The Ballad of Des & Mo (2010)


Des (Michael F. Cahill) and Mo (Kate O’Toole) are an Irish couple who arrive in Melbourne on their second honeymoon, but their luggage doesn’t arrive with them. Their troubles worsen once their bankcard is swallowed at the ATM, forcing them to stay at a hostel. When Des is charged for abuse towards airport staff and Mo is forced to pawn her wedding ring to release him, it looks like the romance is over. However it is Des & Mo’s unexpected encounters that lead them to a greater adventure than they could have ever imagined.


“Christ you know it ain’t easy,

you know how hard it can be”

From “The Ballad of John & Yoko” by The Beatles.

This lyric was the guiding principle for both the script and the process of making a movie in 72 hours. It was a nod towards the fact that the project had been done once before in Galway, and references would appear throughout the script to pay tribute to the last attempt at a 72 hour film in Ireland. The decision to write a story about lost luggage hinged upon the fact that the crew didn’t want to deal with wardrobe changes for any of the characters. The bonus of combining this with the flight meant that the characters could look jet-lagged; a common side effect when filming a feature in 72 hours!

The story was developed by writing 40 cells into a Microsoft Word document and then filling them up to represent two minutes of eventual screen time. Each one had to be governed by necessity from the scene before. James Fair (writer/director) worked with Irune Gurtubai, a Basque work experience assistant, to write the whole story plan, before he wrote the first draft of the script. The subsequent drafts were all accelerated by getting volunteers to read the script and offer their opinions and edits before James would rewrite them. This kept a common writing style whilst working in a way that was similar to US sitcom processes.


You can get a copy of the script here.


As Johanne Murdock’s character in ‘Watching & Waiting’ was in 95% of the scenes,  a decision was taken to have two protagonists that could separate for some of the story so that two units could film simultaneously if the need arose. For this reason it was decided that some of the key scenes should be storyboarded so that there was a uniform visual style for the second unit. John Petropoulos came onboard to draw these fantastic images for the opening sequence and the supermarket scenes and prison montage. However, due to time constraints in the locations, the boards weren’t followed as closely as originally hoped. It is a pleasure to make these wonderful Storyboards available to view.


The film was filmed in Melbourne, Australia, and the immediate environs in order to be close to the film festival screening venue; The Australian Centre of Moving Image (ACMI). Here’s director James Fair’s speech before the screening: