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Interview: Kisses Writer-Director Lance Daly

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Interview: Kisses Writer-Director Lance Daly

Lance Daly

In the midst of a summer packed with big budget blockbusters, comes a simple piece from Irish director Lance Daly. Kisses follows the adventures of two kids, Dylan and Kylie (Shane Curry and Kelly O’Neill) after they’re compelled to leave their abusive homes and head off into the streets of Dublin. What begins as freeing and lighthearted fun turns into a nightmare as the lights go down and the dangers of the inner city emerge. However, throughout it all Dylan and Kylie always have each other and that’s more than enough.

Between its remarkably talented young stars, unusual and effective coloring technique and the sheer honesty of the story, Daly delivers a particularly pleasant break from CGI-saturated films packed with grand explosions and epic events. Sure enough, while talking with Daly about his film, he made a point of his intention to create something as simple as possible. Check out what Daly had to say about that and much more in the interview below. And, for those of you interested in seeing Kisses, it’s set for a limited release on July 16th.

How’d you come up with this story? Was it inspired by any personal experiences?

It’s weird; I find it the hardest question to answer. I’m still trying to figure out why. I don’t know why I can’t answer this question; because it’s kind of self-evident or something. You know if you write something it’s like it’s come and it’s written and directed so I supposed it’s just a person’s story and it’s trying to tell things, but then you already feel like you’ve put so much personal stuff in it. The last thing you want to do is explain it any further or give anything more away because you already feel like I’ve said way too much here, you know? But yeah, it’s a story about some things I was thinking at the time about kids growing up in certain environments and at what stage do they no longer have a chance before they become essentially just a mirror image of the grownup and I set out here to do a story about what it’s like to be on the cusp of that moment where maybe give another six months and you’re gone. So I was always asking that question and then I was thinking about, I’d done a film called Last Days in Dublin a few years before that hadn’t, you know, it was a first film, but I thought I had some good ideas in it so I kind of wanted to steal some of them and rework them in a way so it was kind of like remaking some of the things I wanted to do on the street in Dublin and basically it was making a list of all the things I’d like to put in the film and then trying to find some personal experiences that linked all of those together.

How’d the script evolve? Did it always play out the way we see it in the final cut of the film?

It seems like they wander through, but everything just triggers something else, but they’re all very small things that get triggered, so it probably needs to be in the order it’s in. You could maybe interchange a little of the things, but it’s basically about the idea that they’re searching for something and then they get a little distracted and then searching for something and get a little distracted, which is true for kids I think trying to do anything. But so maybe there’s some stuff that’s interchangeable in there, yeah. I was trying to do something that was very just simple, as simple as possible and get it right rather than overshoot the wrong way.

Was there anything you shot that you had to cut?

Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff. There was a scene where they went into Santa’s Grotto, Santa was there on his lunch break with the elves sitting around talking and they went in through the back door and sort of got up on Santa’s lap and ended up being thrown out and tearing the whole Grotto apart. There are scenes like that, more scenes of mayhem and the kids misbehaving, but actually got to a point where if they behaved too badly, the audience stopped loving them quite as much, so I had to find a balance.

And what about the coloring technique? Is that something you know you wanted to do from the start?

I wrote that into the script, so it was there from earlier on. I shot my first film in black and white all in the daytime pretty much and my second film was all at night in color and I kind of learned lessons between the two of them that I wanted to really, again, just get those things right with the lessons I learned. So it seemed right to go from black and white in the day to color at night and also from the suburbs to the city.

Kelly O'Neill and Shane Curry

Can you tell me about the casting process? Kelly O’Neill and Shane Curry are absolutely phenomenal in theirs roles; I can’t imagine what you must have went through to find such natural talent.

We saw thousands of kids for it, to get those two and the combination of them. They were standout talent and standout personalities as well and they were large than life characters to start with. It’d certainly be very different if was anybody else playing those parts.

Out of thousands of kids, was there anything specific that made them standout?

Yeah, they were the worst behaved two children in the entire city.

What’d they do?

They wouldn’t be told anything. There’s no authority; in their world they are the authority, so they came in and they told us what to do from the start.

Did either have any acting experience?

None at all. Not even an obscure play or anything like that.

So did you have any rehearsal time or even just time for them to get to know you?

Yeah, we did. We spent a couple of weeks talking about what we’d do and just teaching them how to hit marks and how to just behave as if they were on the film set. Over the course of those weeks they were tuned into it as well and they were realizing what the jobs was. It was a school, a crash course.

Lance Daly, Kelly O'Neill and Shane Curry

Was there any misbehaving on the set?

Yes, constant. From the start of the day to the end of the day really. It’s just like short attention spans. As soon as there’s anything else they can be doing apart from what they’re doing, they’d be off doing it and so it was hard work to keep them on all the time.

What about the inclusion of Bob Dylan? Does he have a personal meaning to you?

My dad is a big Dylan fan. I think when I was writing it I had a tape of Bring It All Back Home in the car. It was stuck in the stereo in the car and I was driving around these areas I wanted to make the film, where I was going to set the film, and it was playing all the time so I think just somehow it fused its way into the writing.

What are you trying to convey to the audience through Kisses? Did you approach this in the hopes of getting across a particular message? They do kind of come full-circle in the end.

Yeah, but there’s one thing that’s totally changed, which is that they have some relationship that’s maybe going to make everything else okay.

So is there any particular message or maybe even just an emotion or feeling you’re hoping to express?

I’ve seen people watch it, they come away something – there’s something in that final scene, that big scene in the end where suddenly there’s this charge in the room. I don’t know what is though. I don’t have a message and I don’t have a feeling I want people to come out with because the rule I had when I was making the film was don’t tell the audience how to feel, but just to play a story and do everything to try to make it as fascinating and magic as possibly, but at the end of the day you have to let the audience come to it and then they find their own way in and I think everyone finds something for themselves then.

Do you have anything new you’re working on now?

Yeah, I just finished a film called The Good Doctor with Orlando Bloom and Riley Keough. It’ll be finished in a few months, just finishing editing it, so it’ll hopefully be out the start of next year.

Did you direct and write that one?

Directed, didn’t write it. It was my first film in America. We made it in LA.

So are you going to make the move to Hollywood?

Not permanently. No, I’m going to live in Ireland, but I’m certainly looking at other projects. There’s a film set in New York I actually really like, which maybe I might get to do, so I’ll definitely be coming back to do some more work.

And what about the kids? Both seem like they could have fantastic careers in the industry, if that’s what they want.

I thought so, you know, I really thought so and I introduced them to some talent agents from Hollywood and was hoping that they’d sort of click in, but I think maybe they’re still a bit young. Shane’s going to do a film now, a new film in Dublin, but I don’t know that Kelly is back into it.

What about filmmaking in Hollywood vs. filmmaking in Dublin? Kisses is vastly different from most films make in the US, do you think that has something to do with the shooting location?

I supposed so. It’s made probably with less resources. It was really interesting to make a film in LA, to see the machine that’s there to make films. There’s a pipeline set up there and everything works in all of its stages, but actually when you go to Ireland and you’re making a film with less resources, you really have to construct some of that machine to support what you’re doing as you go. So maybe that changes it, I don’t know. It’s definitely a different tone, but there’s different rules for American cinema. If Kisses was set in America, the kids could probably have found the brother and driven off into the sunset.

By Perri Nemiroff

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Film producer and director best known for her work in movies such as FaceTime, Trevor, and The Professor. She has worked as an online movie blogger and reporter for sites such as CinemaBlend.com, ComingSoon.net, Shockya, and MTV's Movies Blog.

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