INTERVIEW Making a break for the big screen


Alan Mulligan (left) and his brother, Anthony.
Alan Mulligan (left) and his brother, Anthony.

Making a break for the big screen

Aspiring Charlestown filmmaker Alan Mulligan is shooting his first feature film, ‘Lead Us Not’, this year

Edwin McGreal

Alan Mulligan was living many people’s dream. He was in a well-paid job as Loans Manager with Bank of Ireland, driving a brand-new BMW convertible around, but life wasn’t what he wanted it to be.
Two years ago he left the bank to pursue his own dream of being a filmmaker. He may be relying on savings to get by and requiring actors to work for expenses only to keep the project under budget, but with his first-ever feature film just around the corner, it’s clear from talking to Alan that he’s living the dream.
“I was not really enjoying my job in the bank. I’m not enjoying the same salary now but am much happier in myself and in what I am doing,” Alan (33) told The Mayo News this week.
Four years ago Alan was trying to find a hobby, and he enrolled in an evening course with the Irish Film Academy. The bug soon took hold and Alan and his brother Anthony have since been responsible for a collection of short films ranging from the comedy ‘I Am Spoon’ to a video and song for Euro 2012 to a novel ‘speech’ video for their brother Paul’s wedding.
“I’ve worked in jobs where you do the job to the best of your ability but you don’t care enough to worry about it when you go home. When I went on this course I was thinking about it and working on it night and day, loving every bit,” admits Alan.
The only thing he could compare it to was Gaelic football. All three Mulligan brothers have starred for their native Charlestown, but Alan’s career was the first to end through injury.
“Filmmaking is the only thing that has given me what football gave me in terms of passion. I finished football at 20 due to a shoulder problem. I broke my collarbone in five places at U-16 level. Gavin Duffy, the former Connacht rugby player, and I went up for a ball and we fell. He landed on top of me and my shoulder was shattered to bits.
“I was back in 2001 when Charlestown went to the All-Ireland semi-final but I tore tendons in my shoulder and I knew if I kept playing I was going to do long-term damage.”
He came to a crossroads two years ago when redundancy offers came at work. His father, Anthony Snr, was somewhat sceptical when Alan told him he was leaving his well-paid job to go into an area of work that lacked any salary certainties.
“It was a huge move to leave,”Anthony admits. “An offer of voluntary redundancy came around and I said it was now or never.
“Dad was always the one who said money is not everything, but he was the one annoyed about me leaving the job. But now he has come around full circle. He sees I am happier in myself, and he is delighted to see myself and Anthony working together.”
Their father’s sentiment is especially poignant considering Anthony has just had surgery to remove a brain tumour.
The Mulligan family are extremely tight. They lost their mother, Bernadette, ten years ago, and Alan admits his experience of losing his mother informs part of this film.

The film
‘Lead Us Not’, Alan’s first film, follows the central character of James Allen, a disconnected 30-something year old, who works for a greedy banking organisation.
He spends his week days working in the city and his weekends with his widowed mother in their country home.
When his mother’s health takes a turn for the worse due to the stress caused by the bank chasing her for mortgage arrears and threatening to repossess her home, James decides to take revenge against his ruthless employer.
“The initial concept for the story was to explore that moment in life when things are not going well for you and you feel disconnected and frustrated, that internal feeling of anger building constantly,” explains Alan.
“But yet, you know society’s rules and you know not to break them. Now ask yourself, what would be the thing that would make you finally lose control, make you take matters into your own hands and to disregard society’s expectations of you?
“Well for James Allen, this moment is the moment his mother becomes seriously ill. The only person in the world he feels connected to. We can all relate to that moment where a loved one takes a turn of ill health and we cannot accept it, yet we still act appropriately. Well, James Allen doesn’t. He takes control by losing control.”
Alan Mulligan is the writer and director on the film. His brother, Anthony, is a producer. Alan describes him as ‘my creative soundboard’. The brothers are producing the film independently and have just finished a campaign to raise money for the venture.
Alan has spent the last two years preparing the script for ‘Lead Us Not’, and he’s now  finalising the cast ahead of filming in November. Laurence O Fuarain plays the lead role, James Allen. Laurence is a graduate of ‘The Factory’, a renowned Irish school for screen actors.
Alison Murphy, James’s love interest, is played by Sarah Carroll, who recently featured in season four of Love/Hate as the dental assistant. Ally Ní Chiaráin plays the roll of Molly Allen, James’s mother.

Filming in Mayo
The filming in Kiltimagh will concentrate on the bank scenes. When he was on the look out for a suitable location, Alan Mulligan touched base with Michael ‘Harve’ Kelly, an accountant in Charlestown, who put him in touch with Joe Kelly of IRD Kiltimagh.
Joe secured a 3,500-square-metre building, which in the coming weeks, will be transformed into a bank. The scenes in the Allen homestead will be filmed in Meath, while other locations around the country are being selected for various smaller scenes.
Alan’s brother is quick to testify how much work his brother is putting into ‘Lead Us Not’.
“He lives and breathes it,” Anthony told The Mayo News. “It is a huge thing that Alan is trying. He has been in Wexford, Wicklow, Tipperary and Cork the last four days to meet actors and check site locations. It’s great to be a part of it,” admits Anthony.
With his own banking experience, is there much of Alan Mulligan in James Allen?
“There are elements of my experience in him but he wouldn’t be based on me,” says Alan. “I would draw from my banking experience and from my mother not being well. He’s charming and good looking too,” he adds, chuckling.
“In today’s corporate world there is a fast-growing sales culture. Customers are a number, even in the call centres they appear as numbers hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the open plan office floor. Five calls holding! Ten calls holding! 
“So there is constant pressure on staff to move on to the next customer, rather than really give their time to the current one. Time is allowed though, if there is a potential sale to be made.
“In my nine years of banking, this is a culture I saw develop gradually but it picked up pace when the banking crisis occurred, and efficiency became the buzz word of management … and in a way it gave them permission to implement a lot of dramatic changes that they were hoping to make anyway. It is a competitive world, and the banks as well as any other company have to adapt to survive. The film is set in today’s world, and focuses on where the banks are at now in terms of their business strategy.”

A campaign to raise monies for ‘Lead Us Not’ has just finished, but needless to say Alan would welcome any offers of assistance. He can be contacted at
He expects recording to take in three to four weeks, with a planned release date for the film of next April, and he hopes it will be considered for selection for the Galway Film Fleadh next August.