Film Ireland 139 Winter 2011: Areaman Productions on the Sony PMW-F3

(still from Areaman Production’s ‘The Fisherman’ taken using an F3 in low light conditions)

The ‘F3’ is the camera we were really hoping Sony would make. As a small production outfit, Areaman has to consider very carefully any potential equipment purchase. We needed to buy into a camera and workflow that would last for at least three years and the arrival of the PMW-F3 has made our decision a comfortable one.

 

The F3, as it’s commonly called, gives us the best of all possible worlds for our current level of production. Broadly speaking, we retain the same post-production workflow from the EX1. We can use the same SXS cards and the same batteries from our original rig along with the same tripod and Steadicam model. This makes the initial buy-in less steep. With the added purchase of an MTF Nikon to the F3 adapter, we can mount our Nikon glass directly onto the front of the F3. This simple fact has proved utterly joyous. Our control of the image is now entirely photographic in the most basic, old-fashioned sense. The frustration of the Letus rig where everything had to be shot in a shallow depth of field by default has disappeared and we can now use the full aperture range of our lenses.

 

From a user’s point of view, the F3 is a very comfortable step up from the EX1 and EX3 cameras – the menu systems are the same, many of the function buttons are in the same place and the LCD is of the same excellent standard. XLR inputs are configured in the same way and there are even extra inputs for unbalanced audio. The body, though, is meatier. The immediate impression is one of heft. If the EX1 is an athlete, the F3 is a bruiser. The body is thick and brick shaped but beautifully balanced. Mounting the F3 on our Steadicam was child’s play and using it handheld, as we have been all this week, is a real treat.

 

The image coming out of the F3, while technically similar to that from the EX1, is streets ahead. You can search online for side-by-side comparisons. The F3 is simply incredible in low light. You can film by candlelight, you can film by streetlight, and you can even film by the light from an iPhone screen. The native capabilities of the Super 35mm CMOS sensor, combined with some fast lenses on the front, means that in a large number of shooting situations lighting becomes optional. The real implications of this are becoming clearer the more we shoot with this camera. The meaning of the term available light is being transformed. We tested the camera extensively on our recent Reality Bites documentary for the Irish Film Board where we filmed almost entirely at dawn or at dusk. Even as our eyes were failing us, the F3 was taking in stunning, murky images with almost no visible noise.

 

As anyone who uses a camera regularly knows, technical specs are always going to run secondary to how the rig feels to use. The F3 feels great. It is not very pretty or curvy and flashy. It’s a big dumb brick of a camera with a powerful chip inside and we are very happy to have one.

 

www.areaman.tv

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland issue 139 Winter 2011.

Eurotek and Sony will host a Masterclass on the Sony PMW-F3 camcorder on Tuesday 6th March 10.30am – 5.00pm at Filmbase.

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Chinese Film Festival

Bodyguards-and-Assassins

The Chinese Film Festival kung fued its way onto Dublin screens on Friday with the opening-night screening of Bodyguards and Assassins, folowed by a wine reception at the IFI.

Bodyguards and Assassins proved itself to be a near perfect introduction into Chinese cinema: Star-studded cast, political commentary, warm characters, impressive sets and some decent action. There’s precious little to dislike, and some dialogue is genuinely (and intentionally) hilarious.

Genre veterans may not rate it mind. In fact, many might have already enjoyed more technically impressive martial arts, more loveable characters and more emotionally charged content.

Nonetheless, Bodyguards and Assassins offers great fusion of styles, with ample ‘Fan Service’ that’s not overly gratuitous. Best of all, it’s easy watching and acts as a great hook to entice those unfamiliar with Chinese cinema.

Jack McGlynn

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Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival asks 'What is a cinema?"

corona-fastnet-scoogan
Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival

The Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival is a four-day cultural experience, set in the picturesque seaside town of Schull over the last weekend in May. The event brings together, industry veterans as well as first time filmmakers, Academy-Award winners and film lovers of all ages. Filmmakers have the opportunity to interact with industry professionals, at workshops, master classes, panel discussions, screen talks and many other live events, exploring the craft and business of filmmaking.

The Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival is held annually, from Thursday 26th May through to Sunday 29th, drawing an estimated 2,000 attendees and screening over 200 films. This year we challenge the notion of ‘what is a cinema’ and seeing as Schull doesn’t have one, in the face of adversity, we will be looking for the answer in every corner of the village. This year for the first time, all of the submission films will be broadcast to pubs, restaurants and every available venue in town through an intranet server, set up by our local broadband provider. There will be several carefully selected short programmes for various age groups and for all tastes. They will range from 1st time directors, to award winning, local, national and international filmmakers with a wide mix of genres including drama, comedy, horror, thriller, animation, experimental and dance. For four days Schull will become a true festival of film.

‘Once again we’ve got an amazing line up this year, exploring the areas of Production, Direction, Sound and Cinematography and with the revolutionary innovation of broadcasting films to the whole village we expect the festival to be the best yet,’ said festival Co-Chair Helen Wells.

Further information available online http://www.fastnetshortfilmfestival.com

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SAVAGE – Special Mention at Leeds International Film Festival

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Brendan Muldowney’s debut feature ‘Savage’ picked up a Special Mention in the Méliès Competition at the recent Leeds International Film Festival, see here.

The jury commented that SAVAGE was “a brutal, powerful and brave piece of filmmaking with an impressive central performance at the heart of it”.

In December ‘Savage’ will be screening at the upcoming Capital Irish Film Festival (CIFF) in Washington DC, for more details click here.

‘Savage’, starring Darren Healy (’Eamon’, ‘Once’) and Nora-Jane Noone (’The Descent’, ‘The Magdalene Sisters’), is an exploration of violence and masculinity – a story of obsession and revenge, as a man tries to come to terms with a brutal, random attack and its consequences. It was produced by Conor Barry for SP Films and funded by the Irish Film Board.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Savage-The-Movie/339916004056

http://www.savage-the-movie.com/

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'Swansong, The Story of Occi Byrne' on release in selected cinemas on Friday 10th September

swansong

The feature film Swansong, Story of Occi Byrne, written and directed by Conor McDermottroe, goes on release in the Light House Cinema, Dublin and in select cinemas in the Sligo/Leitrim area from today Friday 10th September.

Swansong, Story of Occi Byrne portrays the life of Austin ‘Occi’ Byrne who is brought up in Sligo by his alcoholic mother and who suffers traumatic bullying at the hands of a local gang because he has no father. Occi grows up plagued by anger, confusion and pain. In the hopes of unlocking his own identity and overcoming the past that haunts him, he sets out to find his father and discover the secret of his birth. Remaining fiercely loyal to his mother, Occi is consistently tested on his journey, but eventually learns the true power that comes with love, friendship and most of all, a sense of belonging.

This emotional film stars Martin McCann (The Sound of People, Killing Bono) in the lead role as Occi, with Jodie Whittaker (Perrier’s Bounty), Marcella Plunkett (Once), Gerard Mc Sorley (Wide Open Spaces), Brid Brennan (Dancing at Lughnasa) and Owen Roe (Intermission) all included in the cast.

Produced by Edwina Forkin and Tom Maguire for Zanzibar Films in Ireland and Hermann Florin for Florin Films in Germany, it was co-financed by the IFB, RTÉ, Eurimage, Kinowelt and ZDF/Arte and was shot entirely on location in Sligo.  The film premiered at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh where it picked up the runner up prize for Best Irish Feature Film.

Swansong, Story of Occi Byrne will be released in the Light House Cinema, Smithfield and in selected cinemas in the Sligo/Leitrim area and will also be showing in towns through the North-west cinemobile. Conor McDermottroe will be in attendance for Q&A sessions.

Film Ireland will have an exclusive podcast interview with Conor McDermottroe online next week.

Find out where you can catch the film at the official website http://www.swansongthemovie.com

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ISSUE 133 – My Brothers

My Brothers

With My Brothers getting great responses since its trip to Tribeca, AMANDA SPENCER talks to Paul Fraser about his feature directorial debut.

Fraser’s first big screen collaboration, 24/7saw a lifelong friendship and creative collaboration with Shane Meadows reach a wider audience. Since then, continued collaborations show the writer/director display a love of, and contribution to, cinema that is character-led, choice-driven and hinged on small scale adventures that are still somehow epic.

