Interview with Phil Sheerin


Director Phil Sheerin

Film "North"

Interview by Chris Olson


UKFR: Who are you and what do you do?

PS: My name is Phil Sheerin and I’m a writer director.

UKFR: Can you tell us about your new short film, North?

PS: The synopsis of the film is “Isolated on a farm and fighting against his family, Aaron struggles to be heard as he watches his mother willingly die.” The film was my first year project at the NFTS as part of my MA. It’s a simple and contained story about a young lad struggling to come to terms with his sick mother's decision to stop fighting. Oh and we shot it on 16mm…keeping it old school.

UKFR: Why is the movie called North?

PS: Ha. The title has tripped a few people up alright. It’s not a literal title, well it’s literally the title but its meaning isn’t. Basically it’s about what the word evokes or at least what it evokes in me. The word “north” summons images of being alone, of struggle but also of a kind of rebirth in the same way that winter holds the seeds of spring.

UKFR: Ah, we see. With such heavy themes, what was the overall aim of making the movie? Was there a singular intent?


PS: At its heart and its simplest it is a coming of age family drama cantered around the themes of death and of letting go. Everybody wants to hold onto those they love, every child wants their parents to live forever, but unfortunately growing up means letting them go. And that is sort of what happened to me, when I left Ireland to come to England to study, my mother was suffering a lot from her cancer treatment. I was scared and felt immensely guilty for leaving her - the film came from how helpless I felt. Fortunately though film and reality separate as my mother made a full recovery.

UKFR: The performances are stunning. How was it working with the cast and were you happy with their portrayals of these characters?

PS: Yeah the entire cast were amazing. Everybody was in sympathy with the film and they all loved Barry Keoghan who played central character Aaron. I am delighted still with the results as we had no rehearsal, only what we were able to do on the day. They were great.

UKFR: Were there any inspirations you were drawing on during the process?


PS: The inspiration for the film and the characters all come from my life, I have fictionalised elements and stuck a narrative in there but so much of it is real to me. On a dramatization front and how we captured it I drew heavily on Sidney Lumet and Robert Altman. The way they deal with drama in families and groups is amazing; it is always honest, without sentimentality, which is what I was after.

UKFR: If you were a dolphin, what would you say?

PS: If I was a speaking dolphin I would keep my mouth shut! I have seen too many films, they would cut my ass up to figure out what was going on inside.

Short film North is currently on the film festival circuit, and has won several prizes already. To read our film review click here.


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