Award-winning filmmaker, Eamonn Tutty, began his career as a writer, having discovered his passion for storytelling at a young age. In 2011, he directed his first self-written short film Untitled, receiving nominations in three categories at The Underground Cinema Awards, including Best Actor, Best Actress and won for Best New Director. His second short film Anna, which he also wrote, directed and produced, featured in a host of festivals, including Newry Film Festival, winning the Audience Choice Award; The Devour Short Film Festival; The Underground Cinema Festival, winning Best Cinematography; The Waterford Film Festival and at Indie Cork, with judges Lenny Abrahamson and Ken Loach, out of the 4,000 entries at this festival, only 48 were selected to be part of their inaugural programme. His third short, Mirror Image, was created as part of The Clones Film Festival’s 48 hour Film Challenge, where it was one of only six selected out of hundreds of entries. It also featured in The Underground Cinema Film Festival and Devour Short Film Festival.
So you caught the writing bug early, Eamonn?
I loved to read from an early age, it fascinated me – the world you could create with words, and I knew it was something I wanted to do. I began writing short stories whilst in primary school, typical childlike stories riddled with imagination, not holding back. And so I began writing as a hobby and tried entering kids’ short story competitions, one was while in sixth class, for The Irish Times.
And writing for the screen?
After my Leaving Cert I attended a course in Media Production. One of our courses was creative writing and script writing. I was such an avid film fan, I had tried to bring my love of words to actually seeing them through onto screen, being able to give life to worlds or characters I’d created, so I wanted to branch into directing. However, the medium of screenplays was alien to me and I wasn’t at all very good, at first attempt.
Did you take inspiration from anyone in particular?
As a child no one really inspired me. I just wanted to write. When I was older, it was my father who inspired me. He always, and continues to, engage me in my work. Why are you writing this? What are you saying? That could be done better. He pushes me to push myself and I think you really need that as a writer, after all you are not writing for yourself you are writing for an audience and you want to connect with them as strongly as you can.
When did you get your first break into the film business?
After college I kept practicing and attending seminars to bring my level of writing up to scratch in screenplay format. In 2008, I secured my first job as an editor on a short film from Writer/Director Sean Reilly with TV World Productions. That was the first time I had been paid for writing work, and I drew interest from an independent producer, Edmon Coissan from Chicago who ran the Napier Film Festival. He was interested in the treatment of my first feature film ‘Justice Falls’. However the screenplay itself was not optioned. I went on to write my second feature spec screenplay ‘The Back Door Girl’. Once again I had a production company interested in the treatment, Fastnet Films, but not the screenplay. The development exec at the time, Megan Everette, suggested it would be worth its weight in gold to work alongside a script editor. And so I did. I was fascinated at how easy it was for her to show how to condense my writing into its essence and to still create a world that was visceral and engaging in the medium of screenplay format. After this I scrapped the entire screenplay and wrote it from scratch, and in 2009 I received my first option agreement from Telegael Media for the newly drafted version. I was also hired as a writer on a series of projects, from treatment/bible writing to adapting a novel into a screenplay. I have since gone on to write, produce and direct three award-winning and nominated short films.
Do you write every day?
I try to write everyday but it is not possible being that I also produce and direct. When I am engaged with my own projects or writing though I do dedicate an awful amount of time and get sucked straight into it. My writing would be organic. I prefer to firstly come up with an idea and write a synopsis. From there I just write and edit as I go. After that I develop the story, fit it around my theme and keep a tight tone based on its genre. And as funny as it sounds, I think constantly about my world and characters. I keep constant notes wherever I go and I make myself dream about the story. I want to know everything about my world and be a part of it, so that when it comes to the final draft I know it inside and out.
Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?
I agree, but it is not a case of write what you do, and a lot of new writers tend to take this approach. As a writer you are creating a fictional world. In terms of write what you know that means in a scene, or a theme, or a situation in your work, how would you handle it, what has been your experience, what is your voice on this, and write about it.
Any other advice for aspiring writers?
