Watch Irish Short Film: In Ribbons

In Ribbons has come to the end of its festival journey. Over the last three years, the film has been welcomed at almost forty festivals worldwide, the latest screening at the 2018 ‘Disappear Here Film Festival’ in Donegal.

 

 

Set in 1960s Ireland, In Ribbons begins with young Laurie excited and carefree as she goes for a walk with her Dad… until they reach the grounds of an ominous, grey building. As the door closes on the only world she knows, darkness envelops her and she is abandoned to a place of fear, an orphanage, where silence rules and identity is stripped away. Laurie however, holds firm to her sense of self, her spirit and resilience through the power of her dreams and her memories. The final scene shows Laurie, defiantly clutching a lock of her hair as she peers up at the moon.

Apart from a few ethereal words that echo from ‘Laurie’, the screenplay contains no dialogue, an essential exclusion from the beginning for the screenwriter. As the story moves from joy to fear, and light to dark, Caroline’s vision was to draw the viewer into a journey with the main character through her heightened, though childish, sensual experience. Therefore, a hugely important element of the story narrative was the sound, which was expertly engineered by Neil Horner.

The story is quite personal to Caroline, though she stresses that it is not a judgmental one and does not sensationalize what was a very profound experience – not just for ‘Laurie’, but for thousands of children like her, taken on that same journey, some unwittingly tricked, some kicking and screaming, some so damaged, so desensitized that it didn’t really matter what the destination was.

Written and co-produced by Caroline Farrell, the film was directed and edited by Marie-Valerie Jeantelot, who also co-produced. With the expert guidance from Tom Dowling, who came on board as Line Producer, the team gathered an incredibly talented and generous cast (Patrick O’Donnell, Geraldine McAlinden, Melissa Nolan and Rebecca Waldron), and being an Indie production, a crowd-funding campaign was organised, and raised one quarter of the budget through donations from some very generous friends. The team also applied for a bursary from Kildare County Arts Service, which was successful, and raised another quarter. Caroline and Marie-Valerie covered all remaining expenses.  

The film was shot over three days, at three separate locations, including the Grangegorman building (the former mental hospital, St Brendan’s) which replicated the ominous façade of Goldenbridge Orphanage.

In Ribbons  won the JURY PRIZE at the ‘Worcestershire Film Festival’ 2015, and BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM at both the ‘Los Angeles Cinefest’ and ‘The Seadance Film Festival’ in Spain, 2016. It was also awarded BEST DIRECTOR and BEST SOUND [Neil Horner] at the ‘Wolves Independent IFF’ 2016, in Lithuania, and was the only Irish film to screen at the ‘Arts & Cinema Corner, Women Deliver 4th Global Conference’ 2016, in Copenhagen. It received a MERIT AWARD for Best Drama at the ‘International New York Film Festival’ 2015, and has been nominated for many more, including Best Experimental Film at both the ‘London Film Festival’ and the ‘Lisbon International Film Festival’, 2016. In 2015 it was nominated for Best Connection of Sound and Image at the ‘Braunschweig International Film Festival’ Germany, Best Cinematography [Basil Al Rawi] at the ‘Underground Cinema Film Festival’ and for the European Fiction Award AND the Most Creative Short Film Award at the’ Corti Da Sogni International Film Festival’ in Ravenna, Italy.

 

 

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/inribbonsmovie/

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Watch Short Film: Adam

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Adam, a short film written by Caroline Farrell and directed by Denise Pattison, has just been released online. The film is a dramatic exploration of how a little boy struggles emotionally as he witnesses the violent arguments between his parents amid the constant tension and the spoken and the unspoken messages he is too young to comprehend.

Caroline Farrell told Film Ireland that “the story originated with a haunting image I imagined – a little boy cycling around his neighbourhood, filled with anxiety, disengaged from other children, and standing out as ‘odd’ because he had taken to wearing his father’s motorcycle helmet everywhere. His attempt to be ‘invisible’. His parents are so caught up in their own private miseries and the increasing cycle of arguments that have turned violent, they fail to see how their actions are affecting their children. The compelling theme of the story for me was how this little boy’s confusion and fear manifested into rage, bubbling away, unseen by anyone, until it bursts out of him, and he destroys his precious things. A turning point in his development that goes unseen, and perhaps changes the course of his life, his way of being, his way of seeing any challenge that will present in his future.” 

Also produced by Farrell and Pattison, this low-budget film was shot over two days, and stars Johnny Elliott, Sinead Monaghan, Aideen McLoughlin and Eric McGuirk as Adam.

 

ADAM-HD Short Film from Caroline Farrell on Vimeo.

 

Caroline Farrell has written several feature and short scripts.  Caroline blogs here… on writing and film… and on a few of her favourite things.

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Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Vanessa Gildea

Writers in Ireland Series 20157

 

Caroline Farrell’s series of interviews with screenwriters continues with Vanessa Gildea.

 

Vanessa Gildea studied film as part of a Liberal Arts Degree at the University of Limerick. Subsequently she worked in film training for nine years, mostly for Filmbase. She has directed short documentaries for Amnesty International Ireland and award-winning Dublin based production company Venom Films. In 2006 she wrote and directed the Irish Film Board funded short film The White Dress, which won numerous awards (Best Short Film Foyle Film Fest, Belfast Film Fest, Cinema Tout Ecran Geneva, awards at Galway & Kerry Film Festivals) and was nominated for an IFTA. It has been purchased / screened by RTÉ, Swiss, French and Italian Television.

In 2009 Vanessa wrote and directed a short film called ‘The Beast’ for award-winning production company Venom Films. She has received three IFTA nominations, including The White Dress and Dambé – The Mali Project, a feature-length music documentary shot in Mali, West Africa, which was nominated for an IFTA 2009 in the Best Feature Documentary category, and John Ford – Dreaming the Quiet Man in 2013. Also in 2013, she was the first recipient of the Tyrone Guthrie ‘Film Writing Bursary Award’ and in 2014 she received the Arts Council’s ‘Film Bursary Award’. As writer / director she completed an Arts Council Project Award film called The Abandoning, which won Best Short Film at The Sky Road Film Festival, 2014, a Special Mention at The IndieCork Film Festival, and was highly commended at The Belfast Film Festival, 2015.

 

Vanessa, with such accomplished writing, directing and producing credits, can you tell us when it all started for you?

I was always playing around with ideas, since I was a teenager but I only started to write in my 30s. The first film I wrote was called The White Dress, I wrote it in one sitting and I never did any re-writes, but I had written the film in my head a hundred times, and luckily it got funded.

 

Did anyone, famous or not, inspire you to get into film?

The first filmmaker that blew my mind was Mike Leigh. When I saw Life is Sweet as a teenager it changed my view of what a film is, up until then I had only seen Hollywood movies. I didn’t know people made films like that, reflecting real life back at the audience and I thought it was the most exciting and moving film I’d ever seen. I still love it and when I’m writing I think about authenticity and Mike Leigh is always somewhere floating around that thought process.

 

And your first production break?

I had made a short doc for Amnesty [International] and someone from the Irish Film Board had seen it and she decided to take a chance on me as a first-time writer / director of a drama. I am forever grateful.

 

Do you write every day?

No. I work in production, research or teaching. When I’m not working I can spend time writing but not as much as I’d like.

 

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

There’s a hundred. I am in awe of Charlie Kauffman, the complexity, simplicity and brilliance of Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Also, I wish I had written or could write something as good as The Visitor by Tom McCarthy.

 

Do you have an agent, Vanessa, or think it necessary to have one?

No I don’t have one and I think if you want to write as your profession then yes, an agent is a good idea.

 

Do you contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

A little, but I dislike that side of things, I’d much prefer someone else do it.

 

And on social media for filmmakers?

I have mixed feelings about social media but it’s here and it can be a very useful tool. It is boring to use it solely for self-promotion though, better to have a bit of fun with it.

 

What’s your opinion of the film industry in general?

There are great films being made all the time, some are Hollywood, most of the films I really love and admire are not from the Hollywood system. I have to seek out the films that I like, but it’s not hard, with the IFI, the Lighthouse and VOD platforms like volta.ie, but one major problem I see is the lack of women storytellers, women centric stories and characters. I recently heard most film crowd scenes have 70-80% men in them, what is going on? Women are not coming forward, they’re not being allowed to and when they do the kind of films they want to make are not getting the same support. We are 50% of the population, we should be telling 50% of the stories.

 

And on the importance, or not, of film competitions and awards?

Winning awards can be a bittersweet experience but the recognition is good and it definitely helps when it comes to getting the next project funded, well I think it does.

 

Have you, or would you, consider crowdsourcing to produce your own work?

I haven’t, but I have supported plenty of projects, I would consider it.

 

If you’ve ever had any: How to you handle negative reviews?

Of course you have negative reviews, I would like my films to provoke a reaction in people, but you have to learn to shrug it off, and also sometimes the person critiquing the film might have a point. I equally take praise with a pinch of salt, I know when I am happy with my work, I know the moment when I am happy to say that’s it, it’s finished, that’s all we can do. I also know when I have worked hard and done everything in my power to realise the idea. After that, I don’t think you have a clue what people will think or how they will react, but you make it to be seen and the rest is beyond your control.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

No, because I am still one myself.

 

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

I think if every writer stuck to that as a rule, we would have lost out on some great fiction and dramas, but you can write what you know about life, love, loss, emotions in to characters, in to situations without it being necessarily autobiographical.

 

Can you share with us what you are working on now?

I am about to start an MA in Screenwriting at the National Film School Dun Laoghaire, so I am playing with a few ideas for that as part of the course we have to write a feature script. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

 

And just for fun… six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?

My Dad, my grandparents and Brendan Behan.

 

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.

 

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Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Sean Ryan

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Caroline Farrell’s series of interviews with screenwriters continues with Sean Ryan.

Sean Ryan, from Waterford, has written numerous short and feature-length scripts. He has also worked as a writer-for-hire on adaptations and as a script doctor on feature screenplays. His films Revenge (Action/Western) and The Lunch Break (Black comedy) screened at the opening day in Cannes Le Marché du Film festival 2013, and along with Choices (Drama/Thriller) have won awards at The Cinerockom International Film Festival, 2013. Choices also won best narrative short at the Cannes Artisan Festival and the platinum award at the 2012 Oregon Film Festival. Change (Drama) won Best Short Film at both the Jersey Shore Film Festival and the Ocean County Library Film Festival and Audience Choice Awards at both the Texas Black Film Festival and the Jersey Shore Film Festival. His script Fading Numbers (Drama/War) was placed in several national and international contests, including the KAOS BSSC, and with his family, Sean travelled to Canada in 2011 to meet the two Auschwitz and Tluste survivors that inspired the script. Tears In The Rain (War/Drama) was also a finalist in the BSSC contest in 2013. In the same year, he worked closely with the Department of Theatre, University of Alabama and their advanced film making students who produced his script, G.P.S. (Thriller) as their final year project. The University plan to use more of Sean’s screenplays for future projects.

He has worked as a producer on Choices and Speed Dial (Comedy) and completed his directorial début on Connection (Drama), which screened in festivals in 2013/2014. Now concentrating on feature scripts, his final short film was Failing Hope (Drama) which starred Rowan Blanchard, Scottie Thompson and Elizabeth Regen.

Production has recently completed on 2 of his Sean’s feature screenplays: Decommissioned (2015 – Action/Thriller), starring Johnny Messner, Vinnie Jones, Estella Warren, James Remar and Michael Paré; and 4GOT10 (2015 – Thriller/Western) starring Johnny Messner, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Michael Paré and Vivica A. Fox.

Sean has several features due for release in 2016.  Currently in production is Fragmented (Thriller), starring Tony Todd, and Darkness (survival horror) and Awakenings (Horror/thriller) are presently in preproduction stages. Paranesia is currently filming and WEAPONiZED is in post-production.

Sean featured on RTE Radio’s ARENA program about his attendance at the premiere of his produced featurette screenplay, Too Good To Be True  (Comedy/Drama) in New York.

 

Impressive list of credits, Sean, so when did your writing for film career begin?

About 12 years or so ago. The first short film I wrote I sold for a few bucks and it has yet to be made. My first feature film was this year (2015).

And how did that first production break come about?

For short films was because of hustling and hard work. I kept writing as much and as often as possible. Pitching every short script anywhere and where I could find indie producers looking for material. Until I landed a production.

Did you have an agent to help you along?

I have had a couple in the past, before I had any feature films produced. This was to help either sell a spec script or land a write for hire assignment. Neither happened, so I have been pitching my own work and writing specs that I think could/would make good films. I think a great active agent or manager would make a massive difference in getting work out there, onto the right desks. But it’s not enough to just have an agent, you need the right one, who works as hard as you do.

So you contribute to the marketing / PR of your work?

If I get the chance yes. But more often than not you don’t get the opportunity – which is a pity.

And social media?

It’s an important tool. Social media is like someone organised the Internet and for most, social media is the internet. So having a presence and a voice on it, is important. It’s free advertisement space (mostly). So why not use it?

On inspiration – did anyone influence you to write?

Stephen King. After leaving school I had no real interest in books until my sister suggested I should try King’s IT. I read nearly everything he wrote after that. Even read some of them twice.

Do you write every day?

I try to write around five pages a day and try to make them five good pages. But I have learned over time that it is very important to plan everything in your head first. Break down scenes; work out what makes those characters interesting before you touch a keyboard. But if I can manage a couple of hours a day and make five good pages, I’m happy. Any more is a bonus. I try every genre and don’t limit to one. I also try to write films I want to see. That could be comedy or science fiction. The characters are at the heart of every great story. The genre is just one element.

And how long does it take you to complete a script?

It depends. A first draft I can lay down in a month but the rewrites could take as long if not longer. But from a blank page to about 100 pages of a script, takes about four weeks.

What are you currently working on?

I’m adapting a write-for-hire script and rewriting a spec of mine called “Redacted”. I’m finding it hard to make the final act all that it can be, but I think I finally have it in my head, just need to get it down on paper.

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

My last film was about drug lords, agents and corrupt lawmen, so do I know any of that in real life? No. I think writing what you know can help you to connect with the material, but I think the key is just to write every day and treat it like exercise. The more you do, the better you will get.

Judging from your bio, you obviously place some importance on film competitions and awards…

They can really open doors but I can’t help but feel they are like playing the lotto with a really, really expensive ticket. The odds of placing are fantastic and most aren’t going to open any doors for you. It might help with your personal sense of achievement, which is healthy. Just don’t depend on writing that script that will win that competition and land you a million dollar deal. Write for enjoyment. Write from the heart. If success comes, it comes. If awards comes then great, but write for yourself.

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

Schindler’s List or Jaws. Either or both. If I could have written them I think then I could say I’m a screenwriter.

Any advice for aspiring writers?
Three things: Don’t limit yourself/don’t keep your eggs in one basket. Don’t be afraid to write and rewrite and finally never, ever give up.

Thoughts on film in general?

Film-wise there are way too many remakes, reboots and superhero movies. Not that most are not solid films, it just seems to be a case of “I’ve seen it all before” and I find myself too rarely getting excited about seeing something. I think the issue with all the reboots and remakes is that the studios think it is minimising the risk. If it worked well once, it will work again, but as we’ve seen this is more often not the case.

And Indie Film? 

Indie film is the future in my opinion. It’s the heart of cinema that will continue to beat long after the big movies and massive budgets will become too risky. There is a massive demand for content these days with streaming and alike. Indie film can deliver small, low risk, big heart films that studios won’t produce because financial return is all that interests them (being in a business). A lot of indie films remind me of the first films that some of cinema’s greats made when they were starting out, like The Godfather, Terminator and the like. Films when they were hungry to prove themselves and taking risks.

Would you consider crowdsourcing to fund your own work?

I would consider it but it kind of conflicts with me as I’ve supported a lot of crowd funded films yet never received any perks. Which just hints it’s a little bit of take your money and run. Also you are asking people to give you money so you can potentially make money from their money. I think the only fair model is that everyone that invests is treated like an investor. Not perks, but they should get a return on their investment and should 100% not have to pay to see they film they help get made.

If you’ve ever had any: How to you handle negative reviews?

Film is subjective so you won’t make something everyone will like. Which is fair enough but you will meet people that love to hate and will be very vocal of that fact. But I always remember a quote from the great Paul Newman who told Tom Cruise that negativity is like white noise, just ignore it. Listen to every review and remark, just don’t live by them.

And finally, Sean, is there anyone, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

I would like to go for a pint or two with my Mum and Dad, so we could talk about life. What they have missed out since they passed away, in terms of their grandkids and children and to just experience once again what once we took for granted, time together.

You can check out Sean’s links here: IMDb FACEBOOK  TWITTER  and BLOG

 

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.

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Doing it with Passion: Writers in Ireland Series: Hugh Travers

Hugh Travers

 

Caroline Farrell’s series of interviews with screenwriters continues with Hugh Travers.

 

Hugh Travers is a graduate of D.I.T (B.Sc. Film and Broadcasting) and The Huston School of Film (M.A. in Screenwriting). He received a scholarship to The Professional Programme in Screenwriting at UCLA. He has written a number of award-winning short films, and is currently working on Over The Bar, a feature film in development with the Irish Film Board, Deadpan Pictures & Dan Films. Over The Bar was recently selected for The Brit List, a shortlist of the best unproduced scripts of 2014. Most recently his critically acclaimed play Lambo completed a national tour, was nominated for the Little Gem Award in the Dublin Fringe Festival and was adapted for RTE Radio. It won the PPI Drama Award for Best Radio Play of 2014. His previous play Clear the Air ran at the Theatre Upstairs in Dublin and the Electric Picnic Arts Festival in Stradbally. He recently completed Rough Magic SEEDS, a two-year artist development programme for theatre writers which included staged readings of his plays Cardboard City and The Disappeared. Hugh co-wrote The Variety Show, an animated series, produced by A Man & Ink and RTÉ and he developed The H-Files and Chicklings with the IFB and Paper Dreams. He created the comedy panel show format Choose or Lose with Screentime Shinawil and RTÉ and was head writer on the pilot episode, and was the head writer on The Big Pitch, a panel show pilot for Sky. Hugh was also the writer and chief researcher on Green Is The Colour, a hugely successful four by one-hour historical sports documentary series for Treasure Entertainment and RTÉ.

 

You are obviously a prolific writer, Hugh. Tell us how you got started?

I wrote terrible songs in secondary school so always had an interest in creative writing. Then I began to write scripts in college. I studied Communications: Film & Broadcasting but really started writing through the drama society where you could kind of put on anything you wanted and have the freedom to fail.  I then specialised in writing for my final year and went on to do a masters in Screenwriting and a professional programme in UCLA.

 

Freedom to fail, love that! And your first big break?

Well, I came back from UCLA in 2006 and started properly trying to chase funding and make applications to get things off the ground for the first time. In early 2008 I got funding for an Irish language short (An Cosc) through Filmbase and TG4’s Lasair scheme, so it took me about a year and a half before I got anywhere. It’s hard to know if that short was a break necessarily but it was a small step on the road. I had written a rough first draft of it on my own. I pitched the story idea to the producer Claire McCaughley. She really liked it and so we reworked the script a bit before applying to Filmbase. Then once we were shortlisted we got Vincent Gallagher on board to direct. The same team then got funding for a second, English language short not long after and things began to build slowly from there.

 

Do you have an agent, Hugh and do you think one is necessary?

I do have an agent and I have found it to be very helpful. We have a good relationship and it’s good to have a supportive ‘consultant’ as much as it is good to have someone fighting your corner on contracts and getting you meetings etc. Is it necessary? No it’s not essential at all. I think it’s possible to get ahead just fine without one but it has certainly helped me. I think once you reach the top-level, it would become absolutely essential.

 

Do you contribute to the PR and marketing of your work, for instance on social media?

I’m more a consumer of social media than I am a creator of content. In other words I’m on twitter but I don’t tweet. I’m on Facebook but mainly as a procrastination tool rather than as a means of expression. But when it comes to marketing, it’s a completely different story. I think it’s essential. You have to find your audience. The right people for your work. They’re not just the people who will pay to see it, they’re the people who will actually enjoy it because it’s in their wheelhouse. So if they’re on facebook you have to communicate with them there.

 

Back to the practice of writing. How do you structure your time?

I keep office hours. I generally start at ten and finish at six. Monday to Friday. A lot of that time is naturally spent avoiding writing but I do try to put myself in the chair for those hours. I am at least threatening to write!

 

And how long does it take you to complete a script?

It depends. A first draft of a feature script can take anything from a few weeks to a few months. But the real writing begins with the rewrites. That can sometimes take years, depending on what the process is.

 

Do you place much importance on film competitions and awards?

I think for a writer, awards and competitions can be very helpful early in your career to get people to take you seriously. If you’re lucky they can buy you a few months of attention or replies to your emails. But I think it’s important to remember that not all writers and not all scripts fall into the categories that tend to win awards or place well in competitions. They’re not the be all and end all. I think when it comes to getting a finished film seen, they are really helpful. In the crowded market place, they hang a lantern on your movie and allow it to be noticed. It’s easy to be dismissive of the industry love-ins but I think they are a necessary indulgence.

 

Any thoughts on our film industry in general?

We’re living in strange times as far as film goes. I think there has never been more opportunity and yet things are getting more difficult. Technology has opened up all manner of possibilities and yet it has had a lot of side effects.  The streaming and VOD model is still bedding in and it remains to be seen if it will work financially for filmmakers. Illegal downloads can be damaging to smaller independent films. The tent-pole movie culture in Hollywood has squeezed out grown-up dramas, comedies and mid-range films. So ultimately it’s easier to make a film than ever. But it’s harder than ever to get that movie seen and to make money from it. And consequently, it’s harder to get paid to write them.

 

And on indie film?

I love the fact that indie films continue to exist because at the moment, it’s the only way that interesting movies are getting made. Again, I think the independent sector is still in flux. After the initial boom in the 90’s we’re probably now entering a new era with streaming and VOD and different distribution possibilities but the jury is still out on whether it will be boom or bust. It could be hugely hugely positive and usher in a new golden era or indie films could go the way of indie music and the music industry in general where passionate artists are making great work but it’s next to impossible to make a living.

 

Have you self-funded or considered crowdfunding for a project?

I did use crowdfunding to stage my first play. It was a great resource and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who rowed in behind that project. I do think you have to use it responsibly. I will never say never but I don’t plan to go back to the well any time soon. You’re essentially asking family and friends for a dig-out and you can’t do that too often. Unless I ended up in an unusual position where a project I was working on had interest from the wider public but couldn’t get traditional funding. If you were genuinely finding a way to service a demand that was out there by allowing an audience to effectively pay in advance, then crowdfunding is absolutely the way to go and that’s a responsible way to use it.

 

I’m learning through this series that feedback, and how we handle it, differs from writer to writer, particularly if it comes in negative form. How do you handle such reviews?

I’ve been lucky enough to have avoided scathing reviews. There have been a couple of middling to negative ones and the ease with which I shake them off depends on the nature of the project. The worst review I got was probably for a comedy panel show that I worked on but the whole point of the show was to be genuinely silly and embrace that completely so it’s easy to be philosophical about that. I’ve never been panned for my plays or my work on TV but even good reviews often include the odd throwaway criticism and you have to remind yourself not to obsess about that one line.

 

Given your experience to date, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Find a way to stay in the game. If you have had any sort of indication that you have talent and aren’t banging your head up against a brick wall, then it’s all about staying in the game until your number comes up. For some people that involves working a day job and writing in your spare time. For others it’s working part-time in a bar or cafe or shop. Maybe it’s even trying to get by on the dole. Whatever your way is, you need to keep living while you keep trying. If you’re good – and if you’re dedicated to continually getting better – your number will come up eventually. So find a way to stay happy, to stay writing and to pay the bills while you’re waiting.

 

And ‘write what you know’ – agree or disagree?
It definitely helps but it’s not at all essential. I’ve written about worlds that I know nothing about and written stuff that has been a little autobiographical. I feel they both scratch different itches and each option still requires due diligence. In the ‘write what you know’ scenario you have to stop yourself form being too self indulgent and getting too close to the material. You have to still see it as a story in its own right and allow it to go where it needs to go, not in the direction of your experience. With the other stuff, it just takes research. Lots and lots of research.

 

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

How about a book that became a film? I’m a big fan of The Butcher Boy. I’m not sure it’s something that I necessarily would write – even if I could – but it’s one of those pieces of work that has always resonated with me for reasons that I can’t even properly understand or analyse.

 

Apart from your feature, Over the Bar, are you are working on anything else right now?

The reality of being a working screenwriter/playwright is that you have to have a lot of irons in the fire and a lot of work in development. It’s necessary to pay the bills but it’s also necessary if you want to get something produced. If you’re concentrating on one piece of work, your odds might not be great. You have to keep all the plates spinning and hope that one of them will somehow take off. I’m hoping to do a new play next year and I have a few exciting feature and TV projects in development, which I hope will go into production soon.

 

Thanks, Hugh, and just for fun – six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

Woody Guthrie, Larry David, Amy Schumer, Louis CK, Billy Bragg, Orson Welles – literally the first six people that came into my head – in that order.  And my favourite beverage? Currently a whisky sour.

 

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.

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Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland: Shane McCabe

Writers in Ireland Series 20153

 

Caroline Farrell’s series of  interviews with screenwriters continues with Shane McCabe.

 

Shane McCabe was born in Dublin and graduated with an honours degree in economics from Trinity College.  He is also a graduate of the Gaiety School of Acting, and has been involved in the industry for a number of years. His short film Lucky Escape screened at numerous Academy Award® accredited festivals worldwide and sold to NBC Universal, (Italy), HBO, (Central and Eastern Europe), top comedy website Atom.com, UK Broadcaster Channel 4, NBC Pan Asia, Shorts TV in the United States, and all of Latin America and the Caribbean via the Latin American Discovery Channel.  Lucky Escape has over 2.3 million views on YouTube and Shane has just signed a deal which will see both Lucky Escape and his most recent short The Prescription hosted on Amazon, Amazon Prime and Hulu. The Prescription, his three-minute comedy, set in Dublin, had its World Premiere at the 2014 Edmonton International Film Festival and recently sold to HBO and his feature, Kopkiller, a supernatural thriller, won Best Crime/Mystery category at the 6th Annual GSIFF Screenplay Competition 2012.  Shane’s Latino-themed thriller, Next of Kin, was a Quarter Finalist at the 2014 AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, and has recently attracted the attention of Colombian actress Sofia Vergara. His latest script, Money Talks, has just received development funding from the Irish Film Board.

