Comedy with female creative team is a real rarity in film industry

An Irish film about a 44-year-old single woman who falls pregnant after a drunken one-night is in cinemas today (Friday October 11), after a successful premier at IndieCork, writes CARA O’DOHERTY
Comedy with female creative team is a real rarity in film industry
Bronagh Gallagher stars as Pamela in A Bump Along the Way, in cinemas now.

A Bump Along the Way opened this year’s IndieCork Film Festival. The small-budget film has been wowing audiences on the festival circuit and this week audiences across the country get the chance to see it as it opens in cinemas nationwide.

The film is special on more than one count. It has a female-centred plot, still a rarity in our film industry, but it also led by an all-female creative team.

The comedy-drama tells the story of Pamela, a 44-year-old single mother who finds herself pregnant after a drunken one-night stand, much to the horror of her 15-year-old daughter, Allegra.

After working in London for 20 years, the film’s Scottish director Shelly Love moved to Northern Ireland where her parents live so she could be close to them while she was pregnant. When her baby turned one, she set out to find a new project to work on and A Bump Along The Way seemed like the perfect fit.

“I met Louise Gallagher, the film’s producer, who had just signed on with the film,” said Shelly. “She thought it would interest me because part of the film sounded just like me. Just like Pamela, I am a single mum who had her baby in her forties. Louise was right, I could relate to the character on many levels. I felt really motivated to tell the story and thought it was important that it was told by a female director.”

The film has a hat-trick of female creatives in the driving seats, with Louise Gallagher as a producer, Tess McGowan the scriptwriter, and Love in the director’s chair.

There was also an above-average number of women in the crew, something that Love says helped shaped the film.

“I would never want to push men aside to work with women, but on this project, I felt the more women the better. The female experience is important to how a story is told. It’s important that a story is authentic and the number of women on this project all had an impact on how the story came out in the end.”

Commitments actor Bronagh Gallagher stars as Pamela and relative newcomer Lola Pettigrew plays her disgruntled daughter, Allegra. Love says that initially Gallagher was set for a smaller role in the film, but it was clear to her that Pamela was her true calling.

Bronagh Gallagher and Lola Pettigrew in 'A Bump Along the Way', in cinemas now.
Bronagh Gallagher and Lola Pettigrew in 'A Bump Along the Way', in cinemas now.

“Every time I read the script; I could see Bronagh saying the lines. As soon as I suggested that she play Pamela, everyone agreed so I knew that I had made the right decision. It was the same for casting Allegra. Louise had seen Lola on stage in The Abbey and thought she might suit the part. As soon as she started to read the script, I knew she would be perfect.”

Gallagher and Pettigrew have a lot of chemistry, which Love says came naturally to them.

“We were lucky enough to have some rehearsal time before we started filming which gave them a chance to get to know each other, but their chemistry came together quickly. They are both very different actors, but they each have a raw quality which compliments them and makes them believable as a mother and daughter.”

The film balances comedy with drama which can be a difficult balancing act, and finding that balance was something that worried Love.

“I wanted to make sure the audience cared about the characters and that the comedy came from a real place. I am naturally drawn to the deeper, emotional aspects of the story and once you have that in place, then the comedy can come out.

There is a lot of Derry wit in the script. Tess did a beautiful job of bringing colour and light- heartedness through comedy.”

The film was supported by the Northern Ireland Screen New Talent Focus Scheme, but in an unprecedented move, Love secured funding for childcare during the making of the film.

“Being a single mum is hard. My first thought was I was so happy to get the job, but then I started thinking, how on earth do I manage this? When I was working in London, I heard about Raising Films, an organisation which supports parents, particularly women, working in film and television to continue their careers when they want to have a family. Through them, I found out about the Film + Television Charity which has a family support fund. It’s a pilot fund to cover childcare costs during production. They gave me funding, which was great, but it wasn’t enough to cover the costs of childcare during the whole production.

“NI Screen agreed to give me funding and I am so proud I went to them with the idea. It’s the first time they have given funding for childcare. It’s a brilliant step towards supporting more women in the future. Things are changing in the industry for the better.”

Love hopes audiences will have more empathy when they watch the film.

“I want audiences to be less judgemental of a woman’s decision to have a baby or not to have a baby, when to have a baby or how to have a baby. I’ve experienced this judgement and I feel passionate that it’s not for anyone to judge. Every woman’s story is different and it’s her story, not anyone else’s.”

A Bump Along The Way opens in cinemas this Friday, October 11, Cert: 15a.

Read Cara O’Doherty’s 4-star review in Downtown tomorrow.

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