Twenty actors, seven stories, five years, one film – Liam Ó Mochain's new feature is his most ambitious yet
The Irish filmmaker tells Independent.ie about the trials and tribulations of making Lost and Found, in cinemas Friday July 13
It’s not Liam O Mochain’s first rodeo, but his new feature film, Lost and Found, has certainly been his most ambitious, and perhaps most challenging.
That’s saying something given his first feature, The Book That Wrote Itself, saw him travelling to film festivals around the world in 1998 and duping - in a good-natured way ("Nobody sued me!") - A-listers including George Clooney, Kenneth Branagh, and Warren Beatty to appear on camera in a mockumentary of sorts.
Lost and Found is an entirely different proposition but no less ambitious in scope. It tells seven interconnecting stories set in and around a lost and found office in an Irish train station and each story is inspired by a true event revolving around the theme of things lost or found.
It was filmed over the course of five years (four days filming each year) with more than 20 actors featuring in three or more stories, among them O Mochain himself, Norma Sheahan, Liam Carney, Aoibhin Garrihy, Anthony Morris, and Sean Flanagan of Foil, Arms and Hog fame.
What is most remarkable is that O Mochain managed to make it without any funding, by raising what cash he could from one year to the next and paying off the bills as he went.
He didn’t approach Screen Ireland for funding until the project was in post-production as he readily admits he had no idea starting out whether or not all the actors would remain on board or the film would come together beyond the editing stage. When he did finally apply for finance to help complete production he was refused.
“They didn’t particularly like it. They didn’t want to support it,” says O Mochain.
“I think it’s probably down to being a maverick and not waiting for them to tell you that you can go and make a movie, whereas I just kind of went, ‘I’m making this movie and here’s the end product. We need some money and we need some support and help’ and they just went, ‘We don’t really like it. We don’t think it’s going to do very well’.”
Receiving that kind of feedback just as he was nearing the end of five years of hard graft was, he says, “disheartening”.
“It’s never good getting that feedback,” he says. “It makes you question yourself, it makes you question what you’ve done.
“But [the film] is already showing at film festivals in Ireland and around the world. It’s being released here and in the UK in October and Film 4 have just picked it up for the UK as well. Already we’re feeling vindicated that we made the film and that people actually do have an interest in it.”
The stories offer a compelling mix of drama and comedy, elevated by some top notch actors, and the knowledge that they are inspired by real events.
One is inspired by the story of a single woman who booked a church and wedding venue and gave herself two years to find a husband. She did and they wed and he never knew. Liam heard the tale from the friend of a friend and has given it a slightly different spin on the big screen.
Another story comes directly from Liam and an encounter he had with a man in a bus station in Morocco.
“A guy came up to talk to me and he had all his belongings with him,” explains Liam, “He said he was going off to London to see his sister. He was telling me and everyone else and I didn’t quite believe he was doing that. I thought he was begging. I wondered what his real story was and what he was doing. I felt a bit guilty, I thought ‘why don’t I believe him? Maybe it’s true.’”
This tale forms the basis of one of the most heartbreaking threads in Lost and Found. One of the funniest, in contrast, is the story of a rather cantankerous publican in rural Ireland for whom customers are something of an inconvenience.
The film finally hits the big screen in Ireland on Friday (Jujly 13) and while is a time of excitement, it’s also a time of trepidation for Liam.
“You never know how people will take to it,” he says. “We’ve had some good festivals and audiences and a couple of really, really good reviews, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to get good reviews everywhere or everybody is going to like it.
“Most people in their job don’t get reviewed constantly, or even intermittently, but when you’re an actor, writer, director you put stuff out there because you want people to see it, but you also have to accept that you don’t know what’s going to happen with it.
“It’s exciting more than anything else. If you’re under the illusion you’ve done something good it’s very exciting!”
O Mochain is a filmmaker in the truest sense, having tackled almost all aspects of production behind the scenes as well as appearing on camera. While he was making Lost and Found for six months of every year, he also spent the other six months making radio programmes.
Having acted throughout his childhood in Galway, and beyond, he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1996 with his first short film, Fortune, followed by The Book that Wrote Itself in ’99, and WC (the story of two bathroom attendants in an Irish jazz bar) in 2007.
Next up is a “con movie like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” he reveals, “It’s a similar story set in the west of Ireland with two guys and two girls and who’s playing who? Who’s trying to get one over on who?”
Will he be seeking funding at an earlier stage for this one, perhaps? “I’ll approach everybody and anybody for money,” he laughs.
Lost and Found is in cinemas from Friday July 13.