Patrick Ireland is an award-winning Writer-Director best known for his short films Anonymous: A Million Men (2015), One In A Million (2017), The Director (2018) and Ill Fares The Land (2023). He has produced and directed films, spanning in range of formats and genres, for the likes of ITV and Channel 4.
Can you tell us a bit about your hometown of Herne Bay, Kent, in the United Kingdom, and your upbringing there?
Herne Bay was a typical English seaside town. Fish and chips, pubs, arcades. It has had quite a significant impact on my filmmaking – my 2017 short film, One In A Million, was shot there and based loosely on my experiences growing up, while my latest short, Ill Fares The Land, was heavily influenced by the growing right-wing sentiment in towns like Herne Bay. All in all though, I had a relatively happy upbringing and still hold much affection for Herne Bay, in spite of its problems.
Young Patrick – Herne Bay
How did you get into filmmaking? Was it a long-term ambition for you?
I got into filmmaking by making films! My parents bought me a Mini DV camera and I used to make films in school with my friends (when we should’ve been in lessons)! One of our first projects was a series of Batman fan-films called Wayne: Batman The Early Years – inspired by the CW’s Smallville series at the time. I was lucky in the sense that I knew pretty early on that I wanted to be a filmmaker and have spent most of my life pursuing that ambition, with mixed results.
Patrick – Mini DV
How has your education, particularly your degree in Politics and Philosophy, and focus on fringe political movements, impacted your filmmaking?
All of the films I have made to date contain political themes or influences. This is partly because I’m generally interested in politics, but it’s also because we’re living through such a significant historical juncture (climate change, late-stage capitalism, social breakdown, etc.) and I feel that contemporary films should be reflective of that. It’s important that we record this particular era in history as well as encourage conversations amongst people living and experiencing it today. As the saying goes – the point is to change the world, not interpret it.
What films or filmmakers have been major influences on your career so far?
So many! My favorite films range from Annie Hall to Raiders Of The Lost Ark to Donnie Darko to The Lord Of The Rings. I think the best film of the last decade was David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake. Terribly underrated. I’m also an Alien 3 apologist.
When was the idea for Ill Fares The Land conceived, and was there a particular event/moment in politics that sparked the conception of the film?
I was interested in making a film about the ‘migrant crisis’ in Britain and the rise of the far-right amongst white working-class communities. Obviously these two issues are inexorably tied, and this formed the basis of Ill Fares The Land. Coming from the kind of towns where racist and frankly proto-fascist ideas are spreading, I wanted the film to be from the perspective of someone who was a part of that community – and not only unflinchingly show what’s happening, but also try to dig a little deeper into why it’s happening and if it can ultimately be stopped.
Ill Fares The Land – Crew
What is the thinking behind combining social realist drama with folk fantasy and political commentary? Is this something you would like to do more of?
Yes, for sure! I’ve always tried to exaggerate the ‘reality’ in my previous films (like One In A Million and The Director), but Ill Fares The Land was definitely my first attempt at fantasy. I’m not sure where the idea of using a Mermaid to represent a migrant came from, but I think it’s the most effective part of the film. Expensive though!
Can you describe a bit more about the production of the Ill Fares The Land: what were the major challenges, did the film change much as you went along, were there any highlights from the shoot?
Making films is just plain difficult, especially independent productions! The challenge (as always) is to bring something to life without the machinery and resources of a major production company or studio. I was lucky in that I had two great producers, Jessica Romagnoli and Annabella Casaburi, who worked tirelessly with me for nearly a year in getting this project off the ground. I was equally as lucky with my cast and crew, who were beyond brilliant! Shooting in Dungeness was fun because the landscape is so unique and otherworldly. When we shot the white supremecist speech in the rundown house, another crew were interviewing one of the One Direction boys next door, which must’ve been very weird for him given what was being shouted!
What direction did you give to Noah Silverstone in the lead role in Ill Fares The Land? Particularly given that their performance was largely non-verbal.
Noah’s such a talented actor and he put his all into this role. We spent a lot of time together before shooting discussing the character in depth and trying to understand who he was and what he was thinking/feeling throughout the story. Collaborating with actors is about trust, and I trusted Noah to bring ‘George’ to life – which he did, splendidly.
Patrick & Noah
Can you speak about your collaborations with cinematographer Stephen Roach and composer Magdalena Maria Herfurtner? How did you choose the landscapes, what feeling did you want to evoke through the visual style, and how was the score constructed?
Being a good director means hiring good people – and I was so lucky with the artists I collaborated with on Ill Fares The Land. Stephen was one of the first people to join the project and he instantly got it. I was blown away by his previous work and knew he would bring something special to Ill Fares The Land. The way we worked was I’d tell him how I envisioned a certain scene, or what the audience should be feeling within that scene, and then trusted him to turn that into a beautiful shot. We had a great gaffer too in Stan! As for Magdalena, frankly, there would be no Ill Fares The Land without her. When I heard her voice, I knew the score was going to be incredible! Magdalena went above and beyond on this film, and showed a level of care and artistry that spanned the entire production. Not only was she the composer, but also our art director – as well as a key voice during post-production. Her music elevates the film in a way I didn’t think possible, infusing it with an otherworldliness, melancholia and genuine sense of human empathy.
Patrick & Magdalena
A couple of your films, One In A Million and Ill Fares The Land, have focused on some of the brutality and frustration of late adolescence. Why has this stage of life been an important focus of your filmmaking so far?
I’m not sure. Life can be very brutal, and I suppose it’s in late adolescence that you’re really forced to confront that (after the kind of dreamy innocence of childhood). One In A Million and Ill Fares The Land are similar films in terms of their setting and themes, but come to very different conclusions. Whereas One In A Million ends on a note of existential despair (the inevitably of poverty and death), Ill Fares The Land ends on an affirmation of humanity – that maybe we can redeem ourselves, maybe fascism isn’t inevitable in our era, maybe love and compassion will win out in the end. . . I hope so!
How do you see the role of film in bringing about radical societal/political change? This has been a common theme beginning with your documentary Anonymous: A Million Men through to your satirical dark comedy The Director and now Ill Fares The Land.
Films are a great way to communicate ideas, especially political ideas, to an audience who otherwise might have not been listening. It’s more impactful to see the reality/consequences of right-wing radicalisation in a story with characters you care about, than to simply talk about it. Imagination is the key to political/social change, and also the key to filmmaking. The author David Graeber said: “the hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.” I suppose that’s what my films are trying to get at, in their own clumsy way.
What new projects are you working on? What’s next for you?
At the moment I’m focused on taking Ill Fares The Land to festivals. After that, who knows? I have a few scripts knocking about and would love the opportunity to write and direct a feature-length film one day.