah, a good cast. And then a good editor actually because that process, I think it’s a hidden process and something you think you know about making movies and you’ve made short stuff, just how interesting and it’s mad that we don’t talk about editors enough or we don’t talk about them more or something.

It’s a very underrated role.

A good editor is an absolute gift. I’m not sure if you could make a good film without one.

You said you were a fan of the play, you’ve obviously worked with Emmet a lot. Was there anything from the translation from the play to the film that you were really surprised about, because a particular scene of mine that I really, really liked was Emmet and Ian’s scene together, just down Temple Bar, when they have a revelation. That was a particular highlight of the film for myself.

Thanks, it’s one of those kinds of scenes to me that that’s nearly the scene, and it is, obviously, not to get spoilery or anything but it’s a big scene anyway so you know it has to be good but it’s a testament to the two lads and there’s new stuff in there in terms of translation. That’s long stuff where they go along the Boardwalk, they go across Grattan Bridge and we’re shooting in the middle of lunchtime on a summer’s day, and to do that at the end, and it’s a lot of pages, in public. You bring in actors and their eyelines are gone. You’re taking these pedigree theatre racehorses and lumping them in the middle of – like in the middle of Grattan Bridge and let’s do a three minute take or something. You can get that kind of day, that mad run through town. You get to see everything they can do and all the work they put into it, before the editors, on stage and stuff, and then it’s there on screen and it works on screen. The screen performances, I think?

Finally, Dave, are you excited for audiences to see Dublin Oldschool? What are the anticipation levels for yourself and Emmet and that going forward?

People seem to like it so far? It’s exciting. It’s really weird, and that thing again of because myself and Emmet have done stuff before. We kind of aired a lot of them quick, do you know what I mean? So that they could be, like Heartbreak, in hindsight was extremely fast from getting a script to shooting in a couple of days. Something like this, it was loud while we were making it or it felt loud because you’re in the middle of town, and then it goes quiet again while you’re cutting and finding which track to use and scoring it and everything, and now it’s starting to get loud again. Like the trailer, people seem to, there’s a load of shares, I don’t keep up with it, some of the lads do, that’s exciting, isn’t it? It seems like we’re going to be on a few screens so people can go to the cinema. I love the cinema. I’m so glad it’s a cinema release and obviously, there’ll be streaming stuff or hopefully, so that you can go and watch Dublin in the cinema. It’s a summer movie.

Words – Graham Day

DUBLIN OLD SCHOOL is at Irish cinemas from June 29th