RICK ROSSI needs to get away. It is a bad time and his future is uncertain. He was living the rock’n’roll high-life, until it all came crashing to a tragic halt when Pete, his friend and band member, died.
Rick finds his life at a crossroads. He mourns his fallen friend and curses him for checking out too soon. He needs to get his head straight, so a friend advises him to go to Ireland, they don’t bother celebrities over there. However Galway’s pubs dwellers and music fans have other ideas.
This is Don’t You Know Who I Am? the short story by the award winning Galway journalist and author Olaf Tyaransen, which has now been turned into a short film starring Alabama 3’s Larry Love as Rick Rossi.
A rented stream of Don’t You Know Who I Am? can be watched by clicking on the video below, and after that, check out our interview with Olaf, who talks about the ideas behind the story, Larry Love asking for a sex scene, and how the Galway Advertiser became involved in the film.
Don’t You Know Who I Am? first appeared in the Doire Press short story anthology Galway Stories which was launched during Cúirt 2013.
“The germ of the idea came from a sarcastic comment Nick Cave made to Hot Press,” Olaf tells me. “Cave said something along the lines of, ‘Irish people couldn’t care less about celebrity. It doesn’t matter how famous you are, they just treat everybody the same. I know this because I sat in a bar for a couple of hours last night and somebody came over to tell me that every five fuckin’ minutes!’ I decided to write one based around that notion of Irish people’s attitude to celebrity.”
Don’t You Know Who I Am? was easily one of the stand out stories in the collection, but it was Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, who suggested it could make a great short film.
“Irvine Welsh described it as ‘a very cool, stylised and poignant rock and roll tale of alienation, loss and grieving,’ adding it ‘would make a lovely short in the right hands.’ The same thought had occurred to me, but Irvine’s blessing basically propelled me to action.”
Olaf approached his friend Paul Duane, an award winning film and documentary maker with Dublin film production company Screenworks, to see what was possible. Duane was “a little bit dubious” given it is “notoriously difficult to make any money from short films”, and that “just about every short film that’s ever been made is too long”. However he encouraged Olaf to write a script, and after some tough feedback and “five more drafts”, Duane “was convinced enough to agree to direct the film”.
Although Olaf is a feature writer/interviewer of many years experience, who has also published a collection of poetry, a memoir, and a handful of short stories, he found in screenwriting a new kind of challenge.
“I found the screenwriting process exhilarating,” he said. “I felt I was stretching myself artistically and actually learning something new. Don’t You Know Who I Am? was me dipping my toe in the water. Now I’d like to do a full length feature film.”
With the script written and the director chosen, it was time to cast the lead role, and Olaf called in Alabama 3’s Larry Love.
“We decided early it would be better if a real rock star, rather than a trained actor, played the lead,” says Olaf. “Rock stars don’t get much more real than Larry Love. He’s a true believer. It helped I had his phone number.”
However Olaf had to disabuse Larry of the notion that the film would involve him enjoying a sex scene.
“Larry called me aside quite early on and demanded I write in a sex scene,” says Olaf. “‘You’re paying me fucking peanuts so the least you can do is put me in a bed with a couple of naked chicks!’ Larry said. ‘Rick Rossi is grieving,’ I explained. ‘Sex is the last thing on his mind.’ ‘Nah, he’d want to be having sex just to take his mind off things,’ he insisted. ‘OK, I’ll write in a sex scene,’ I said, ‘but you do realise Rick is gay – with a predilection for older bears?’ That was the last time he mentioned it.”
Olaf and the Don’t You Know Who I Am? crew received great support from various Galway venues and businesses when it came to shooting the film.
“It was amazing,” says Olaf. “Not a single person said ‘No’. It’s a testament to his powers of persuasion producer John Burns even managed to get Galway Airport reopened so we could film Rick Rossi’s arrival. Our other locations included The g, Hotel Meyrick, Neachtain’s, The Crane, Massimo, the Róisín Dubh, and Bell, Book & Candle. Not only did they grant us permission to film, but Hotel Meyrick gave us free accommodation and the Róisín offered us the apartment they use to house their acts. Actually, they also un-barred one of the actors! Sheridan’s Wine Bar offered to feed the cast and crew every lunchtime, and Kevin Healy of Massimo agreed to feed everybody in the evenings. All gratis. I was overwhelmed by the friendly support. So thank you, Galway.”
The film also received support from the Galway Advertiser, and the paper also gets to make a cameo appearance in the film.
“There’s a moment in the film when Rick winds up on the front page of a newspaper,” says Olaf. “It was originally a tabloid like The Sun or The Star in the script, but we decided it would be more fitting to use the Galway Advertiser. Larry flew into Ireland the day before the filming started. We met up in Neachtain’s, where he did an iPhone photo shoot with actor John O’Dowd. The following morning, Declan Varley [Galway Advertiser editor] mocked up a front page cover for us using the images, and that afternoon we filmed the scene. The paper is only onscreen for a couple of seconds, but it’s an important shot. Again, it was just wonderful to get the help and support.”
Overall, Olaf describes the atmosphere on set as “great fun”.
“I probably didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I should have,” he says. “I kept worrying something was going to go wrong. Nothing did. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to make another film but, if I do, there’s little chance it’ll be such a smooth, pleasurable, and hassle-free experience.”