Robbie Walsh Interview 

Hi Robbie, thanks for joining us

We’ll start with a nice easy question to get you started, what inspired you to become an actor/director?

I’ve been a fan of cinema above anything else. I just watch and consume film, whether it’s good or bad. You can never really appreciate how good something is until you see how bad some things can be made. Certain films you would watch and you’d see an actor’s performance really resonate with you. It really sparked an interest in me from a young age. 

Is there anybody in particular that influenced your decision to take this route?

That changes constantly. It’s almost like going through levels of being a boxer. At the start, everyone wants to be Mike Tyson. As you get through these levels and you learn more you realise you have to be a bit more skillful. The first film I ever seen was the original King Kong and anything by Spielberg would have had a huge impact upon me as a kid. As you get older  you begin to appreciate the likes of Elia Kazan, Ben Wheatley or Ken Loach. As a filmmaker, the more look at your budget the more you realise you have to be a little bit more streamlined and you get far more inspired by Michael Mann or Steven Soderberg. Acting would be different. I love watching the four greats: Brando, Dean, McQueen, Newman. 

Did your parents support you in taking this route? There’s an idea out there that acting isn’t the most stable career

I’m an inner city kid. Even using the word academic wouldn’t really have applied to me growing up. I started working when I was 15. I was then taken out of school when I was 16 to work in the Railway for 4 years and then the military for 7. The idea of being an actor or director didn’t really fit with the old way of thinking. It  was the case of getting a job in the railway or the bus service. It was be a plumber or a mechanic. You couldn’t turn around and say I wanted to be an English literature lecturer. 

Do you think that it’s changing?

I think it’s drastically changed. The amount of people doing the leaving cert and going straight to college has increased considerably. I’d say the numbers have quadrupled. 

You served in the army while studying acting and film. How did you find that?

I started taking on and off acting classes when I was eighteen. It was a performance school here and there where you’d be doing stuff like hip hop dancing and silly little acting scenes. I then got an injury competing in martial arts while I was serving in the army. I couldn’t do any boxing or martial arts or march around carrying a rifle. I was a lame duck so to speak. So I threw myself fully into acting and it kind of went from there. 

Was it difficult managing the two worlds?

At the time, you had a bit of privacy. You didn’t live your life like an open wound. When I was studying acting, I would leave the barracks, go to class and come home. They didn’t really have to clash because they were two completely separate things.  With regard to the physical part, acting can be incredibly physical at times. With highly charged, emotional scenes it can be very physically demanding. When you come off the stage after an intense scene, you’re exhausted! With Fair City, you could be there for 18 hours. On one particular scene I was in a car  for the whole time, just moving forward and back. I was absolutely exhausted after it!. Likewise, with the army you could be sitting in a bush for 18 hours……….It really sounds like I’m compared being a soldier to acting but trust me, being a soldier is far more demanding!

Did your time in the army influence the films you make?

Not really. It installed a discipline and drive in me to keep going and not quit. As far as subject matter though, no. However, It did give me the discipline and self-belief to get a film across the line. 

I loved ‘A Day in the life of a Pint’. What inspired you to make this short?

I’m a big Chaplain fan first and foremost. I love Buster Keaton. . He would choreograph scenes just focused on him and everything just happens. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I’ve always loved watching these old films where Chaplin would just do and perform. Everything was hilarious. As a kid, you were doubling over laughing at this man in a camera that doesn’t move.

Recently, I was in a pub with a friend from Los Angeles in Dublin just off Grafton Street and this guy was outside really drunk. It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon and people were walking around with their shopping. All of a sudden, he just started peeing on a load of bikes that were locked to the railings. It set of these chain of events. A woman looking at him  walked into something and the guy whose bike it was sat back down on the seat. I remember thinking this would make a great short film. This idea of just watching out the window or not watching out the window is really interesting. You start to notice the things going on in the world. In ‘A Day in the Life of a Pint’ we see the couple kissing and  the men bumping into each other. There was other ideas for the film as well. There was a kid whose balloon goes up in the sky and she starts crying, then her Mum comes back and drags her off screen. They come back later and the kid is eating an ice cream and she drops the ice cream.  We couldn’t find the kid to do this and some of the actors didn’t turn up for the day of filming. It turned out to be really cool because the film went from 7 minutes long to 3 and half. 

Your other award winning short film, ACES, couldn’t be more different, how did your approach differ here?

ACES was my first film. I had made another film, The Depth Collector . I wrote and produced it. It didn’t turn out how I wanted it because I surrendered too much control over to someone else. It’s an interesting short but it could have been so much more. I also wasn’t getting the auditions that I needed. I wrote this short film (ACES) about a game of poker. I needed money for it, so I fought in a cage (MMA). I used the money I earned from it to make the film. There’s some fantastic actors in it – Kellie Blaise,Eoin Macken, Sean Flanagan, Kevin O’Brien and Jeff Doyle. Eoin Macken put it together and I was delighted when I seen the final product. We managed to get it to Cannes which was fantastic. 

