‘Dublin Oldschool’: The making of a summer street movie

Emmet Kirwan and Dave Tynan are shooting a low-budget film in Dublin's crowded city centre

Summertime in Dublin is film-making time. With longer, brighter days and slightly better – if still unpredictable – weather, it’s a good deal easier to manage the tricky business of manoeuvring a film crew and its associated paraphernalia around the crowded city streets.

That's why lighting rigs are set up on a muggy August afternoon outside Anseo pub on Wexford Street in the south inner city. Across the street, "Jimmy Rabbitte's" theme pub may seek to exploit fading memories of a previous generation of Dublin movies, but a more contemporary urban landscape of chemically enhanced clubbing nights and heroin addiction on the streets is the subject of Dublin Oldschool, the film version of the critically acclaimed play of the same name by writer/performer Emmet Kirwan.

Kirwan won an IFTA this year for Heartbreak, the powerful video filmed poem he made with director Dave Tynan. The two are collaborating on this, their first feature film, an adaptation of Kirwan's own two-hander stage play about an aspirant DJ wandering the streets of Dublin in a chemically enhanced state and meeting the estranged heroin addict brother he hasn't spoken with in years (Ian Lloyd Anderson).

Kirwan plays the central role with a cast that includes Sarah Greene, Seána Kerslake, Stephen Jones and Mark O'Halloran – who provides a link back to the last great Dublin street movie, Adam and Paul.


Well-known locations

Dublin Oldschool is already half-way through a shooting schedule which has taken it from the Liberties to the Liffey boardwalk, to Grogan's pub on South William Street to Anseo today. "It's all the places that are in the original story," says Kirwan. "At one stage we were shooting outside the place on Francis Street where I was living when I wrote the play."

The gritty but poetic style of the play won widespread praise when it was first staged in Dublin, taking it on to wider international acclaim, including a run at the National Theatre in London. The film-makers are reluctant to talk in too much detail about what changes they’ve made in the transition from stage to screen, but Kirwan acknowledges the dense text of the original has been modified for the different medium. “That scripted poetry gets thrown out the window because all of a sudden the camera can do that instead,” he says “But there is still poetry in the film. We distilled the essence of the play into the script.”

He says the story refuses the fake moralism which often arises around the subject of drug use. “It’s more about the binary hypocrisy around drugs than about saving the nation from moral turpitude.”

Dublin Oldschool's relatively modest million-euro budget comes from the Irish Film Board, section 481 tax incentive investment and Windmill Lane Pictures, with distribution and sales handled by Element Pictures, the company behind the Oscar-nominated Room and The Lobster. The producers hope to get it accepted for next year's Berlin film festival, with a cinema release later in 2018.

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is an Irish Times writer and Duty Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast