Clara film director Declan Recks.

Local filmmaker credits parents for his success

Offaly filmmaker Declan Recks has attributed his successful career in TV and film to his upbringing in Clara where his parents Rufina and the late Richie Recks encouraged his pursuit of a career in the arts.

His parents formed Clara Musical Society over 50 years ago and Declan's late father also played in a showband.

“There was always music around the house and then when the musicals started, there was always a bit of drama once a year in the hall.” He remarked that Scór na nÓg was also a good training ground for him.

“It didn't seem like an unusual thing to want to get into film plus my father was a bit of a gadget man. He loved cameras and he used to shoot stuff," Mr Recks said, adding that he had the opportunity to mess around with some of his father's filming equipment.

“I always had an interest in film,” he continued. “My father was a big cinema buff so he used to bring us to the cinema nearly every couple of weeks.”

He said that he was lucky that his parents supported his pursuit of a career in the arts and that when he went to college in the 1980s there wasn't much of a film industry in Ireland.

“I think there was only probably two courses in the country where you could do film at that point,” stated Mr Recks, adding: “it was a bit of a leap for them to allow me to evolve, but they completely encouraged me, which was great.”

Although, Mr Recks has long been an accomplished TV and film director he said that he originally wanted to be an animator but realised when he went to college and started working with actors that directing was the path for him.

Having decided to study film at Dun Laoghaire College of Art he was too young to attend so he completed a one-year course in TV and Radio at Ballyfermot College of Further Education. He then went on to study in Dun Laoghaire and he said that it was a good time to be there as the course was very new and they had a lot of freedom to experiment.

The talented Offaly man had to shoot a film as part of his studies and decided to make a film focused on a pirate radio station called Big Swinger.

“The background for the story came from having been involved and my friends being involved in pirate radio in around the Midlands and I just thought it was an interesting story and also I was kind of keen to shoot something that I could shoot locally.”

The Clara native recently filmed a new comedy series entitled 'Faithless' starring radio and television personality Baz Ashmawy. It follows three Dublin sisters and their Irish/Egyptian dad who, after a tragic incident, has to raise his three daughters alone.

Mr Recks is hopeful that there will be a second season of the series as talks are already underway.

Regarding the preparation for the series, Declan said: “It required a fair bit of producing from our producer, Michael Garland, to get the money together.”

He said it was also Baz's first time writing and acting.

Declan Recks and crew on location for the filming of The Truth Commissioner.

Killurin native Aisling Kearns also stars in the show and Mr Recks said that she is a “terrific talent” and that she has done a lot of theatre work. He explained that casting was important as casting directors spot talent and “become champions” for up and coming actors and actresses.

“Casting was a big part of it because we had an unknown actor in Baz,” stated Mr Recks. “He really wanted the cast to be authentic, obviously, because he's half Egyptian. He wanted all his family to be of Egyptian origin so that was a tough call for our casting director, but we managed to find three fantastic female actresses to play his daughters.”

He said they had to go to England to cast Baz's brother and father for the series and that the cast and crew were “very happy” with how the show has been received.

Mr Recks also recently finished filming a new three-part crime show which is set in Italy called 'Signora Volpe' starring Emilia Fox and Tara Fitzgerald. He said that Emilia plays an ex-spy living in Italy.

The local director has worked on many TV shows and films over the years but the one that is dearest to his heart is still the fan favourite 'Pure Mule' which was filmed in various parts of Offaly and focused on the weekend of one particular character from a Friday until a Monday morning.

The story was written by fellow Offaly man, the playwright and screenwriter, Eugene O'Brien. Mr Recks said that the project was a big leap of faith for the producers David Collins and Ed Guiney but that they agreed to shoot the show in the midlands.

“Normally, you'd shoot these things close to Dublin, maybe in Wicklow, and pretend you were down in the midlands, but they saw the kind of value in going down and shooting it in the place it was set and I think it kind of resonated for that reason as well because it very obviously came from the midlands and was shot there.” Mr Recks added that it was an enjoyable shoot and that the show has “stood the test of time” as well.

He said that they were “very lucky” with 'Pure Mule' as there was a lot of new talent in Ireland at the time. “We'd Simone Kirby, Garrett Lombard and Charlene McKenna, they hadn't really done a whole hell of a lot, but I think 'Pure Mule' kind of set them on the way which is good.”

Another highlight of the director's career was working on the film 'Eden' which was the first feature film he directed, also written by Eugene O'Brien. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was released in the US. Mr Recks said: “Our lead actress, Eileen Walsh, won best actress there so that was a big thing.”

He said that he was “very proud” of the film and that it held a “big memory” for him in his career to date. “It was myself and Eugene O'Brien's first film together as well and Eugene and I have worked on a couple of films now at this stage.”

Declan and Eugene are also hoping to shoot another film together later this year.

Declan also had a role in helping the career of Oscar winning actor Cillian Murphy. 27 years ago, the Corkmanstarred in a short film directed by Declan. Cillian played the role of Pat in the comedy 'Quando', which is thought to be his first film acting credit.

'Quando' follows the comic story of Jack, Pat and Brian, three friends in search of the meaning of life, love and happiness. Cillian took on the role of a rock musician whose band take part in a talent show during the Queen of the Heather Festival so that his friend Jack win the affections of Eileen, the new hairdresser in town.

Mr Recks said that the casting director for the film told him that he needed to go see Cillian perform the play 'Disco Pigs' in Cork. “We cast Cillian for Quando and we worked with him again on a film called How Harry Became a Tree.”

He added that it was very obvious that Cillian was “going places” even 27 years ago when he filmed Quando. “It's not that often that you come across an actor who you say, okay, they've got it.” He said that Cillian's success wasn't surprising as he was well respected in Cork from a young age.

Cillian starred in the aforementioned film 'How Harry Became a Tree' in 2001, also directed by Mr Recks who said that he gave another “great performance” on that project. “I think at that point he was already beginning to make a bit of a name for himself outside of the country as well.”

Unfortunately, its release coincided with 9/11 occurring in the US and the film didn’t premier at Toronto Film Festival as initially planned. Mr Recks explained: “Cinema wasn't high on people's priorities in America so as a result it didn't really get out there, which is a shame because I think it was a really good film.”

Paddy Jordan and Declan Recks pictured filming Tarrac. Photo by Brid Ni Luasaigh

One recent acclaimed project that Mr Recks directed was the popular contemporary drama film 'Tarrac.' It focuses on a woman who returns home to Ireland after her father suffers a heart attack. Following this, she finds herself returning to the competitive world of rowing in Naomhógs, native Irish boats.

Mr Recks said that he hadn’t seen naomhóg racing before but had observed some currach racing in Spiddal. “I had thought, all right, it might make an interesting backdrop for a film.” He added that he was really interested in the idea that naomhóg racing hadn't really been seen on film before. “I thought it was a bit of a challenge to shoot, but I thought it was worth it and we were very lucky. Dingle’s a stunning place to work.”

“It was just coming out of lockdown so there were a lot of places available to us that wouldn't have been available, had it been normal times because Kerry's such a busy place for tourism. I don't think we could have afforded to shoot down there had it not been for Covid so that was one silver lining in the whole Covid disaster.”

When not working, Mr Recks lives in Clara and said that he is always looking to shoot in the midlands.

“Hopefully, this next film is set in or around the midlands, so hopefully, we can make that work. For myself and Eugene, it's kind of revisiting ideas that we've had for a while trying to make that work.”