Both ACES and ‘A Day in the life of a pint’ are well under 10 minutes long and both within the one space. How difficult is it building stories and characters in such a short space of time?

You write what you know and what you’re inspired by. You try to change someone’s view in a positive way or influence someone. A lot of the films I make are inspired by a  real love of cinema.  One of the guys in ACES is dressed like Han Solo!  I’m a big fan of Mean Streets so the look of ACES is very deliberate. At the same time I love Guy Richie so his influence is felt too. When you’re writing these characters, it’s from the love of what you love. For me, it’s not that difficult .If you’re finding it difficult all the time and not enjoying it, then you shouldn’t be doing it. 

What, in your view, are the responsibilities of filmmakers today?

.People associate fame with success….I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days. Actors, artists, filmmakers  and good musicians are always at the forefront of change. They reach and influence so many people. If you have an idea for a film, you really have a responsibility to make it. If you want to make it  about something controversial,about something that influences people or even something simple like a sandwich then it’s your responsibly to make that film. If you don’t, and you know you can do it, someone else will do a more mediocre version. This mediocrity becomes celebrated and then that’s the bar set. Mediocre is good and okay becomes great. It’s the artists responsibility to make something the best it can be. There’ll always be challenges but you’ll get through them. You have to do it out of a love of art and cinema because you can’t allow mediocre to be the standard. Look at the likes of Schindler’s List and Easy Rider. These films changed perspective and views and how we make films. If these films weren’t made we’d be sitting in mediocrity.

People think too much about fame and followers on social media. I had someone ask me a while ago why they weren’t cast in any films because they had so many followers. 

As well as directing and starring in your own films, you’ve also starred in big productions such as Love/Hate and Cardboard Gangsters, how different an experience is this?

I had a very small part in Cardboard Gangsters. John Connors is a brilliant actor and Mark O’Connor is an amazing director. John gave me a ring to see if I knew an actor who could help out as they had one that didn’t show up. Someone didn’t show up for John Connors and Mark O’Connor!!!One of the biggest Irish films and someone didn’t bother to turn up! It’s great and I’m delighted I done it. With Love/Hate, it was a pretty a similar story. It’s much easier. I much prefer standing in front of a camera. I like having the freedom to just deliver. I don’t have to worry about transport or production.

You also play a villain in Fair City. How was that?

Fair City was a different experience. It’s so different to being on a film set because it’s such a well oiled machine. You don’t realise how sharp and organised they are. Episodes are constantly going out too. I was very lucky with the character I got. It’s a lot of fun to be a villain. It’s great to be bad!

Is this something you’re looking to do more of or are you going to concentrate on the direction side of things.

Ideally, I’d like to just be acting. I made my film ‘Eden’ which deals with homelessness and raised money for the Simon Community. I also made ‘Split’ which is now on Amazon. Its a really dark comedy  about two men who film themselves doing crimes. I’m now looking at my films and realising how true to life they’ve become. I’m not sure how to feel about that!

What would be your advice to aspiring filmmakers, young or old?

Firstly, learn to take rejection. The word ‘no’ will either break you or motivate you. The last couple of days I’ve been exhausted. I’m putting a new film together at the moment and I was up for 5 big roles and everyone responded no. You need to develop a thick skin. Learn to use the word no as motivation. You’re going to hear it alot. Most of the time, you won’t even get an answer when you audition for a role. You need to hit that phone and send those emails. When you get that simple response ‘Yeah, we’re going to go with you on this role’ or ‘yeah, we’ll show this film’ it will be worth it. Its the strangest thing in the world because the person telling you forgets how life altering this can be!

To go into film in any form, you have to go in with the complete love of cinema and TV or theater. Those are the big rules, do it because you love it and develop a thick skin. Learn to deal with rejection and don’t take it as personal.

If you have a vision in your head, make use of it. If you want to make a picture make a f**king picture!  Don’t wait to make it. Ask for favours. Return favours. Find ways to get your stuff out there. One of the biggest film producers in the world is developing a mobile app for film. The new generation has a great opportunity through their knowledge of social media and the right person can do very well.  

Thank you very much for joining us Robbie!

Robbie Walsh’s critically acclaimed Split is available on Amazon and we’d also highly recommend you check out the award winning ‘Eden‘, which documents what life is like for the homeless and can be found on VOD. ‘ Eden also raised funds for the Simon Community.

Robbie’s upcoming film, The Letters, tells the story of three women who have been given terminal diagnoses following the cervical check scandal. Filming is set to begin in September and any donations are appreciated. You can do that here:

 

The Letters

Set against the backdrop of the Cervical Check scandal, that affected 1000’s of Irish women. We tell a story of 3 women who were given false results and now have terminal cancer.

The Letters

Set against the backdrop of the Cervical Check scandal, that affected 1000’s of Irish women. We tell a story of 3 women who were given false results and now have terminal cancer.

Split trailer:

Eden trailer:

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