Written by Emily Ansell

Director and writer James Fair brought his new film to London for its European Film Premiere this month and shared his thoughts on the art of independent filmmaking. 

The Ballad of Des and Mo tells the story of an Irish couple who arrive in Melbourne on their second honeymoon and find their luggage has been lost. 

Fair, a Film Studies lecturer at Staffordshire University, made the film in three days. 

He said: “I wanted to prove I’m a practitioner not just a lecturer. 

“I sat in a café in Birmingham and came up with a storyline in two hours.” 

As the comedy unravels, the couple go from one disaster to another – they lose their bankcard, forcing them to stay at a hostel, Des (Michael F. Cahill) is charged for abuse towards airport staff and Mo (Kate O’Toole) is forced to pawn her wedding ring to release him. 

The movie is Fair’s first big feature film and the experience was full of ups and downs and creative challenges. 

He said: “It was a disaster but that’s independent film making. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be!” 

He came up with the plot not only for comedy value, but also due to the restrictions of his low budget and tight time scale. 

“I wanted them to lose their luggage so there wouldn’t be any wardrobe changes,” he said. 

The film maker, who lives in Birmingham, said he cast most of the actors out in Australia but discovered lead actress Kate O’Toole was following him on Facebook. 

He revealed he emailed the actress on the social networking site and asked her to play the part of Mo. Impressively, he got her on board.  

He said: “She really enjoyed the buzz of making things rapidly.” 

The soundtrack was also formed from online music as well as bands discovered at gigs. 

Fair added: “I scouted high and low for music. I could only offer them the chance to appear in the film and get their music heard as I didn’t have the money to pay them.”

The small independent team made the film in three days on £35,000.

He said: “You’re only as good as your crew and I had an excellent crew. 

“The money doesn’t go a long way. We had to beg, borrow and steal but when you’re film making you’re always making sacrifices because of money.” 

Fair confessed he has a love-hate relationship with the film because of the tight budget and time scale he had to work with. 

“I look at it now and I cringe. Some shots are quite static.” 

He also revealed his frustrations with film making in general and announced his plans to make another film on his own. 

He said: “I fell out of love with film making because of the amount of people you have to work with. I wanted to go back and do something by myself.” 

A year into the tour, Fair is surprised at how well the film is being received and is considering getting the DVD put on shop shelves. 

“I didn’t know the film would have a life beyond Melbourne. It goes to Solihull soon and then Rome. I’m considering distribution but do I go back and tidy it up first?”

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.