DURHAM — As Paul Pender set down a side dish of wild rice on his dining room table Wednesday night, he apologized to his friends for forgetting about the rice while it cooked on the stove — making it resemble a risotto.
“You never tell the guests your mistakes when you’re cooking, Paul,” Peter Lynch said to Pender as he put down another side dish of roasted baby carrots. “... And these were supposed to be sweet potato fries.”
It was a comment that was met with laughter from everyone around the table. Pender, the owner of The Old Dublin in Wallingford, hosts weekly dinners at his home for his friends, who are all associated with “Charlie Gorman’s Wake,” a play he wrote. Pender was born and raised in Dublin and moved to America in 1992.
“Charlie Gorman’s Wake,” which premiered at the pub in January, is set in the fictional village of Ballycarraig in County Kildare. Charlie Gorman is an avid patron and considers the pub his second home, according to the film’s website. The story features Irish pub characters that “enjoy nothing more than a ‘good slagging’ and relish every opportunity to rag on each other,” the site says.
Pender has been working on the screenplay and making the final preparations for filming, which will begin in September, according to Adrian Nieves, the film’s producer. Much of the filming will take place at The Old Dublin. Nieves said the crew is also looking at areas around the state that resemble Ireland and many of its features for filming. Nieves also said some filming will actually occur in Ireland.
“I never thought making a film would be as much fun as it is,” Pender said. “And I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work later on, but it’s a good hard work.”
When asked why he decided to write a play or what inspired it, Pender laughed and said he had no idea. He remembers reading a piece of work written by Oscar Wilde, one of Pender’s favorite writers, when he realized he could write the same way. He was given a journal one Christmas, which he hadn’t used too often. The journal would be where he would begin writing “Charlie Gorman’s Wake.”
“I started in pen and realized after six pages that I couldn’t read it if I kept going. So I went to a computer,” he said. “I would write the lines and read them afterwards and I’d be laughing to myself.”
In three weeks, the play was written. The story is a “typical Irish comedy,” Pender said, based on everyday life and the things that can happen. The film adaption will give Pender and his crew more time for character development, such as the romance between Ossie Gorman and his American girlfriend, Rose O’Grady, portrayed by Brian Beirne and film co-director, Katie Morris, respectively.
“It’s the Irish teasing each other ... It really captures the pub culture in Ireland,” said Lynch, who plays Charlie Gorman. “There’s lots of story telling. It’s a real Irish thing.”
One of the most important things to Pender for both the play and film is how his cast and crew interact with one another. Morris acknowledged that the cast has come a long way since the days of the play, and now have “really great chemistry and friendships.”
As Pender and his guests ate their dinner, it was clear the dynamic the group had. At one point, amongst all the laughter, Morris said, “This is ‘Charlie Gorman’s Wake.’” With characters teasing and making jokes about one another and telling stories in the play and film, it was the same situation in Pender’s home. Plenty of laughter was heard throughout the night as stories were told of the days in Ireland. And even as Pender teased some of his guests, such as Simon O’Reilly, the director of photography, everyone laughed.
As an independent film, there are a number of obstacles the crew has to overcome — mainly funding and the challenges of adapting a play into a film. Pender and his crew are constantly fundraising. The website is set-up to resemble crowd-sourcing, which is what they are using as their main method to raise money. With crowd-sourcing, an individual can donate a certain amount of money and receive a specific reward.
The more money contributed, the better the reward. For example, contributing $10 gets a person’s name in the credits, whereas $500 includes admittance to the film premiere and merchandise. In addition to crowd sourcing, Pender is also applying for a grant from an Irish company, which awards grants for Irish productions.
Morris acknowledged that keeping a sense of continuity during filming has proven to be challenging. In addition, Nieves and O’Reilly said the process of making a movie is different than filming a play. When recording the play, Nieves said a close up camera was used, as well as a wide-angle. For the movie, O’Reilly said he and Nieves wants to capture a “documentary feel,” which can be acquired by using hand-held cameras.
“The whole point is to bring you into a film setting,” Nieves said. “We want you to watch it as if you’re actually sitting at the bar.”
Even though filming hasn’t stated yet for “Charlie Gorman’s Wake,” Pender already is working on the sequel. “Charlie Gorman’s Wake” is projected to be released in January 2014.