Opening in cinemas this Friday, Snap has been called one of the greatest Irish movies ever by Hotpress magazine. We caught up with the director to talk about the movie.

‘Snap’ is a gripping psychological drama about three generations of a family poised to recreate a past that each one denies. Fifteen-year-old Stephen snatched a toddler from the park and held him captive for five days in his Grandfather’s house. Three years later, his mother Sandra is forced to piece together what happened in that house – and why. While she tells their story to camera; her estranged son tells an altogether different story with the camera… Brogen Hayes caught up with the director…

Check out the trailer below.

What made you want to tell the story of Sandra and her son Stephen?

CW: I thought the relationship between this mother and son was an extreme expression of a very common phenomenon where the parent has a deeply uncomfortable relationship with a child, for reasons they can’t put their finger on. It might be very apparent to someone outside the family but neither the mother or child – or in some cases the father or child – are aware of what’s making them uncomfortable. That’s where it started from, it was a breakdown between the mother and her son – there was some kind of break down, on her part, to see him and that’s what made me want to tell the story. The reason that this film is so much about seeing and being seen is because this son is sort of hunched down in his mother’s blind spot.

Snap didn’t start out as a film. Can you tell us how it evolved?

CW: There were two things that happened prior to the film that informed the film. One was a one woman play, where one woman – who was me at the time – plays the mother and the son on stage. The stage play is very very similar to the film in parts, but it departs in very significant ways, particularly Sandra’s relationship with the documentary makers. Then also, a vignette that I did for training psychiatrists.

How much has the film changed through it’s various incarnations?

CW: One thing that’s common is the nature of the relationship between the piece and the audience. The audience is provoked to piece it together and actually to be the architect of this family’s story. Along with me as the film maker, they are really asked to piece the jigsaw together. The emotional impact of the film is the same. It’s very intense. Even the fact that it’s often met with silence first, while the piece is still working through the person, and then very intense engagement… And then the talk, and then the debate, and then the versions… What someone thinks, why someone thinks the story happens or even the nature of what they think happened. In terms of the actual plot, the ‘what’ happened has changed. When I went to write the screenplay I was specifically, intensely and only thinking of it as a piece of cinema – why did it suit a large screen instead of a small screen? Why did it suit the screen instead of live action? One thing I was delighted with was the audience being given a sense of privacy, I love that the audience have this space in the darkness [of the cinema] to be with it. The role of the camera was very particular to this film. It’s a film about the role of a camera, what a camera can do and how the agenda of the camera can actually distort a person.

Sandra has a strong realisation when she watches footage of herself back. Where did the idea for this come from?

CW: I think most of us, the first time we see ourselves on video, it’s often a horrible shock. The distance between how we think of ourselves and this flat video version – which isn’t always true, because you are seeing yourself back to front – is profoundly shocking for anyone. Then for someone who is so unconscious of their actions… I think Sandra’s version of herself is so vastly at odds with someone else’s version of themselves, that to see hints of someone else’s version on how they videoed her, is the cause of great confusion. I thought it was a lovely thing to include, the tension between you and the you on the box. We live in a culture where people are choosing to live their lives on camera. I am always fascinated. The real interest for me in reality TV shows is… I’d love if someone would give us the honest story of how the person was edited.

What made you tell the story in a non-linear fashion, rather than chronologically?

CW: I decided to follow the emotional chronology, and I think the way we are in life… Time is apparently marching forward in a straight line. Apparently. And even physics will tell us that’s a dubious notion, yet in our inner lives, if you actually charted where you are throughout a day, you are back and you are forth, and I think there is a great logic in following the emotion rather than the external sequencing of events. Working that way backwards, was the best way that I had to make sure that there was forward momentum, that there was a push in you to find out what happened. So you would start with something that caused a great anxiety and a need to know what happened and worked backwards to meet it.

What prompted you to use mobile phone footage and Super Eight footage? Was it part of this emotion, or was it an aesthetic choice?

CW: It was both, style is always an expression, for me, of an intrinsic quality and I did feel like the character, when he wasn’t using speech or other forms of interaction, he was using technology to look at his mother. Mobile phone offers a very different perspective to Super Eight. Super Eight has an emotional quality and is already memory; it almost has an inbuilt nostalgia, whereas a mobile phone is harsh. The qualities that these formats have speak for themselves and the characters use them for the same reasons.

At times, the film is challenging to watch, was it challenging to create?

CW: No it wasn’t actually. I love when something cuts right to the bone, right to the edge. I am interested in that place because I think it is rarely done justice to. When people do go to the edge of things it is often done in an exploitative and sensational way, so I love the challenge of actually going to places that very few people do, but actually in real life people find themselves in, wholly alone. It wasn’t difficult to write and I think the development process equipped me to write it, very well.

Snap was shown in the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival earlier this year. How useful is a festival like this to a film like yours?

CW: The response is fantastic to see. The film has been very honoured at the films it has been at. It has been met and experienced and celebrated. I think it’s been great for it.

You have been nominated for and won a lot of awards for Snap, how has that changed your career?

CW: It’s great because it will encourage people to see the film. In terms of my career, I don’t really think too much about that side of things because that would just corrupt you. I don’t take the words seriously, I take the work seriously.

What’s next?

CW: I am just finishing a play for the Abbey, and I have a lovely feature that I am dying to get shooting. It isn’t a rom com, but there is a love story and it’s comedy as well.

SNAP hits Irish cinemas on April 8th 2011

Words – Brogen Hayes