A short film for Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey finds four young gents winding their way across a grassy hillside on a rainy day, suited up in their finest clothes. The mates end their journey sitting on a stone wall facing a graveyard by a chapel, drinking whiskey and singing the classic Irish folk song “A Parting Glass” in the rain in honor of a friend they are about to say goodbye to.
The scene depicted feels so authentically Irish. So you might be surprised to hear that the film, which is also titled “A Parting Glass,” was created by Opperman Weiss, an agency located in New York City’s Chinatown, far away from the rolling green hills of County Wicklow where British director Laurence Dunmore of RSA Films and DP Alex Melman stood in the rain and cold for days capturing the lovely gray and green imagery.
But chat with Paul Opperman, who shares the title of creative director and co-founder of Opperman Weiss with partner Jeff Weiss, and you will soon discover you’re talking to a man who has made it his business to know Ireland. In fact, both he and Weiss are proficient in everything from James Joyce to how the Irish fish to pub life. “For us to be able to do this work properly, we have to know more than anybody about Irish culture,” Opperman says.
“A Parting Glass,” airing throughout Europe in various lengths both on television and in theaters, is the second film the agency has created for Tullamore Dew as part of its “Irish True”-themed campaign. “We wanted it to be so infallibly ‘Irish True’ that there was no possible way to question it,” Opperman says of the film. “We wanted the Irish newspapers to write editorials about it, so it had to be filled with what you see, which is the spirit of what Ireland really is.”
Ultimately, “A Parting Glass,” cut by editor Andre Betz of Bug Editorial, is about the ties that bind friends and inevitable goodbyes, and it is the poetic song sung by the men that gives the film its heart and soul. The actors are indeed singing the tune, though none of them are professional singers. “Everyone can sing in Ireland,” Opperman says, noting music is a part of gatherings at pubs and elsewhere.
The plan was to record the actors singing “A Parting Glass” in a studio in Dublin. But when Opperman visited the stone chapel–Saint Kevin’s–seen in the film, he learned that bands from all over Ireland have recorded there because of the great acoustics. So plans were changed, and the actors were recorded singing “A Parting Glass” inside Saint Kevin’s by gaslight under the direction of composer Eamon O’Leary of Duotone.
Once the production wrapped, an after-party was held in Dublin for the cast and crew, and O’Leary brought a bunch of his musician friends along to perform traditional Irish music. “It was just heartbreaking and amazing. That’s what Irish music is like,” Opperman says, “and it’s what the film was trying to capture, that sense of both melancholy and victory at the same time.”