‘QED’ Screens at Santa Fe Film Festival

QED, a powerful human rights short directed by Galway actorress Amy-Joyce Hastings will have its international premiere at the 17th Santa Fe Film Festival in February. This will mark Hastings’ third appearance in Santa Fe. She has screened there twice previously as an actor; when Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin personally hosted the US premiere of her romantic comedy feature The Callback Queen at his famous Jean Cocteau Cinema, and at the 2016 festival when her participating film Lily won both ‘Best Narrative Short’ and the ‘Courage in Cinema’ Award for its director Graham Cantwell.

Billed as a stylish urban drama with deep emotional resonance, QED tells the story of Jack and Ali – a happily married couple until a terrible accident shatters their perfect world. In the aftermath Ali struggles to accept their new circumstances, while Jack retains hope their lives will return to normal. As the difficulties of their daily reality grind them down, Jack finds emotional solace in a flirtation with work colleague Claudia, while Ali is increasingly left alone with home carer Maria. Ali’s emotional distress meanwhile manifests ever more frequently in dangerous episodes. Just as Jack finally comes to accept things as they are and commits himself to do better, Ali has reached her own conclusion about the future and puts their love to the test. Exploring the theme of sacrificial love, QED poses the ultimate question, ‘What won’t love do?’

 

QED premiered at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh and screened at the Kerry Film Festival and the Richard Harris International Film Festival in Limerick late last year. Says Hastings about the film, “QED is ostensibly a drama exploring love and fidelity but it is at its core a complex human rights issue that will become more prevalent in our society as we live longer. I approached the film from the perspective of being a prisoner in your own body. As a society we deny people their human rights in determining on their own behalf whether they want to live like that. We meet two active, sexual, successful characters – take all that away and their marriage as they knew it is destroyed, but their love remains. Agápē – a love that is prepared to sacrifice itself for a higher purpose. She loves him and so doesn’t want to condemn him to a lifetime of celibate caretaking. He loves her and wants to release her, but feels it’s an impossible ask… What won’t love do? Can you ask someone you love to suffer; to sacrifice their own life to look after you; to live with your death on their conscience? Can you set them free even if it would destroy you? The ending is deliberately ambiguous. I leave it to the individual viewer to interpret. My entire thesis with QED is about the individual’s right to decide, not society’s right to superimpose their decision onto somebody who’s physically incapable of determining their own future. It’s a hard, emotive subject, but I think it is the role of art to shine a light on difficult topics.”

 

The film was co-written by Hastings and lead actor Michael O’Kelly (Red Rock). It stars Donna Anita Nikolaisen – best known for her role as Ama Chisenga in Fair City – as Ali, with prolific actors Norma Sheahan (Handsome Devil) and Charlene Gleeson (Penny Dreadful) cast in the other principal roles.

 

QED is Hastings’ fourth short film behind the lens. In July 2016 she wrote & directed Body of Christ, a micro short commissioned by the Galway Film Centre. Body of Christ won ‘Best One Minute Film’ at the 7th Underground Cinema Film Festival, 2nd place at the 28th Galway Film Fleadh’s ‘One Minute Film Festival’. The film was also nominated for the Micro Cinema Award at the Blackbird Film Festival in New York last year and is nominated at the upcoming Sky Television’s Short Film Show Awards later this year. Previous shorts as writer/director include Hear Me Now and Nocturne Passage.

QED was shot on various locations in and around Dublin. Trisha Flood, Danielle Collins, Jannik Ohlendieck and Michael O’Kelly produced, with Alan Fitzpatrick, Graham Cantwell and Alice Mansergh as Executive Producers for Filmbase and Film Venture. The multinational crew includes Czech cinematographer Jaro Waldeck as Director of Photography, with TV3 Fashionista Sonja Mohlich as Costume Designer, Marina Granville as Key Makeup and Hair Artist, and Jessica Timlin and Alekson Lacerda Dall’Armellina on production design. The score was created by two time Emmy nominated composer Joseph Conlan and post production sound was headed up by Dean Jones at Raygun Sound.

Amy-Joyce Hastings, Co-writer & Director of ‘QED’

 

 

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Amy-Joyce Hastings, Co-writer & Director of ‘QED’

Charlene Gleeson (QED) 

Amy-Joyce Hastings shines a light on her short film QED, which screens at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

What can you tell us about QED?

I’m being somewhat tight-lipped about some of the major themes until after it’s had its world premiere in Galway. You only get one chance to see it with a virgin audience if that makes sense… QED tackles some big issues, it will be controversial to some I imagine but sure to spark debate at any rate! At its core it’s a film about love. For a short, at just 17 minutes, it takes a deep dive into a passionate marital relationship and poses the ultimate question – what won’t love do?

 

How did the story come about for you and Michael O’Kelly? 