 

How long have you been writing, Shane, and when did you get your first break into film?

In and around 2000/2001 and the first breakthrough came in 2005 when the Irish Film Board produced my short film, Never Judge a Book under their Short Cuts Scheme.

 

Do you write everyday?

No. But I will try to sometime. I don’t structure my day when writing. I write when I feel the time is right.

 

Is there a genre that you prefer to work in?

I write in many genres, from comedy to dark thriller, but I do tend to favour supernatural thrillers.

 

And how long does it take you to finish a script?

It depends on the project. I wrote my last script in eight days, but I did have a well fleshed-out treatment to work off. I am currently working on a project I started three years ago. The lead-in time is always different. But the average time from Fade in to Fade out is three to four weeks.

 

On negative reviews – ever had any?

Luckily I haven’t been too often in that position. My short film Lucky Escape has over two million views on YouTube and there are negative and positive comments so I just take the rough with the smooth.

 

Do you have an agent, Shane – or think it necessary to have one?

No and Yeah, I am currently talking to various reps in the US and UK.

 

Do you engage in your own PR?

One hundred per cent yes. I do all my own marketing and spend as much time as possible on it. Social media is a good tool if it is used wisely.

 

Did anyone, famous or not, inspire you to write?

Yes. Quentin Tarantino. I loved his structure in Pulp Fiction and in Reservoir Dogs.

 

What’s your opinion of the film industry right now?

It seems all the good writing is gravitating to television now. Film is more and more about the franchise or super hero/comic book genre.

 

And on competitions and awards?

I rate competitions highly. The reason is twofold. Winning or being placed is a great shot in the arm and winning or placing in the big ones opens doors to getting your script read and/or representation. I was an Austin FF finalist in 2010 and a Nicholl Awards quarter finalist for the last two years.

 

What about Indie Film and publishing?

Indie is tough. You need a knockout hook and/or a name to get the finance. Also, I have considered crowdsourcing for film and I have self-published one of my scripts, Breakthrough, as a book.

 

Any advice you can offer to emerging talent, Shane?

Never give up. Write, then rewrite, then write again. Personally I like to have two projects going at once. Time spent away from a script is as valuable as time spent writing it.

 

Write what you know – agree or disagree?

Yes and No. Write what you’d love to see on the screen.

 

Is there a script by another writer that you would have liked to have written?

Yes, LA Confidential. This is beautifully structured, plotted, and executed.

 

Want to share what you are working on now?

Yes. It is a film called Money Talks a thriller with some very dark humour.

 

And finally, Shane, anyone, famous or not, you would like to share your favourite beverage with?

Only one name comes to mind: Nelson Mandela. He is one of the greatest leaders of all time. His ability to leave his twenty-seven years of captivity behind him and embrace those who imprisoned him is a lesson for all human beings.

 

Check in with Shane on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shane.mccabe.75

 

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.

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Doing it With passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Martin Duffy

Writers in Ireland Series 20151

Caroline Farrell’s series of  interviews with screenwriters continues with Martin Duffy.

 

Martin Duffy describes himself as a storyteller. He is a film director, a writer and an editor. Martin’s work includes the feature films, The Boy from Mercury and Summer of the Flying Saucer. He has written several non-fiction books, novels for young people, and also writes songs.

 

Great to connect with you, Martin, and as always, I’ll start by asking you when you first began to write?

I first started applying myself seriously as a writer in my early twenties – around 1974/5 – when I was a young married man and father and a postman. It was an attempt to fight off the boredom of my work.

 

And the initial breakthrough?

I wrote a few articles that were published in ‘The Postal Worker’, including an article about George Orwell. And through that I got the nickname ‘Georgie Orwell’ among my fellow postmen. After about five years of writing unpublishable novels I wrote a TV play and that was bought and produced by RTÉ in 1978. The play was ‘Your Favourite Funny Man’ and starred Jim Bartley. It was about a guy who works in a boring job by day and is a failing stand-up comic by night. No idea where I got the idea from…1978 was a key year for me. My second son, Steven, was born, I got a job in RTÉ as a trainee assistant film editor and I sold my first TV play. The sale of the play came about through Eoghan Harris who, at the time, had been made head of comedy development in RTÉ. I think I was one of the few comedy writers he felt had any promise.

 

Did anyone, famous or not, inspire you to write?

I have always aspired to write with a sense of lightness and openness. My earliest writing influences would have been detective novels (Chandler, Hammett etc) and – Georgie Orwell. Dialogue is my thing and film is my natural habitat. Billy Wilder is my idol.

 

And do you write every day?

I do write every day. Sometimes it is practical work (such as edit jobs or script report jobs) but when I am doing my own thing I am very disciplined. I just about fall out of bed to my desk: starting by 8am at the very latest. I usually work through until about 1pm. Then I stop, maybe take a walk, certainly take a nap at some point in the afternoon, and then mull over the work (and catch up a bit with the outside world). My problem is that I tend not to know how to stop. I often put in a few hours in the evening.

 

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

I have a brother (Bill) who is an extremely successful businessman. Many years ago he asked me ‘what is the one thing you do? There has to be one thing you do.’ I gave him a list of this and that: editing, directing, books. Now, however, I am concentrating on one thing: comedy. A dear late friend of mine was New York poet Sam Menashe and one of his last books was titled ‘The Niche Narrows’. I now think that’s where I am.

 

Does your writing lean towards a specific genre?

My first break was with writing bitter comedy and I find that now I am a bitter old man I am returning to that old well. I have learned late that I am not Billy Wilder – who could move from genre to genre – so now I am concentrating my failing sight on comedy. It is a bit of an easy way out. If you have written something that makes an audience laugh, you know you have done your job.

 

Comparing books to scripts, how long does it take you to complete either?

I am often a jobbing writer and have done family history books (I like writing non-fiction books and I like research). Such a book would take me at least six months. Writing a screenplay is a different animal. Idea, plotting, outline etc might take up to a year (floating around in the back of my head) but I would write a first draft of a feature screenplay in maximum two weeks once the ducks have been lined up in my head.

 

The ‘Agent’ Question? Do you have one?

I have an agent again as of middle last year – Linda Langton in New York. I had an agent for a few years in Germany (I live in Berlin) but agents here do not pursue work for their clients. They simply do the deals. Linda looks for work for me and is representing right now my biography of the late rocker Tony Sheridan. I think an agent is crucial. It is the element of credibility above all else. As it happens, Linda also sends some script and book editing work my way.

 

What is your opinion on the importance of literary/film competitions and awards?

Very, very important. I wish I had more awards and had been more conscious of their importance. They are the poor (wo)man’s marketing. The toughest thing is to get the public aware of you. And as most writers are anti-social (or is that just me?) the awards process makes all the difference.

 

Not just you, Martin! And with that in mind, do you contribute to the marketing / PR of your work?

I tried and failed. My eldest son, Bernard, set up a website for me but after a few years I gave it up because I didn’t know how to change it and he had no time to update it. I have a blog I don’t update and I have an Amazon Author’s page. My inability to market myself may be why major success has eluded me. That, and lack of talent

 

Scratch that last sentence! So, what are your thoughts on social media?

I know it is vital, but I don’t know how it works. My agent says she wants to find a ‘platform’ for me. By which she means something that identifies me with readers. Several years ago my brother-in-law Derek happened to notice a Bill Bryson book (‘A Walk in the Woods’) and, being a hill walker, he bought it. He enjoyed the book so much he went back to said book shop and simply bought every other Bryson title on the shelf. Social media is that connection between writer and reader, between filmmaker and undiscovered audience. Marketing is bonding.

 

As an author and filmmaker, what’s your opinion of the current business of both publishing and film?

It has taken me a couple of years to realize that while I was catching bits of work here and there (books published, screenplays not produced) there has been a huge shift going on. By this stage in my life I have two hats I most often wear. I have been writing non-fiction (such as ‘The Trade Union Pint’, published a couple of years ago by Liberties Press or ‘Vagabond’, my Tony Sheridan biography) or screenplays of films I want to make (such as the comedy ‘The Mistress’ or the ghost story ‘Little Boy Priest’). It seems to me that with publishing you maybe find a niche and that is where an agent comes in. As for my scripts, the film business has changed so much that they get tougher to make because they don’t make financial sense. Damn you, Marvel Comics!

 

And on Indie Film?

It’s a mystery. As I mention elsewhere here, I am in the process of making a micro-budget film. I contacted two distributor friends of mine in the UK about my plan and both said ‘don’t do it! The world is awash with them!’

 

Have you considered crowd-funding your film project?

I haven’t tried any form of crowd funding but I am working on a micro-budget comedy feature film project right now and I might try – later this year – to see if I can drum up some crowd funding to complete it. I am writing, directing, doing most of the camera work (with my own gear) and editing.

 

You have self-published your books?

I went Kindle a couple of years ago with a selection of books of mine that either never found a publisher or had fallen out of print. I also put some un-produced screenplays out there. Last year I resurrected a crime/comedy novel of mine called HANRAHAN and this year I did it as an audiobook (even with me on guitar in bridges between chapters). I have earned very little money from those ventures, but at least the work is there and available.

 

If you’ve ever had any: How to you handle negative reviews?

I drink. No. Just kidding. I drink to celebrate positive reviews also. Everybody has their own opinion. Some people think I am a handsomely ageing Adonis. Some say ‘look at that fat bald guy’. Your work – film, book, whatever – stands and the review, good or bad, will be wrapping fish and chips tomorrow. Or would have done in the old days. Now it remains forever on the internet. Oh well.

 

Is there a book or film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

Simple answer: anything by Billy Wilder. Although Herr Wilder never wrote alone, actually. And then several books by Bryson and Orwell.

 

Can you share with us what you are working on now?

At the moment the focus is on comedy. A producer here in Germany is developing a sitcom of mine. I wrote the concept, the plot outlines and three scripts in English and he has brought in two German comedy writers. I am also writing and making a micro-budget comedy feature (mentioned above) that has already had a few shooting days. Plus I am maybe half way through plotting a script that would be a German/English language comedy script set in Berlin.I cannot reveal any of the plots, though!

 

Six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

My Dad, Stephen Fry, Billy Wilder, Bill Bryson, Steven Spielberg (for the networking) … and Georgie Orwell.

 

Last request, Martin! Any advice for aspiring writers?

I honestly think that being creative is our highest level. I think also that it can be a lottery. I didn’t win the lottery, but it has been an interesting ride. Advice? It’s a schizophrenic job. You have to look inside yourself and sit alone in your room to write, then you have to go out there and sell yourself and find your audience. So I guess my advice is ’embrace your inner schizophrenic’. And don’t give up – the work is what matters.

 

 

Visit Martin’s page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/www.duffyberlin.com/

BLOG: http://martinduffyberlin.blogspot.de/

Feature Film Showreel: https://vimeo.com/83748803
 
Photograph courtesy of Jens Winter.

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.

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Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Eamonn Tutty

Writers in Ireland Series 2015

 

Caroline Farrell continues her Doing it With Passion! series of interviews with screenwriters.

 

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:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eamonn-Tutty-ScreenwriterDirector/103114269778760?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/ReckonerProductions?fref=ts

 

 

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.

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Doing it With Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Frank Kelly

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.09.41 PM

 

Caroline Farrell kicks off her Doing it With Passion! series of interviews with screenwriters.

 

Frank Kelly studied animation production at Ballyfermot College of Further Education. He began writing screenplays during college and formed a writing partnership with Thomas Kennedy when he graduated in 2000. Together they founded Pale Stone Productions Ltd and completed their first short, Emily’s Song in 2006. It was screened at 30 international film festivals, broadcast on RTE and Channel 4, won the Crystal Heart Award, UNICEF Award and special Mention at Oberhausen Short Film Fest. Frank went on to make Bill, For Short in 2008, distributed by Network Ireland Television, and Slán agus Beannacht in 2009, both screened at festivals around the world. He began production on 140 the same year, a global documentary that was shot in 23 countries around the world. Completed in January of 2010, it had its world premiere at the Newport Beach Film Fest and its European Premiere at the IFI in Dublin. It won the Bronze Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival. Frank completed Raise My Hands in 2010, which screened at 15 international film festivals. He completed his first dramatic feature in 2012, Derelict, which had its premiere at the Underground Cinema Film Festival in Dublin, where it received an honorary mention. Since then Frank worked on the BBC documentary Michael Woods’ The Great British Story, and completed a short film, Joe & Sarah for Ablevision Ireland. Now living in California in the United States, Frank works at Apple and writes episodes of The Tom and Jerry Show for Warner Bros. He is also in pre-production for his next feature film, I Am Ireland.

 

Welcome to the series, Frank. To begin, can you recall when your love of writing and film first manifested?

When I was a kid, I got into films at a young age and would re-write the films I liked, then I’d write my own sequels. I remember when all my friends started to get into video games – this was when computers still had wood panelling – I borrowed my cousin’s Commodore 64, and I’d use it to write, even though I couldn’t save anything, I just loved seeing the words appear on the screen.

 

Did anyone famous or otherwise, inspire you to write?

