One of the strongly praised films of the 2014 SXSW Film program has been the Terry McMahon-directed Patrick’s Day. Centering around the turbulent relationship between 26 year old schizophrenic Patrick (Moe Dunford), his overprotective mother Maura (Kerry Fox) and the object of Patrick’s love, Karen (Catherine Walker), the film deals with lust, love, manipulation and how all of these themes are highlighted or magnified when dealing with the often sensitive nature of how mental health is depicted through film.
With its world premiere taking place in Austin at SXSW, McMahon, Fox and Dunford are here to represent a project which has struck a nerve and touched many as a result.
“It’s one of the great film festivals in the world,” McMahon says. “It’s the one we wanted and it’s the one we hoped we would get, and we did. It’s a pleasure and an honour and all of those kinds of things.”
Coming from extensive and differing backgrounds in both film and TV, the actors note the environment that SXSW Film offered to them. For Fox, she acknowledges the odd nature of viewing a film they’re obviously really close to with an audience coming to it for the first time, with fresh eyes.
“It was weird because you don’t know what to expect. It’s always weird coming to film festivals for the first time, because each one has its own personality and you’re coming to it from different circumstances. In our case, we were coming without support or a big team, in terms of a distributor or massive publicity or funding body. That makes it an eye opening experience, because you have to judge how the response goes yourself and that’s impossible when you’re sitting in the audience for the first time and it’s the first time you’re experiencing the film with an audience. It’s a blur. On the other hand, we had a very good response to the Q&A and a lot of people got straight into some quite complicated questions. Obviously and clearly, it had the effect of touching people in a way that made them want to delve into the themes the film deals with, of mental health and manipulation and love and intimacy. It was good!”
Playing the titular character Patrick, an open and warm man who is restrained by the dominating motherly love of Fox’s Maura and drawn to Walker’s enticing Karen at the same time, Dunford is open about discussing the challenges of approaching the delicate nature of the character which lay before him on the page.
” It was daunting for me; we were only going for 17 days to shoot this and I started over thinking it and I’d get stressed.” he says. “I decided to not think about the fear and just prepare, prepare, prepare. What made it enjoyable was Terry, because he just made you feel free when you’re in scenes and when you’re acting in really hardcore, disturbing scenes. He tells you’re just forget about all of the bullshit and just do it; it was a joy going into work everyday. The crew and everyone…it was a real collaboration. It felt like the stakes were high and we all needed to give it our best, you know? It was a pleasure to work on, for sure.”
“It was wrapped up really fast and very much relied on goodwill and commitment of the crew to really put their all into it, so you really could shoot each day out.” Fox adds. “It’s really frustrating, working on that sort of schedule, it’s almost unfair in some ways, but it’s happening more and more often. I think there is this weird idea of now films are being shot digitally now, the thing that is lost the most is the time for the acting, which really fucks me off. Acting is not a turn on, turn off switch. There needs to be time for settlement of ideas and through processes and for a concept to grow and be nurtured.”
“You can’t think through the solution for the day to day problems of presenting a scene. It has to be allowed to be on the back burner for some time and that is less and less common. You start to employ different techniques. That being said, I completely also change the way that I work now; I just go to work to enjoy myself and have a really fun time!”
On the film’s tight schedule and demanding environment, McMahon praises the work ethic of those involved with Patrick’s Day.
“It was a total nightmare, but in the best sense of the word. Everybody was fighting for those discoverable moments of truth and you can’t over-prepare for those. You can’t be ready in advance. You don’t know if you’re going to find hem and sometimes you aim too high or too low, or just miss the target altogether. Collaboratively, we seemed to have a real sense after a short time, that we could be on to something special, if we were experimental enough and brave enough. It mostly paid off.”