Training: 7-Week Documentary Filmmaking Course


The hugely popular 7-Week Documentary Filmmaking course at Filmbase in Dublin’s Temple Bar covers all aspects of non-fiction filmmaking. From writing and researching, producing, camera lighting and sound, all the way through to the production of two short documentaries chosen from proposals by the students. The course is an ideal launch pad for those wishing to seek practical hands-on insights into producing documentaries. It is aimed at those with little to no experience or those who have some prior experience and are wishing to up-skill.

The students will be guided by the course tutor Colm Quinn, who has worked in both documentary and drama, films such as Break Away (2004) No Regrets in the West (2007), The Discreet Charms of the Refugee (2008), The Knife (2009), and Needle Exchange (2010) have been recognised with awards and nominations from some of Ireland and the UK’s main industry events, including the Irish Film Television Awards (IFTA), the Royal Television Society, Edinburgh Film Festival, Cork Film Festival, Galway Film Fleadh and the Sheffield DocFest.

It is also an ideal opportunity to work with today’s industry professionals, including award-winning filmmakers Vanessa Gildea and Claire Dix, as well as Emmy-nominated Sound Recordist Noel Quinn and Cinematographer Basil al-Rawi.

The course culminates in the shooting of two films.

Previous films have gone on to screen at festivals in Ireland and abroad, win awards and receive broadcast appearances.

Lead tutor, Colm Quinn, explains how, “participants will not only have an opportunity to explore the documentary form in its many guises, but also to look at the nuts and bolts of how to make a short documentary. With an ever growing audience for the short form at film festivals and well beyond, it’s an ideal time to get to grips with the craft of documentary making, and to go in search of the stories that need telling.”

Colm points out that the course aims “to define the roles and responsibilities of a small documentary crew. We will outline the main aspects of documentary research and script development before examining how a director might adopt a suitable approach toward particular material, all the while looking at the duties of a producer toward a given project.”

The course cost has been reduced to €900 and includes free Filmbase Membership and a free €50 voucher to be redeemed on future courses at Filmbase.

For more info, please email Training Manager Tristan Hutchinson at, or to book a place, please call Filmbase on 01 679 6716 and dial 0.


IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Lorna Fitzsimons, co-director of ‘Poison Pen’


The comedy feature Poison Pen, the first screenplay from international best seller Eoin Colfer, will screen this Sunday at the IFI as part of its monthly showcase for new Irish film.

The film co-stars Lochlann O Mearáin as a washed-up author, who is coerced into writing for a gossip magazine, alongside Aoibhinn McGinnity as his new boss. Set in London but shot almost entirely in Dublin, Poison Pen is a smart and discerning romantic comedy about the nature of celebrity and integrity.

Poison Pen was directed by Lorna Fitzsimons, Jennifer Shortall and Steven Benedict, and made as part of the Masters in Digital Feature Film Production at Filmbase, which places an emphasis on practical filmmaking to prepare students for a future in film production.

“Anyone who’s made one can tell you what it’s like to make a feature film, but you only really learn when you do it yourself,” explains Lorna Fitzsimons, one of the co-directors and students on the course. “We did classes in everything: script writing, pre-production, casting, camera, sound recording, marketing, funding, etc. Directors, producers, writers, a really impressive list of industry experts came to see us, which was great preparation.”

As one of three directors, Lorna explains how they divided up Eoin Colfer’s script and how artistic continuity was retained. “Essentially we divided the script by locations or ‘worlds’. Steven (Benedict) took the old world, mainly based around Molloy’s apartment and his daughter Sally, I took his new world, mainly based around the magazine offices and London, and Jenny (Shortall) took the Celebrity world which, as you can imagine, was based in hotels, clubs and glamorous places.

“This division worked well, people act differently in different company and places. For example, Molloy is used to his writer’s block while he is at home, it’s comfortable, he owns it. When he gets to the Poison Pen offices, it’s different, he’s different. The influence of a different director is easily worked out this way. We spoke so much about character and story and motivation in preproduction that I don’t think anything was left to chance.”

In addition to the two lead actors, the film boasts an impressive support cast that includes Paul Ronan, Mary Murray, Susan Loughnane, Gemma-Leah Devereux, Aaron Heffernan and Lauryn Canny. Lorna discusses how they acquired the acting talent. “Our producers, Áine Coady and Sharon Cronin, did an amazing job of negotiating with agents and getting people in the room with us. Sometimes we did readings, sometimes we didn’t. I think that the guidance we got from Filmbase on casting was one of the best things about the course. There are no hard-and-fast rules, you have to meet actors and look for the characters; some people surprised us when we looked at the tapes and that was a learning curve, it’s all on the tape, not necessarily in the room.

