GALWAY-BASED production company Florence Films have just completed an hour-long pilot episode of their new TV series Issues which dramatises the meetings between a psychotherapist and his clients.
The series was the brainchild of Sean O’Maille, a trained psychotherapist and actor, who also plays the programme’s central role of therapist Mike Gleeson.
Over an afternoon coffee, O’Maille discussed the programme, beginning with how it all came together.
“I’ve trained in psychotherapy and acting and I thought ‘Why not marry the two?’” he states. “I had this idea long before the Gabriel Byrne series, In Treatment. The original concept was that people would come in and improvise around a theme. We tried that out and it worked very well so we then auditioned about 60 actors. We gave each of them a presenting issue that they then improvised on – they could be alcoholic or bereaved or going through a divorce or whatever.
“They’d come in and do a 10 or 15 minute session with me and we filmed that. From that we chose 30 actors to come back and we gave them a different issue to improvise around and we filmed that on set and we ended up with 22 actors for the actual pilot.”
I ask whether there were specific issues O’Maille was keen to highlight in the programme.
“I thought I’d go for universal themes,” he replies. “There are interesting ones like where a female client would come to a male therapist because she might have certain issues around men – and that would often happen. That’s the kind of issue you, as a therapist, would bring to your supervisor to ask how you should deal with a girl who shows up in a miniskirt.”
Other cases featured in the pilot include a guard with anger management issues, a mother trying to deal with the suicide of her son, and a young woman who is stalking a married man she had an affair with. The programme also looks at the therapist’s own family life and his sometimes prickly relationship with his supervisor. O’Maille expands on this latter aspect.
“Mike doesn’t want supervision, he feels he should only go to see her when he wants to, but it’s compulsory in Ireland to see a supervisor, for every 10 hours with a client you have to spend one hour with your supervisor. A lot of therapists don’t particularly like it, they feel it’s like having to report back to your mother and that’s the vibe I wanted to put across.
“There is an arc between Mike and his supervisor, it starts off prickly but it warms up towards the end, he sees the benefit of being there with her.”
While O’Maille provided the script for the pilot, Florence Films is now forming a team of scriptwriters to prepare treatments for the next sixteen one-hour long episodes (two seasons ). Anyone who thinks they have what it takes can contact the company at [email protected]
“We’d like several scriptwriters on the project, as there’s a lot of scope for the series” O’Maille declares. “There are 23 characters in the pilot, it’s like a long teaser trailer but in an actual episode there would only be about five existing characters and maybe one or two new ones featured in each one. We’ll be getting together soon to do treatments for the whole series, and plotting out what happens to each of the characters over that span.”