The Awards ceremony took place last week in Las Vegas and the writing team beat big Hollywood names such as Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, In Treatment, Big Love) and Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Fried Green Tomatoes, Risky Business).
Alongside the Best Writing award, Cuckoo was nominated for Best Directing (Drama) for Danann Breathnach, and Best Female Actress (Drama) for Pagan McGrath, who was up against Julia Stiles and Anna Paquin.
Cuckoo recently picked up awards at ATL WebFest 2013 (Atlanta) and the Lovie Awards (London), as well as being nominated at the 2013 Webbys (New York) and screened at festivals in Geneva, Rome, Marseille and Melbourne. It has also been selected at LAwebfest (Los Angeles), coming up in March.
Production has just been completed in London on a new Irish short entitled The Question, a visually stunning and compelling science fiction film directed by Danann Breathnach. Danann’s recent credits include a number of internationally recognised short films such as Irish Film Board fundedTeam Sleep.This is his first foray into the world of science fiction, and Danann’s eye for stylistic detail in previous productions including a number of high concept music videos, ensures this futuristic drama is an exciting departure for this rising director.
Danann Breathnach previously had a career as a TV presenter and actor for the likes for MTV, Fame Academy and Hollyoaks. The Question features Owen Mc Donnell and Phoebe McIntosh in the lead roles.
The story of The Question is an intriguing one. SHE is a woman with an unknown past, jolted back into life from a cryogenically frozen state by an ambitious doctor intent on pushing the boundaries of creation. SHE has been somewhere for over 100 years, and although the scientists want to erase what few memories have tenuously survived, everyone else hungrily wants to know who she is and where she has been. But does she remember, and should she tell them? Ultimately this film asks whether or not there is life after death and pits science against religion in an ethical battle for identity and freedom.
Cinematography on the film was carried out by Dan Stafford Clarke, and a small team of people led by Beck Rainford and Fiona Allbrow set about the challenging role creating the costumes and visual world of our characters who exist in an imaginative future on a very tight budget. Talent and innovation came to the fore with some stunning results.
Produced by London based Irish filmmaker Mark Downes, and co-produced by Dublin based Anna Rodgers, the film was made by MPH Films in London through the Filmbase/RTE short film award. Danann Breathnach co-wrote the script with talented young writer Jessica O’Toole, and the film spent a year in development allowing the unique world of the main characters to be envisaged. The film is now in post-production and will be premiered later this year.
Storyland is RTÉ Drama’s competition made up of eight series of competing webisodes. Each time a new webisode is published people vote for their favourite. The webisodes that get the most votes get commissioned to make the next episode. After four webisodes one series will emerge as the winner of Storyland 2012.
Peter White visited the set of Cuckoo, one of this year’s webisodes hoping to get commissioned. Cuckoo follows disaffected teenager Niamh Keegan, who feels like a spare part in her boring, staid family unit. A photo in the newspaper makes her question her identity.
On a breezy December afternoon, I make my way through the winding streets of Ranelagh following the directions to ‘the house with the big light outside.’ I can’t help thinking to myself that if this ‘big light’ is a streetlamp, my search may prove fruitless. To my delight, I turn a corner to find a great big spotlight on the path pointed directly at a bedroom window. This must be the place.
Cuckoo is a series of short webisodes (original episodes shown on the internet) and is one of the entries in the fourth season of the RTÉ Storyland series. The competition kicks off on February 13th, when each entry’s first episode will be available to view online. One team will be eliminated by public vote each round. The filming of subsequent episodes is dependent on Cuckoo’s success in each round, but judging by the talent involved in this production you’d have to fancy its chances.
Cuckoo is directed by Danann Breathnach who has previous success with a number of short films (check out his excellent A Love Story… In Milkon Vimeo) as well as possessing a recognisable face courtesy of his time as an MTV presenter. And when that face is behind the camera he has a penchant for stylish flourishes, which should lend themselves nicely to the Cuckoo world of Niamh Keegan.
So who is Niamh Keegan? Niamh, played by Pagan McGrath, is a teenage girl who can’t relate to her parents and feels as if she doesn’t belong. Nothing unusual about that, but in Niamh’s case her feelings may be justified when a digitally aged photograph of a child abducted a decade earlier is printed in the newspaper. The image bears a striking resemblance to Niamh and she can’t help wondering if this is the cause of her sense of alienation. Over the course of four instalments Niamh sets out to investigate the startling similarities.
Pagan McGrath & Danann Breathnach
On set in a semi-detached house in Ranelagh feels remarkably like life with a teenage girl living under your roof. Whilst filming takes place upstairs, people are shouting downstairs for quiet, with the iron fist of the sound engineer swiftly quashing any racket. Movement between rooms for new scenes is accompanied by moments of deafening noise as hordes of people rush about upstairs carrying cables and equipment. Whilst McGrath is busy filming upstairs, downstairs is blessedly peaceful where we enjoy a nice cup of coffee wrapped in whispered conversation; very much like life with a teenager indeed.
The sitting room doubles as a waiting room and is an opportunity for cast and crew to relax when not needed. Niamh’s father Brendan, played by the charming Brian Fortune, spends much of the afternoon here as his scenes took place in the morning or are due after nightfall. Fortune regales the room with stories of his time spent as Bowen Marsh in Game of Thrones (much to my pestering and delight) as well as his summer spent filming a delightfully B-movie horror film, Wrath of the Crows, in Italy. The sitting room further provides a welcome respite from the biting wind that howls through the main corridor of the house due to the crew’s constant movements between back garden and front door.
Shooting wraps on schedule and the crew gratefully depart into the night in anticipation of another long day of filming tomorrow. The RTÉ Storyland series is to be commended for the exposure it gives to up and coming Irish talent. We can all benefit from the addition of some fresh movers and shakers on our screens so do yourself a favour and check out all the entrants on February 13th. Let’s shine a spotlight on the fourth season of Storyland and shape the future of RTÉ together.
The first episode of Cuckoo will be broadcast on 13th February 2012 on RTÉ’s Drama website www.rte.ie/storyland