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

Amy-Joyce Hastings in The Callback Queen

Amy-Joyce Hastings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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From the Archive: Breaking (Down) the Budget

Blair-Witch-Project1

 

Low-budget can mean anything from a few hundred grand to small change and some pocket-lint. But no matter the size of your lump sum, what’s the smartest way to spend your money in low-budget filmmaking? Conor McMahon talks to directors Brian O’Toole, Paul Ward, Eoin Macken and himself…  

 

 

Budgets are strange things. From the few films I’ve produced, I’ve always found them difficult and frustrating to put together. It’s impossible to tell how much most things will cost. How do you know how much footage will be shot or how much food will be eaten? And without accurate figures, how can you ever make a definite budget? I’ve also found it odd that on bigger films a budget is put together when they don’t even know exactly how it’s going to be shot, or how the director plans on staging certain things. But in the end, a budget is something you need to get things moving, to convince people it’s possible so you can secure finance.

 

The other thing about budgets is that a lot of people won’t talk about them. They don’t want people to know how much their film cost. And it’s understandable. If you’ve made a film for 100,000 and you say it cost 500,000, chances are you’ll probably be able to sell it for more on the market. It’s often only at the very lower end of the spectrum that people will proudly declare that their film cost a week’s wages, and use that as a selling point. The zombie film Colin that was shot earlier in the year and was apparently made for £40. Another example would be of course El mariachi, which used the fact that it only cost $7000 as a selling point.

 

In the age of digital filmmaking it’s easier than ever to pick up a camera and go out a shoot a film. But how much money do you need to do it? The answer is often whatever you have and whatever you can get.

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Memoria

– Dir: Brian O’Toole

– Overall Budget: €25,000

– Filmed on 16 mm

 

Budget Breakdown

 

For stock we used 25 x 400ft cans at €130 a pop – €3,250. We shot on an Arriflex SR3, so equipment and lights, including a 21-day rental of an underwater camera casing – €15,000. Processing and Telecine to Digibeta (both in Lisbon, at a very, very accommodating place called Tobis) – €2,200. The remainder went on travel expenses, food and some beers. No one got paid a dime.

 

 

Do you think having more money would have helped?

 

I’m not sure it would have made much difference to the actual film. But it would have been great to be able to pay people for their hard work. I’d have taken more time over more money, though.

 

Were there any advantages to having less money?

 

You have to think very creatively to shoot effectively on a low budget, especially on film.

 

What kind of favours did you pull to get the film made?

 

The cast and crew worked for free. Various bands played a fundraiser for us. We got money from parents and friends and the use of some cool locations through friends of the family.

 

Where should your money go in a low-budget films?

 

For me, it’s visuals. There’s no reason low-budget films have to look ugly. And quality gear is key. After that, quality food. It keeps people happy.

 

 

Did you write the idea for a low-budget? If so, what did you take into account when writing the script?

 

Yes, the whole project was geared towards the budget from the get-go.

 

Would you make another film at this level, or do you think it served as a training ground for something bigger?

 

I learned a hell of a lot. Of course I’d like to make something bigger, but I’d do it again. I just love making films.

 

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fur_coat_no_knickers

Fur Coat and No Knickers

– Dir: Paul Ward

– Overall Budget: €22,000

– Shot on Z1

 

Budget Breakdown

 

Camera equipment for the 17-day shoot and pick-up days – €3,500. Sound equipment for the same length of time – €3,000. Lights rental for the same –  €2,800 We rented tracks for a few days of the shoot – €500.

Most of the locations were free but we paid for a few of the days – €500.

Costume and props for shoot – €1,400. Catering for the whole shoot and pick-up days – €3,000. Office and accountants – €2,000. Post-production, Digibeta, travel – €4,600.

 

What kind of favours did you pull to get the film made?

 

All the cast’s fees were deferred, and nearly all of the crew and most of the fees for the locations, editing and sound mixing were all deferred. The songs were a huge favour.

 

Where should your money go in a low-budget films?

