Director Biography – Jessica Courtney Leen, Megan Haly (BRONAGH)

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Jessica is an Irish Actor and Filmmaker. She is based between London and Cork, Ireland and her most recent role was in BBC Dublin Murders as Cassie’s Mum. BRONAGH is Jessica’s debut short film which she wrote, directed, and features in as the title character, Bronagh. Jessica also writes and produces her own theatre work, most notably ‘Two Of Clubs’ which played at Theatre Upstairs, Dublin, December 2017 for two weeks and went on to play at the prestigious Listowel Writers Week in Kerry, and at Cork Arts Theatre. She is currently working on her one woman show ‘Waiting For Wifi’ which debuted at The Triskel Arts Centre, Ireland with the support of ‘Corcadorca’. Jessica is also currently writing her first pilot series for screen ‘Maybe It’s Me’.

Director Statement

The concept of our ‘inner monologue’ is one that has intrigued me all my life. Bronagh is about acting on that dark thought you have in the back of your mind – the one that’s a bit ridiculous and could get you into a lot trouble, but every so often makes you think “what if I actually did that?”.

This is a story about a girl who does everything she can to soothe herself through a pain she doesn’t understand. Bronagh lost a leading female figure in her life when she was younger and now as a grown up feels guilty for experiencing a delayed grief. She moves to a quieter place that allows her to be alone with her thoughts and she seeks help from a counsellor, Imogen, to try and make sense of her emotions. She tells Imogen about something she overheard in a café that she was able to emotionally connect with, and we see it visually play out like a mild ghost-story on film. Imogen assures Bronagh her feelings are normal and Bronagh returns home with her routine in pocket, ready for another week of solitude and shoulder shrugging. In amongst this sad and simple-seeming world, I wanted to personify the feeling of boldness. I wanted to articulate through character the feeling you have at the point of no return, when you know that it will end badly but you commit to it until the end no matter what. This is how the character of Bronagh came to life and how the twist at the end allows her character to appear to be one thing but turn out to be another.

As a director and visual artist, setting was very important to me. The world in which Bronagh exists is like a snow globe – everything is beautiful and open to explore but enclosed. Bronagh has reached a point of not caring much about the future as she is stuck now grieving for her past. I wanted to capture how, as people, we can be ignorant of having a whole world to explore as we manoeuvre through it lost or stuck in a bad place. The colours we chose to work with, greens and greys and browns – earth and concrete, were moments of reflection on this also. The editorial choices we made in camera movements, grade and framing, were all in keeping with the dramatic realism of Bronagh’s world, all the while keeping the ending of a psychological thriller in sight.

Bronagh, though blunt in her words and simple in her lifestyle, has a vulnerability when around other people that rocks our view of her cemented ‘lone wolf’ facade. I wanted to write a multi-dimensional female protagonist with layers that peel and peel as we get to know her more, but always leave us feeling like there’s something we don’t know yet about her. I decided to work dangerously with voiceover to bring us in and out of Bronagh’s world, and leave the audience with an ambiguity that allows them to wonder how much of what we heard was in her head as opposed to said out loud. I wanted to create that space that exists only in our own private minds where we decide how much we filter and edit what we say.

Most importantly, Bronagh is a narrative that tells us one story and then shows us another – a disturbing depiction of a girl who took the road less travelled and acted upon the dark inner thought. I would hope that this film prompts the audience to reflect on how honest we all are, individually, with the pictures we paint for other people when turning our inner monologue into words for the outside world.

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