I see there are other FitzSymons/Fitzsimons in your crew and among your
acknowledgements -maybe a misspelling thing?- Is this kind of a family project?
I couldn’t honestly say it’s a family project, though it’s certainly a story rooted in what it means to be a family. James who plays The Kid is the son of a cousin of mine, and we just happen to spell our surnames differently. Leo – the production runner and chaperone – is my kid. Donna, my missus, helped out in a myriad of ways, sourcing costume and such. Things like this make even more sense when you’re making a little film with next to no money!
Is this James’ debut as an actor?
It is indeed! On camera, for sure. Though I think he’s been in plays in junior school.
Have you worked together before? His performance is so real that it made me think
you’ve had a great understanding on the set.
We’ve never worked together before, but we got on the best. Having that bit of family connection really helped, as we had no rehearsal time during the short prep period. James brought a bundle of energy with him over the couple of days we shot. Not surprising for a 8 year-old. But he managed to contain it when we were rolling. (Most times!) I was a bit concerned that he wouldn’t really get the ‘cowboy’ thing – kids don’t really play in that way as much any more – and certainly not with guns. But that’s the period thing, the 1970s. And James was a natural. I was fortunate to have him!
The story is so touching even with a few words said, Could you tell us something
about how you came up with the idea for the script?
The film was actually inspired by a poem ‘Gallaher’s Coyote’ I wrote about 10 years ago. It evoked an early memory – I was probably even younger than James – of hearing Ennio Morricone’s theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – the classic spaghetti western (Check it out if it doesn’t ring a bell. You’ll know it!) I was in a neighbour’s house and the dad was quite a brooding, sullen character. In the poem I imagined he and I staring at one another in a stand-off, ‘OK Corral’-style.
I found out quite late in life that I was adopted – my dad was already dead – and it occured to me that the poem’s scenario was a great backdrop for exploring the notion of a family made in this way. Of a child arriving suddenly, and how that might upset the household dynamic, whatever the desire of the adults. It’s all seen from the child’s perspective. He doesn’t think of himself as ‘adopted’, he just IS. So I never thought that any great exposition was required. The child is alone. We can see that. He can sense the tension, and that he’s the cause. It seemed natural that his real and imagined worlds might become intertwined. The ending – when the kid calls out ‘Dad!’ (and it’s the only reference to family – and a hopeful future?) – is actually an homage to ‘Shane’, a classic 1953 western with Alan Ladd, and specifically to its final scene. (Again, check it out!)