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

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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.

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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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