A busy weekend at Waterford Film Festival (November 8th – 10th) for writer James Phelan was capped by winning best short screenplay at the awards ceremony. The competition is open to hitherto unproduced scripts every year and receives entries from across Ireland and around the world.
James’ short script The Drowning Pool was selected from over 120 initial submissions as well as triumphing in a reduced list of twenty finalists. The Drowning Pool is a dark brooding drama that explores whether a violent act can ever break a cycle of violence and actually have a positive outcome.
The period film is set in a stark crumbling town on the edge of civilisation where neither law nor religion has taken hold. Against this bleak backdrop, the brutal patriarch of a bunch of feral boys becomes a target of long-plotted revenge. It’s a visual and hugely evocative script infused with a palpable air of both menace and mystery that still manages to end on a real moment of hope and optimism.
The writer of both seasons of Rasai na Gaillimhe, James plans to add The Drowning Pool to his list of directing credits. He previously directed the Filmbase/RTE short Poetic Licence and the Galway Film Centre/RTE short The Ottoman Empire as well as several independently produced shorts. He also contributed a short film to the portmanteau feature Hotel Darklight. James also intends making his feature directing debut in 2014 with the self penned project Nailbiter.
The award bookended a busy weekend for the Waterford native as he simultaneously hosted a table reading of his latest feature screenplay Stalled in the city. The project was awarded a bursary by the Artlinks organisation in April this year in order to create a first draft. Set in Waterford, Stalled depicts an escalating feud between a young car thief and a driving test assessor that begins innocently but spirals out of control with tragic consequences for all concerned.
James describes the film as a social realism thriller. ‘In one way it’s hugely indebted to the tradition of Mike Leigh’s films but I hope I’ve managed to craft a gripping story with the attributes of a thriller while still being firmly rooted in a recognisable reality’.
With the assistance of Kevin Glynn of Big Idea Films, James cast the table reading via a day of auditions of local talent. ‘We assembled a great ensemble of local actors. It was instructive and extremely positive to hear a Waterford set film with Waterford voices. If this film were to be made, casting local faces and unearthing new talent seems like an organic conclusion of this script’s journey.’
James currently has a number of projects in advanced development including the historical comedy drama mini-series ‘Wrecking the Rising’ with TG4.
James is represented by Holly Carey at Lisa Richards Agency.
The cast of the Stalled table read. L-R – Stephen Forristal, Emer O Brien, Shane Flynn, Rhiannon Colbert, Nick Kavanagh, Damien McDonnell, Kieran Doyle, Anita O Keefe and Lorraine Murphy.