Fraser deals in heart. His writing credits include, A Room for Romeo Brass, Somers Town, Dead Man’s Shoes Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and Damien O’Donnell’s Heartlands. Films that get right into their characters, characters whose lives are lived in unspectacular surrounds, with few outlets. The themes are rich and universal and Fraser’s tales travel. This time around, and for his feature directorial debut, they’ve come to Ireland.

My Brothers is a road trip embarked on by three brothers to replace their ailing father’s treasured broken watch. Filmed in Cork last November/December, it was penned by young Irish writer, Will Collins. Fraser loves to write. For that reason, he had always assumed his first feature would be self-penned. However, in meeting Will, he found a script that fitted his style, a young writer he wanted to champion and a feature he wanted to direct.

AMANDA SPENCER: How did things go in Tribeca?
Paul Fraser: Well, we premiered in Tribeca. We finished the film the week before and with the volcanic ash in the mix, Rebecca O’Flanagan and Rob Walpole, the producers, had to go the scenic route to NY to deliver the film. We got some good reviews and great feedback. Yeah, it went down really well and we all eventually got out there, so that was great. It’ll go on a journey of its own now, around to different festivals. I’d love to see it released around autumn.

What started you on the road to writing and directing?
Shane Meadows and I saw Mean Streets one weekend and then we went to a petrol station where you could hire these old cameras that had the VHS cassettes in them. It was the first time I’d ever picked up a camera and we just did silly little sketches and watched them back and laughed our heads off.

Did you have an educational background in film?
I spent two years in bed with a back problem when I was a little boy, but I had really good home tuition. My English teacher just made me write stories. He’d send me a brief, I’d write the story and that was my English education for about a year and a half. When I finished school, I went to business school for four weeks. I then quit that, because it was awful. I got a call from a friend who was doing a performing arts course. They needed help lighting a show. So I went in to help out, and I was watching everyone pretending to be trees, thinking, ‘what a load of nonsense.’ But actually, that’s where I started to write. Then I went on and did a contemporary art degree, and I was writing one-man shows and monologues that I could improvise around because I performed them myself.

When was your big break, and did you see it coming?
At the same time, I was writing little shorts with Shane and we got interest from Palace Pictures/Scala Productions (Stephen Woolley, Nik Powell, Imogen West). They’d seen a short film we’d made called Where’s the Money, Ronnie? and offered us money to make a proper short. We said ‘no,’ though. We wanted to make a feature. The idea we had at that time was for 24/7. So, they paid for us to go and write in a cottage in Wales. After five days, we sent them 200 pages and thought, ‘That was easy.’ They sent us back a list of notes and that’s where my proper education began, I guess. It allowed me to train to be a screenwriter on the job.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 133.

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ISSUE 133 – The Producers

The Runway

Everyone knows how essential a good producer is – but what do they actually do? Film Ireland got producer VANESSA GILDEA on the case.

Most times when you tell someone that you’re a producer, the first thing they ask is ‘What exactly does a producer do?’. The reason the question is so often asked and why the answer is so complex is that producing can encompass so many facets of the filmmaking process – it’s almost impossible to define succinctly. But we decided to give it a go anyway and talked to four established Irish producers working across a variety of genres: Macdara Kelleher, Martina Niland, Cathal Gaffney and John Murray.

Macdara Kelleher is managing director of Fastnet Films. He produced the award-winning feature film Kisses (an Irish/Danish/Swedish co-production) and was also selected as Ireland’s Producer on the Move for Cannes in 2008.

Martina Niland is a producer with Samson Films and among her many credits are the multi award-winning feature Pavee Lackeen and the Oscar®-winning film Once. She has also worked on Carmel Winters’ new feature Snap.

Cathal Gaffney established Brown Bag Films with Darragh O’Connell and currently executive produces. Brown Bag has been twice nominated for an Oscar® for the short films Give Up Yer Aul Sins and Granny O’Grimm and they also make several international animation series.

John Murray is managing director of Crossing the Line Films and has produced and directed over 100 documentaries. He has a passion for adventure, exploration and travel docs and recently produced The Yellow Bittern, the Liam Clancy documentary.

