Had the first draft of El Niño written. Needed to let it settle and make some money. So I got some extra work on a soap, playing darts in the background of a pub, silently mouthing the word Rhubarb with strangers like we were friends. Apparently saying Rhubarb had all the relevant mouth movements to make it look like we were talking. The other odd thing was that they gave us real drink. Like real lager, or Miller, or whatever it was. You’d be out there on set at 9 in the morning and the first thing they do is hand you a pint and say: Just keep whispering Rhubarb.
Besides that, people took it very serious. There was big lights on the ceiling and massive cameras and a myriad of people with gigantic headphones and clipboards. Everyone seemed to have a specific purpose and nobody wanted any ripples in the cinematic ecosystem. Here’s a spot on the ground, marked by white tape, don’t stray off that or you’ll end up in the shot and ruin it.
It was going great til Eddie and John arrived. I reckon they were both big Johnny Cash fans because they were wearing black shirts, black jeans, black shoes and slicked back hair greying at the sides. Both were in their late forties and downing pints as fast as they could get them.
This morning we’re doing a scene about a girl returning home as a surprise. She’s been to Australia and the taxi pulls up outside and she comes in and shocks everybody. We’re already on the fifth take. The director wasn’t happy with Eddie’s reaction on the first one. As extras, we’re supposed to remain completely silent so the microphones can pick up the dialogue from the actors. Eddie missed the memo on this because when the girl walked in he raised his pint and shouted: “Whoooo heeyyyy!!! Welcome home darling!!”
Cut! Shouted the director. Followed by: ‘Guys, please, only the actors can speak.’
The second take wasn’t much better because John ran over when the girl walked in and tried to help her with her bags. ‘Here, I’ll take that, fair play to you girleen, welcome home!”
Cut! Shouted the director. ‘Guys….I don’t want to have to mention this again….leave the acting and dialogue to the actors…’
Eddie tripped over a light on the third take and John knocked his pint on the fourth and got thick with the fictional bar man when he was refused a new one. Then Eddie went to the director to give him some advice on better ways to shoot the scene. Particularly as it would mean more exposure for the extras.
It’s now take six and Eddie’s asleep on a couch in the imaginary sitting room next door. Arms folded, head back, mouth open, snoring. John’s asking me in a slurry voice: ‘Who’s round is it?’
‘It’s not a real pub, John.’
‘Fuckin real pints though. Mine is after spillin….prick behind the counter has me cut off….I’ve a dhropa Poteen out in the car, will I go out and get it ta fuck? Myself and Eddie are at it all morning…’
Action! Shouted the director.
‘Up outta that!’ Shouted John. Then to me: ‘How many times do we have to watch a girl gettin’ out of a bloody taxi? They should have someone right runnin’ this place.’
Novel – El Niño (in Paperback).
El Niño is the exciting debut novel from Mayo man, Mick Donnellan. Slick, stylish and always entertaining, the story is a rollercoaster of drama and tension that hasn’t been seen in Irish fiction for a very long time. Charlie is our protagonist, the pick pocket that steals El Nino’s wallet and then falls in love with her. She’s the wild femme fatale, beautiful; enigmatic and seductive. She rocks Charlie’s world with her smoky wiles and drinking ways and her tough girl ideals. This is Noir at its best. Dark and edgy with crisp fresh dialogue and a plot that engages the reader from the first line and keeps them up all night – right through to it’s powerful finish.