By Tania Fisher
A self confessed theater rat, Daniel Keith has no regrets about his musical rock star status that never happened. He’s found a new kind of star-status, in the form of his multi-award winning film, “Love in Kilnerry.”
What started out as a challenge to stretch himself, and make his grandmothers laugh, he decided to write a comedic play. It was Sybil Lines from his Circle in the Square days (who plays Aednat McLaughlin), who put this challenge to him. What resulted was a story involving an unrealistic set of circumstances, with very realistic characters and human behavior.
“It was always a play,” quips Keith. In 2015, as part of the development process, Keith decided to hold a reading of the play, and the actors who turned up to do so, turned out to be gold. Roger Hendricks Simon (as Fergal O’Reilly), Sheila Stasack (as Brigid Kerry) and Sybil Lines (as Aednat McLaughlan) together with Daniel playing a role himself (Gary O’Reilly) started a journey together with no idea it would lead them to such success and accolades.
Described as: “Elderly residents of a small remote town panic when the EPA announces mandatory changes to their chemical plant could cause a dramatic increase to their sexual libido. The town Sheriff tries to maintain order and decency, but mayhem ensues.”
Despite the description, there are only two elderly people in the movie, with the rest of the cast being in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. His aim was to come up with random absurd ideas and try to rationalize them. Finding an art to this is a recipe for any great story.
As society struggles increasingly with its global divide, even with, or maybe because of all the social media, it seems we’re not communicating in the right way, and we’re definitely judging more. Daniel admits he grew up in a bubble and was never taught hate or judgment. “I had to go by how I felt when I saw things.” When he moved from Texas to NYC in 2006 he could see the clash of cultures first hand. The memories of these encounters are reflected in “Love in Kilnerry”: A guy in a small town who is used to things being a certain way when his world gets turned around with incredible changes out of his control and he’s not sure how to respond and he’s terrified.
Roger Hendricks Simon (who plays Daniel’s father, Fergal O’Reilly) explains, “This movie is about people learning through mistakes; they find out by going way beyond what they think they can do. They find that their lives are much more enhanced and much better. Today I think that’s an important thing to say, because we live in a time where people are scared to communicate, to talk to each other.”
The film’s exact period of time is obscured and non-specified. Daniel says “Making Kilnerry remote is what made it innocent, it had to be innocent.”
The play version continued to be work-shopped at Manhattan Theater Club Studios in 2016, eventually broadening to a staged reading. Broadway producers in the audience were excited and eager to encourage the talented ensemble to reach for a Broadway stage, however, knowing that particular goal was years in the making, Daniel decided to turn it into a film first.
In 2017, what began as a low budget, $15,000 indie film, snowballed into a modest $1.2M glorious project. Shot in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he took the original cast members along, plus other talent cast by Kimberly Graham (Homeland, Avatar, Before Midnight). In the end, there were over 23 cast members that included Kathy Searle (Nessa), James Patrick Nelson (Father O’Dell), Tony Triano (Jerry) plus 250 extras.
Early edits of the film were then presented at film festivals in 2019 to garner audience reactions. The only explanation that can be given to the deeply felt emotions from people who are somehow relating to an incredibly unlikely scenario is that Daniel has the power and skill to zero-in on human fears and relationships.
In six months, “Love in Kilnerry” received a whopping 45 awards and 26 nominations, which included Best Screenplay, Best Film, Best Director, Best Actors, and Best Choreography. The Love in Kilnerry (LIK) team were reeling and on a high. Now it was time to talk Distribution. And then, The Pandemic hit. And it all stopped.
There was a lot of worry of whether the film was ever going to come out. The mainstream had changed. Everyone was streaming and downloading. What was going to happen to all those years of hard work?
Daniel proceeded to send it out to different studios. Paramount loved it, but there was no star. Rejected. To fast-forward to the happy ending part of this story, it was Mutiny Pictures who said ‘yes.’ They understood the British humor aspect to the film and likened it to Waking Ned Divine and The Full Monte.
Maybe the rock-star thing didn’t work out, but he’s ok with that. Now that Mutiny Pictures has acquired the North American rights to his “Love in Kilnerry,” it will be released in select cities ahead of a nationwide release later this year.
It will also be brought back to the theater and work-shopped some more this Fall, with the intention of finding a theater next year so that a mass audience can laugh and cry together.
What started as a theater workshop with a small pool of actors working on it for years, will now be coming to a cinema near you, and a theater in 2022. LoveinKilnerry.com
https://vimeo.com/475931386 Trailer (Awards)
https://vimeo.com/531353898 Cast Interviews