Gods Creatures – Behind The Scenes Interview

Paul Mescal leads the cast in ‘God’s Creatures’, set in a rural fishing community where his character, Brian, returns home, bringing complications that will see his mother, Aileen (Emily Watson), torn between love and facing uncomfortable truths. Directed by Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer, the film’s plot came from the mind of BAFTA and Academy Award-nominated producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly. We took a behind-the-scenes look with Fodhla ahead of the film opening in Irish cinemas on March 24th

The idea for the film came from you; what is it like to finally see it become a reality?

It started with me, but it didn’t finish with me. I am from a small fishing village in Kerry and wanted to tell a story inspired by that. As the project moved, many different people got involved, and then it became everyone’s vision. Shane [Crowley], our scriptwriter, became involved and then it evolved into something he and I created. Eventually, our directors, Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer, joined the project, and then it evolved with their sensibility aesthetic. The rest of the team then brings their changes. Film is not a singular vision. It’s not yours; there’s a whole load of different voices working within God’s Creatures. I’m very proud of the team involved; it’s a collaborative experience.

Why did you want to work with your directors, Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer? 

I saw their debut, The Fits; I was blown away; it had this unique sensibility. I thought that getting a percentage of that sensibility into an Irish story could be a fascinating combination. They are two very decent women, and I wanted to work with them because making a film is hard, so much labour goes into making a film, so I wanted to work with decent, brilliant people. I hope we make more films together; I would do anything to support them because of their brilliance as humans and filmmakers.

Paul Mescal is on a high right now; how did he get involved?

Paul approached us. His team had gotten their hands on our scripts, and Paul was so passionate about the story. We are so proud of his Oscar nomination; his performance in ‘Aftersun’ is amazing. He’s one of the kindest fellas I know. We are just so happy for him.

The film’s roots are in Kerry, but you filmed in Donegal. Why was that? 

Shane and I scouted Kerry for a long time. We had a very specific image in our heads. We wanted a fish processing warehouse at the edge of the pier surrounded by mountains overlooking the Atlantic, and we couldn’t find that in Kerry. Hopefully, one day we will be able to film something in Kerry, but for this, we looked to Donegal. It has a coastline similar to Kerry, and days away from the very first lockdown in Ireland, I mentioned Donegal to the directors. Salea went on Google Maps and found a warehouse on the edge of a pier surrounded by mountains overlooking the sea. The next day myself, and Shane drove up to Donegal, we saw this warehouse, and it was exactly how we had pictured it for so many years. It was perfect. The very next day, lockdown began, so it was incredible luck that we found it; otherwise, we would have had no location and be stuck in lockdown. Covid was new, and we were figuring out how to shoot and keep everyone safe. The location is isolated, so we could create a bubble production around this warehouse, have everybody within a certain radius, and keep everybody safe. 
There are scenes set in the water. How did the cast manage in cold Donegal waters?

They had thermals on and hot water bottles, but it was cold. I made sure to stay in the water with them because if they were going to be in the water, I was going to be in the water as well. Our team took very good care to keep everyone as warm as possible, but the actors were troopers. 

Did you use a real oyster farm?

We created our own trestles & placed them on a real oyster farm, the sea would slowly come in, & we would need to move them to keep filming which is why we had our set-up combined with the actual farm. Each time the tide changed, the team would move the trestles; it was challenging, but there was a great sense of teamwork. We got a lot of support from the fishing communities & locals. We couldn’t have made it without them. The cast & crew stayed locally; we hired as much locally sourced equipment as we could to return the community’s support. 

Donegal weather can be wild; how did you manage the outdoor scenes?

The biggest challenge for us was trying to get bad weather. It was a challenge I never expected in Donegal! Weirdly, at the time we were shooting, it was so nice. There were days when we needed the sea to be wild, but it was so serene and beautiful throughout the six weeks we filmed.

How does it feel to be the opening film at this year’s Dublin International Film Festival?

It’s an honour to be the opening film. We’re excited for folk to see it; not many people have seen it at home (in Ireland), so we can’t wait to show it to them, chat with them about it, & hear their thoughts. We’re immensely proud for sure to bring it home finally.

Words: Cara O’Doherty

GOD’S CREATURES is at Irish cinemas from March 24th