Take negativity and make it inspire you. Just like the characters you create you will come up against obstacles and dramas but that’s what creates your characters Arc, and it’s what defines you as a writer too and helps shape your voice. I would take negativity over positivity any day as it pushes you on to succeed and it also helps cripple that one tiny part of every human which doesn’t help but hinder your development – Ego.
And speaking of negativity, if you’ve ever had any, how do you handle negative reviews?
I’ve never had any written reviews that were negative, just friends and family (laughs). I think we all start out, as writers, very protective of our work, and we see any critique to be a personal one as everything on that page is personal. But a real critique is one that is given to improve something, not tear it apart. It has to be constructive and you have to be mature enough to take from it anything that will enhance your work, something you haven’t seen or something you never thought of to help perhaps re-enforce your theme or tone.
You’ve established yourself as a producer, Eamonn. Apart from your own projects, what else have you worked on?
As Assistant Producer, I just came off my first feature film Lead Us Not, directed by Alan Mulligan and produced by Sinead O’Riordan of Orion Productions. I also worked with Sinead previously as Assistant Producer on Eleanor McEvoy’s new single ‘The Thought of You’, directed by Paco Torres, and for a very short period, I did work experience in the Art Department on ShowTime’s Penny Dreadful, creating graphics for the popular network television show. This inspiration drew me into another joint production, that of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, along with Oracle Pictures, shot in James Joyce House and The Botanical Gardens, Dublin.
Do you have an agent, and do you think it necessary to have one?
Currently, I do not have an agent but I do think it is necessary. As you progress as a writer contracts are a tricky and funny business. You can have experience of dealing with option agreements and of course know your way around them, but when it comes to negotiating it is best if someone does it on your behalf rather than getting bogged down with the logistics of your contract, distracting you from your actual job – Writing.
Do you contribute to the marketing / PR of your work?
I would be heavily involved in promoting my work and also those who have collaborated with me on projects. I think it is vital to have some sort of control of your profile as a professional and to also highlight the hard-working people who help you reach the end result of the particular project, be it from crew to cast to marketing.
What’s your opinion of the film production business in general?
I think independent cinema has surged in recent years out of necessity. Cinema these days still has its golden history categories of romance, epic and thriller but they are fewer and rarer these days. It has always been a commercial industry but over the past two decades it has become heavily focused on the gross, the financial recoup and not of cinema or art. You had your shock horrors and now you have the age of the ‘Superhero’ and franchises, remakes and reboots. This means that truly engaging work containing social critique or commentary is put under the ‘Indie’ banner as it is the only way these films get produced. We have created a pool of creative wealth and have been left to fend for ourselves so to speak in the Independent community. The one good factor is that it truly has embodied the spirit of collaboration. But we shouldn’t just be left to look after ourselves, and once the ‘big break’ comes we leave that pool. We have, in Ireland, a national body that looks after film and film investment. It works, for the most part, on bringing productions to Ireland and making ‘Irish films’ but it also needs to nurture new talent. You could have it coupled with looking after existing talent which brings revenue which then frees up funds for a more hands-on approach with looking after new talent coming up. This is how you look after one of our biggest industry sectors in Ireland and ensure we are top of the game.
Current projects, Eamonn?
Currently I am in prep-production on my first feature film as Exec Producer, Director and Writer. It is a final draft version of The Back Door Girl, now entitled Expired, and I have co-written a TV show based on Irish mythology with Alan Dunne called Seanchai. Picked up by Grand Pictures (Moone Boy) and Orion Productions (Lead Us Not), this is in development stage.
And just for fun, six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!
Stanley Kubrick, Jim Morrison, George Carlin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Vince Gilligan and David Milch.
Check out Eamonn’s Facebook Pages Here:
Caroline Farrell has written several feature and short scripts. Most recently, In Ribbons, which she wrote and co-produced, screened at the 2015 Belfast Film Festival and the Corona Fastnet Film Festival.
Caroline blogs… on writing and film… and on a few of her favourite things.