Shane J. Collins’ feature film debut took 19 months to make. They’re still working on the sound mixing, he said, earlier this month. Though the long days in an editing suite in Sligo have taken a toll, he seems upbeat.
Dub Daze, a multi-narrative coming-of-age story set in the north, south and centre of Dublin, follows three story threads.
In one, Dan and Baz look for kicks at the end of the school term. Meanwhile, students Jack and Séan arrive from Cork and feel out of their depth. And a young musician, Fi, struggles to make her mark on the local music scene.
The triple narrative of Dub Daze was something Collins honed in on at college but there’s some pragmatism to it too, he says, by phone. “Logistically, from a production point of view, you’re never going to get everyone on set at once.”
So, the film’s structure allows Collins to showcase “a whole generation of Irish actors”, he says.
Collins speaks highly of Mark O’Connor, the film director behind the hit Cardboard Gangsters, who has helped him find his screenwriting voice. “I’ve been very invested in television. I consider myself a writer first and foremost. The golden age of television is for writers,” he says.
Collins has worked on over a dozen short films and directed many of the actors who appear in Dub Daze before. The film was a chance to bring together a group of actors he believed in, he says.
Dub Daze features an ensemble cast of up-and-comers, including Ethan Dillon, Sam Lucas Smith, Leah Moore, and John Delaney.
The film’s narrative was born out of combining and expanding television pilots that Collins had been working on.
Dub Daze also draws on Collins’ earlier short from 2017, My City My Home. That picture treats viewers to a fast-paced and poignant trip through the city at Christmastime.
Collins’ sensibilities are on display in My City My Home, he says. It “was shot before Christmas on the Monday and I had it posted by Wednesday. It was guerrilla-style filmmaking.”
He had lived on the north side and south side, so he had a good feel for the city, he says. “I was trying to look for new locations that haven’t been on camera before … Trying to get a new look for that new generation of Irish filmmakers.”
He tried to scout out under-represented filming locations. “We shot in Fairview Park, the sound was a nightmare. We shot all around Fairview. I lived around there for about three or four years,” he says.
Collins’ “guerillamaking” shooting style is all about guts, he says. “People like John Carney and Ian Fitzgibbon really set the bar so high. Things have changed, in the case of technology, people can go out and shoot anywhere with a camera,” he says.
If anybody can take slick videos with their phone, that means stand-out films really have to be strong story-wise, he says. “So the story is what’s important to me.”
Because Collins draws on personal experience, his films have an on-the-ground authenticity. “You take what you know, you write it,” he says. “As a Dubliner, or, as an Irish filmmaker, you want to see that the representation isn’t a rip-off or a cash grab. You want it to be genuine and to have some integrity.’
There are other influences at play too in Dub Daze. Collins pays homage to Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.
Music is key to any coming-of-age story, says Collins. He beams about the soundtrack’s musicians: “The wealth of musical talent in the film, I believe that they all have a big future ahead of them.”
Dub Daze features music by Brame & Hamo, Bantum, This Side Up, Laurie Shaw, Makings, Sammy Dozens, Majestic Bears and many more besides.
Collins also tells of his love of comedy. “I’m a massive Garry Shandling fan. To me the ability to make people laugh is so difficult. And some of the jokes … you’re not going to hit them. Filmed comedy is tested so much. We didn’t get to do that with Dub Daze. There is drama in the film, but I hope that people come out of it having had a good time.”
Collins sees the recent wave of Irish cinema as a new high point for comedy on film. “We’re punching above our weight. For me, with an interest in comedy, people like Peter Foote are really putting us on the map. I feel that film-wise, the support that the government is giving Screen Ireland gives me hope that a new wave of filmmakers will get opportunities.”
Why was Dub Daze self-funded? Collins is pragmatic. Everyone’s looking for funding, he says. “For me it was a case of funding it myself because if I was going to ask actors, musicians and crew to work on the film for free I couldn’t go out and then ask for money as well. If I was going to do this I had to do it off my own bat.”