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Talking About Not Talking – The people behind “The Randomers”

Talking About Not Talking – The people behind “The Randomers”


Part 1: Graham Jones, Director

Following the YouTube release of new Irish feature film “The Randomers” – available for free streaming now – we got a chance to pick the brains of the director and cast about the experience of making a movie about relationships and communication without words.

First, director Graham Jones talks about how the problems with typical romantic films were part of the genesis of the idea, how the strictures of low budget and no dialogue affected the story, and about the little things in relationships that say more than words.

Hi Graham. How did the idea for The Randomers come about?

I wanted to make a film about what it’s like to have a relationship, but was apprehensive about the romantic movie genre which is defined by a small cluster of admittedly classic movies that are unfortunately replicated over and over in stories that almost always fall flat. I guess it’s partly that people don’t know how to make films about romance and partly that we don’t know a lot about romance itself – absolutely wonderful that such mystery exists, of course, but it’s a mystery for filmmakers to explore and embrace.

Irish_Director_Graham_JonesAs far as I can tell, what screenwriters usually do is run a mile from the mystery and instead riff on the existing films which means usually we’re bored stiff within roughly 15-20 minutes. We desperately want to be watching a good romantic flick, but we are so clearly not. Even when a screenwriter or director gets past that mental block and is genuinely trying to do something a bit more meaningful, it’s still very tricky to capture the spark that ignites between people who are attracted to each other. That’s a very hard thing to get into a movie, even with the best of intentions.

Also, I know women find men quite frustrating. I find men frustrating myself! So I thought of a female character who wants love but no talking. I thought that was interesting and perhaps a little amusing too. That she just wants guys to shut up. Once I had the idea that she places an advert specifically requesting a guy, but no speaking please, it just kind of grew from that.

What goes into making a film like this? Did the lack of dialogue limit the things you were able to do story-wise?

The lack of dialogue seemed to remove limitations, because the characters weren’t constantly imposing meaning on everything. I once heard that ‘seeing is forgetting the name of what you’re looking at.’ This is a visual medium I work in, after all, and it was great to be able to explore things without having to define them entirely.

I tried to give the characters history and lives but again not explain everything and instead just allow the audience to project onto it. A sort of tip of the iceberg approach, where viewers should be theorising about what the characters feel or imagining what they did before meeting one another or what they might do in the future together. In other words, I hope to give the audience room to feel something like love.

It felt like the natural way to conceive a movie about romance, to be honest, because romance is very conceptual. This has always been known. That romance involves illusion and projection. That doesn’t mean it’s bad – just very wild and kind of treacherous and even beautiful when it happens with the right person. We don’t become something else, rather we already were something else and now we are becoming who we truly are! I wanted to feel more of all that stuff in THE RANDOMERS than I do after watching romcoms for instance.

Were you ever tempted to abandon the premise and make a standard romantic film?

Never, although I can imagine making another romantic movie in which the characters do speak.

What did you want from your lead actors during casting, and what did Joseph and Sarah Jane bring to the film?

Well, in casting you often say ‘lets read through the scene where they have the argument in the car’ or ‘the scene in the office where she slams down the phone’ or whatever. Obviously, in THE RANDOMERS there is absolutely no dialogue – so it became a case of sticking the two actors in a room and seeing what the energy was like.

I told actors in the auditions not to speak, and they sometimes had not previously met, even though it was Galway where everybody knows one another. So it was just a case of seeing how they reacted to silence and responded to each other. I alternated the promising guys and girls, tried to pair them up. I would become confident one was right, but then not be able to match them and vice versa.

I admit that Sarah Jane was cast before Joseph and helped me decide on him. I was terrified of picking the wrong guy, because then women wouldn’t go on the journey with us.

 Actors Sarah Jane Murphy and Joseph Lydon in THE RANDOMERS (2014) C

How hard is it to make a film like this on a low budget? What obstacles and/or advantages did the it present?

I’ve never worked with a big budget and of course this always creates many challenges, but in this case it also felt like a virtue because we were able to sort of fly under the radar. It was like a home birth, where it’s just the midwife and the mum and dad! It’s probably one of the reasons why the film worked, because technology has reached this level where you can hide a cine camera in such a small chassis. It was possible to shoot this film at 4K cinema resolution which reminded me of when I used to shoot on film, yet the movie hopefully remains intimate, like it’s just the pair of them in their own private kingdom or something.

Why do you think people should see this film?

Because the romantic movie genre is often disappointing and this is a humble attempt to do something a little more honest – and it’s a bit of fun too.

Actors Sarah Jane Murphy and Joseph Lydon in THE RANDOMERS (2014) BWhat message, if any, do you think audiences can take away from The Randomers?

That finding the right person is not some kind of random lottery! There is something deeper at play. I like this film more than my others because I think it does manage to nail that vibe between two people who are feeling that indefinable thing. I have really satisfied myself this time, even if nobody else takes anything from it.

 What one tip would you give aspiring filmmakers about the craft?

One of the main things that is disconcerting for filmmakers starting out is a perception that filmmaking is complicated and elite and I think there is a small amount of truth in that. However, a much bigger truth is that any director you admire made a deep personal choice to be completely bloodyminded about making films and found their own unique route to doing so. In other words, the complex elite stuff is a layer of skin that can be peeled away once your head is straight.

 Finally, what would be your perfect Valentine’s Day?

Staying at home with my girl.