The Movie Waffler Interview - DEADLY CUTS Director Rachel Carey | The Movie Waffler

Interview - DEADLY CUTS Director Rachel Carey

rachel carey
Director Carey discusses her Dublin set comedy.

Interview by Benjamin Poole

Deadly Cuts is an all-female hair salon in Piglinstown, one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Dublin. The salon stylist Stacey (played by Ericka Roe) is determined to win a prestigious Ahh Hair competition despite being blackmailed by a local gang and threatened to be shut down by the local councillor.

One fateful night of accidental vigilantism leads to a reinvigorated community that soon rallies around the Deadly Cuts’ bid to win.

We spoke to director Rachel Carey about her sharp-edged comedy.

deadly cuts

Hello Rachel! Congratulations on the release of Deadly Cuts which you wrote and directed. I am very glad that it is reaching an audience! For me one of the most striking aspects of the film was the setting: a high street hairdressers in Dublin. I think hair salons are intriguing places and that hairdressers, these everyday artisans, are intriguing figures. Local hairdressers always know what is going on in the area, for one thing. Another is the communal relationships they have with clients - I mean, I tell my hairdresser everything, and I’m pretty sure most other people confide in their hairdresser, too! I think this is because by sitting down in front of their scissors you’re already placing your life and immediate destiny in their hands and so there is an established level of trust. What’s more, hair salons are these liminal spaces where you leave a different person from when you entered: like walking through a magical door. For people who haven’t seen it, I wonder if you could talk a little about Deadly Cuts and how central the setting of the hairdressers is to the film?

Yes, absolutely the hairdresser setting was a central part of the idea, and there are loads of reasons why. To start at the start, before I even came up with Deadly Cuts I knew I wanted to make a film that showcased the young, female, Dublin working class voice. As you've heard now, it's very distinctive, and it's very funny - and it was nowhere! Which was crazy to me. So I was just trying to find the right idea. I also have a massive mane of hair, and go to the hairdressers all the time. The bigger, fancy salons are too pricey, so I'd often go to smaller local salons which tend to be the natural habitat of the aforementioned young working class woman. It's also an environment where they're in charge, and I loved that - very few places where this cohort has this kind of power. So that sparked the idea of a comedy that wasn't just about hairdressers being hairdressers, but hairdressers being an exaggerated version of what they really are - central community figures who can make or break your hotness score with the flick of a scissors.


There is nothing more off putting to me than reductive representations of working-class life. In some films, a lower-class status is used simply as a substitute for actual characterisation. However, in Deadly Cuts the characters feel authentic, and the depiction as vivid as it is amusing. I can imagine that lots of people I know, especially in my family, would enjoy hanging out with these women! (I grew up in Caerphilly in South Wales, in an area which seemed to me very similar to the one depicted in Deadly Cuts - for example, I really appreciated the senses of humour which are wielded like weapons!) Could you talk a little about how you approached the portrayal of class in Deadly Cuts, please?

Yeah, I couldn't agree more, too often the working class world is viewed through a middle class lens in film. I was sort of bored of seeing working class Dublin portrayed on screen only in terms of gang violence or as the butt of a joke, and often being played by actors who'd never set foot in one of these areas. The real Dublin accent and the curse-laden, biting wit it brings with it was being lost a lot of the time, as well as all the colour and fun of working class Dublin. So it was very, very important to me that this film was authentic, and respectful, and also that it showed that there was more to these communities than social problems (and where there are social problems, what's really causing them?). I made sure when I was writing to spend as much time in similar areas as I could, chatting to locals about the film and their own experiences, and getting some of the salons involved in the actual making of the film. I also made sure my lead actors were bona fide working class women, and brought as many people as I could from a working class background to the table in terms of crew. I think that's the only way to change these things, you have to involve the people you're talking about.


One thing that no one can accuse Deadly Cuts of is not providing value for money! There is so much going on: thriller, comedy, and, at the end, celebratory camp burlesque - what a ride! Could you talk about how you balanced the various genre elements of Deadly Cuts? If a particularly fussy person organised their DVDs by genre, how would you advise them to categorise Deadly Cuts?

I'd call it a black comedy! With a bit of glitter thrown in. I had to work hard at getting the balance right, especially around creating the character of Deano and his crew. They had to fit the world, but also be awful enough that the audience would get behind the...extreme measures the girls are forced to take. Ultimately I decided that the bad had to be played bad, and would be offset by the humour and character of the girls. Every time something very dark happens, the tension is broken with a gag. But I think no matter how much it skips about in terms of look and location, it's always about the same thing - the disadvantaged trying to win when the odds are stacked against them. 


There is an argument that every independently produced film which gets made and distributed is a triumph. But the film industry is ever changing, with streaming services hopefully providing opportunities for smaller films. What did you find were the major challenges/ opportunities to making an independent film and getting distribution?

I think with a smaller film you've way more freedom. When people see indies they expect them to be a bit different, a bit edgier. I was lucky in that people got on board with this film in its development pretty early on, and on board with real passion. Probably because, as I said earlier, there really hadn't been an authentic Dublin comedy in a long, long time. So support and finance came quicker than I expected. Saying that, I definitely needed to sell it! It was very high concept and you really have to be clear and able to articulate your vision along the way when you want to do something a little bit different. As for distribution, yes, I think the huge appetite for quality and varied content out there is opening doors for films that may have been shut 10, 15 years ago. I think streaming has broadened audiences' horizons when it comes to film, opened them up to a much wider range of genres and styles than they may have normally watched, so I think the demand for really unique and experimental ideas is only going to grow.


Last question! If you could programme Deadly Cuts in a triple bill with two other movies what films would they be? Where would Deadly Cuts fall in the line-up and why?

Great question! I'm going to say I'd programme it into a 'Gals Gone Bad - A Journey Through the Ages' event. I'd open with Gold Diggers of 1933 - in the '30s and '40s female ensemble comedies were huge, and this is one of my favourites - followed by Thelma and Louise, because it's the modern original, and I had that shooting scene in my head a lot when I was working on Deadly Cuts - and then close with Deadly Cuts, because I guess people would get to see where it had come from, how women together being bad and funny has always worked. And also people would be drunk by then and let's face it, Deadly Cuts is a great drunk film.

Deadly Cuts is on UK/ROI VOD now.