 

Get a really good camera and DOP and as many lights as you can stretch your budget to. And also insurance as it makes everything so easy and it’s better to get the best.

 

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carla-mcglynn-the-disturbed-website4-150x150

The Disturbed

– Dir: Conor McMahon

– Overall Budget: €1,530

– Shot on Sony Z1

 

 

Budget Breakdown

 

Location for the 6-day shoot – €550. Camera for the 6-day shoot – €150. Travel – €50. Food – €230. Post Sound – €200. Mini DV Tapes – €60. Effects – €90. Digibeta Tapes – €200.

 

Was the film written for a no-budget?

 

On this film I used the old rule of no-budget film – take your actors to one location and chop them up. I actually just booked a house down the country a month in advance so it gave me a deadline to come up with a story and get everything organised.

 

Did you have much cast or crew to deal with?

 

We had three actors in total and three people on the crew, including myself, so there was very little expenses for food or transport.

 

Having made a film already for €100,000, what was the purpose of going back to make a film for €1,500?

 

The film started out as an experiment in improvisation on film. I wanted to just focus on something simple that would allow me work with actors. I wanted to get away from the rigidity that often comes with having a large crew. So I didn’t have any intention at the beginning of how long the film would be or how it would turn out. I also wasn’t under any pressure to deliver a particular kind of film or make something that would sell. And it was quite liberating to make a film in that frame of mind, because the focus was just on the scenes and making them work and also having fun. So having no budget can be a big plus.

 

I think you can spend a lot of time worrying about what will sell and if the film will look crap if it’s made for no money. But I don’t think you should be asking these kinds of questions. If it turns out crap, just don’t show it to anyone.

 

Do you need a lot of money for post-production?

 

Some people decide not to shoot their film because they hear about the costs for the deliverables that are required by sales agents and distributors. This can include legal documents, publicity material, copies of the finished product and additional copies for subtitling and dubbing. But the truth is, if your film is good, someone will foot that bill. So I wouldn’t worry about it when you’re doing your budget. Just focus on getting the film made, and if it works, someone will pick it up.

 

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kellieblaise-f

 

The Inside

– Dir: Eoin Macken

– Overall Budget €4,000

– Shot on Sony Z1

 

Budget Breakdown

 

The bulk of the money when on insurance, which was important considering the location we were shooting. The rest went on camera and lights, make-up effects, costume, and then food costs. But because the film was shot over only 5 days, we were able to keep the costs down.

 

Do you think having more money would have helped?

 

It would have in terms of allowing more time. When you’re making a film on a shoestring you can’t ask people to give up too much of their time if they are not been paid. More money also would have given us more time to experiment with lighting.

 

Were there any advantages to having less money?

 

There are, because you pull together people who believe in the idea of the project, the vision and they want to create something that they are proud of and can stand by instead of just working on a job.

 

What kind of favours did you pull to get the film made?

 

Most of the favours consisted of getting the location and cheaper equipment. Obviously crew and cast had to give their time. Making a film like this requires the coming together of many talented people. It won’t happen otherwise.

 

What do you think you should prioritise spending money on for low budget films?

 

The priority has to be the essentials. Getting the right camera and lighting and sound equipment is paramount. Without good sound and good compositions then what’s the point? You have to try and aspire to make the most of whatever you can afford or get your hands on but be smart about it. Food is a priority of course, you can’t expect people to work with you, no matter how much they are enjoying it both socially and creatively, if they’re not being kept warm, safe and well fed. Tea and biscuits will not suffice, it’s not fair to expect people to pay for their own food and petrol, or taxis, for example, if you’re shooting late or early.

 

Did you write the idea for a low budget? If so, what did you take into account when writing the script?

 

For The Inside, yes. I explained to Franco Noonan, my producer, that this was a film that could be done within a short time span, and with minimal cash. There is a looseness that comes with making a film this way that can really benefit it. Of course it can hinder the project but that’s why you should choose an idea or story that fits in with the resources that you have available. I find that this is a great spur because it forces you to create and think imaginatively, try different things and focuses your mind and energy on what you can do.

