Irish director Rebecca Daly’s feature debut The Other Side Of Sleep played in Cannes’ Directors Fortnight. She talks to Screen about her inspirations, shooting in Ireland and sleepwalking.

Making her feature debut in Directors’ Fortnight with The Other Side Of Sleep, about a young woman who becomes obsessed with a murder investigation, Rebecca Daly was the first Irish female film-maker to be eligible for the Caméra D’Or award in Cannes. She developed the feature while taking part in the Cannes Cinéfondation programme in 2008.

Where did the idea for the film come from?

It started with an article in the paper about a girl whose dead body was found in a car park, wrapped in a duvet. Originally, that girl was the main character, but as it developed we decided that we wanted to tell the story through the eyes of someone who wasn’t connected directly.

The central character is a sleepwalker. How did you research that?

Someone suggested that I take medication where the side effect was that it made you sleepwalk, but I thought it would be better to get someone else to do it and watch!

Of course, we didn’t do that. But we did speak to a lot of people who had sleepwalking experiences and my cowriter [Glenn Montgomery]’s brother used to sleepwalk a lot, so he knew what people were capable of doing.

How does your first feature reflect you as a film-maker?

I always think I’m setting out to make something that is really quite realistic. But actually, all of my films, while they do have realistic elements, are quite expressionistic and have a strong psychological or dream element, which is often a surprise.

The film is set, and was shot, in the Irish region of Offaly. Was it important to you to make your first feature in your home country?

Yes, definitely. The stories I am interested in telling are not necessary Irish-specific, but that’s the environment I know. I’m really interested in the little details of how people look and behave and speak.

So it makes sense for me to work in Ireland, at least for my early features.

Do you have any advice for other first-time film-makers?

Always try and see the bigger picture.There is a danger of getting bogged down in details. Detail is important and I love narratives that have that textual detail, but there are times when if I could have let that something go and seen the bigger picture I maybe would have stressed myself out less!

What’s next?

There are a couple of books that I’m interested in adapting and a couple of ideas from newspaper articles. Sometimes you find a little nugget and it develops from there. The challenge is finding something that I can stay with for three years and still be interested in it.