Harvesting: a film in the making
Derry Girls director Michael Lennox and producer Brian J Falconer on bringing Lisa Harding’s debut to the screen
Brian J Falconer: Harvesting has taught me that human trafficking is devastating for all those affected on every level: psychological, spiritual and physical
I was first introduced to Harvesting by a friend of mine who works for the Department of Justice and specialises in human trafficking legislation. I was actively looking for a story, a way into this world which would be authentic, true and reach a wide audience. Harvesting is just that: one of those very special, very rare stories. For a book that deals with human trafficking for sexual exploitation, it somehow manages to transcend the “heaviness” of its subject matter, delivering a message of paramount importance while never failing to lose its dramatic grip.
It’s a tough subject matter. It’s a world we don’t like to talk about. There have been television and film stories on this subject but what makes Harvesting different is we go beyond the brutal circumstances and open doors into the characters’ lives which illuminate every facet of their humanity. Nico and Sammy are not just victims, they are daughters, they are sisters, dreamers, soul mates, they are vulnerable, caring, narcissistic, selfish, spiteful, they are so viscerally real and rounded as individuals we grow to care for them as our own. As we should.
In the same way Emma Donoghue’s Room sensitively portrayed a loving relationship between a mother and son in captivity, Harvesting explores the bonds of friendship, a powerful love story between two young women who help each other survive in the most hellish of circumstances. We grow to understand their “normal”: the daily grind of life waiting for the nights to come and how it is possible for the human spirit to endure, in spite of great trauma. I was drawn to the use of humour in the book as a coping mechanism: dark though it is, it’s never superfluous and always seems to serve to deepen the bond between the girls. Sammy, in particular, uses humour as a shield, a way to deflect from the realities of the horror around them.
I feel compelled to turn this book into a movie and intuitively sense that Lisa is a perfect fit to write the screenplay. Her knowledge of the subject and evident research undertaken is vital to me, but she also displays such a natural gift and authenticity with her dialogue. Her characters are so richly crafted and fully-rounded, infused with truth and imagination. As a filmmaker I’m always looking for visual ways into the story, opportunities to go beyond the words – which Lisa offers in abundance. Both girls are highly creative and make use of their imaginations to escape the present moment. They tell each other stories and dream of a future beyond their present entrapment which offers visual opportunities to flirt with hyper realism and fantasy. The girls are locked in a house buried in a ghost estate outside Dublin. This is a character in itself. A symbol of where need meets greed, a symbol of once cherished dreams.
Michael Lennox is a filmmaker from Northern Ireland whose work has won numerous awards. He has worked on ITV’s Endeavour and is currently directing season two of the award-winning comedy series Derry Girls for Channel 4, which is in development for a screenplay. His feature debut, A Patch of Fog, which starred Stephen Graham and Conlith Hill, received its world premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. His short film, Boogaloo & Graham, won the BAFTA and secured an Oscar nomination for best short. He is developing an original series with Mammoth Screen as well as an adaptation for the screen of Lisa Harding’s critically-acclaimed debut novel Harvesting.
Brian J Falconer
I am honoured to be working with Lisa on the film adaptation of her award-winning debut novel Harvesting and to be reunited with director Michael Lennox, five years since our first project, the Bafta award winning and Academy Award nominated Boogaloo and Graham. I feel very lucky to be part of this wonderful team on this very important project.
When Michael asked me to read Harvesting, I immediately shared his passion for the story and from the very start, was hooked and gripped. I realised that Lisa had written an incredibly assured debut, a beautiful, highly original story which although set in the darkest of places, focuses on the hope, the friendship, compassion and love between Sammy and Nico, the two young girls at its centre. I truly cannot stop thinking about them. What Harvesting has taught me is that human trafficking is devastating for all those affected on every level: psychological, spiritual and physical, and if we just opened our eyes, we would realise that this is happening all around us.
Brian J Falconer moved from shorts to features with his 2018 debut, The Dig, staring Moe Dunford, Emily Taaffe and Lorcan Cranitch, directed by the Tohill Brothers and winner of the Best Irish Film at the 2018 Galway Film Fleadh. He is in post production on his follow up feature, Normal People, from the debut screenplay by acclaimed Irish playwright Owen McCafferty, directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn (co-directors of Good Vibrations) and staring Academy Award nominees Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson.