TO DESCRIBE Liam Ó Mochain's latest film, Lost & Found, as a labour of love would be something of an understatement.
His third feature-length effort, the film presents seven interconnecting stories set in and around the Lost & Found office of an Irish train station and the people that come into contact with it.
Each of the tales presented in the movie is inspired by true stories, either passed on to Mochain or experienced first-hand, by the filmmaker, himself.
The result is something akin to Robert Altman's Short Cuts, albeit with Mochain's own take on the familiar anthology movie format, combining comedy and drama while retaining a distinctive Irish warmth.
Released in Ireland last summer, Lost & Found has just arrived in UK cinemas having already won best foreign film at the 2018 Arizona International Film Festival following successful screenings at Dingle International Film Festival, IndieCork, and the Galway Film Fleadh.
It's the culmination of five years of on-and-off work for a filmmaker determined to make the movie he wanted to make in exactly the way he wanted to make it.
Having shot to prominence with his debut feature The Book That Wrote Itself back in 1999, Mochain revealed to The Irish Post how he first hit upon the idea for Lost & Found.
With work directing numerous short films, documentaries and tv shows under his belt, he began thinking about the idea of an anthology movie after completing work on his second feature, 2007's critically-lauded WC.
"I had made a film that came out in 2007 that was called WC about two toilet attendants in a jazz bar, set over the course of a single day" Mochain explains.
"I liked the idea of building a film around this one setting and the challenge of holding the audience's attention the whole time."
What Mochain was less keen on, however, was the demands and restrictions of a feature-length movie shoot, so he decided to go back to basics.
"Features can take a long time and cost a lot of money so after WC I decided to make another short film, which ended up being Covet."
He's already enjoyed some success with his first short Fortune but it was his experience on Covet, which ended up being shortlisted for an Oscar nomination in 2013, that helped convince him to take a different approach with Lost & Found.
"I just had so much fun. It was a simple shoot, done over two days and I just thought I would love to do a similar anthology film like Short Cuts," Mochain says.
The approach saw the Irish filmmaker work on the project, on and off, for the next five years, filming each interconnecting story over the course of five, four-day shoots spread across the period and involving no fewer than 20 different actors.
It was a process that not only freed him up financially but also creatively.
"Doing little bits over time meant it didn't have to cost a lot of money up front," he explains. "It also gave me a chance to think about the characters and the stories a lot more."
It also allowed him access to a stellar ensemble cast, featuring a whole host of names happy to contribute a couple of days out of their busy schedules to be involved in this enjoyably Irish affair.
Norma Sheahan (Moone Boy), Liam Carney (Red Rock), Aoibhin Garrihy (The Fall), Anthony Morris (Game of Thrones), Seamus Hughes (Jimmy's Hall), Brendan Conroy (Vikings), Barbara Adair (Grabbers), Sean Flanagan (Foil Arms & Hog), Mary McEvoy (Glenroe), Diarmuid Noyes (Borgia), Lynette Callaghan (Cold Feet), Olga Wehrly (The Clinic), Daniel Costelloe (Albert Nobbs), Donncha Crowley (Father Ted) and Mochain himself all feature across a variety of stories that use the familiar setting of the train station for a series of suitably interconnected tales.
"I had heard lots of different stories that played on this theme of lost and found, whether it was something physical or metaphorical," Mochain says.
"I've always been fascinated by train stations. You have all these tracks that are almost like veins coming into the heart of a community, the station."
"There are train stations all over the world and people who spend so much of their lives in them. These huge, bustling cities with the same people on the same journeys every day and yet most probably know nothing about each other. But they all have a story to tell, a story that's unique to them."
The stories themselves were inspired by Mochain's experiences, the experiences of friends and from the world around him.
"Some of these stories actually happened to me. I remember I was in Morocco at a station and there was a guy with a bag going around telling everyone he was going to London to see his sister and it didn't seem quite right. I didn't believe him. I knew there was more to it."
"The story about the girl who decides she is going to get married, come hell or high water, and books a church even though she doesn't have the groom yet actually happened to a friend of a friend. Their husband still doesn't know."
"The story about the guy who is possibly going to have to propose to his girlfriend in the airport because the ring sets off the metal detector was inspired by something that happened to a Canadian couple a few years ago going through Heathrow."
The main aim was to ensure he always struck a balance between them.
"I wanted to have a variety of stories with tones, some more comedic, others more poignant. I wanted to mix it up and also get to know the different types of story and different types of characters."
The experience has helped reinforce belief that his success as a filmmaker stems from trusting his instincts and doing things his own way.
"I've come to realise the filmmakers that inspire you don't necessarily inform your work. I'm a fan of a lot of different filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam, Neil Jordan and William Friedkin.
"They inspire me to make films, rather than make films like them. It's that dedication and determination to take on these projects and see them through, that's what's inspiring."
Mochain has already set his sights on making more films too both in Ireland and over in Hollywood.
"I don't want to spend five years on my next project and I want to work on a feature," he says. "I love movies about con artists, like the Michael Caine and Steve Martin classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. There's something about the type of movie and that comic tone."
"So, I've written this movie, set in the west of Ireland, about these two guys and a girl who are working a con but you're never really sure who is conning who," he teases.
"I've also written something a little different for Hollywood involving American football and drag queens. It's going to be great."
Another departure from the low-key magic of Lost & Found, it sounds like Mochain is continuing to make films exactly how he wants to and the world of cinema is a richer place for it.
Lost & Found is out now.