Sucking Diesel - Fr. Mick

#Interview: Scannain Talks new web series Sucking Diesel with writer/director Maurice O’Carroll

Sucking Diesel is a four-part web series written and directed by Maurice O’Carroll (Dead Along the Way) which currently available to view on You Tube for a limited time. Filmed in Dublin, Laois, Cork and Meath, the series was made with zero budget by O’Carroll and his crew who wanted to keep busy in between various projects and wanted to make something that could be viewed by anyone without going through the usual process of the film festival circuit.

Fr. Mick( Johnny Elliot) is a Catholic priest who steals money from the church to pay for his drug habit and also finance his married lover’s abortion. When he helps a couple of low-life criminals dump cocaine down a toilet during a police raid he finds himself dragged into the underworld breaking every commandment in the book to find fifteen grand and save his life… and lose his soul in the process.

Scannain caught up with Maurice O’Carroll to find out more.

What was the inspiration for the story?

I have no religion but I wanted to explore a theme of loss – something we can all relate to – and I wanted to do so through the eyes of a priest. The greatest thing a priest can lose is possibly his soul so, along with my talented cast and crew, we set out to tell the story of a man who finds himself dragged into the underworld.”We all know what it’s like to be lost?” says Father Mick the protagonist. So I pinched a character from one of my screenplays – a struggling Catholic priest – and I built a series around him. There have been enough attacks on the Catholic church in recent times, most of them necessary but, out of respect for the all good priests and church members , I did not want to tell another child abuse story. Instead, I wanted to show a man with weaknesses, a ‘guilty’ man who is abusing himself, a man who is lost… and I wanted it to be funny, quirky and entertaining.

Why YouTube and why not make a follow up feature film to ‘Dead Along The Way’?

Dead Along The Way was a huge success and surpassed my own expectations. It sold out venues on the festival circuits at home and abroad, we found a distributor, and we received theatrical and digital release but I didn’t want to do the same thing again: make a 10K feature film, have a nice run on the festival circuit, and get a theatrical release in selective cinemas and, of course, have a limited amount of eyeballs see the work.  So, as grateful as I was to see sold out venues, I couldn’t help but think about all the people who would never see the film and talent involved because our team didn’t have the resources to get it out there to a mass audience.

So, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to make a four-part series and put it straight on YouTube which promises an immediate and global platform and, with complete creative freedom, I could tell a story with my own voice and vision. My ambition is for the series to find an audience on peoples desktops at work, on their phones on the Luas, on their Smart TVs at home. And I trust they will empathise with a man who wants nothing more than to do good… but it’s hard with the devil on his shoulder.

Tell us about the cast?
I first met Johnny Elliott (Fr. Mick) when he came in last minute to fill a role on Dead Along The Way when another actor dropped out. My poducer and long -time collaborator, Sinead O’Riordan, dragged him roaring drunk out of a niteclub at 2am and she had him on set learning lines just four hours later. I loved his approach to the work though and we promised to collaborate in the near future. He’s a gifted actor and, off set, we fleshed out the character together so when I called action Johnny just did his thing.

Eddie Jackson (Slinger) is pretty much the same in that we met for coffee and discussed his character: what music he listens to, the films he would watch, his clothes, his drug use, etc. On day one of shooting Eddie arrived in full costume which he picked up in a second hand shop. The entire cast did pretty much the same; whatever the project needed they were happy to oblige and often at their own expense.

I’m very lucky to have great actors – and just as important, fantastic crew behind the camera – who love working together on my projects and a huge part of that is down to my partner-in-crime and producer, Sinead O’Riordan. She is one of the hardest working people I know and our team love her… which is great for me.

From day one, Sinead and I committed ourselves to building an ensemble of rising talent and fostering a positive environment where our cast and crew are valued and get to produce great work; despite no budget.

John Connors got involved late in the project although his name was thrown in the ring at the earliest stage by Sinead and Johnny Elliott. He’s an actor and a man I admire, and again, I’m very lucky.

What was your budget?

Zero. We shot whenever I had enough money in my pocket to feed the cast and crew. Sinead would would bring the teas, coffees, and buns in the morning and I would buy the hot dinners.

How did you find the locations and get permission to film at them?

It starts with the cast and crew believing in the project and that belief carries out into the world so, when we would speak with business owners and home owners, they wanted to help us. The Laurence Hotel in Athboy, The Martello in Bray, and The Summit Inn in Howth are prime examples of businesses opening their doors to us.

Tell all the film geeks what cameras and equipment you used.

My mantra has always been ‘Made With Our Own Blood’ so we do whatever it takes to get something made. Too many filmmakers wait around for their perfect storm to arrive and they end with nothing. I tell my cast and crew that if I have to take my mobile phone out of pocket to get it made then, so be it.

For the most part we filmed Sucking Diesel on my old and trusty Blackmagic Cinema Camera. We also used a Blackmagic Pocket, a Panasonic GH4 for slow motion, and the few drone shots were off the Mavic Air.

There were several DPs working on this series – it was basically down to whoever was available and I even shot few scenes here and there – but the guts of the show was lensed by Mark O’Rourke. Mark was the DP for my feature film and I keep promising him that some day we’ll have a truck load of gear… and nice catering. It seems to keep him going… for now anyway.
Lighting wise, I have some tungsten lamps but we mostly used Aputure LEDs to enhance ambient light.

What was the post production process?

Me. I had to do everything. Edit, colour grade, and sound mix/design. Again, when you don’t have the resources to pay people you have to roll up the sleeves and dig in. I cut the series on a stuttering 2011 iMac and all editing and grading was completed in Final Cut Pro X.

Do you have any advice for other filmmakers looking to make a series for the web?

Just get out there and do it. You have a camera in your pocket so there are no excuses. Get a good sound recordist, make contact with some actors on social media, and go for it.

What’s next?

We are fleshing out Sucking Diesel into a 6-part TV series and looking for production partners who want to take the show to the next level.


You can follow Sucking Diesel updates on Facebook  and Twitter

Watch it now YouTube but be quick it wont be there forever