Eggs and Soldiers: Christian, a single Irish father, forgets to buy the tree on Christmas Eve. Ned the older son’s humanity is challenged as he risks everything to have his younger brother Marco experience a real Irish Christmas. The script for Eggs and Soldiers has been short listed for Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab. The film will premier in August at FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Mike Fishman for IndependentFilmNow: Where did the story first come from about an Irish man living with his two sons from different mothers in New York City? Can you tell us about Christian’s backstory and his inner conflict as a man who has the potential for violence while at the same time we see him complain to a friend that his youngest son’s mother was hitting her son?
O’Reilly: The inspiration for Eggs and Soldiers came from wanting to capture a silent explosion in the life of a teenage boy when finds himself in a moment of crisis where he has to make a difficult decision. Another inspiring image I had was of a teenage boy who couldn’t afford a tree on Christmas Eve. The third was stories I remember hearing as a child growing up in Ireland about people drinking too much at Christmas time causing family feuds to break out. The character of Christian is full of contradictions. I wanted to create a character that despite his flaws he still made the right moral decision when it came to being a father for his children. Christian has a violent rage that alternates with him playing the victim of his given circumstances and in rare moments he tries to be a loving father despite his failures. Yet his character also has this dark sense of humor. I also wanted to play around with the notion of an unreliable narrator, so when we hear Christian speak in the pub to his friend Mick the audience are unsure as to trust what he is saying about his younger son Marco’s mother. Christian is deeply wounded from his past and like a hungry wolf he searches the night for companionship or friends who will listen to his sob story. It is clear that Christian came from a broken home, and his deepest struggle is not to repeat the past and repeat the sins of his own father.
IndependentFilmNow: Color is obviously important to you. The palette of the film is muted favoring brown and grey until Ned, the older son, trades the gift he was going to give his girlfriend for a Christmas tree and things start to lift emotionally for Ned and we see Christmas lights, the tree seller sporting a red Santa cap, and even a red blanket draped over Christian, Ned’s father, asleep on a sofa at home. Can you tell us about your use of color and how that informs the viewer, on a conscious or subconscious level, about the emotional state of the characters?
Imelda O’Reilly: I wanted a gritty aesthetic for my film; Christian, the Dad, is scraping by a living ducking and diving social services, employment and also his apartment crisis. I wanted muted colors to show how their world is bleak, but also through the dialogue some humor is added intentionally which helps them pull through. The slow introduction of color as you artfully mention comes when Ned’s character manages to get a tree for the family toward the end of the film. By having the characters dress in muted colors helps give the film a visceral dimension to the characters making them more three dimensional as opposed to one dimensional. I am referencing the cinema of moral discontent and also the melodramatic tropes of realism. The internal world of the characters is communicated through the use of the camera as narrator.
IndependentFilmNow: Tell us about your choice of lenses and hand-held camera versus a mounted camera to give different scenes their urgency or a more observational feel.
O’Reilly: In filming Eggs & Soldiers I wanted to be able to create two different visual styles for the film that would correspond to the two contrasting worlds that Ned, the main character, is caught between. I have a long working relationship with my cinematographer Joe Foley so we discussed at length the world of the characters. The film depicts Ned with an easy and amiable relationship with his younger brother Marco and also in a more contentious relationship with his father Christian. In order to have the audience have a better understanding of how Ned is feeling we used longer lenses with a more stable camera to portray the stability and ease with which Ned and Marco relate to each other.
I choreographed with the cinematographer longer panning shots of Ned as he moves along the street or Marco within the apartment to indicate the mostly pleasant and congenial world that they have created together. In contrast to that we used a handheld camera and wider lenses to show the less stable environment that is created when the father Christian is in the scene. At the beginning of the film when the three of them are riding in the car and then unpacking all the Christmas presents the camera is always moving following Christian’s sometimes erratic actions. This was done to illustrate the unease and instability that Christian’s personality is creating for his sons. They are not brought into their apartment and cared for, instead they are dropped off on the street corner and left-holding bags full of unwrapped presents and headed into an apartment with an empty refrigerator.
Later in the film I discussed with the cinematographer the choice of using a handheld camera during the confrontation scene between Christian and Ned. We used a shutter effect that was set to 45 degrees in order to give the scene a more jarring, disturbing feel. This ‘Private Ryan‘ effect and the handheld camera help the audience feel more of Ned’s shock and terror at his father’s anger and violent outburst.
IndependentFilmNow: How long was the shot and how did you get the locations?
O’Reilly: The shoot was seven days. It was difficult enough to find the locations. However I decided to focus my locations around Inwood in Manhattan. Christian’s character is a super in a church but as he mentions briefly in the film he is being kicked out because the pastor is moving his daughter into his apartment. Again Christian’s character tends to play the victim. There is a Church on 181st on Bennet Avenue, which was a perfect location. At the time Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance had their offices there so I had to transform the space to look like an apartment where a family lived. I got a vanload of furniture through a connection that worked at Saturday Night Live, which was amazing. They gave us curtains, pictures and all the necessary pieces to build the set. Thank goodness for the New York community when it comes to indie filmmaking. The Christmas tree location was kindly given to us for free and they were very cordial in helping us make our film.
IndependentFilmNow: The film is set on Christmas Eve and unfolds over a few hours of time. How did you decide on the time frame and Christmas Eve?
O’Reilly: I wanted to use one central action to reveal character what Aristotle calls a “simple plot.” In Jaws the one central action is killing the shark and through this one central action the characters within the film are revealed. I wanted to depict a nuanced slice of life within a non-traditional family and this structure seemed to fit well for the film. I choose Christmas Eve because that is a time in Ireland when tension is high; there are a lot of expectations and usually a time when agro within the home or family feuds tend to break out. It seemed a good day to set the story of my film.
For more information visit: http://www.imeldaoreilly.com