There was a drama society in school, which I was not actually part of. But the teacher of it came into our class and asked us to stage a play. So I wrote and directed it, and afterwards he pulled me aside and said he really liked it. It was the first time I’d had that kind of affirmation and it propelled me forward. But I was writing before that. It must have been Back to the Future. When I saw that film, aged 9, I knew then I wanted to make films. I had no idea how films were made, but I wanted to do whatever it was. For me, the Back to the Future script is still a perfect screenplay. Economy in story, brilliantly structured, highly entertaining but with depth and character. So I suppose Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis were a huge inspiration on me.

 

Do you write on a daily basis?

Yes. I work full-time and have two small kids, so I don’t write as much as I used to. When I was younger I would write about 4 hours a day, actually sitting at a computer and writing. Then I’d have a notebook that I always wrote in, park myself in a cafe somewhere and write several pages of ideas and thoughts. These days I don’t have that luxury. But I try to write at least one page. If I sit down with the idea of writing just one page I find I’ll usually write a lot more. I’m much better at using what little time I have.

 

How long does it take you to complete a script?

Six months to a year.

 

And your preferred genre?

My films are generally straight drama. For me it’s the human interaction over the situation. I like to get characters in a room and get them talking. I find that very compelling. And I like the play of language. It’s a challenge to write natural sounding dialogue that also has to be plot driven. You don’t want to feel like the writer or director is steering the car, you want to feel like the brakes are off and the characters are hurtling down the hill – and if they survived it to the end it was pure luck!

 

You produce your work as well?

I’ve produced all my own films. I worked on the first script for a long time until I felt it was ready. Then gathered a cast and crew, raised as much money as I could and went into production. I’ve always found it difficult to get any outside support, but I’ve never let that stop me from writing or trying to get films made. My first short film, Emily’s Song, came out in 2006. It was my first experience watching my words come to life, seeing actors perform them and seeing something I imagined on my own, fill a room. There was no going back after that!

 

How do you raise the finance to fund your projects?

All of my films, seven in total, are self-funded and crowdfunded! I made a film called 140 which was entirely crowdfunded and crowdsourced. I’m working on a film at the moment called I Am Ireland which is crowdsourced. I’ve always found that going down the traditional avenues to get funding just delayed and annoyed me. I could spend 6 months jumping through hoops only to get a two-line standard rejection email at the end of it. I found if I just made my own films I could use all the time and energy much more usefully.

 

Do you have an agent? Do you think it necessary to have one?

I don’t. I’m not sure that it’s necessary at my stage, but at some stage, yes. A successful friend of mine once said that the industry is a swanky party, and when you’re unknown, it all depends on who you walk in the door with. I think agents can open doors.

 

So how do you manage the marketing and PR?

I do it all myself. I design my own posters, write loglines, send out press releases to media, set up social media campaigns. I don’t exactly enjoy it, but it’s necessary if you want people to see your work.

 

Social media is important to the process then?

As an independent filmmaker it’s essential. It’s how I build my audience and a community around my films. It helps spread word of mouth and it reaches people who I never would have been able to reach.

 

And the significance of film festivals and awards?

It’s important in the marketing and life of the work. I’ve found in the past that films of mine that have won awards or got into more festivals get more attention and have a longer life. Those that haven’t won awards tend to have shorter lives. If it gets the film seen I think it’s a good thing. Plus festivals are fun to go to, you meet a lot of like-minded people, which is nice having spent months, or years, alone in a room working on this thing.

 

What about reviews? How do you handle them?

I had a review once that said my film was “Too Irish”. I had nothing to say to that! I try to take negative reviews or comments on the chin. Sometimes I agree, I see the mistakes, can take it constructively. I remember I was in a pub once after a screening of my film Derelict. I’d spent two years making this film, spent a ton of my own money on it, and I was finally screening it in my hometown, Drogheda, in the Droichead Arts Centre. A proud moment. The screening went great, it looked good, sounded great, the place was packed. So this person I know, half cut, comes up to me and decides to tell me everything she thought was wrong with the film. Some of it was valid, some of it was stuff I was trying to do that she just didn’t like, but in the end I just made an excuse to walk away from her. I look forward to the day she spends two years and all of her money making a film so that I can witness perfection and learn from her example.

 

From a global perspective, what’s your opinion of independent film production these days?

It’s an exciting time for independent film. There’s never been more opportunity to just make a film. But in saying that, it does feel harder to get a film out into the world then it did 10 years ago. The traditional ways of getting work out are all but gone, so independent filmmakers are inventing ways of getting their films seen and making money with distribution. It’s equal part exciting and terrifying! I think Indie film is in good shape. There are a lot of exiting films being made – you look at a hit like The Babadook, one of my favourite films this year, an independent film, with the financing partly raised on Kickstarter. Another Kickstarter film, Blue Ruin, was a big indie hit last year. There are incredible filmmakers out there who are finally finding a way to get their films made and out into the world, whereas before they might have been denied the chance to tell their story because a reader in some funding body wasn’t into their script. I think we’re going to keep seeing amazing and original work because we’re find ways to not just cut through the red tape, but to by-pass it altogether.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, Frank?

Write. That’s all you have to do. And write everyday. It’s a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. Books and films don’t write themselves. Read a lot, watch a lot, observe a lot, sit in cafes and think a lot, drink a lot of coffee, live a lot! That’s important. Don’t think you can just be a writer, that’s rare, so much of your inspiration for stories and characters will come from everyday life, and working that shitty job you need to pay the rent will give you more ideas than you can imagine, so don’t be afraid to join the real world once in a while.

 

Is there a film script by another screenwriter that you wish you had written?

Ha ha! Many! I wish I could write something like Some Like It Hot, it’s just perfection. If  I could get anywhere near anything Billy Wilder and Izzy Diamond wrote, I’d be doing alright!

 

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

I agree. But I think that piece of advice can be misinterpreted. You might know Vampires more than anyone else, so write Vampires. Write what you’re inspired to write, and you will come to know it.

 

Name six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, Hayao Miyazaki and Stephen Fry.

 

And finally, can you tell us more about the projects you are working on right now?

I’m working on two things at the moment, a crowdsource documentary called I Am Ireland about Irish Immigrants around the world, their experience and their relationship with Ireland. And 10 Days in December, which is a feature script about two people from different worlds who fall in love during Christmas in Ireland. It’s a true story and close to my heart. I hope to shoot a proof-of-concept at the end of this year and raise enough funding next year to put that feature into production.

 

You can follow Frank’s progress via his Blog and Facebook page:

Website: www.frankkelly.blogspot.com

Facebook: facebook.com/FrankKellyFilmmaker

 

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

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‘In Ribbons’ Set to Screen at Belfast and Cannes

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In Ribbons, the short film directed by Marie-Valerie Jeantelot and written by Caroline Farrell, is now complete and beginning its festival journey.

Selected to screen at Cannes this coming May, the film will have its world premiere in competition at The Belfast Film Festival on Saturday, April 25th.

Set in 1960’s Ireland, In Ribbons unfolds through a non-dialogue narrative. The story tells the tale of young Laurie, abandoned to a place of fear, holding firm to her identity, spirit and resilience through the power of her dreams and memory.

The film stars Patrick O’Donnell, (North Circular Road, The Looking Glass and the upcoming Daria). Geraldine McAlinden (How to be Happy, Portrait of a Zombie and the upcoming ‘The Secret Scripture’.) and Melissa Nolan, (Sodium Party, and Mouth On Fire Theatre Productions.) Laurie is played by young actress Rebecca Waldron.

Produced by Farrell and Jeantelot with associate producer, Caitriona Costello, the film was also part-funded via crowdfunding and a Film Bursary Award from Kildare County Council Arts Office.

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A Second Look at ‘Patrick’s Day’

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Writer and filmmaker Caroline Farrell praises Terry McMahon’s authentic exploration of schizophrenia and a strong female character in his film Patrick’s Day.

Working on projects and supportive measures around mental health, I occasionally hear people remark that they have been put off from watching films that deal with mental health matters. The most common reasons being that a lot of the better known titles have historically dealt with topics on the spectrum through harrowing, disturbing or cartoonish, comedic demonization – and dismal endings. Having done some research on films of this nature, I unfortunately concur. However, what is also true is that through a new wave of novels, adaptations and thoughtful filmmaking, all helping to remove the stigmas of ignorance that have plagued us for so long, the tide is changing rapidly, and blessed be!

The experience of escapism and anonymity is generally all that I need from a film. To become just as invisible as the guy or gal next to me amongst a collective audience, to empathize and to walk in the shoes of the characters looming large on the big screen. When a film resonates on a lesser-explored level, magic happens. Something new is absorbed, a nugget of knowledge that enriches the soul.

Patrick’s Day ticks all of the above boxes.

It is essentially, a riveting examination of a relationship between a mother and her son. A son, coping with a mental illness, who is loving, trusting, vulnerable, and craving the intimacy he so rightly deserves. And a mother who is lonely, obsessive, riddled with fear, and is therefore, possessive and controlling of her boy to the point of destructive behaviour. On a superficial level, I could perceive her to be the one whose mental health is compromised. Chipping away the layers of this character however, reveals so much more. In experiencing the ultimate, emotive act that confirms to her son that he is a man, for his mother, the realisation of this fact forces her to face a truth she is not ready to accept; that her dependant son has changed forever, and is moving away from the highly claustrophobic and defensive world she has created for him. For both of them.

Some people, but by no means all, will no doubt find the film tough to watch. Affirmed with elegant articulation by retired professor of psychiatry, Ivor Browne, the film most definitely hits a nerve through its authentic exploration of schizophrenia and one young man’s particular journey of treatment, and mistreatment, through the character of Patrick, played with breath-taking realism and incredible range by Moe Dunford.

And aside from the crisis and turmoil of the theme and of the relational aspect between mother and son, there is also that ‘thing’ in this film. That ‘thing’ that gets bandied about so much these days, but is rarely taken seriously by the largely male fraternity of filmmakers. There is a ‘strong female character’ in Patrick’s Day, and in the truest sense of what that description actually means;  a lone parent, a warrior mother, human, fallible, and as fucked-up as they come, she is portrayed with a subtle complexity through a stunning performance from Kerry Fox that makes her real and damaged and ultimately, hopeful.

Congratulations to Terry McMahon, and to the actors, cast, crew and producers of Patrick’s Day on contributing to the placing of Irish cinema in the real world of real people, and with intelligent, empathic storytelling.

 

Patrick’s Day is in cinemas now.

Read an interview with Terry McMahon here

Caroline Farrell blogs here… on writing and film… and on a few of her favourite things.

 

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Irish Women in Film Series: Lindsay Jane Sedgwick

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Lindsay Jane Sedgwick

A former journalist, Lindsay Jane Sedgwick is a versatile and imaginative award-winning screenwriter with over six hours of credits for TV and film work. Her first original series, Punky, was launched on RTÉ in May 2011 to national and international acclaim. It has been sold in eight international territories and a second series is in production. She is currently in development with Monster Entertainment on a new original series, Wulfie. Previous to this, Lindsay has had drama and children’s material broadcast on TV for RTE, a romantic comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and four short films produced, most recently Barzakh in February 2013. A feature, Kristina, filmed in the Philippines, won a Best Film award at Swansea on Sea International Film Festival. A pilot script for a new television series was recently read in New York and Dublin and Lindsay has also written numerous award-winning stage plays, with three productions lined up for 2013.

Lindsay is a screenwriting tutor, script consultant and reader for independent producers, a graduate of Moonstone, 2002 and a scholar at New York University ‘Gregory Peck Scriptwriting Course’, Dublin, graduating with AA distinction, 1993. She has an MA Screenwriting from Leeds Metropolitan University in 1999 and a BA in Communication Studies from Dublin City University. Prior to this, as a freelance journalist she wrote for a vast range of newspapers and magazines in Ireland, Australia, the US, the UK and Europe.

Welcome to the series, Lindsay! First off, tell us how and why you got started in the business?

I always wanted to write. There was nothing else I wanted to do. I worked as a freelance journalist for a decade because that was a way to make a living from writing. I loved that career, but I was writing stage plays and books on the side. I got into screenwriting through an open call for  the RTÉ’s Fair City writers in 1990 and used that gig to get work on a children’s programme, Scratch Saturday. The following year I did storylines for Fair City; the summer after, I rewrote the Series Bible. In 1994, I made the decision to try ‘creative writing’ fulltime, saved enough to survive for 18 months on casual jobs and dived in. I wrote two new stage plays that won awards, one of which was staged a second time in the Focus. But I knew it was impossible to earn a living through theatre so I turned my focus to screenwriting.

So at this stage, you opted for formal training with your writing?

Stage plays, self taught. I was brought by my mother to all the lunch time plays in the Abbey from when I was about six.

In Screenwriting, RTÉ had given us a weekend on three-act structure to ‘win’ the writing gig in Fair City but on that weekend, I heard about an MA in Screenwriting in Leeds. I applied for that in 1996. Ironically, I was already teaching screenwriting in UCD – a night class for 50 students – but I loved the idea of diving in with both feet. It was life-changing. By the time I returned two years later, I’d a short film made, I’d signed with an agent and my first feature had been optioned – a hammer horror piece for Chris Wicking (To The Devil A Daughter, Scream and Scream Again etc) – but I also had a huge pile of scripts and treatments ready to take on the world!

In animation, I started writing scripts and storylines and creating series after a course run by Screen Training Ireland in 2003. It was based over a number of weekends and we emerged with great knowledge and with a tried and tested sample script.

And what, or whom, have been your seminal influences?

