ALL SMILES Brothers Paul, Anthony and Alan Mulligan and singer-songwriter Mick Flannery (third from left), who wrote the soundtrack for The Limit Of, pictured at the premiere of the film at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.
At the second time of asking Alan Mulligan (36) has got his ambitious plans to make his first ever feature film off the ground.
And not only that, the film – ‘The Limit Of’ – is mixing with some big names after one of its stars was nominated for an IFTA (Irish Film and Television Academy awards).
It’s a huge achievement for a film that received no funding assistance and where the cast and crew worked for free.
Sarah Carroll, who plays the role of Alison in The Limit Of, has been shortlisted for Best Supporting Actress. It means that on February 15 next Carroll and the Mulligan brothers Alan and Anthony will be heading to Dublin’s Mansion House for this year’s IFTAs.
They will be mingling it with some of biggest names in Irish film on the night. Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson are also shortlisted in various categories, as are well-known actors Ethan Hawke and Gary Oldman.
Among those shortlisted in Sarah Carroll’s category is well-known comedienne and actress Deirdre O’Kane.
“It’s very exciting for us. An unfunded film rubbing shoulders with the elite of the Irish film industry is an amazing feeling,” Alan Mulligan told The Mayo News.
If ‘The Limit Of’ is even half as interesting as the back stories of Carroll and the Mulligan brothers getting this far with the project, then it will be a big hit.
We interviewed Alan Mulligan in these pages in September 2014. The film (then called ‘Lead Us Not’), which he wrote with the assistance of younger brother Anthony, was due to start recording two months later. However, those plans fell apart for very understandable reasons.
A series of medical hurdles for Anthony changed everything. He had brain surgery to remove a tumour in June 2014, but he was not out of the woods. He kept having seizures, which eventually led to a diagnosis of epilepsy.
Alan was caring for him at the same time as trying to get a cast and crew of 60 people to work on his film for free and organise various other logistics such as accommodation, transport and food. Something had to give.
“I just knew if we went ahead it would not be to the standard I would be happy with so I decided to pull it,” Alan recalls.
It was a huge blow for the budding filmmaker. In 2012 he had left a well-paid job as a Loans Manager with Bank of Ireland to chase his dream of filmmaking. But he wasn’t the only person disappointed with the news.
Sarah Carroll had made a big commitment to sign up to the film.
“Sarah was going into her mid thirties and had recently gotten married,” Alan said. “Her acting career was struggling to take off. She wanted to have a baby and had a tough decision to make.
“It was then that I sent her the script and offered her the part of Alison. The character of Alison was of instant appeal. A complex woman in her 30s on a journey of self discovery and sexual awakening. This was not your run-of-the-mill female character. She agreed to give me six months for no pay,” he explains.
But then, as Mulligan recalls, ‘My worst nightmare happened’. He would have to cancel the film.
“We lost money, Sarah was devastated and there was no guarantee that the filming would be rescheduled.”
But Alan was not giving up without a fight. Anthony started to feel better (“He’s managing the epilepsy, and most days are good days,” reveals Alan) and they felt ready to go for it again.
‘Bump’ in the road
They rang Sarah with the good news … but there was a new problem.
“She was pregnant! She didn’t want to be re-cast. She wanted this character, it was hers and I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing her,” Alan explains.
So they set to work with haste. Sarah would be three months’ pregnant during filming, so there would be no calling her back for re-shoots if there were delays or mistakes.
“It was a huge risk,” admits Mulligan. No one else from the cast or crew knew, save for the costume designer, who worked with Sarah to fit the right type of outfits.
After filming over two-and-a-half weeks, with long, 16-hour days during which everyone pushed themselves, well, to the limit, filming was at last in the can.
Sarah, 38, had a baby boy later in 2015 – her second child, she already has a 19-year-old daughter – and she has had another baby girl since. She is now back acting.
The Limit Of is due to be released later this year but will go on the festival circuit first, with Alan Mulligan hopeful they will start that circuit this spring.
It premiered at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh in front of a sell-out crowd of 400 people and received a standing ovation.
Filmed in locations in Dublin, Meath and Wicklow, it was made for just €35,000, with the cast and crew working for free.
The film follows James Allen, a disillusioned banker who lives a very controlled lifestyle. After a family tragedy, James’s carefully cultivated lifestyle starts to unravel as he seeks vengeance against his ruthless employer. Alison, a widowed co-worker, has her own agenda, which puts her on a collision course with James.
It was a huge leap to leave a successful, well-paid banking career, and Mulligan is grateful he did it.
“It is definitely a relief. I know I made the right decision. I’m happier in myself and life is great. It is exciting that doors are opening, but how far they open you don’t know.”
He is currently in talks with a production company about a pitch he has for a TV series, which he describes as ‘Peaky Blinders meets the GAA’.
“I’m addicted to this. I would do it for 24 hours. People see it as brave to leave your career, but I don’t think it is brave if you find something you’re addicted to.”
Making the most of take two.