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Writer-Director David Freyne Gets Personal With His Film 'Dating Amber'

November 23, 2020
2 min read time

The Irish coming-of-age comedy follows the friendship of Eddie (Fionn O’Shea), a closeted gay teen, and Amber (Lola Petticrew), a fellow closeted lesbian, who pretend to be a couple to avoid being tormented at school in writer-director David Freyne's Dating Amber. Set in the 1990s, Freyne says the film is about his own struggles with coming to terms with his sexuality in a small Irish military town. “And, unfortunately,” he admits, “the really embarrassing moments are the most truthful.”

Freyne said keeping the time period was important because “it was a really fascinating time in Ireland. Homosexuality was only decriminalized [there] in 1993 and divorce was just introduced in 1995. I feel like it was the beginning of our country’s late liberalization.”

While he did try to make the film a few years ago, financing fell through. However, Freyne says, the film’s eventual release was right on schedule. “As they say, tragedy plus time equals comedy. I think I needed the distance from the pain to see the warmth and comedy that did exist for me back then. In the end, making the film felt like I was exorcising all my demons. It was just so much fun.”

Freyne admits that, while writing the script was cathartic for him, he did encounter challenges with his process — as a lot of screenwriters might be familiar with — particularly when personal moments were used for inspiration.

While it’s not strictly autobiographical, there are enough parallels to my own life for my loved ones to see themselves in it. I was paranoid about offending someone or just revealing too much about myself,” he says. “There were a couple of very personal and just downright embarrassing moments that I definitely struggled with leaving in there. Several tears were soaked into my keyboard along the way. But it’s also extremely freeing to get it all out there. Who says a writer needs mystique?”

The dynamic between Amber and Eddie is integral to the story, and getting it right in the script was key for the easy chemistry between O’Shea and Petticrew. When it came to creating those characters, as with all the projects he's written, Freyne says he tries to work out as much as he can about the characters before starting on the script.

“Who they are, the music they like, their pet peeves. So by the time I get to the script, I usually get first drafts done quickly. And then it’s fine tuning. I think slow and write fast.”

Freyne says his writing process can be summed up with the Dorothy Parker quote: “I hate writing, I love having written.’”

“I think about the script for a long time and write notes down,” he says. “Eventually, the notes congeal into an outline that, to anyone else’s eyes, would look like the paranoid ravings of a lunatic. But to me, it’s all there. I input that into a skeletal form in Final Draft. Then I just go over it and flesh it all out, filling in the gaps to make my first draft. Dating Amber only differed in that it was semi-autobiographical. But the process is the same.”

One pivotal and poignant scene near the end of the movie involves Eddie and his mother, played by Sharon Horgan, in which she tries to have her son confide in her about his sexuality. Freyne says the scene, which he considers as one of the most moving scenes in the script, was “deeply personal” and fully formed before he went to the page. “It happened to me and happened to so many queer kids. She is basically playing my mom and she is just struggling to do the right thing, like moms do.”

While Dating Amber is set in a particular time and country, Freyne says the theme of the film — to be loved and accepted for who you are — is relevant in any small town and at any time.

“The story of these kids who needed to escape in order to be themselves is as universal as they come. There are Eddies and Ambers everywhere.”

 

Dating Amber is available on demand and digitally.

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