My mother in terms of encouraging my love of writing and theatre. A teacher is fifth and sixth class called Mrs O’Brien who really, really encouraged and seemed to love the stories and poems I wrote. Theatre of the Absurd. Pinter, Mamet. Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. Bambi.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

I have pretty eclectic taste but offhand, I love and envy Enda Walsh’s work. I loved Grabbers, The Wire, Moone Boy, The Returned and Up. Actually most anything by Pixar before they went to Disney. I saw the documentary Coming Home at the Galway Fleadh this year, and it was pretty powerful!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene, Lindsay?

Writers do not get enough recognition financially or in terms of creative input.

And the highlight of your career so far?

In theatre, a stage production by Still Players in Cork Arts Theatre in 1996 or 97 of my play Fur Doesn’t Hurt. It was perfectly cast, brilliantly directed and when it ended, there were ten seconds of silence before this amazing standing ovation – and the electricity within the audience in the lobby afterwards was breath-taking. In film/ TV, the highlight is just around the corner!

In TV, the impact Punky had in Ireland and around the world was humbling.

Do you have an ultimate goal?

To be successful as a writer, to write amazing stuff that stays amazing when it’s put on the screen or stage, and to be recognised financially and in terms of creative input. So, simply, to write phenomenal pieces of work and create characters that last the test of time, that draw in audiences again and again and that actors love performing.

Fun question – fantasy dinner party guests? Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

George Clooney, Alan Bennett. Pete Doctor (Pixar), Granuaille, Anne Boleyn’s sister, Mary, and my maternal grandfather, John Crouchen.

Thanks, Lindsay, and finally, any other comments?

I’ve probably said too much already, but writers (especially those of us who are not directors, yet) do need to get greater recognition financially and in terms of their contribution to film and television. This is a major frustration and increasingly dispiriting. We also need to learn how to protect and exploit the Intellectual Properties that we create.

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Taking Stock As a Writer – With Some Help From My Nemesis

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Screenwriter Caroline Farrell on the challenge of embracing her nemesis – procrastination

Writing, for all of us scribblers, is a necessary pain in the arse. Thinking about writing, as opposed to doing it, is the big, weeping boil that sits on top of that pain in the arse, throbbing away until action is taken and the lancing begins. Thinking about why we write, and what we choose to write about, is…well, think of the most pain-filled analogy you can imagine and place it firmly on the top of that weeping boil…

Of late, my nemesis, that little bastard aka procrastination, has come to visit again, and has not been kind, cruelly and mischievously pushing me, unawares at first, through the gawd-awful door of reflective thinking. Once there, I am finding it nigh impossible to break away from analysing almost every thought and action, and not just my own.

Bewares, people, I is watching yiz!

Seriously though, it’s uncomfortable, painful even, and at times, probably akin to the navel-gazing that I generally abhor so much, but it is all helping me to finally ‘get it’. To understand stuff, personally, historically and socially; and to fully realise that through this reflective, and mostly silent, journey, I can finally accept where my personal, creative and social vision is rooted.

Taking stock of my own experience, from where I have come to where I am now, I am also forced to examine the why.  In realizing the why, I can make meaning of it all; the way I look at the world, my every action and reaction, and my sometimes frustratingly innate sense of responsibility that is relational, though built around a strictly selective connectedness that can be at once liberating, but also, an invisibly lethal thread of confinement and inertia.

In her book, The Heroine’s Journey, written from the view of a feminist in response to Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Maureen Murdock wrote on the difficulties of our life path as women.

“It has no well-defined guideposts nor recognizable tour guides. There is no map, no navigational chart, no chronological age when the journey begins. It follows no straight lines”.

Yes, of course, this sentiment applies to men also, and is an appropriate description of the pathways towards transformation and self-realization for all of us. In response to Murdock’s book, Campbell said,

“Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.”

Yikes!

Whatever you believe, the truth is that very few of us come out into the world as adults, unscathed and perfectly intact, but by God, we learn from the experiential!

I cannot imagine a way of expressing my visions without understanding a life journey that so far has run the gamut of experiences and emotions that have offered me unimaginable joy. But there have also been the far from positive aspects. And in looking back, there is fear, there is disappointment, there is anger and there is regret, though I firmly believe that out of every dark place comes a glimmer of light.  The best we can hope for is that we, as scribblers, can look back on these sequences of our personal journeys and know intuitively that these learning processes have helped us to rise to the challenge of becoming critically reflective writers; authentic voices, and at the very least, empathic ones.

Sincerity and intention are not enough.  So thanks for that, I say begrudgingly, to my Nemesis.

Featured Quote from:  Neil GaimanThe Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections

 

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

In Ribbons, written by Caroline and directed by Marie-Valerie Jeantelot, is currently in post-production.The film is produced by Caitriona Costello, Marie-Valerie Jeantelot and Caroline Farrell and has just been selected for the Kildare County Arts Film Bursary Award 2013.

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‘In Ribbons’ Shoots in May.

Copyright [Marie-Valerie Jeantelot]

Short film In Ribbons, directed by Marie-Valerie Jeantelot, and written by award-winning screenwriter Caroline Farrell is scheduled to begin shooting in May. A fundraising drive is currently under way, details of which can be found at http://www.inribbons.com/ along with a trailer for the film. All funds raised will be used to pay cast and crew, and to cover expenses of equipment hire, costumes, locations, catering, transport, editing and festival entries.

A stellar cast has been assembled, including IFTA longlisted actor Geraldine McAlinden (Portrait of a Zombie, The Incredible Shrinking Office) multi-award winning actor, Patrick O’Donnell (Tin Man, Derelict) and Melissa Nolan (Stalker, Remember Me)

The film is set in 1968, and centres on the journey of a little girl, Laurie. A dark fairytale, In Ribbons is an expressive fable, told in a dialogue-free narrative, capturing the zeitgeist of an era that also reflects a glimpse into the darker side of our social history.

A Facebook page has also been set up, https://www.facebook.com/#!/inribbonsmovie which regularly publishes updates on the progress of the production.

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Irish Women in Film Series: Marie Caffrey

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Marie Caffrey

Following very successful careers in PR and working with her family’s interior landscaping business, film producer, Marie Caffrey, worked on various freelancing projects such as Charlie Casanova and Portrait of a Zombie before joining Zanzibar Films in 2010. Marie’s short film Sylvia, funded by the Irish Film Board, recently premiered at the Galway film festival. She also produced a four-episode web series titled Cuckoo for RTE Storyland, alongside The Cause of Progress, a feature documentary directed by Chris Kelly – both productions for Zanzibar films.

Hey Marie, begin by telling us how and why you got started in the business.

I came into the Film Industry by chance in September 2009. I was, and still am, an interior landscaper. I applied as a volunteer to the Darklight Festival, and they took me on as a Production Manager for a film-making project called Hotel Darklight. Over the next couple of weeks the team brought together over one hundred people in the Industry to participate in filming ten short films in six days. Hotel Darklight will be showing as part of the Ranelagh Arts Festival this year on Wed 19th Sept at 8pm in the Ranelagh Arts Centre.

So I guess you are self-taught as opposed to having any formal film school education? 

Self taught. I was lucky to get involved with Zanzibar Films and being on set is the best education ever. However I would like to participate in EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) the professional training, project development and networking organization for audiovisual producers.

Can you share with us what your seminal influences have been? 

I began acting classes from age 10. I’ve always been into drama. But as I get older I’ve become a worse actor and a better producer. It really kicked off when I went to the Cannes film Festival in 2007 with a director friend and I liked the buzz and decided to give it a shot.

And what are your current influences? 

I saw Shadow Dancer a few days back and really enjoyed it. My taste is varied and ever-changing. I admire a good CV, attached with a better script, and exciting Directors whom I have had the pleasure to work with. Also, film boards and funding bodies, and the people who support me.

Fantasy dinner party guests? Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table. 

Females:  Lorraine Bracco, Kim Cattrall and Dolly Parton. Males: Aidan Gillen, Prince Harry and Dominic Cooper.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

With or without funding, I really enjoy the range of Irish features and shorts that are hitting the screens. I appreciate film schools and classes looking more at the script-writing process. There is certainly a great relationship among film folk and a commitment to doing the best of one’s ability and to getting out there and making films.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

Receiving funding from the IFB (Irish Film Board) and RTE…the competition is tight…so being picked is so special!

Do you have an ultimate goal? 

One by one, to bring together the perfect working team so that each project I embark on will have a committed and fun team to tackle any project, big or small.

Thanks Marie, any final comments you would like to add? 

I love meeting new people who have an interesting idea, so please do get in touch!

For more information on Marie Caffrey: www.delsolarfilms.com

 

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Irish Women in Film Series: Audrey O’Reilly

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Audrey O’Reilly

A graduate of the National Film School in 1998, Audrey O’Reilly has been working as a writer and director with increasing success. That year her co-written script Honor Bright was announced as the winner of the Miramax Script Writing Award, and she went on to be awarded an RTÉ / Irish Film Board Short Cuts Award, a short film grant for emerging filmmakers. The resulting film In Loving Memory was a hit on the festival circuit and won a number of awards including the Prix du Public at the prestigious Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival. Audrey then wrote and directed Clare sa Speir one of the 2001 Oscailt short film series which has been included on the Irish Leaving Certificate syllabus.  In addition a ‘Short Short’  she wrote entitled Chicken was selected for official competition in the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. She has also worked as a writer for the RTE soap opera Fair City as well as the popular television series On Home Ground. Teenage Cics a six-part television drama series which she herself co-wrote and directed for TG4, was nominated for the 2006 Smart Telecom Best Drama Award. She has also branched into theatre writing and her play Skin & Blisters toured with Team Education Theatre. She adapted Kate Thompson’s award-winning children’s novel The New Policeman for producer Hawk Koch and Penny Vincenzi’s Windfall for Pivotal Pictures. She is also developing two feature scripts ‘It Takes Three to Tango’ and ‘The Winter Truce’ as well as a television series for TG4. Audrey served for five years as chairwoman of the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild. She now divides her time between Paris and Ireland. She is represented by Mark Casarotto of Casarotto Ramsey & Associates.

Audrey,  how and why did you get started in the business? 

Well I had always adored film, but, having grown up in Cork in the 80s, it didn’t even occur to me that it was a career possibility. I was working in an Irish pub in Bologna, having graduated with a very mediocre BA, and was at a complete loss at what to do next, when my Aunt Kathleen sent me a prospectus for Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design. She thought I might be interested in doing a weekend course in mending ceramic but instead I saw a week-long portfolio preparation course for it’s diploma course in Film & Television and BAM! Light bulb moment! I knew what I wanted to do with my life and haven’t done much else since then.

Did you partake in any formal training or are you self-taught?

As soon as I realized that this was what I wanted to do, I started to read and watch everything about film making I could get my hands on. I studied for a year in Ballyfermot before transferring over to the Film and Television diploma course in DLCAD, now the National Film School. I am also eternally grateful for the stunning courses in writing and directing I’ve done with Screen Training Ireland over the years. If I ever win an Oscar, they’ll be getting a thank you. Then of course I’m a voracious Film and TV addict and get anxious if I haven’t been to the cinema at least once a week. Add what my friends have called ‘an overdeveloped interest in the human condition’…. or ‘gossip and other people’s business’, and you pretty much have a mind primed for story telling.

What and / or whom have been your seminal influences?

It might sound twee, but I would have to say my mother. I used to be in and out of hospital as a kid and, in an attempt to take the sting out of some of the trips, she used to take me to the cinema as a treat. A  published writer herself, she used also make up long episodic stories especially for me. It’s hardly any wonder film and storytelling assumed a huge importance in my life. Also, from a very young age, I adored old Hollywood movies. Singing in the Rain is still an all time favourite. Earlier this year I sat in an auditorium at a Q&A with director Stanley Donen, watching Gene Kelly twirling around a lamp, and I wept. Donen spoke of how when he was child he was inspired by the ‘joy’ and sense of transportation he got from films and wanted to be involved in that world. Well he, and many like him, Hawks, Capra etc, have had the same effect on me.

On the writing front I will never forget the moment I heard the immortal line ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ in Billy Wilder’s & I.A.L Diamond’s Some like it Hot. The utter perfection of it blew me away and Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond have set a high bar to aspire to since. I now know that last line was popped in there until they could come up with something better, but somehow that happy accident makes it even more inspiring.

And can you list your current inspirational influences?

Right now, I find myself being more inspired by what’s going on in television. The David Simons, the David Chases, the Shonda Rhimes etc etc etc. My current TV crush is Lena Dunham.  I love that she’s taking up where Sex in the City left off and is creating a series which speaks viscerally and truthfully to an under represented female audience.

So, imagine that you are having a  fantasy dinner party. Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

I am trying desperately to think of some people from outside the arts but, damn it, if we’re going to be gossiping about show biz all night, they’d only be bored.  Orson Welles, his old pal and my rather curious teenage obsession, Michael MacLiammoir. Nora Ephron, famed conversationalist and director. Josephine Baker and Bette Davis, two cool ladies, and Stellan Skarsgard. I recently watched an interview where he was so blisteringly indiscreet and candid I immediately added him to my fantasy dinner party guest list.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I am constantly humbled by my peers who manage to continue to work and produce films despite plummeting budgets and great obstacles. To my shame I haven’t seen as many of the recent films as I’ve been living abroad and very few seem to receive an international release. On that subject, while I’m impressed by the very personal art house films being produced, I feel there’s a need for more mainstream fare that would have a shot at a decent life in the Cineplexes and switch a wider Irish audience on to Irish film. I find the new wave of home-grown horror very inspiring but how about a decent Irish rom-com? I have a script if any one is interested.