So the story was Michael’s, and the screenplay was mine. He had this amazing idea he’d been carrying around in his head for years, it was loosely inspired by real events from his own life. He first pitched the idea to me last year at the Kerry Film Festival and I was blown away by it. When I read his first draft it didn’t really put across the story he’d described to me back then so we worked on the story for several weeks till we had a filmable script that effectively put across the themes and relationship I’d found so captivating initially. Michael was great to work with on the script, and that is so often not easy for somebody to do. It was a very fluid collaboration.

 

Were you planning to direct from the get-go?

No, not at all. I was just at a festival listening to an actor’s idea for a short. That happens a lot. I never imagined I’d end up making it! Then a month later I asked Michael to take part in a reading of my feature screenplay After The Rain, after which he asked if I’d direct his short. I was very taken with the idea but was stuck into my own screenplay and thought his first draft needed time I didn’t have to develop it into a film. But at the same time, something in it just struck a chord with me and I couldn’t let it go. And here we are now….

 Amy-Joyce Hastings

You’ve written and directed a number of shorts now – it’s obviously something you enjoy alongside acting…

I love it. It’s a crazy amount of work, but there’s something addictive about taking something from your imagination and making it manifest. There are commonalities with acting – the storytelling, the creativity, and of course there are differences – it’s a lot more technical and time consuming on the one project, but they are all very rewarding in their various ways.

 

Can you tell us a little about Filmbase’s involvement in the project?

Yes, I’m delighted Filmbase was one of the main production companies on QED. It was similar to the scheme Alan Fitzpatrick [Filmbase MD] devised last year with Lily. So, each Spring the Filmbase Digital Masters students make a feature film through Filmbase. And last year Graham Cantwell, who mentors on the course, had a short film script he really wanted to make, so Alan cleverly suggested they produce it through Filmbase and use it as a training exercise for the Digital Masters, prior to going out to shoot their own feature. They hired in professional Heads of Departments and each HOD supervised a team of students who made up the crew. I sent Alan the QED script in January and he really responded to it and suggested we do it the same way as we had with Lily, provided we could shoot early February! It was a very quick pre-production period but we took that great momentum into the shoot. Filmbase also provided some of the resources and film equipment for us. It really helped us achieve high production values so we could best utilise our budget.

 

You must be excited to screen at Galway…

I’m thrilled to premiere the film at Galway. It’s an exceptional year for shorts programming with some big names in the category. It’s always a great launching pad for films in Ireland. I had to press very hard to get the film ready in time but it was worth it now it’s in!

 

QED screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts 1 on Wednesday, 12th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:30.

Buy Tickets

 

The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017

 

 

 

Preview of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2017

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George R. R. Martin to present North American Cinema Premiere of ‘The Callback Queen’

Amy-Joyce Hastings in The Callback Queen

Amy-Joyce Hastings

George R. R. Martin, the renowned author of the Game of Thrones series of novels and owner of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will present the North American Cinema Premiere of The Callback Queen from February 7th 2014.

The Callback Queen is directed by award winning Irish filmmaker Graham Cantwell, with an Irish and international cast including Amy-Joyce Hastings, Mark Killeen, Eoin Macken, Seán T. O Meallaigh, Vicki Michelle and Ger Ryan.

The Callback Queen recently screened at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh and has had screenings at Leicester Square in London and in Luxembourg at the British and Irish Film Season.

Martin,  who  is  also  an  executive  producer  on  the Game  of  Thrones TV  show,  explains  the  series  of  events that have led to him presenting the North American premiere of The Callback Queen. “Hundreds  of actors auditioned for roles both large and small in HBO’s Game of Thrones”, he says, “Only a handful  were cast. Thousands more tried to get auditions, but were never given the chance to read. In the old  days, aspiring stars sent off resumes and 8×10 glossies to  directors, producers,  and  casting directors.  They still do that, but these days some also upload their own auditions on Youtube, Vimeo, and similar  sites on the internet. Amy-Joyce Hastingswas one of those, as I discovered one day when dozens of my  fans  and  readers  began  to  send  me  emails  with  links  to  a  reading  by  a  lovely  young  red-haired  Irish  actress that I’d never heard of.”

“I’ve been a big reader of fantasy novels since I was a little girl”, says Hastings, “and when I found out that  a  fantasy  TV  series  based  on Game  of  Thrones was  going  to  be  made  by  HBO  I  got  very  excited!”  Hastings, who began her career as a child actress playing Julie Christie’s daughter in Fools of Fortune,  got hold of the script and recorded an audition tape, which she posted online. Within two days the tape had thousands of views and fans of the books were discussing it on fansites like  winteriscoming.net.  “It  caught  me  completely  unawares.  I  had  recorded  this self  tape  as  a  speculative  thing, never intending it to be seen by anyone except maybe the casting director, but it got an incredible  amount of interest online, and I had some very encouraging feedback from people who’d seen it, which was a lovely surprise”, says Amy-Joyce.

