‘Don’t trust anyone who says “It’ll be grand”’
Life Lessons: Mike Ahern, co-director and co-writer of the film Extra Ordinary
‘When we started making Extra Ordinary, we wrote on a piece of paper “A film only we could make” with a sharpie and taped it on the wall in our office’
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your life?
Creatively, most recently with making Extra Ordinary, it’s been about perseverance. Getting to the point of making and finishing our first film has been a slow process, and that has been daunting. For me (and most freelance people), I think that’s the most challenging thing, the often unsettling, unknown, long game. I think it’s the most punk rock thing if you can dare to hang on to something and see it through, when it’s much easier mentally and/or financially not to.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I write and direct with my creative partner Enda Loughman. Writing for us often involves procrastinating and “researching”, ie reading clickbait tips websites like “Five easy ways to write a script”. It’s mainly fairly generic advice, along the lines of “write something you’d want to watch; do something in your voice”.
Because of this advice, when we started making Extra Ordinary, we wrote on a piece of paper “A film only we could make” with a sharpie and taped it on the wall in our office. It was a low-key manifesto for ourselves, which may seem obvious, but now it’s what we are most proud of. We managed to stay true to that sentence throughout the many tough decisions.
We are very proud to have somehow convinced all these great, talented people to join in and help us along the way. So that “we” became much bigger at times. There is a lot of us in the characters, the small details, the stupidity and the heart, that hopefully become universal when people watch it. It may be weird at times, sweet at times, and at times a very, very, very, stupid film, but it’s a film only we could make.
Also, bonus advice from my friend BQ: “You’ll never regret a swim.”
And the worst?
“It’ll be grand.” I love the many meanings of the word “grand”, it’s a great word. But “It’ll be grand” can land you in trouble, lead you astray, lead to poor service, terrible haircuts, bad-quality things, ill-health, lost love, gross food, death, despair and destruction. Watch out for it, okay? Don’t trust anyone who says it.
Is there a moment that changed your life?
Enda asked me to say “meeting Enda”.
Who do you admire most?
Terri, my partner. She is so strong, brave, funny and full of light even though we have had a lot thrown at us over the last few years. In particular, we had a series of miscarriages which was incredibly tough and sad, and, as well as dealing with the loss and constant physical trauma Terri went through, she somehow managed to come back to herself, be brilliant, be really open about it all, be kind. Through it all, she continued to do stuff like run a successful creative business, and just keep trying. We are having a baby in December.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
My parents. I was into art and drawing from when I was really young, and they always encouraged me and helped me to be better at it. It was never even questioned that I’d not do something “arty” after I left school. If they were worried about it they never showed it. I know it’s not like that for everyone, so that freedom and support is something I’m really grateful for.
What practical thing do you do for your personal development?
Running. I took it up about 10 years ago. Mostly for my brain. I find time to go every day for about 40 minutes, mostly in the morning. I’m not a sporty person, so it was a big deal to start at the time, but now I love it and it’s crucial to my life, my routine, my mental health. Richard Dawson has a great recent song called Jogging, sort of about these things; I related to it.
What is your biggest flaw?
I have many, many flaws but the one that annoys me most is I’m a single-tasker. One thing at a time. Sorry, I can’t hear you – I’m doing one thing here. It drives me mental, and drives other people mental.
And your worst habit?
I smile at the TV. It’s weird. It’s doesn’t matter if it’s the funniest thing ever, or news of a some very tragic event, I’ll have a content smile, a resting smile face that I don’t know I’m doing. My partner has a WhatsApp group where she shares covert pictures of me grinning at the telly with other people who enjoy my creepy habit. I’m not a member.
What are you most proud of?
I’m going to say Extra Ordinary, in cinemas now.
What is your motto for life?
“It’ll be grand.”
Extra Ordinary, starring Maeve Higgins, in cinemas now