Can you pinpoint any highlights of your career so far?

Well obviously the various prizes have been nice. Standing on the red carpet at Cannes for the closing ceremony as writer for Chicken was a huge buzz, until they separated the producers and writers from the directors and herded us up the back stairs of the auditorium. Hanging out with Robert Evans in his bedroom in Hollywood was also fun. I shall leave that story to your imaginations.

Yet it’s the moments it all came together work-wise which I’ll remember on my death-bed.  On set, Britta Smith’s performance making me cry while directing In Loving Memory. Looking through a lens at Alison Franklin or Oisin O Murachu in Teenage Cics and realising they had the elusive ‘it’ factor… sooo many moments with the many kids I’ve worked with over the years.

I vividly remember one wet and rainy November night standing on the Shankill Road in Belfast. I was directing The Day We Skipped the Bus, with ten shivering school girls who had never acted a day in their lives. My lead had been whisked off by social services, the production manager was trying to negotiate with paramilitaries to shoot in the Johnny Adare Estate, which, by that time, had become our safe haven. I was sick as a dog, cold wet and exhausted. Yet at that moment I realised there was nothing in the world I would rather be doing. That was a highlight!

What would you consider to be your ultimate goal, right now?

To direct feature films which gives an audience even a fraction of the joy that films like Singing In the Rain, My Life As a Dog,  and Some Like It Hot have given me.

Thanks Audrey, and finally, any advice for Newbies entering the world of filmmaking?

Keep the faith, keep learning and develop inexpensive tastes in the meantime.

Check out Audrey’s work…

In Loving Memory: http://vimeo.com/18363263

Chickenhttp://www.vimeo.com/18346463

Photograph by Conor Horgan

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Irish Women in Film: Sarah Daly

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Sarah Daly.

Sarah Daly is a scriptwriter from Dungarvan, Co. Waterford currently working with New Age Film in Scotland. Two of Sarah’s feature films are in the latter stages of post-production; dystopian thriller White Out and a supernatural drama which will be announced later in the year. In the past two years, her work has been performed by Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum. Sarah is best known for being the writer of the Morgan M. Morgansen short films which featured at Sundance and South By Southwest in 2010.

Hi Sarah. Let’s start off by telling us how and why you got started in the business? 

I’ve always loved to write but didn’t consider writing as a career until I discovered scriptwriting while studying Media Arts at DIT. I completed my degree and worked various office jobs for a few years, all the while writing away in my spare time and sending my work out to whoever would read it. Slowly, I started to gain traction. I had a few short films produced in the US and bagged a freelance job as a script reader for Samson Films in Dublin. My biggest breaks came in 2010 when Scottish director Lawrie Brewster from New Age Film took an interest in my work and made an investment in me as a writer. That same year I’d also started submitting work to a website called HitRECord, run by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He came across a piece of writing of mine and produced it into a short film which eventually ended up at Sundance, and its sequel at South By Southwest. I’ve worked with him and HitRECord on several projects since.

Did you have any formal instruction (film school etc) or are you self-taught?

I studied Media Arts at DIT which was basically a bit of everything – TV, film, radio, documentary, but the only part that I really enjoyed was the writing, so I did a lot of my own study on the art and craft of screenwriting – read a lot of scripts and all the screenwriting books I could get my hands on as well as just writing a lot until I found my voice, and understood better what works and what doesn’t.

Where did your seminal influences come from?

I have to start with my family who are all very creative and were always supportive of my childhood artistic endeavours from drawing maps of imaginary lands to belting out compositions on my toy piano. As regards other writers, a lot of my writing is quite poetical and often absurd so writers like Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and James Joyce have been a big inspiration. I love writers who play with language and I adore fantasy, fairytale and science fiction so, basically, any artist who creates alternate universes is okay by me! I adore artists/people who go against the grain, who ask questions with their work and who stick their necks out creatively. My good friend Lexy Hulme, an actress and dancer who starred in the Morgan M. Morgansen films is a constant inspiration as well.

And your current influences?

I take inspiration from everywhere and anywhere – the news, science, sociology, history, folklore. Film-wise I always enjoy the work of Charlie Kaufman, Wes Anderson, Ken Russell and more recently Miranda July. I love filmmakers who can create whole new worlds on-screen and I have a particular soft spot for irreverent trailblazers. In literary terms I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction lately as research for a new script and have been inspired by the work of Philip K. Dick and Walter Tevis – I’m going through a serious dystopia phase at the moment!

Let’s say you’re having a fantasy dinner party.  Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around that dinner table!

Bill Hicks, Kate Bush, Noam Chomsky, Oscar Wilde, Frida Kahlo and Shakespeare. I’d just listen though – I’d be far too intimidated to join in!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I’ve been away from Ireland for the past three years, and practically all of my work has come from abroad for whatever reason, but, still it seems to me that Ireland is doing exceptionally well. We certainly punch above our weight for such a small country. The animation scene in particular is thriving and I think we should be very proud of the volume and quality of our output. Still, I think it’s vital that the supports in place are safeguarded so that the industry can continue to grow. It’s a tough business and these are tough times but hopefully the powers that be continue to recognise the crucial role of the arts in our economy and cultural landscape. Especially as I’d love to work more with Irish producers and directors in future!

Can you tell us what has been the highlight of your career so far?

Probably seeing Gary Oldman perform my poem The Man with a Turnip for a Head at the HitRECord Fall Formal event in LA last year. That was pretty surreal! At the same show, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway also performed a song I’d written. Definitely a night to remember. But, there’s also nothing like seeing your words brought to life on set. Shooting our latest feature was an incredible experience – that’s what makes writing for film so rewarding.

What would you consider to be your ultimate goal, right now?

I just want to carry on doing what I love for a living, to make art that I’m proud of and that others enjoy (or are affected by)! Anything else is a bonus.

Do you have any advice to offer Newbies?

This is advice I hated receiving as a shy, retiring writer, but, it really is all about networking. Putting your work and yourself out there is absolutely the most important thing you can do. All it takes is one crucial connection for your career to take off, so make sure you put yourself in front of as many people as you can. There’s nothing like doing it in person, but the internet is also a valuable tool. Yes, it’s oversaturated but if your work is genuinely good, and if you’re persistent enough, then you will get notice and you will get work. Also, learn as much as you can about all aspects of the industry, not just writing. If you can think like a producer in terms of budget, genre and marketability when it comes to your scripts, then you stand a much better chance of getting produced.

Thanks, Sarah! And finally, any comments you would like to add?

I also make music, for film and otherwise under the name Metaphorest. I contributed to the soundtrack of my first feature White Out and have also written songs for webs series and short films. I released my debut album Metaphorest: Volume 1 last year. You can listen at http://metaphorest.bandcamp.com  and get all the latest news on my writing and music at www.facebook.com/metaphorest

SARAH’S LINKS:

Morgan M. Morgansen films:

http://vimeo.com/15649718

http://vimeo.com/15645613

Trailer for the feature film White Out:

http://www.whiteoutthemovie.co.uk/

 

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Irish Women in Film Series: Shannon Moncrief

 

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Shannon Moncrief.

Shannon Moncrief is an American / Irish independent film maker based in Dublin. She established the film company Pandora Picturesand wrote, directed and produced the short film The Legend, which is currently on the international film festival circuit and has been selected to screen at the 2012 Underground Film Festival, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, happening from the 13th-16th September. Her credits include directing the musical event ‘TrócaireLive‘ and ‘Basso Continuo’.  She also shot and directed a music video for Meteor’s Best Band Awardees Future Kings of Spain. She is currently in pre-production on a feature documentary about the Dublin Underground music scene over the past three decades called Kingdom of the Conscience as well as in pre-production on a music video.

Hello Shannon! Can you start by telling us how and why you got started in the business? 

I came into the business from the writing side. I was working on a novel based on experiences I’d had working in conflict zones out of college and shared my draft manuscript with my brother who’s a cinematographer in LA. He thought the story would make a good film and asked if I’d considered turning it into a screenplay. I didn’t know how to write scripts at the time, but the very next day a pamphlet arrived in the post offering free screenwriting classes with Michael Kinirons at the local library! I was hooked and over time enrolled in a series of courses, including a workshop in London with Syd Field and a Pro-Series Screenwriting Intensive with Hollywood Producer, Hal Croasmun. One of my short film scripts was so tangible to me that I couldn’t imagine handing it to someone else to make. So, I set up a film company, drafted a story board, gathered a crew, produced and directed the film myself.

Did you have any formal instruction, like film school etc, or are you self-taught?

I studied film at the University of Paris so I built my foundation of directing from the French auteur New Wave model. In addition to the screenwriting classes, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to acquire film making skills from courses supported by Irish arts funding.  Through Filmbase, I took a directing class with Vinny Murphy and learned camera and lighting from Michael Lavelle, who recently won the World Cinematography Award at Sundance. I’ve also attended workshops at Screen Training Ireland on ‘How to Make Your First Feature’ with Graham Cantwell and Masterclasses with David Simon, the creator, producer and writer of The Wire and Mark Romanek, the award-winning music video director.  I’m continually studying, learning and growing as a filmmaker.

What and/or whom have been your seminal influences?

My mom was a tremendous influence on introducing me to film and nurturing that passion. When I was about four years old, I remember her waking me up one night to see a movie on TV that she explained was by a brilliant Swedish Director named Ingmar Bergman and really wanted me to see.  As I sleepily watched Wild Strawberries in my nightgown, I can remember being riveted by the story imagery and subtle tension on-screen. That night had a profound effect on me and sparked a magical love for film within. Growing up, my mom would take me and my brother to the movies regularly and not just to the kids films either, but to foreign films, documentaries and adult themed even. My mom was an English teacher and encouraged us to talk about the films we saw and analyse the plot, characters and symbolism to better understand the story. I think by her introducing me to film at an early age as something to be comprehended visually and cogently, it enabled me to naturally combine the screenwriting with the directing. I still enjoy discussing a film after I’ve seen it and consider it a part of the entire movie going experience.

Who are your current favourite and/or influential people?

I continue to be enamoured by the French New Wave directors, most notably Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and screenwriter Marguerite Duras. To me, their films still exude a freshness. I also love the stimulating vision of Asian Directors Akira Kurosawa, Wong Kar Wai and Ang Lee. My favourite directors of the moment that stand out above all others are Sophia Coppola and Spike Jonze. They make great music videos as well as features. I like the screenwriting styles of Charles Kaufman and Alan Ball and would be honoured to work with Cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

Fantasy dinner party guests: Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

David Bowie because he’s fascinating and ground breaking; Jesus for the insight; Albert Einstein who could offer a different perspective to the conversation; Andy Warhol who would turn the party into a happening; Francois Truffaut for the stories; and Anais Nin for the poetic input and to get us all dancing.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

When considering the state of the Irish film scene, I think you first need to check the pulse of the Irish Film Industry. I see the two as inextricably linked. The reality as we know it is that we’ve faced an overall economic downturn and budget cuts were made across all sectors, including the Irish Film Board. Although, even with the coffers down by 14.9% for 2012, we should stay heartened that they still have a pot of funds available to support film making schemes and training. What has changed is that the IFB is going to have to become more focused on return for investment and we Irish film makers are going to need to adopt this approach as well. Film can be an expression of art, but the bottom line is it’s a business. There’s an old Hollywood expression that ‘film is time and money’ and I think the Irish film scene is now facing the truth of this idiom. The funding is there, but the competition is stronger. Current films proposed for funding are going to need to be made with a view towards distribution and profit, not just telling a nice story.

The film scene itself seems to have recently gone through an identity crisis, but on the surface appears to be prospering with Irish film makers recently taking top awards at A-list international film festivals Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, and Toronto and nominated for five Academy Awards®. In this time of slashed budget cuts, continued support of the industry confirms that it’s an integral part of Ireland’s job and tourism creation with 20% of all tourists identifying television and film images as their reason for visiting.

I’d like to see Film Producers filling in the financial gaps by identifying complementary and additional sources of support apart from the Irish film industry. Kickstarter is an example of alternative ways of raising film funds. It’s great that the film industry provides assistance in releasing films into local theatres and I hope this continues to grow. Irish films can generate ticket sales at the box office locally and internationally as proven by the recent successes of The Guard and His and Hers. I would also like to see national cinemas getting more behind Irish filmmaking and running Irish shorts before their feature presentations.

Can you pinpoint the highlight of your career so far?

Interviewing Vedran Smailovic, (The Cellist of Sarajevo) and filming his absorbing performance. It was so inspiring to talk with him about his past iconic gesture against war when he played his cello publicly outside in the rubble while the city of Sarajevo was under siege. When I asked him if he ever went back to Sarajevo, he replied, ‘I don’t go back, I go forward!’ You can’t help but be changed after a conversation with someone like him. To me, getting his moving story out to others is part of what the beauty and purpose of film is about.

What would you say is your ultimate goal?

To win the pinnacle of achievement in this profession – the Oscar® – twice. One for Best Director and one for Best Screenplay. They would make nice book ends.

Do you have any advice to offer ‘newbies’ coming into the business?

If someone is interested in filmmaking, my advice is to get active. Start crewing on films, any films. In the beginning, I first crewed on a documentary and music video and even ended up making a cameo appearance in it! The aim is to gain experience. There are constantly people looking for crew members.  Film Ireland’s notice board is one place where jobs are posted. Once on set, do the best job you can. Be reliable, thorough, professional and learn the ropes. If more education is needed, there are some great programmes sponsored by Filmbase, Screen Training Ireland, local Arts Councils and libraries. If someone wants to write for film, then start writing. Attend film events, get to know the film scene and your craft. If someone wants to make their own film, funding schemes are still available, but it’s no longer a perquisite. Filmbase rents equipment at a fair price and video cameras aren’t that expensive to purchase. I’ve even seen an amazing film shot entirely from an iphone video camera app. Making a film today doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You can download software to make your own edits and upload the films electronically to submit to film festivals all over the world. In this modern age of technology the film industry is a much more open field.

Thanks, Shannon, any final comments you would like to add?

Joseph Conrad once said that to be happy in life you should find your bliss and follow it. Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing your passion whatever it is. If it’s filmmaking, then start making films. If it’s writing, then write!

You can check out Shannon’s website at www.shannonmoncrief.com

Her facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/?ref=hp#!/pages/Shannon-Moncrief/436681913039167

 

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Irish Women in Film Series: Vittoria Colonna

 

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Vittoria Colonna.

Vittoria Colonna is an Irish/Italian filmmaker. She studied fine art in Rome’s L’Accademia di Belle Arti, trained as an actor in The Gaiety school of Acting, Dublin and Opera singing in Tuscany. Her visual flair and energy gave Vittoria the opportunity to direct several music videos for, among others, Julie Feeney, Dirty Epics, Preachers Sonand The Coronas; winning her the Best-Styled Music Video at the Irish Music Television Awards (IMTV) in 2009, Best Music Video at The Los Angeles Film & Script Festival 2012, Golden Ace Award Winner at The Las Vegas Film Festival 2012 and a Golden Palm Award at The Mexico International Film Festival in San Diego 2012. Most impressively has been the touring success of her feature documentary, Identities, and My Identity which was awarded The Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) Human Rights Film Award. The performance art pieces from the film were selected as part of the Worldwide Italian Pavilion & 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2011. Vittoria is also a member of the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland (SDGI).

Welcome Vittoria! Tell us how and why did you get started in the business? 

My journey began with a drive to find out: Why am I here? Who I was and what did I want to achieve from life and when would I have the answers, if ever? Creativity and expression were my strongest tools growing up. I was good at many artistic endeavours but found it hard to master one expertise and so I became a Jacqueline of all trades, so to speak! I painted, sculpted, acted, even trained in Bel Canto, but then found myself falling in love with film. Here I could multitask through the most powerful medium known. The painter in me loved the solitude, the music helped me escape and my inner actor craved for love and catharsis… moving images and stories helped me marry all these desires into directing, writing and producing.

What has been your educational journey in film? Formal or self-taught?

Film is not a pure art form, it’s a mish-mash of creatives, business and so many points of views. You learn to follow your instinct and inner voice. I am mostly self-taught. I had learnt that some teachers should ‘do’ and not teach. I suppose I wanted to make my own path in film and didn’t want to be told how to think and work. Past experiences taught me this lesson. I always had hope that when I was ready the right teacher would come along. Unfortunately I never found him or her, BUT I did discover other filmmakers like myself and formed friendships and joined groups. Film is about relationships and I watched and learnt from others successes and mistakes. I’m still always learning something new from every project.

And your seminal influences?

I have always been influenced by outsiders, survivors, art, artists and story tellers. Even you the reader fascinate me! If you have something to say and with conviction I will listen. I want to connect, to feel excited about a subject and sometimes that can manifest in the strangest places. Of course I have been greatly influenced by amazing directors such as Fellini, Bertolucci, Kubrick, Godard etc… as well as YouTube links by the passionate amateurs. I think I’m constantly switched on to the muse, you never know when she will strike?! Never stop seeking…

So who are your current favourites / influences?

Well this week… Hmmm….I just finished a music video so I have to mention these guys: Romain Gavras (M.I.A -Born Free,  Bad Girls) and Vincent Haycock (Calvin Harris– Jump) for their great work! Also I can’t get enough of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu films….hugely inspiring!!

Imagine that you are having a fantasy dinner party. Living or dead, name six people you would love to have as guests around your table.

Only six?! That is tough! Ok an intimate dinner so let’s have the girls over: Actress, Bette Davis could cook. Painter Tamara de Lempickacould serve the guests. My great Grandmother Andrea Torrigianiseated on my right. The artist Frida Kahlo on my left and I would be face to face with the 16th century poet and my ancestor, Vittoria Colonna!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene? 

Ireland produces some very high quality indie films, and I love that for such a small country, we really push production values. Our stories are strong in identity but I would love to see more international stories come through here, expanding beyond our cultural cocoon. I want to be surprised and I’m always excited to see bolder, braver choices being made and that includes roles for women. More alternative female characters and stories please!

Can you tell us what has been the highlight of your career so far?

The latest project is always the highlight but I guess I may be known more for some of my music videos and the feature documentary ‘Identities’ which focuses on five transgender stories. I have just finished two projects this month; a music video for The CoronasDreaming Again’ and a short film for TG4/Filmbase ‘4 Queens’ that will be airing in September.

Ultimate goal?

To tell stories that speak to others and myself… Ultimately I want to direct feature films, moving documentaries and internationally high-end music videos.

Thanks, Vittoria. Any final comments you would like to add?

I have recently been questioning the role of women within the film industry. In Cannes this year there was an uproar to the gender imbalance that no female directors were in competition. I’m sure the films were chosen on their merit of which, all directors/creators happened to be men, but in a shocking manifesto entitled “The Cannes Film Festival 2012: a Man is a Man is a Man!,” La Barbefacetiously congratulated the festival’s president Gilles Jacob and the rest of its jurors for failing to include a single female-directed film among its 22 nominees for the 2012 Palme d’Or. The letter was published in the French newspaper Le Monde, “never let the girls think they can someday have the presumptuousness of making movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps except when attached to the arm of a Prince Charming.”

Now however ridiculous this sounds, this argument does raise questions: Do some of us ladies still feel hindered to become directors? If so, is it because we halt careers due to family restraints? Maybe because we think the director’s job is still predominately a man’s role? Or do we feel limited to a stereotype role of only producing ‘sensitive or ‘empathic’ stories, hindering our creative voices? (Kathryn Bigelow certainly breaks this cliché!) I don’t have the answers but I have my opinions, for sure. I know breaking into this industry is no easy task and takes contacts, time and sacrifice, regardless of your gender, but at least the results are worthwhile!

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:
 
Check Caroline’s Time Standing Still, her collection of short stories at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46613
Follow Caroline on twitter https://twitter.com/CarolineAuthor
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Interview: Irish Women in Film Series: Lisa McNamee

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Continuing the series Irish Women in Film, Caroline Farrell interviews Lisa McNamee.

Lisa McNamee is a Dublin based film and theatre producer. She is currently Head of Production for Planet Korda Pictures, a production company which specializes in broadcast documentaries. Her current projects are See You at the Pictures! a documentary on cinema-going in Ireland for RTÉ and No Party for Billy Burns, a beautiful fiction feature about fantasy, loneliness and cowboys… She is also developing a new play about Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka to be staged in 2013 in cooperation with Fire & Ice Theatre Company and graphic artist Stephen Kane.

Lisa, tell us how and why did you get started in the business? 

I’ve always loved being able to lose myself in a great story. To me that’s one of the best things about working as a producer. When you find a script that’s really wonderful, that completely draws you into its world, that’s a brilliant feeling. That’s what attracted me to film in the first place. That and the ridiculousness of it. When you are working incredibly hard to bring fictional worlds, characters and relationships to life, it often feels as though what you’re doing is very strange. Before I started working in film, I watched loads of behind-the-scenes videos of complex set builds and fictional worlds and fell in love with that process. It’s that fantasist element of film that’s always appealed to me.

I started in film the same way most people do, working for free on friends’ projects, building up a portfolio of films and gradually moving on to better financed projects.

Did you have any formal instruction, or are you self-taught?

I did a semester in the New York Film Academy, but my primary degree is unrelated to film (Classical Civilization & French). Other than that it’s just been on the job, and lots of research.

What and/or whom have been your seminal influences?

I grew up on westerns, sci-fi and period drama and I’ve never fallen out of love with those genres. The one bone I would pick with the Irish industry is that there is rarely the budget available to really take a risk in these kind of genres. I think that’s a shame.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

I loved Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. It was so beautiful. Weirdly, I’ve never seen any of his other films so I think it’ll be a few weeks of trawling through his back catalogue of delicious oddities.

I’m really looking forward to watching Lauren Greenfield’s doc The Queen of Versailles about the collapse of the artificially mega rich in the U.S.and I was just given the animated film Max & Mary on DVD (after many dropped hints) so will be hoping for another favourite animation there.

Fantasy dinner party guests? Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

Erika Hníková – Czech director of an amazing (and funny) documentary film called ‘The Match-Making Mayor‘ about the attempts of a mayor in a rural town to get the townsfolk to marry and have children. He has a megaphone. It’s brilliant.

Richard Pryor (Comedian)

Bill Bailey (Comedian)

Shaapi Khorsandi (Comedian)

Sarah Millican (Comedian)

Four comedians at dinner = constant one-up-manship

My boyfriend (We live together and I’m sure he’d be quite pissed off if I told him I was inviting a bunch of really entertaining people over and he wasn’t invited!)

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I’m just back from the Fleadh (Galway Film Festival) and I’m so delighted to see so many wonderful Irish films on the festival circuit at the moment. I think that the quality and variety of films on offer from Irish production companies at the moment has never been higher. As I said before, I’d love to see Irish crews working on types of films that we don’t really get to make here. Although, with Vikingsand Game of Thrones shooting here at the moment, as well as Ripper Street and similar programmes, hopefully it’s only a matter of time before we start attracting period/fantasy film projects on the same budget scale as in other countries.

Can you pick out the highlight of your career so far?

I can’t pick one highlight I’m afraid. I get two really great days that I always remember on every film. The first time that I sit down with a director to discuss the project and the film’s first screening. They’re both usually really memorable. That first meeting is where every mad idea and possibility for the project is thrown on the table, realistic or not, and forms the basis of months of schemes and planning. The first screening is always such stress, and such relief. It’s always a blur, but the excitement of the experience stays with you. Those are my two highlights of each project…unless there is a big set build, in which case the highlights expand to include seeing first drawings and final stages of the build itself.

What is your ultimate career goal?

My ultimate goal…Hmm…at the moment I have two. Firstly, to get a great distributor for No Party for Billy Burns and secondly, to get a personal project I’ve been developing made next year.

Thanks, Lisa. Final comments? 

If you’ve got a cinema-going story you’d like to share, get in touch atwww.seeyouatthepictures.com. If you watched John Wayne and co. as a kid and thought ‘Awesome!’, check out www.facebook.com/billyburnsmovie for some real cowboys.

 

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:
 
Check Caroline’s Time Standing Still, her collection of short stories at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46613
Follow Caroline on twitter https://twitter.com/CarolineAuthor
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Interview: Irish Women in Film Series: Rita-Marie Lawlor

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Continuing the series Irish Women in Film, Caroline Farrell interviews Rita-Marie Lawlor.

Rita-Marie Lawlor is an independent filmmaker from Dublin. She set up her independent film company RML Films in 2005 and made several TV pilots, short films and features, including A Scare, Less Ordinary and Remember Me? Rita-Marie’s documentary, Gloves and Glory, is currently in production, and focuses on female boxing in Ireland. She is also prepping a new feature script while getting ready to take on a Masters Degree in screenwriting at IADT in Dun Laoghaire this coming October.

First question, Rita-Marie, how and why did you get started in the business? 

I wanted to be involved with film since childhood. I began writing at 11 years old in 1989 and by the time I was a teenager I was sending my works off to production companies. It was later in life (24) when I went to film school for two years and it was a great move. I learned a lot more on how to format scripts and break them down for directing scenes and how to work with actors too. Pretty much for most of my life it has been my desire, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Which film school did you attend? 

I studied full-time in Colaiste Dhulaigh and graduated with a B TEC HND in film production. I was awarded a distinction in directing and producing along with a Best Film Award.

Seminal influences?

I’m a big fan of Shane Meadows, Martin Scorsese and Jim Sheridan. I love the way Mike Leigh develops his ideas with the actors. In TV writing it would be Jimmy McGovern, Kay Mellor, John Sullivan and Amy Jenkins.

If you were to imagine a fantasy dinner party,  name six people, living or dead, that you would love to have around your dinner table.

