Headshot of Sean Lionadh, Director of 'Too Rough'

Sean Lìonadh interview: Director of BAFTA-winning short film Too Rough

8 mins read

Too Rough begins when the previous night’s hazy bravado is destroyed in the cold light of reality as Nick (Ruaridh Mollica) must sneak his boyfriend Charlie (Joshua Griffin) out of his abusive household. Based on experiences from writer/director Sean Lìonadh, the short film has earned him a Scottish BAFTA as well as a BIFA award for Best British Short Film.

Lìonadh spoke to Brig about his creative process, connecting with audiences and how he deals with praise.

What was the writing process for Too Rough like?

The writing was very exciting because in my head a lot of my friends didn’t really know the kind of situation I grew up in. It was exciting because it can be exhausting when you feel like people don’t really understand where you come from.

How similar is the finished product to the idea you originally started with?

Well, the only idea I really had, to begin with, was someone, a character, that has this part of them that they’re trying to keep secret and locked up. It quickly took form at a certain point and didn’t change much because we all believed in what it was.

You’re a writer, director and musician. What medium do you feel the most comfortable in?

I think writing, But I love all of them, different mediums let a different part of you out. With music, I feel like I can be so romantic, while the romantic part of me in film, is a bit more brutal.

I’ve been in a film mood recently but I was at a friend’s dinner party and suddenly they asked me to go to the piano and play a song. I was like, what? I totally forgot that I could play the piano. So it is kind of whiplash sometimes.

Sean Lìonadh behind the scenes on 'Too Rough'
Sean Lìonadh behind the scenes on ‘Too Rough’. Image Credit: Kevin J. Thomson via Scheme Pictures LTD, Devil May Care

Why was it important for you to have a Scottish cast and crew for Too Rough?

I just think if you’re going to film a project in Scotland, the idea of bringing in anyone else is absurd. I wanted to stay Scottish for the cast because I fundamentally distrusted anyone’s ability to do a Scottish accent from London.

But actually, the best person for the job was Joshua Griffin, who is [English], so I was proven wrong. Also, I just wanted people to understand what kind of story it was, and it wasn’t just about them being Scottish.

What specifically drew you to your two stars?

Ruaridh was immediately perfect. His face was half in shadow but it wasn’t flat, like a lot of tapes were. Sometimes you just know that someone’s the one. And then Joshua had a totally different approach. But I think it was important that they had a counterpoint and obviously the chemistry had to be there.

How do you take notes?

It’s hard, because my first instinct is “you don’t get it”. But the more interrogation you have with your ideas, the more that the strongest ideas will stand out. You should second guess yourself, but in other instances, there are decisions I made that I wish I hadn’t, because I trusted that someone else was right. With writing… you do have to recognise that there are narrative laws that if you respect, will make your story better and allow people to see your soul more clearly.

(L-R) Joshua Griffin and Ruaridh Mollica as Charlie and Nick in 'Too Rough'.
Joshua Griffin and Ruaridh Mollica as Charlie and Nick in Too Rough. Image Credit: Peccadillo Pictures

What has been your most memorable reaction to the film?

There’s a scene in the film when Nick covers his little brother’s ears and Charlie covers Nick’s ears. This woman came up to me [after a screening] and she said, “I wish I’d had someone to cover my ears when I was at home.”

And in the middle of the sentence, she exploded [in tears] because this is what so many people from those backgrounds have. They have a reservoir of grief, and it needs to come out in a safe way. It’s the worst feeling in the world to feel like you’re different to everyone else and your pains are uniquely insufferable. When you connect with someone like I did with that woman, it’s like we were part of the same army.

What goes through your head when you win a BAFTA?

It’s quite sad what went through my head; I just thought maybe I’m good enough now. Maybe I’m finally worth something. But that’s not the right way to think.

In fact, it’s a terrible way to think, because if you try and become worthwhile from things like that, it never ends. I’ve been speaking to my therapist a lot about preparing for award ceremonies because whenever I’m in a position of praise, I get very nervous, so I’m trying to stay grounded.

You’re currently developing your first feature film, has there been a learning curve between short films and long-form projects?

Yeah, it’s a totally different kind of storytelling. In some ways, it’s easier because short films are actually really hard to get right. Everything in it has to be completely essential.

Obviously, that’s the goal with the feature as well. But I think that larger-scale storytelling just somehow works for me.  I’ve hardly even begun the actual process of making it yet. someone told me last week at the BIFA Award Ceremony, it’s like making four short films, which actually puts it in perspective. But even one short film wrecks you. But I’d much rather stress and worry about a project than all of the pointless things I’ve stressed and worried about in the past. 

Featured Image Credit: Sean Lìonadh

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Film and Tv Editor at Brig Newspaper. Currently studying Journalism and English at the University of Stirling

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