Irish Film Institute -Leon Kavanagh on Behind Cars

Leon Kavanagh on Behind Cars

On Tuesday August 28th 2018, the IFI continues its focus on short-form cinema with Brief Encounters: New Irish Fiction. This programme includes some of the best narrative fiction made in recent years, with six short films in all.

In our latest mini interview, we’re chatting with Leon Kavanagh – the director of Behind Cars. It’s all about a typical day in the life of a multi-storey car park attendant.

Q. What was the genesis of this story and the driving force behind you realising it as a film?

I like to write about what I know and what I have experienced. I’ve worked a couple of unusual jobs and the story of Behind Cars came directly from a time when I was working as a car park attendant at a multiplex. The shifts were long and mundane but it gave me time to think. I became interested in what it would be like to work in these conditions, or similiar,  all of my life. I began to form a specific character, someone at an early stage in this position- only a couple of years in, and how the isolation, lack of scrutiny from management and strange working hours could lead to delusion, a false sense of superiority or even Stockholm syndrome. I avail of what is around me and of certain locations I know to exist. I keep an eye on abandoned buildings or occupied properties with unusual characteristics and easy accessibility. It’s guerilla filmmaking and you take what you can. Every film is different. For example I could not have made this film if I had a crew of 10 people standing around. I work with what I have and of course I take advantage of that too.

Q. In terms of your own directorial style, can you elaborate on how you worked with the actors in this film?

This film was shot and wrapped in as little time as possible and all the while making as little of an obstruction as possible. Slip in, slip out. I’m waiting for the right moment to begin and get the best take I can. I try to block the scene with actors – it’s so important for them to get a feel for the space. I’ve worked with a lot of non-trained actors, those who have experience but who don’t come from a specific school. The lead in Behind Cars is someone I’ve collaborated with before, he’s worked on various kinds of productions, big and small. I would brief him before each scene and run a rehearsal. Behind Cars relies on a certain awkwardness and a certain delivery, it was about projecting confidence, complete uncertainty and innocence at the same time.  Johnny is someone who likes to observe strange situations and sure enough he finds himself in close proximity to some of them. He’s intuitive and he brings a lot to the roles he’s playing. I like to encourage that and it can be great to drift off page and see where the moment takes you but you have to be able to afford these moments.

Q. Is there any advice you could give to young filmmakers or people who wish to embark on a career in filmmaking?

I’m only scratching the surface of what filmmaking is I’m not sure what words of advice I can offer.  I do believe if you’re passionate about something that you should pursue it regardless of the limited resources you may have. Try doing as much as you can when starting out and this will show what your strengths and weaknesses are- the more different roles you take the more informed you will be.  Immerse yourself.

Behind Cars screens as part of our Brief Encounters programme on August 28th 2018 at 18.30.


The IFI is supported
by The Arts Council

Arts Council of Ireland