Jimi Hendrix for the guitar, Janis Joplin for the singing – followed by a chat over a whiskey. Martin Scorsese, Samuel Beckett, Emma Restall Orr and Daniel Day-Lewis. A diverse bunch with lots of stories – would definitely be an inspiration for a great film script!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I am happy to see that there are lots of independent filmmakers in Ireland who are out there making films regardless if they are getting proper funding or not. Years ago it was more difficult, filmmakers really needed a lot of money, but now you can hire great equipment or invest in it and make films. I would like to see more Irish drama though, a lot of films lately are a bit the same to be honest. Lots of zombie films, gangster/action films and others in that genre – not that there is anything wrong with making those type of films but personally I love a great story with lots of reversals and clever writing with brilliant actors. There’s nothing like watching a good old-fashioned quality drama unfold, something that you’d still be talking about months after you’ve seen it and to be inspired by it. I think Charlie Casanova is the only Irish film within the last few years that has had an impact, nothing like it was ever made before – certainly not in Ireland anyway. I think filmmakers need to tap into this style of filmmaking more, be daring but be clever about it too.  I think certain Irish film festivals should be more supportive of the unfunded films, some of them seem to only screen films that are Film Board/Filmbase funded which doesn’t seem fair. I know of a few really great films that didn’t get into the Galway Fleadh this year, which is a shame.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?  

Having the privilege of working with great actors. Having my films screened at festivals is always a highlight for me and having them screened on TV too.  I’ve had one of my films screened on English, Australian and New Zealand TV channels, so I’m hoping the same will happen for my other ones.

And your ultimate goal?

To keep making films and to make my singular voice heard rather than doing it for the money. Plain and simple really, just to be successful in what I do and for people to like what I write and what I create. I wouldn’t mind a cinema release for one of my films in the future – now that would be pretty nice!

What advice would you offer to Newbies?

To remember why you wanted to be a filmmaker in the first place. Be original and be inspired – but don’t copy.  Make your own creative voice heard, regardless of what everyone else thinks. Stick to your own ideas and write what you know, embrace good actors when directing and watch what unfolds – it will be more rewarding than a big cheque.  Watch over rushes as soon as you can get them, rather than waiting until the film’s wrapped – learn to spot disasters before they happen and don’t leave everything to be fixed in the edit – fix it on set and have a good AD!  Treat the cast and crew with respect, especially if there is no money involved.  Make sure there’s plenty of food and taxi/train fare, and treat them well.  You have to remember that they are working long hard hours and giving up their time for YOUR film – so always remember that, and of course give them a copy of the finished piece.

Thanks, Rita-Marie! Any final comments you would like to add?

It’s tough going, long days and long nights. But you have to enjoy it and when you see your idea going from talking about it – to script – to shooting – to editing – and then to a cinema screen – nothing can explain how special and rewarding that feels.

You can check out Rita-Marie’s Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RML-Films/147668425244609

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:
 
Check Caroline’s Time Standing Still, her collection of short stories at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46613
Follow Caroline on twitter https://twitter.com/CarolineAuthor
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Interview: Irish Women in Film Series – Eilis Mernagh

 

In the start of a new series Caroline Farrell interviews a selection of Irish Women in Film, beginning with Eilis Mernagh.

The first lady to be featured in this series is prolific screenwriter and producer, Eilis Mernagh. Eilis is the writer and co-producer of Tiger [2012], a short thriller directed by Cathal Nally.  She also produced the short film, Prodigal Son [2010], written and directed by Colin Scuffins. Her short film, Regards to the Chef [2009], directed by Kian and Ewen Pettit, was featured in the Darklight feature production, Hotel Darklight. All I Want for Christmas, a feature script, has been optioned to a TV Production Company in the U.S, and Eilis was also an Altantis Award recipient at the Moondance Film Festival, 2011.

So Eilis, how and why did you get started in the business? 

I’ve always written stuff but for some reason never screenplays. Then I did this two-day course with Laurence Henson at the IFI (Irish Film Institute) back in 2007 and got completely hooked. It’s been a happy obsession/major hobby-turned new career ever since.

Did you have any formal instruction (film school, etc.) or are you self-taught?

Self-taught – I read other screenplays, go to seminars and talks and try and write as much as possible.

What have been your seminal influences?

Loads of things – I grew up spending a lot of time with my mom’s parents and my granddad was obsessed with Westerns and old gangster movies, so I must have seen hundreds of them. His favourite comedian was Bob Hope and my script The Heartstoppers was really a modern-day, (less racist!) version of Hope’s comedy The Ghostbreakers. Then my aunt who used to have to babysit me would take a load of kids to Eighties films like E.T., The Goonies, Short Circuit, etc. etc. I’ve probably watched two films a week since I was a kid. I’m a film whore – I find I learn as much from watching bad movies as I do from the good ones. I like a good story, well told, with great characters in most genres but I prefer comedies, adventure films and thrillers.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

I like the fact that female comedy is really getting somewhere – finally. I hope we look back on Bridesmaids and see it as the start of a new wave of comedy rather than the high point of a phase. Joss Whedon is a genius – would give my right arm to work with him – as is J.J. Abrams. After seeing Winter’s Bone, I’d love to work with Debra Granik.

Okay, so you’re having a fantasy dinner party!  Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around that fantasy dinner table?

Jack Lemmon (to see if he was as awesome in person), Kathryn Bigelow (another lady I’d love to write a script for), Joe Ezsterhas (for the crazy), Maureen O’Hara (for the Hollywood stories ), Garson Kanin (even more Hollywood gossip) and Ian Fleming (for the spy stories).

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I think it’s unfortunate that there is no money. Not that there ever has been any, but I think what’s badly needed are some real huckster producers, people who can raise money somehow, by whatever means, so we can make some bloody films. I’m thinking of someone like Lloyd Kaufman or Roger Corman, real characters who make things happen. The producers we have tend to be nice, well-meaning middle-class people who have two ways of raising money: the Film Board and European co-productions. What about thinking a bit more creatively on this? Once the money’s there, we need to ask ourselves the question: what do people want to watch? Not ‘how am I going to show the depths of despair of the Irish psyche’, but what do people want to see on Saturday night at the cinema? And once we’ve all been honest about this (let’s face it, the answer is, they want entertaining films that have great stories and compelling characters), we need to write those scripts. If it’s a question of budget limitations, look at Attack the Block. Great film, great characters, very little money spent.

Highlight of your career so far?

Winning a screenplay award at the 2011 Moondance Film Award.

What would be your ultimate career goal?

Winning an Oscar® – I want one of those little gold men for the mantelpiece.

Thanks Eilis… any final comment you would like to add?

Yes – there’s loads of talent out there, everyone just needs to believe in themselves, ignore the staggering amount of negativity, and keep truckin’…

 

You can check in with Eilis through her blog: http://dublintohollywood.com/

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:
 
Check Caroline’s Time Standing Still, her collection of short stories at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46613
Follow Caroline on twitter https://twitter.com/CarolineAuthor

 

 

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Don’t Put All Your Shelf Puppies in One Basket…

What next?scriptwriting-150x150

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

Caroline Farrell gives an inside view on how to get your scripts out there.

It’s a fact folks that writing screenplays is a time-consuming, arduous and lonely process. Unless you are going to make your own movies, or are lucky enough to establish that all-important writer/director/producer relationship and collaborate to create great movies together, the opportunities to sell your scripts are few and far between. Once you know this and you still, like me, find the time to write every day and get excited when a new plot finally begins to take shape, then blessings on your head, and read on!

Also, like me, you have probably gone through the polite and proper process of contacting producers with your initial letter of inquiry, to be told, absolutely, yes, send on your script… and you do… and you wait… and you give them a little nudge… and you wait… and you nudge them again and you hear absolutely zero.

Or, you get a quick scribble of an email informing you that they are too busy… that old standard ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ vibe. Yeah, we’ve all been there, right?

No matter, we still continue to be true to our craft and creativity with the hope that some day we will see our characters come to life before a rapturous audience. So, once we have polished our screenplays to a state that we feel is presentable to the world, just what exactly are those elusive things we call opportunities? How do we get our scripts out there?

On a national level there are well-established routes to pursue:

Filmbase
In partnership with RTÉ offer twice-yearly short script awards. You must become a member and pay an annual fee to be eligible to enter.

The Galway Film Centre
Also in partnership with RTÉ, offer an annual competition. You must become a member and pay an annual fee to be eligible, and you must also have a director and producer attached.

The Waterford Film Festival
Runs an annual Short Script Competition and the entry fee is quite reasonable.

The Irish Film Board.

The board offers other funding opportunities and short script awards. This can be a successful route for many, though if you’re thinking of submitting for a writer only, first draft loan, I say go for it, but in the event of your submission being rejected, be strong, learn from the experience and don’t take it personally!

And here’s the thing… your project is not dead in the water if it is rejected by a producer, or indeed, by any of the above. There are other options to get your work out there, to get feedback, gain confidence and to ensure that your name and reputation becomes synonymous with serious script writing.

One of those other options is entering international screenwriting competitions.
I can hear the questioning silence. Is that it? Is that all she’s got? Okay, so not all screenwriting competitions are worth bothering with, especially when most of them require an entry fee and often seem to be a well-calculated marketing ploy to sell script consultation services. Who among us can afford to hit the PayPal path continuously anyway? Not me, that’s for sure. So the key issues that concern me when considering entering a competition are:

• What are the credentials of the organisers?
• How much will it cost me?
• What will I gain if I am placed?

To avoid wasting time about the pros and cons of each one I have researched, I shall only list my top five, and in no particular order:

Nicholl Fellowships
This is a prestigious award. Up to five $30,000 fellowships are awarded each year to promising new screenwriters. From the program’s inception in 1986 through 2009, over $2.8 million have been awarded to 121 writers.

PAGE Awards
Great opportunities may present if you are placed in this competition, including the chance to get your script read by industry professionals, raise your writing profile and there is a generous cash prize for the overall winner!

Kaos Films
An opportunity to get your short or feature script made, and this one is judged by a group of extremely high-calibre professionals.

BlueCat
Initial feedback is included in your entry fee. For a further, discounted price, you also have the opportunity to re-write and re-submit your work after receiving the initial feedback. I decided not to avail of this service, but still reached the semi-finals in 2010.

Zoetrope
Run by Francis Ford Coppola, part of the prize is to be considered for representation by the William Morris Agency. Also, the website offers opportunities to engage online with the international writing community and is a good source of feedback.

Writer/Director Shane McCabe’s recent success stories confirm what can be achieved by taking the competition route. Shane’s feature script ‘Probable Cause‘ was placed third at the 24th Annual Write Movies International Competition, and the script has also recently been short-listed as a Semi Finalist at the Austin Film Festival, giving Shane priority access to all meetings, round table discussions, luncheons and screenings.

In 2009, another of Shane’s scripts, ‘The Base‘, scooped the top prize at the Back in the Box Screenwriting Competition. As a result, it will go into production next year with Shane attached to direct. Shane explains the benefits: ‘Following the victory at the Write Movies event, the festival organizers will now actively pitch the winning scripts to all the major studios, as well as many production companies. A good few doors will now start to open for me. I’ve been knocking on them for so long it’s so nice to have them open finally.’

In 2009, screenwriter Eilis Mernagh won a place on a screenwriting workshop at the Bristol Encounters Short Film Festival. As part of her prize, she got a free pass to the whole festival, as well as the chance to see some professional actors and a Bafta-winning director do a reading of her script.

Eilis reckons that there are three main advantages to winning competitions, ‘I put a short script into the Darklight festival last year and they produced it as part of the Hotel Darklight. This was huge as it gave me my first screen credit. I now have a CV with a produced credit and that’s really helped when talking to producers etc. The Darklight experience also introduced me to a lot of people, some of whom were also good enough to work on a short I produced in April this year. Lastly, there’s the kudos from winning, or placing, in a competition. I mention any small gains like these in my CV and it helps to grease the wheels. I won’t stop until I’ve won the PAGE Awards grand prize!’

Dublin-based screenwriter Eoin Rogers has been writing screenplays for four years, and in that time, has entered nearly twenty competitions. Eoin says, ‘As someone who finds the discipline of regular writing and rewriting difficult, competitions provide me with an external deadline as well as judgement (and sometimes validation) by independent professionals.’

Eoin’s script ‘Red Flag’ recently won 1st Prize in the Action category of the StoryPros Screenwriting Awards. He adds, ‘Each time I have applied to competitions, I have seen my scripts rise higher and higher until finally placing and eventually winning an international category. That particular script is now being read by Paramount and I might be sending it out wide to try to get an agent, and ideally an option or sale. Competitions are definitely one way to get read by local and international agents and producers. If a script has already been objectively approved, everyone else suddenly becomes more likely to read it.’

Eoin was also the third prize winner in the family category of the PAGE Screenwriting Awards with his script, ‘Alice beneath the Waves’.

So there you have it my fellow scribes, success stories that prove it can be done. In terms of opportunities to get your work out there the world is your oyster, so get cracking! The competitions listed in this article are by no means a definitive list. There are good websites, such as MovieBytes.com, which list all the major competitions, and include entry fees, deadlines, ratings and feedback which is helpful when making a decision as to whether to enter or not.

So no excuses now, dust off those shelf puppies, do your research – and re-writes if necessary – and who knows, perhaps we’ll see more familiar names in the 2011 finals. The very best of luck!

Caroline Farrell has been writing scripts for a little over three years. Her short script, ‘In Ribbons’ took second place in this year’s Waterford Film Festival, and she was also a finalist in the 2010 PAGE Awards with her feature script, ‘Pixer Knows’, a fantastical children’s adventure. Her script, ‘Lady Beth’, a dark drama, got to the semi-finals of the 2010 Kaos British Feature Screenplay Awards, and ‘The Lupii’, a horror feature, reached the quarter-finals of the Champion Screenplay Competition this year.

Email: farrell.caroline@gmail.com

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