Eoin Macken uses his background as an actor as a bridge to his directing in his latest film, Here Are the Young Men. Based on the Robert Doyle novel of the same name, the film captures the raw, unabashed, and cynical view of youth. The story follows three high school grads who plan to celebrate their newfound freedom with an epic bender, but when a horrible accident sends them spiraling, each must grapple with the most daunting challenge of their lives: facing their own inner demons. I spoke to Macken about adopting Doyle's story to screen, his progression as a director, and how his background as an actor helped shooting the film.
Here Are the Young Men: From Novel to Film
"The most important thing for me where I work was on staying as true as possible to the characters," Macken said. "I think Rob wrote quite a dense novel in terms that really goes into the character's heads an awful lot. There's an awful lot of internal monologues, which obviously, you can't really get that across in a film. I tried to sort of create a cinematic world and create more of an energy and a feeling to the movie that kind of was sort of similar in tone to the book. That was most important to me to try and really understand these characters. It was trying to define a more linear through-line because obviously, the way Rob's book is, it can be a little bit dense, and there's a lot to unpack that to kind of pick a specific linear narrative to kind of drive it; through a bit more."
With nine projects under his belt in his fourth feature, directing seemed to naturally fit Macken. "To be honest, I'm still figuring out everything," he said. "I learned how to make films just from editing and kind of making indie films myself. I love the process of being able to shoot something and then sit in my room and edit for hours. That's how I kind of learned about filmmaking, and I really enjoy that. So it's really been about trying to create images that I like. I want every image in the film to kind of be as almost like a still photograph as possible. That's in my head: Try and make everything as beautiful as possible visually and then really trying when I pride myself on, I think is even if I try things in filmmaking if stuff hasn't worked, but that the acting is always really good, I kind of try to be careful and respectful about what the acting process, because I'm an actor, but also to give the actors the world and the space to really create and feel comfortable to kind of push things with the characters at all times."
Macken believes there are certain advantages as an actor directing other actors in terms of communication. "I'm pretty proud of like any of the performances in Here Are The Young Men," he said. "I think are really exceptional. I think the performances of like when I directed The Night Shift are really great [as well as those] in The Green Rabbit & Ice Cream Girl. I think those are some of the best performances at the time they've done. I'm quite intuitive in terms of listening to what actors need. I like to direct the way I want to be directed. It's all, but it's also a lot about trust. You get people who are really talented, and you also just let them do their thing to a large extent. That goes across the board with your production designer, costume designer, and your cinematographer. Everything is like you get people specifically to go. 'This is the tapestry you want to create, but this is also your world and your talents."
As with most indie projects, filming worked within a tight window. "We had so little time," Macken said. "We spoke with this that often we only had four weeks to do the whole thing, and we'd sit in a very tight schedule in terms of filling everybody's schedule in when Travis [Fimmel], Anya [Taylor-Joy], and Conleth [Hill] could come in. We had no time to maneuver. If we dropped the day, we wouldn't have got it done, so we didn't have a huge mess. I had to be prepped in terms of what we needed to shoot and in advance because just when you have those types of time constraints. It just doesn't give you the freedom to kind of play too much. Then shooting the TV studio stuff was obviously a big endeavor. That was difficult. It was a really fun shoot to do. We had a great time. It was just a lot of energy to it because it was kind of just gung-ho, pedal to the metal, just a little bit high octane. This guy is going to do this and see what happens."
Macken feels he has come a long way as a director since 2008's Christian Blake. "I think the most important thing is that as I've learned about understanding the truth of characters and so forth and understanding the truth of performances," he said. "Also, just to have a real conviction in what you're doing. I think when you're directing something, you have to be, even if you're not sure if it's the right thing. You've got to make choices because you have short time periods and trust the people you're working with and to trust them that you know they're creating something, too. Just the collaboration of that, and that's why I've learned the most to be. I realize it is all one big collaboration and to trust each other." Well Go USA Entertainment's Here Are the Young Men, which also stars Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, is available on digital and releases on Blu-ray on June 29.