Fans of the books were impressed enough to send the link to Martin. “They liked what she’d done”, he says, “and so did I, when curiosity drove me to click on one of those links and take a look. So I dropped her a note, told her the name of our casting director, wished her luck… and thought no more of it, until I heard about The Callback Queen.”

“Unfortunately the casting industry in London has  a  kind of  heirarchy to it”, says Amy-Joyce, “and the
agent I was with at that time wasn’t ina position to capitalise on the momentum so I missed out on being
seen.”

While  she  was  disappointed  not  to  have  had  the  chance  to  audition,  the  experience  did  have  a  silver lining, as Martin explains, “Amy-Joyce never got to audition for Game of  Thrones. That’s something she has  in  common  with  thousands  of  other  actors  from  all  over  the  world.  Unlike  all  the  others,  however, Amy-Joyce took life’s lemons and made lemonade; she shared her experiences with her friend Graham Cantwell, an Irish filmmaker, who took her tale about a young actress attempting to land a role in an epic fantasy,  and  turned  it  into  a  movie…  a  romantic  comedy  about  moviemakers  and  aspiring  actors  that pokes fun at the whole casting carousel… starring Amy-Joyce Hastings.”

“I had known Amy-Joyce for years and had always wanted to work with her on a large scale project”, says Cantwell, “I had been planning to write a comedy about young filmmakers but I lacked a narrative hook to tie the story together, so  when Amy-Joyce told  me  about herexperience  chasing  a Game  of  Thrones audition  it  all  clicked  into  place.  We  created  a  film  within  a  film  called Prince  of  Chaos,  which  was inspired by the TV series, and a character called Horatio King, who is loosely based on George.” Fast  forward  several  months  and  production  on The  Callback  Queen is  well  under  way.  “George  had stayed  in  touch  and  I’d  told  him  about  the  film”,  says  Hastings,  “I  emailed  him  a  prop  cover  we  had created for the Prince of Chaos book in our film and he posted it on his blog,which created a bit of a stir, as he didn’t give any context. He likes to tease his fans with clues about the series and they worked really hard to figure out what the cover was from. We thought it would be so obscure they’d never get it but fair play to them they figured it out extremely quickly, they followed the digital breadcrumbs and had it within hours.”

Filming on the Prince of Chaos sequences took place in Snowdonia in Wales. Director Cantwell was keen
to  make  the  footage  shine,  “We  wanted  those  scenes  to  look  like  they  were  from  a  big  budget,  epic Hollywood production like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, so we put a lot of our resources into them. We were operating on a very tight budget, so had to be quite clever to give the film within a film high  production  value.  We  brought  in  a  friend  of  mine,  actor  Eoin  Macken.  He  was  friendly  with  horse master Dylan Jones from his time on Merlin, so he helped us put that together.” Macken’s star is on the rise,  as  he  has  recently  been  cast  as  the  lead in  a  brand  new  NBC  TV  series  Night  Watch,  which coincidentally is filming in New Mexico, where The Callback Queen screenings will take place.

“If you believe in serendipity, there have been lots of little coincidences and connections between our film and Game  of  Thrones”,  continues  Cantwell,  “our  leading  man  Mark  Killeen  had  a  significant  role  in season three. He played a character called Mero, a vile mercenary who insults Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons. Also, one of the Dothraki warriors on the show auditioned for the part of Prince Cal, which Eoin plays. So it’s wonderful that the whole story has come full circle. It’s a great honour to be recognised by someone of George’s calibre, his support means a lot for an independent production like ours.”

The  Jean  Cocteau  is  a  wonderful  independent  arthouse  cinema  in  Santa  Fe,  New  Mexico  that  Martin purchased and re-opened in 2013 after it went dark in 2006. Managed by Santa Fe Film Festival founder Jon  Bowman,  the  cinema  shows  a  mixture  of  classic  films  and  first  run  movies,  and  is  renowned  for having the best popcorn for miles!

“I’m really looking forward to the experience”, says Amy-Joyce, “I’m sure American audiences will take to
the film the way they have in Ireland and Europe, it’s very funny and anyone with an interest in the film
industry  will  love  it.  We’re  taking  it  to  LA  immediately  after  the  premiere  to  look  for  distribution,  so hopefully we’ll be able to get The Callback Queen out to the greater public very soon.”

Says Martin, “I’m delighted to be able to present the North American premiere of The Callback Queen at
the Jean Cocteau Cinema here in Santa Fe, and thrilled that I will finally get to meet Amy-Joyce Hastings
and Graham Cantwell (even though they never asked me to audition for the role of Horatio King).”

 

The Callback Queen is produced by Film Venture London in association with RCA Media Productions.

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