Starring Gaiety graduate Clara Harte and Dean Quinn as the main characters, ‘Lily’ is a new LGBTQ short that premiered last year at the Galway Film Festival, and just last week was screened on RTÉ2.
The score for the film was created by two-time Emmy-nominated composer Joseph Conlan, and features music tracks by JD Kelleher, Peter M Smith and Hello Monroe.
In the words of the lead actress Clara Harte, ‘Lily’ is about a girl on the cusp of adulthood who’s dealing with the difficulty figuring out and expressing her sexuality. It’s about overcoming prejudices, finding solace in friends and family and finding your inner strength.
We caught up with up with Clara who plays a standout role to talk social media in high school, how she prepared for such a layered role and mental health for teenagers today.
What was it like stepping into a role like this?
It was a really big challenge for me. I knew straight away when I read the script that it would demand a lot of me personally and physically but the urge to play the role and tell a very important story far surpassed any hesitation I had about it. Lily’s a bit younger than me so I had to explore what it was like to be in school again and dealing with all the teenage turmoil that goes with it. Finding where you fit, trying really hard to fit the mould and if you don’t, what happens?
What was preparation like?
I worked a lot with the director Graham and we drew from stories from our own past and experiences that rang similar to Lily’s. My sister is actually Lily’s exact age so I’d turn to her whenever I had a question ‘what would happen in your school if…’. We discovered while shooting that 90 per cent of the cast involved had been bullied in some way growing up, which I think really gave the film an extra edge as there was a real urgency to tell the story well and true.
What made you want to perform this type of role?
What really drew me to Lily was the strength she drew upon to get over the trauma. Without giving away any plot, she comes out the other side fighting. Whether it be mental health issues, bullying, sexuality – we have to talk about things and it’s only by talking about what has happened to us/what we’re going through do we learn to accept it and get stronger.
She almost let the world break her, but makes the decision to fight back. Both from personal experience and friends’ experiences, that’s an important message and one I wanted to be a part of telling.
Does social media play a part in the movie at all?
Yep! I don’t think we could tell a story like this, in a school setting, without including the impact of social media on how teenagers interact. It can be one of the most powerful perpetrators when it comes to bullying.
Do you think social media is playing a role in bullying and mental health for teenagers in school?
Absolutely! If bullying is going on at school it doesn’t just stop there anymore. The other side of it is that social media is kind of an isolated engagement too.
No one is going to lay physical witness and yet there’s the potential for thousands to lay silent witness and attack. And it’s all from the safety of a screen so there are no consequence – they can’t see the human consequence of their action and the effect it has on the victim.
Also, generationally, most parents don’t get the scope of apps and platforms and so are completely alienated from their child’s experience, which makes it harder when they’re the person you’d turn to in the situation of bullying.
In terms of mental health, there’s probably more of pressure to be a certain way. People can, and do, create pseudo versions of themselves online, whether it be for attention, likes or boredom. It’s not always a reality and people share how they want to be perceived. When you’re at a highly impressionable age, uncomfortable in your own skin it just ends up creating a further dissatisfaction with yourself, which is a slippery slope.
I’m not against social media in any way, I interact on it all the time, but I do feel it has the potential to be dangerous and harmful in situations of bullying and is having an negative effect on younger people.
What do you want people to take away from the story?
Hopefully anyone suffering is more willing to talk about how they’re feeling and know that it’s not as scary as you build it up in your head. There’s always a trusting ear willing to listen, just seek it out. Also, just to be your own hero and fuck the begrudgers.
Watch ‘Lily’ right now on the RTÉ player here.