How would you define what a producer is and does?
MACDARA KELLEHER: Start with an easy question why don’t ya? It’s almost impossible to answer that, there’s so many different types of producer out there. Sometimes you originate the idea or come up with the initial concept or sometimes a writer/director comes with an idea and it’s your job to realise that. In one way you could say that the producer is the person who brings the project to life. Some days you’re a lawyer or an accountant and some days you’re creative, it’s hard to define…

What training or experience really helped you become a producer?
MK: I started working on films when I was about 18. I think just being around films and filmmaking gave me a good understanding of how it works. If you’re shooting a film in the North Pole, and you haven’t done it before, no amount of training or experience is going to prepare you for that. Every time you do a co-production with a new country it’s a whole new set of rules. It’s kind of like a game of chess, you’re always developing new strategies.

What’s the most unusual way you’ve ever funded a film?
MK: I funded one with credit cards, I wouldn’t recommend it. Sometimes you might come across a private investor who happens to be a philanthropist but it doesn’t happen very often. Also, taking private money for features and promising to give it back can be a dangerous process. In America they’re quite canny about funding, largely because outside of tax credits they have no public film funding like in Europe.

Do you find raising finance the hardest part of producing?
MK: It depends. If you have a director that people know or you have a great cast attached then it might not be so hard. If you’re working with a first-time director it can be difficult, but in that case you have to set the budget to an achievable level. Budget levels are coming down across the board and that’s proving difficult.

What has been your proudest achievement as a producer?
MK: To be still at it, I think. I’ve been doing it for ten years now. I’m still at it and I’ve kept a company going. The film that I’m most proud of having made would definitely be Kisses.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 133.

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ISSUE 133 – Him & Him

Ken and Andrew

It’s a year since director Ken Wardrop and producer Andrew Freedman won the Best Feature Award at the Galway Fleadh for the beguiling documentary His & Hers. JAMIE HANNIGAN talks to the filmmakers about dealing with sales agents, their festival strategy and getting that cinema release.

JAMIE: It’s been a good year for you since His & Hers premiered at Galway: did you make any special preparations for that screening, invite lots of friends and family?

ANDREW: The run-up to that screening was a very manic period for us, because the film was only just completed in advance of Galway. So, first and foremost, we were very nervous about how the film would go down, how the audience would react, because… Well, we had a few friends and family there but because of the slot we were given, the vast majority of people would be members of the industry, members of the public, and we had no control over that. But we thought, fair enough, let the film do the talking and see how it goes. We were nervous, to the point that Ken didn’t even watch it during the first screening…

KEN: And I haven’t watched it.

ANDREW: …and you haven’t watched it since!

What was the reaction? I mean, you presumably came in at the end…

KEN: Well, you may have not heard the drama. We had to stop the screening because the frame-rate was wrong on the projector. The first fifteen minutes would have been interfered with, so we stopped it and restarted. I had been rung from Andrew in the meantime to say that this had happened, so I’d obviously had a hernia down in the Yacht Club. I was expecting the worst when we came back…

ANDREW: At the end of the film, you really didn’t want to go in. I said, ‘Listen, the reaction was good…’ And when we went in, we pretty much immediately got a standing ovation, which I have to say, I haven’t seen at Galway before. That was the best endorsement of the film, so far. Because once that happened, we entered into other festivals with a lot more confidence. Also, although we weren’t really aware of it, the amount of members of the industry from all over the world who were actually at Galway – you don’t really think about it, but you see them again and again when you start to go on the festival circuit. They were all there and they all saw the film, and we were getting phone calls from Sony the next day, and phone calls from bigger distribution companies, wanting to get copies of the film. Which is something you just don’t really expect in Galway, in Ireland, for it to have such an immediate knock-on effect.

When did you encounter your first sales agent?

ANDREW: Well… The sales agent side of things took longer to develop, because although there was a lot of interest and everybody wanted to see the film, it didn’t necessarily mean that they wanted to jump on board. So the sales agent thing was gradual. In the end, we settled with Andrew Herwitz of the Film Sales Company in New York because he responded very well to the film and he was really passionate about it. And he seemed like the right person to bring the film to Sundance, which was our major international premiere.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 133.

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