The Passenger

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The Passenger – Gerry Gormley

‘The Passenger’ is based on a short story I wrote and has now been developed for the screen with the assistance of director, John Redmond. The film tackles the stigma that is still attached to males discussing mental health issues with their peers. We feel it is a topic that must continuously be tackled. The overarching theme of the film is that ‘it is ok’ to talk to friends or family about issues you may be having.

Although suicide rates are on a downward trend in Ireland, scientists have warned of a possible surge due to the ‘era of covid’ we have lived in. The film touches on this and how social media can play a role in depressive feelings. The cast includes Steven Jess and Michael Woods. We were delighted to have these two fine actors on board to help us convey our message.

The origins of the film date back to the end of lockdown. I had found myself with an abundance of time on my hands, so I delved into the world of storytelling. I was really enjoying this form of creative expression. It allowed me to dig much deeper into a message I was trying to convey compared to poetry or song writing. Creating characters and developing them became a new addiction for me. I was about halfway through the book of short stories when I started writing (off the top of my head) about a guy, just sitting in the passenger seat of a car, being driven, he had no idea where he was going, and he didn’t care either. He was just happy, being in a perceived state of perpetual motion, no ending in site, without feeling the need to be in control of it.

I finished the story, in saying ‘I finished it’, there was no beginning, middle or end, just a moment in time captured, of someone lost yet constantly moving forward. This feeling resonated with me and due to an unsettling feeling that I was subconsciously writing about how I feel in my own life sometimes, I decided to conduct some research. And there it was, several research papers with the word, ‘Passenger’ in the title. This word has been used by people that suffer from depression and how they feel like a passenger in their own lives. For this reason, I would never take credit for the analogy used in our short film, it was already out there, but it was by no coincidence that I had felt this emotion myself.

I felt with this story, there was something more to give, more to develop. I got onto my friend and director, John Redmond. I had gone to college with John, and we collaborated on music videos and live shows of mine. I had no idea about film making, John was the expert. We had a few meetings before we even shook hands on getting to work on the project. He outlined what I would need to do and how to get it done. The whole process I undertook was under his tutelage.

Phase one was to develop the short story into script form. We spent several weeks at this juncture, but I was so confident in what we were doing that I had already set up a ‘Gofundme’ page to help with the cost of production. The generosity of people was overwhelming when they heard of the subject matter and the message we were trying to convey. We had reached our intended target in less than two weeks.

As we were finalising the script, we had a very good understanding of the two characters and how we wanted them brought to life for the screen. I advertised both roles on facebook. It was advertised as a ‘paid’ job. We knew this would widen interest and give us a better pool of actors to select from. Around thirty people applied for the lead role of ‘Tommy’. As luck would have it, the very first person to email me was Steven Jess. I looked at his showreel and just knew he was right for the lead role. I kept an open mind when going through the rest of the showreels but if I’m honest, no one came close to Steven’s abilities. We were very happy to have him on board. We then needed a comic relief support actor to alleviate some of the heaviness in the film. We found that in Micheal woods. Another excellent actor that was able to pull a thread between light-hearted and serious acting. We could not have hoped for a better cast.

We filmed over two days in the sally gap and a local coffee shop in Baltinglass called the ‘HugaMug’ café. Under John Redmond’s guidance, the two days of filming went off without a hitch. The postproduction and editing were key to putting it all together in a way that the message got across to the audience. We feel we achieved this and look forward to you seeing it.

Allow me to set the scene: Two men sit in a quiet café, the early morning sun streaming in the window, one of the men has called his friend to come meet him, after some small talk about the fun they had the night before, and the sore heads they have the morning after, our protagonist, ‘Tommy’ tries desperately to open up about how he’s feeling to his best friend ‘Dec’. It is this type of conversation that we are hoping the film will promote. We feel from start to finish, the film offers a blueprint to bringing about that conversation if it needs to be had, and as we all know at one point or another, that conversation needs to be had, either for ourselves, our partners, friends or family. I know this film focuses on the male side of things, but we feel that bettering males mental/emotional health will be of great benefit to all. And in this sense, the film is for everyone.

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