Case Study: Throwline

Mia Mullarkey talks about her documentary.

Mia Mullarkey is an award-winning Irish director. Throwline follows taxi drivers trained in suicide prevention and won numerous awards including Best Short Documentary, Galway Film Fleadh 2017. The award-winning Feats of Modest Valour, co-directed with Alice McDowell, looks at a potential cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Mia’s most recent film, Mother & Baby (Best Short Doc, Cork Film Festival 2017), explores memories of children who were forcibly sold or fostered out by the Irish church and state.

Her short documentary Throwline is in the official comepetition of the Euregion Film Festival, and we spoke to her about her film.

“The film, in a way, offers permission to talk, to share painful memories or open up about lost loved ones.”

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your documentary?

“My name is Mia and I’m an Irish filmmaker based in Dublin. In October 2016 I read a newspaper article about a taxi driver, Derek Devoy, who had set up a non-profit group called Taxi Watch to save lives. By patrolling the bridges and streets at night, looking out for people who seem distressed or upset, the team of drivers were preventing suicide in the community. I contacted Derek immediately with the hopes of making a documentary about his work, and was delighted to be invited to meet him in Kilkenny. Sharing his tales of rescue, Derek drove me around the city in his taxi, pointing to sites where people had been helped.”

What can you tell us about the filmmaking process?

“I began the filmmaking process by writing a treatment based on my conversations with Derek, combined with information I came across in newspapers. I listened to music that I thought would help set the tone and I created a list of music and film references. I decided that I didn’t want to wait to find funding, so I went ahead with producing and directing and financed the project myself.”

“Portraying the drivers perspectives at night, we filmed for four nights between November and December. The director of photography, Jass Foley, was keen to find a strong visual language for the film. We went about mounting cameras to the taxis to capture both the interviews and the drivers’ point-of-view. Jass had a special roof mount designed for attaching the camera above the car, and this became integral to the film’s look. Also integral to the film is the stories of the main drivers behind Taxi Watch, who themselves experienced depression or loss of a loved one. From that pain they become inspired to protect others in the community.”

How did you handle the post-production and distribution?

“Because this was a passion project, and self financed, I had to put the editing on hold for many months as I worked to save money. Finally our short documentary had it’s world premiere at the renowned Galway Film Fleadh in 2017, where it won Best Short Documentary – we were thrilled! Derek and Dan, the two main drivers in the film, were there for the screening and I was proud to see so many people thank them afterwards. In fact, whenever Derek and Dan attend a film festival they get many audience members approaching them with stories and gratitude. The film, in a way, offers permission to talk, to share painful memories or open up about lost loved ones. After Galway, our film won several more awards worldwide and nominations.”

“Throwline has been on the film festival circuit for five months, and the plan is to keep it going for another year. Alongside festival screenings there have a number of community screenings, which is a wonderful way to share Taxi Watch’s work. Please get in touch if you wish to hold a screening or find out more.”

 

Do you want to see this film and many others? Click here for tickets!

What is so special about this project?

“In joining Taxi Watch the drivers attend a SafeTALK course, which is prevention training, to be equipped with how to help someone who is feeling suicidal. The drivers share the simple but powerful idea that asking someone ‘are you ok?’ can save a life. And the numbers show it works. In two years Taxi Watch spread from Kilkenny to Clonmel, Waterford, Ennis and Mayo, and there were over 140 direct interventions. The numbers continue to grow since the film’s release.”

 

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