Ross Killeen’s new short film is a charming scoop on the life of an ice-cream van man called Pinky.
“In my head it was going to be this kind of colourful Reservoir Dogs”
“The story begins with my wife Dee who was doing driving lessons, around four years ago, with this hilarious guy called Ken,” says director Ross Killeen. “He started telling her he used to work as an ice-cream man called Mr Jingles. She came home and said ‘you have to make a documentary about this’. It was right up my street.”
Thus began Killeen’s journey which, whilst realised at a pace in keeping with his subject matter, culminates in 99 Problems, his new short which will screen at a number of high profile local and international film festivals this spring.
“It was kind of a shock to me. You hear stories about ice-cream vans. There’s a code of conduct within the industry that I wanted to discover where the likes of Mr Jingles looks after Darndale and Mr Softie looks after Tallaght.”
At first Killeen, who runs video production companies Motherland and Event Junkies, considered approaching it from the perspective of a number of players. “We spoke to Jingles, Softie, Tiger and Bernard (Ben’s Ices). In my head it was going to be this kind of colourful Reservoir Dogs.” However, he found himself realising there was an overlap with a lot of the stories and some conflicting thoughts on the trade and turf wars. He settled upon Pinky (aka Mark Jenkinson) who was a somewhat reluctant participant at first.
“He thought I was doing Prime Time, uncovering the murky world of ice-cream. It took a while to convince him it wasn’t hidden camera and I wasn’t going undercover,” reflects Killeen. “We (Killeen and his producer Louise Byrne) ended up going with Pinky, hung out with him and gained his trust – then a big ad came in and had we to drop everything.”
Fast forward to the summer of 2018 and Killeen and his D.O.P Narayan Van Maele finally went and hung out with Pinky, following his route and interactions with his clientele – needless to say, children being the most important demographic.
“Mark’s a real entrepreneur. His father was one of the pioneers of video shops in Ireland. He had dry cleaners, snooker halls, all sorts of businesses and in the ice cream van trade you’ve got to be enterprising. You have to have your branding and your song. You have stand out and be aggressive and competitive.”
Indeed, 99 Problems uses animated sequences by Jonathan Irwin to illustrate some of the spats in the war of the cones. In terms of a score, the brief was simple – “Taxi Driver for ice cream vans” and James Latimer who worked on Oscar winning Irish short Stutterer stepped up and delivered. He also brought on board Joe Rigby who had edited his short Becoming Men – his poetic observations of youth jumping into the Liffey on a sunny day – which he used to launch Motherland a few years ago.
“It’s just been a great experience. It’s great to see the transformation of Pinky from being really reluctant to fully embracing it and being ready for the red carpet with the van parked outside. He used to have the Pink Panther as his tune but it drove him mad. His tune is Mozart now.”
Expect to hear more Mozart in the coming months as Pinky brings his van to the red carpet. And Dee did pass her driving test.
99 Problems will premiere at a number of film festivals this spring. Details will will be announced this month.
Words: Michael McDermott
Photos: Malcolm McGettigan