Issue 128 – Shoots & Roots

Gavin Burke reports on the Catalyst Project, a scheme set up to nurture budding filmmakers.


‘The main thing is that I got to write and direct a feature film. I got a huge amount of creative freedom to make the film I wanted to make and I’m incredibly grateful for that opportunity.’ Conor Horgan, writer and director of One Hundred Mornings.

It’s tough making films. They cost a lot of money and because the economic downturn is showing no signs of levelling out just yet, the chance to get any kind of film made is becoming ever more precarious. With this in mind the Catalyst Project was launched in 2007 – 3 movies, 3 teams of writers, directors and producers, a budget of €250,000 each – and aimed at first-time filmmakers and emerging talent in all areas of production. Can a film be made on €250,000 and will low-budget filmmaking be with us for the foreseeable future?


‘Our aim was to encourage new talent, provide training and mentorship at every stage and to “fast-track” films into production’, says Alan Maher of BSÉ/IFB. ‘We felt that as much experience as possible should be gained on the ground without going through months or years of raising finance for a larger budget. It was hoped that new, distinctive voices would emerge from this process. Through the initial workshops, we also wanted to encourage filmmakers to talk to each other, to establish contacts and networks that would hopefully lead to exciting collaborations in the future.’

Whittling down a massive 400 hopeful projects to 50 and then to just three wasn’t an easy task, but it was completed in November of 2007. So where are we now?

One of the three films funded, Eamon, is the only film to have completed post-production to date. A brooding, satirical drama, Eamon’s plot follows a family on holiday whose attempt to get a short break from their problems at home doesn’t materialise as they are forced to fight for survival. ‘Nothing else can push you forward as a writer/director like making a low-budget feature film,’ says Eamon’s director Margaret Corkery. ‘It is very rare for a first-time feature filmmaker to get the opportunity to make a fully state-funded film with total creative control.’

Alan Maher’s ‘training at every stage’ has certainly benefited PJ Dillon, the director of Redux, a psychological thriller set in a rural town that sees the life of a woman (played by Amy Huberman) turn upside down when her ex-con boyfriend turns up to reveal a secret she has been keeping from her husband. PJ is in the middle of editing now, a skill he has a newfound respect for. ‘Nothing quite prepared me for editing a feature,’ says PJ. ‘Getting the rhythm and pacing of a feature film right is very difficult and should not be underestimated. I hope I’ve gotten this one right and, given the chance to direct another feature, I’m sure the experience gained here will inform how I approach shooting in the future.’

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 128