Interview with Graham Jones (Writer/Director of The Randomers)

irish_director_graham_jonesGraham Jones is an Irish film director and screenwriter. The Randomers is his fourth feature film, alongside How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate, Fudge 44 and The Green Marker Scare.

The Randomers proves that action speaks louder than words, what made you choose to write a film without any dialogue?

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.

As 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. It’s so rare to see onscreen chemistry between leads in a romantic film that you could say it almost never happens and you would not be exaggerating.

So I was thinking about that and also how ‘talky’ a lot of romantic comedies are – perhaps they are attempting to recycle some of the fast-talking comedies of old which admittedly were slightly more successful than new ones. I was realising that, in life, it’s often the silences and things left unsaid and the body and visual codes that are more important. It’s mood and feeling and things that are hard to verbalise, or not necessary to verbalise at all.

That got me thinking about the whole journey lovers go on – how it’s so different to the rest of life, maybe something better, more unconscious and harder to define.

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 films and/or filmmakers influenced this film the most?

It’s hard for me to say, as that tends to be unconscious!

The Randomers is your fourth feature, how is it different to your previous work?

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.

Isn’t that what relationships are like at times – especially burgeoning ones? 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.

So, as you can see, I try and let the subject matter dictate the style – or I try to! 

Sarah-Jane-Murphy-and-Joseph-Lydon-in-Graham-Jones-Irish-feature-film-the-Randomers

Both Sarah Jane Murphy and Joseph Lydon do a fantastic job of portraying a love story without speaking, what were they like to work with? Was the lack of dialogue a challenge?

They were both like old pros, it was a real pleasure working with them.

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.

 What made you decide to release the film freely online?

It’s a very strange time in filmmaking, just like in music or novels. There’s an awful sense that people don’t really pay for content anymore. This has a huge effect on financing and what movies get made. There is a belief developing that even though many people in the industry and sales and the media are still going through the motions, it’s becoming kind of like a pantomime, because people just aren’t getting a financial return in the way they used to – and advertising seems the only truly viable way forward. We’re not sure what the future is. But what I want to do is continue making movies in the meantime!

 What makes The Randomers so special and why do you think people should watch it?

The romantic movie genre is often disappointing and this is a humble attempt to do something a little more honest – and a bit of fun too!

Sarah-Jane-Murphy-and-Joseph-Lydon-in-THE-RANDOMERS-2014-Graham-Jones-D1-300x157

What 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.

You can read Films and Things’ review of The Randomers here.

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