As the tensions and frustrations of life in a community house start to close in on him, a young man with Down Syndrome realises he may have to cross a line to end a nightly disturbance.

Director's Statement

HEADSPACE is a piece that seeks to place the lived experience of a character with an intellectual disability front and centre of the narrative.
The film intends to amplify a narrative that often remains unseen and unheard; and offer a character study that defies the tendency for reductive, one-dimensional portrayals of people with intellectual disabilities that can be dominant in cultural representation. As the writer and director of the piece, I wanted to open up the doors to the ‘group home in the community’ for people with intellectual disabilities and ask us to consider the complexity of life within its walls. Furthermore, I wanted to create rich and authentic characters for learning disabled talent, and build upon my longstanding collaborations with actors with intellectual disabilities to create a film where authentic, excellent performances to represent this world would be facilitated.
I have spent the past 10 years developing a collaborative relationship with performers and talent with intellectual disabilities and working within these complex and at times, mind-boggling systems that support them. The dramatic tension between society’s ‘duty of care’ to those perceived as vulnerable and the basic human desire for autonomy is something that I have always been artistically drawn to exploring and amplifying.
HEADSPACE offers an authentic slice of life drama that doesn’t shy away from the challenges facing the characters, but also illuminates the gentle comedy that can often emerge in absurd or somewhat chaotic circumstances.
HEADSPACE is my narrative short debut, and what I hope to be the first of a future body of work that builds on my commitment to developing methodologies for working inclusively in film. I wrote the piece for my long-time collaborator Mark Smith (Tony), whose insight and consultation was invaluable to the development of the work. Mark’s generosity with his own lived experience heavily informs HEADSPACE, and every situation that Tony finds himself in, is in fact authentically informed/ inspired by lived experience that Mark has shared with me across the years; an enormous privilege that I hope to have honoured with this film.
As filmmakers, we approached the creation of this work with a total openness to allowing our leading learning disabled ensemble cast bring their own insights and creativity to the work – towards achieving an authentic representation, naturalistic delivery and excellence in performance, and ultimately to learn from them how best to create an environment of accessibility and inclusion across the filmmaking process. We hope you enjoy the result.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Aisling Byrne

Written by: Aisling Byrne

Produced by: Killian Coyle

Cinematography: Kilian Waters

Editing: Dan Keane

Production Design: Jenny Owens

Costume Design: Niamh Hussey

Make-Up & Hair: Bairbre Ni Bhroin

Original Score: Stephen Rennicks

Sound: Saoirse Connolly, Edmond Moriarty

Cast: Ger Kelly (Max), Brian Busteed (Brendan), Clare Monnelly (Paula), Lauren Larkin (Siobhán), Mark Smith (Tony), Jackie O'Hagan (Ruth), Daniel Ryan (Michael), Simon Delaney (Gerry)

Nominations and Awards

  • Short Film Candidates 2023