The multi-award-winning student film Backwater received an enthusiastic response from a capacity audience at an RTS Republic of Ireland event at RTÉ in Dublin in mid-December.
Director Brendan McCallion and producer Frank O’Malley were both students at IADT/NFS Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, and their film was named Best Drama at the RTS Republic of Ireland Student Awards earlier this year.
Backwater went on to win three national Royal Television Society Awards in the undergraduate category for Best Drama, Best Camera and Best Editing, before enjoying further success in Ireland at the Richard Harris International Film Festival, Disappear Here Film Festival and Underground Cinema Awards. It also won Best Student Short Film and Best Young Actor awards at the Los Angeles Film Awards.
Backwater looks at the lives of a young man starting out and his elderly father, who is approaching the end of his life. This difficult and complicated subject was treated with great tenderness and sensitivity, displaying a nuanced and profound approach to questions of rural isolation, old age and the onset of dementia, and the onerous duties of care demanded of the younger generation.
McCallion and O’Malley revealed that they had personal experience of the film’s subject matter.
Casting was a key element – the duo didn’t even consider auditioning for the principal parts, instead they looked for the perfect actor for each part and cast them without hesitation. Rather than starting out with a detailed script, they used workshops to develop character and dialogue.
Their advice to young film-makers was to choose wisely when it comes to the story: pick something you care deeply about – and then make sure your cast is exactly what you want.