 

Would you make another film at this level, or do you think it served as a training ground for something bigger?

 

I see making films at this level as a training ground and useful platform to experiment with ideas. The Inside my fourth feature. The first, Christian Blake, was made for less than €8,000 over 18 months. (The budget went mainly on food!) It showed at the Galway Film Fleadh and then sold in the AFM and released across the US and Canada on DVD. The documentary The Fashion of Modelling was made for about €1,200 and was picked up for an hour slot by RTÉ 2 and the feature Dreaming For You was shot in New York for €700. That screened in Galway last year and is doing the festival circuit this year.

 

 This article first appeared in Film Ireland Magazine Issue 132 – Spring 2010

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Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh preview: Cold

cold

The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

Cold

Saturday, 13th July

Town Hall Theatre

23.00

Eoin Macken writes, directs and stars in a new feature, Cold, set to premiere on Saturday at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh. Partly funded through an indiegogo campaign, the film is centred around two disconnected brothers, and is partly inspired by John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Film Ireland spoke to Eoin Macken about what it means to have his feature premiere at the Fleadh. ‘For me, having my film premiere in the main hall in Galway is an honour. Galway is my favourite film festival, and is a huge part of Irish filmmaking. Ever since I first started attending the festival I have wanted to premiere a feature I directed in the main hall, so it’s very exciting and humbling, and a testament to the talented people who trusted me on this film’.

When Jack (Eoin Macken) returns home due to the mysterious death of his father, a dark history between him and his brother, Tom (Tom Hopper), resurfaces. Events take an unexpected turn when they find a girl dumped still alive in the moors. What follows is a tragic and surreal tale of love and redemption.

Tickets are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at www.tht.ie.

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Issue 132 – Breaking (Down) the Budget

Breaking (Down) the Budget

Low-budget can mean anything from a few hundred grand to small change and some pocket-lint. But no matter the size of your lump sum, what’s the smartest way to spend your money in low-budget filmmaking? Conor McMahon talked to directors Brian O’Toole, Paul Ward, Eoin Macken and himself…

Budgets are strange things. From the few films I’ve produced, I’ve always found them difficult and frustrating to put together. It’s impossible to tell how much most things will cost. How do you know how much footage will be shot or how much food will be eaten? And without accurate figures, how can you ever make a definite budget? I’ve also found it odd that on bigger films a budget is put together when they don’t even know exactly how it’s going to be shot, or how the director plans on staging certain things. But in the end, a budget is something you need to get things moving, to convince people it’s possible so you can secure finance.

The other thing about budgets is that a lot of people won’t talk about them. They don’t want people to know how much their film cost. And it’s understandable. If you’ve made a film for 100,000 and you say it cost 500,000, chances are you’ll probably be able to sell it for more on the market. It’s often only at the very lower end of the spectrum that people will proudly declare that their film cost a week’s wages, and use that as a selling point. The zombie film Colin that was shot earlier in the year was apparently made for £40. Another example would be of course El mariachi, which used the fact that it only cost $7,000 as a selling point.

In the age of digital filmmaking it’s easier than ever to pick up a camera and go out a shoot a film. But how much money do you need to do it? The answer is often whatever you have and whatever you can get…

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 132.

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Debut Irish Feature to Get DVD Release.

Director Eoin Macken’s debut feature Christian Blake, which screened at the Galway Film Fleadh last year, is being released on DVD across the US and Canada on 17th May. Independently funded, it’s a film about an obsessed sociopath in a mental asylum who is in love with his best friend. Starring Brian Fortune, Emmett Scanlan and Christina Hughes, it features a soundtrack by Una Healy of The Saturdays and Kevin Whyms of Noise Control. The photography was by Gerry Balfe Smyth, Liam Campbell and Brendan Darcy and the graphics were by Cian Mckenna.

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Play ‘Christian Blake’ Trailer

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiFpEZ36Wpo[/youtube]

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