‘Nola and the Clones’ – A Tale of a Strong Woman in Spite of Tough Circumstances

Barbara Soares

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“‘Nola’ negotiates her way through a series of very difficult men”

NOLA AND THE CLONES directed by Graham Jones (2016)
NOLA AND THE CLONES directed by Graham Jones (2016)

The new Irish film ‘Nola and the Clones’ covers the fictional story of a strong female character; however, she is a homeless prostitute who lives in Dublin.

Last month, writer and director Graham Jones, launched ‘Nola and the Clones’ online, on YouTube. The Irish director, who considers himself an indie filmmaker, has launched his last features online in the past years. He believes that nowadays films should be made and shared, “What filmmaking is and who filmmakers are is fundamentally changing”.

The Irish feature is getting great reviews from critics so far, such as the ‘Wycherley Network’ who said, “A beautifully scripted story and journey that will change the way you look at people”. ‘Hot Press’, ‘Axellerated Reviews’, ‘Hereford City Centric’, ‘Film Fervor’, ‘The Movie Waffler’, ‘The Film Junkie’, Frank Ochieng from ‘The Critical Critics’ and Pam Grier from the film ‘Jackie Brown’ also wrote positive reviews to ‘Nola and the Clones’. ‘Hot Press’ magazine said, “Cassidy (the actress) perfectly captures the frustration of a woman all too aware of her powerlessness… Jones has repeatedly proven himself one of Ireland’s most intriguing directors”.

Irish Director Graham Jones
Irish Director Graham Jones.

Jones, the director, did volunteering work in a homeless shelter years ago; the shelter, that was men-only, got him wondering, “What female homelessness might be like”. So over the years, Graham Jones went on to find out.

The film is not really about homelessness, is not really about prostitution, those are just things that made easier to make the film I wanted to make. I wanted to make a film about femininity, and the way in modern culture femininity is seen and used and turned into a product and how young women are made to feel.

Jones explained further about his idea of “femininity in the modern culture”, “My daughter is nearly fifteen, and I think a lot about the world she is growing up in and how she is made to feel in it. And it is actually quite scary, you know. I thought about that stuff since I was quite young, since I was eighteen or nineteen, and it kind of just stayed with me. I always wanted to make a film about this stuff, and kind of thought if I make the female protagonist homeless everything will become much more intense, ’cause there is nowhere for her to hide. Men are constantly walking by, looking at her, and this is a constant thing for women all the time, I think. But when you are homeless you are so exposed and you can’t get any privacy, or do anything about it. Because you are homeless you are vulnerable”.

The gender inequality has always been there in Jones’ opinion, “but it is something we are not supposed to talk about”. For Graham Jones, ‘Nola and the Clones’ is a good example of, “how lesser-known properties in the indie film sector are addressing gender disparity better than mainstream movies – in terms of the characters onscreen”. He also said, “Women have always been central to my movies, both in front of and behind the camera”.

The searching process for the perfect actress wasn’t an easy job; the Irish director almost gave up until Caoimhe Cassidy did a reading. Jones said, “Meeting Caoimhe was what really made it work. She carries the entire film. That performance was the key to the whole film”.

Caoimhe Cassidy & Joseph Lydon in NOLA AND THE CLONES directed by Graham Jones (2016)
Caoimhe Cassidy & Joseph Lydon in NOLA AND THE CLONES directed by Graham Jones (2016)

However, the main key for making a good film in Jones’ opinion is good writing, “It is all on the page…every bit has to be written”. Caoimhe Cassidy agreed, and complimented Jones’ writing saying, “It is very natural, many people said to me that it seems real…It was all there (on the script), which is great, you don’t have to overthink it, once you do what is there, you will be fine”. Graham Jones believes that besides the script, a good performance is fundamental. The director gave huge credit to Cassidy’s performance, “Also to find someone who actually becomes the character is quite hard, but Caoimhe actually became Nola”.

Speaking about the shooting process, Jones said, “the crew is like nothing”, only him and the actors basically, managing to turn a micro-budgeted film into a big production. That is what Cassidy’s friends said when they watched “Nola and the Clones” for the first time.

Caoimhe Cassidy in NOLA AND THE CLONES directed by Graham Jones (2016)
Caoimhe Cassidy in NOLA AND THE CLONES directed by Graham Jones (2016)

“When we were actually on the streets it was just the three of us (Jones and the two actors), because we didn’t want to attract the attention”. Jones didn’t get permission to shoot in the places, “like the church, for example, we just walked in and shot and walked out”. For him, that was fundamental in order to get the “real feeling of being on the streets, in real places”. The whole film was shot in a month.

The lead actress also helped at some points to build up her character, Nola. She questioned Jones sometimes if Nola would do certain things. He gave an example of Nola wearing boots at the beginning, which he changed after Cassidy alerted him that if she were homeless, she wouldn’t wear boots and that runners would be more likely.

Nola was the most challenging character for Caoimhe Cassidy so far, she said, “There is one day that I was actually on the street begging, to them I was another homeless person which is an interesting thing when you are on the other side of that. I could start to understand how you kind of become invisible”. Besides the people who gave her change, or didn’t, she found it very intimidating the way a particular group just looked at her, “It is something about the look, there is a look, a look through you, it is really chilling. They don’t say anything, just look at you, and it is ‘grrr’ cold”.

Caoimhe Cassidy in NOLA AND THE CLONES directed by Graham Jones (2016)
Caoimhe Cassidy in NOLA AND THE CLONES directed by Graham Jones (2016)

The lead actor, Joseph Lydon, said, “It was the most challenging and rewarding experience I’ve had. I played several different characters with several different personalities and body types – it was awesome”.

According to Jones and Cassidy, Joseph Lydon delivered an outstanding performance playing so many characters, even physically changing for every single one.

‘Nola and the Clones’ is basically a mix of, “The talent, me (Graham Jones) behind the camera and going to places and saying okay, let’s try to shoot this before someone appears”.

Now, watch for free & fall in love for this unique indie film, ‘Nola and the Clones’.

YouTube / Graham Jones – via Iframely

Many thanks to Graham Jones and Caoimhe Cassidy.

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Barbara Soares