Northern Irish actor Fintan Shevlin showcases his writing and acting skills in Gamblers: a film about faith, trust, friendship and sacrifice. When you're pushed to the limit, there are consequences. "I came about the idea as an image of two people digging, and thought about what people are willing to sacrifice for their faith. Harry, the main character, expects a lot, and when people are pushed to their limits, there are certain consequences. The idea is letting go of something that is a liability, no matter what your heart is telling you".
For a budget of near to zero, the film looks really professional. Some stories are left open to interpretation, which is, from what we can see in Gamblers, where Shevlin is coming from. How do Harry and Mickey know each other? How do they know to dig exactly in that spot? What is the past history of the robbery that creates this secret Harry needs to ensure is kept? Does Mickey have an untrustworthy nature, or are we watching the death of real innocence? A tragedy indeed.
We felt the need to ask questions on the background of this snippet, wanting answers for our ever-questioning mind. If there was anything Shevlin could have done differently in the film, he expressed it would be some aspects of the performances: mainly himself. He's being a bit picky here, as his acting was really good. Upon reflection, "I would have done some flashbacks, perhaps a snippet of their relationship, family connections, to explain a bit more. But then in film you don't always have to explain yourself."
Director Dan Rickard has most recently worked on the Ridley Scott film Alien: Covenant, and previously Prometheus in Effects. Rickard and Shevlin have worked together several times on a feature and two shorts; it seems Shevlin has the right friends to collaborate with in order to showcase his own acting talent. Rob Davidson who did sound design has worked on some big features: Simon Drake, the sound operator, has directed Shevlin previously in his own shorts. Due to the nature of zero budget projects, the film was an all-pitch-in situation. Directors are editors, actors are writers/editors, sound people are directors – it's a double act situation to make the project happen.
Shot in Peacehaven, Brighton, the film took, from script to finish, just one month to complete. Funded with a tiny amount of money from Shevlin, working with Rickard enabled the film to happen between them. If you can write, act and contribute in the edit, it is possible to manage a lean production.
Another film the pair produced together was Missed, where an outsider returns for his father's funeral. Being a fan of Last Tango in Halifax, it came from how complicated a family can be and it's not always plain sailing with egos flying.
Shevlin has written about seven short films, of which one he's just completing now. It's a post-apocalyptic drama set in Brighton, post Brexit and Trump and about 20-30 years on from now. Examining how people in power can abuse their position, with a religious element to it, the working title is Cleanse. "I tend to get most of my ideas from visual images. As an actor I'm very visual, I see something and it catches my eye..." He's also working on a comedy based on loneliness, being repressed and living in a fantasy world. Currently in rehearsal is a pure comedy, looking at large Irish families and the comedy that comes from explaining the large family.
Fleeing his home turf in Northern Ireland, he moved away 13 years ago to train as an actor at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts where Sir Paul McCartney was boss, strangely. He recalls it was very odd, where one minute you're meeting your tutor, and the next minute the boss walks in: it's a BEATLE!
What he really wants to do is TV and Film, and acting is naturally leading the way rather than the writing. "Having access to technology allows creative control, being able to write about what you know, where you come from." If there are means and ways to play roles you enjoy, then why ever not!
Interestingly Shevlin hasn't gone for the festival circuit with any of his films to date, but says he might go down that road at some point in the future. Although if he ends up in an award-winning short, he will no doubt be noticed for his acting skills.
We would like to see more of the Gamblers story and the characters in it; to learn the whys and wherefores. Maybe there's more to be written, perhaps explore the idea further. It could just be the beginning of a feature, don't you think? Just a thought...