Film Ireland caught up with Lee Cronin, whose latest short film, Ghost Train, is set to screen at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, which takes place 31st January – 8th February, 2014.
Written and directed by Cronin, the film tells the story of estranged brothers Michael and Peter. Once a year the brothers make a reluctant pilgrimage to the old fairground where their friend Sam went missing three decades ago. Things take a turn this year though as Michael has a secret to confess.
Ghost Train is a cleverly-crafted subtle chiller with a heart that has a team behind it – from the writing and direction through to the visual construction , design and sound – that screams “feature”. The cast is made up of Owen McDonnell and Steve Wall as the two adult brothers who come together to deal with the trauma of their past youthful deeds, which are acted out in flashback by Sean Gormley, Matthew Dillon and Matthew Broe with strong natural performances.
Lee explains how the beginning of the project was “off the back of a really weird dream I had about my best mate when I was around 8 years old. We were wandering through an abandoned cottage and in one of the rooms there was a withered old woman on the wall, like those low quality effigies you would see inside Ghost Trains in the 1980s. She wasn’t so low quality when she suddenly came to life with a slow turn of her head and guttural cackle. She scared me awake and all I could think about was this childhood friend I hadn’t seen in so so long. I wondered how he was, what his life was like? Although the film we made is very different to this slice of REM, it holds onto some of those feelings and themes, so I guess that’s were it all began. I blame late night cheese and bad TV.
“Once I had a script, I was really lucky to get the opportunity to pitch the project to a bunch of European producers and funders at an event called Euro-Connection. The pitch went well and we ended up getting a Finnish producer and funding from the Finnish Film Foundation – It’s never that straight forward but that was the outcome! With this and the awesome support we were shown by The Irish Film Board from the very beginning it put us in a position to go out and make the film. We shot at Halloween in 2012 which somehow added to its atmosphere. From there it took about 7 months in post, there are quite a few VFX shots which were done in Finland, mainly over Skype, so the process was challenging but really rewarding in the end.”
With the film set to screen at Clermont, Lee is delighted that Ghost Train is in the International Competition. “To me it means the film is been taken seriously for the human story at its centreas well as for the fantastical elements that are all part of its tapestry. Myself and the core team on the film knew from the start we didn’t just want a film with some cool visual effects and no substance and I think getting onto the programme in Clermont shows we made some decent decisions along the way.
“The thing that means most to me though is that the film will play in front of some big audiences, so it will be great to see how people respond to the film and will hopefully act as a launchpad for more festival screenings around the world.”