“Having actors with experience on set is really important but there is such a fine balance, they need to want to be there and be challenged too.”

With over 30 locations and an extremely tight shooting schedule, managing time while getting good performances in the can was another balancing act. The film premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in July which, with principal photography starting in April, gave the filmmakers a tight deadline to aim for.

“Getting to the finish was a challenge. All the little niggly bits that can take months, but because we had this deadline we had to get them done. This is where many people new to filmmaking get lost I think, in the soup that is completing the film”.

Lorna also puts an emphasis on preparation. “Directing on set was the highlight for me. It’s difficult to get practice doing that, so I tried to appreciate every moment. Preparation is necessary and really stands to you. I like being on set with my homework done, observing what it is everyone is doing, answering their questions and giving the actor the right words just when they are needed.”

After the rush to get the film finished for its premiere down in Galway, Lorna is looking forward to its screening at the IFI this weekend. “I feel like we were all a little shell shocked standing on the stage at the Fleadh. It’s been 6 weeks now, so this time I’m looking forward to watching the film with friends and family, seeing how they react.”

Poison Pen screens on Sunday, 31st August 2014 at 18.00 as part of the IFI’s Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.

The cast and crew will participate in a post-screening Q&A.

Tickets for Poison Pen are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at


Filmbase in Top 3 Green Filmmaking European Students

Filmbase were announced as one of the top 3 teams of the 2014 Green Filmmaking Competition for European Students, alongside The Green Package, students of the Utrecht School of Arts (The Netherlands) and the
Student team of Christopher Taylor, from Staffordshire University London (England).

The judges evaluated the final work of the 11 participating teams in the Green Film Making Competition for European Students (65 students from the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands), and they came to a unanimous decision on the top 3 teams. The exact order of the 3rd (€ 1,000), 2nd (€ 1,500) and 1st (€ 2,500) prize title of “Green Filmmakers of the Year” however, will be announced at The Netherlands Film Festival on October 2, 2014.

The initial task of this competition was to come up with innovative, sustainable solutions for existing film production activities such as: art direction, technology, transportation, production office, lighting, etc.

Student teams submitted along with their final films, written documentation on their sustainable approach and findings, as they were challenged to find new solutions to make film production processes more sustainable. A few of the teams also submitted videos that documented their process and on-set experiences – some budding documentary filmmakers in the mix.

Overall, the jury was very pleased with the level of motivation and ambition of all the participants, and congratulates each student team, as they all tackled the subject matter & research in their own unique way.




Shortspace at Filmbase in May


May ShortSpace – Best of Cork Short Films Screening

Event: Thursday, May 1st ShortSpace – 7pm

Filmbase, Curved St, Temple Bar

May’s Shortspace at Filmbase is curated by James Mullighan Creative Director of the Cork Film Festival, Ireland’s oldest film festival, celebrating its 59th birthday from 7-16 November 2014. The evening will see 4 of the best short films screened at the Cork Film Festival, and will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Places are limited so please book in advance. Tickets are €5 members or €7 non-members. You can book your tickets by calling reception on 01 679 6716 or emailing

Please note that attendees must be 18+.

Shortspace is BYOB, so come along and enjoy the evening in a relaxed atmosphere and see the films and meet the filmmakers.

***You may pay on the day but you MUST register your place!***

When emailing please remember to put ‘ShortSpace May’ in the subject line.

Films Screening:
(Special Mention, Grand Prix Irish, Cork Film Festival 2013)
Writers and Directors: Feidlim Cannon & Tom Sullivan
Producers: Siun O’Connor
Ireland, 2013
Time length 15’
Genre: Drama
Synopsis: A mechanic fixes up an old car and drives into the Dublin Mountains to end his life, but old age catches up with him.
Cast: Sil Fox, Paul Roe.
Cinematography and Editing: Daniel Keane.
Camera: Canon 7D

The Handsome Shadows
Writer, Director, Producer, Editor: Mark Cogan
Ireland, 2013
Time length: 13’
Genre: Drama
Synopsis: A day of heartache for Doc is deepened when a face from the past reappears, shaking his world to its very core.
Cast: Shane Casey, Brian Fortune, George Hanover
Music: Conor Barron
Cinematography: Paraic English
Sound: Neil Hurley
FB: The Handsome Shadows – Character portraits

The Devil in the Room
Director and Producer: Carla MacKinnon
UK, 2013
Time Length: 8’
Genre: mixed media documentary horror
Synopsis: Have you ever woken in the night unable to move, certain that you are not alone? This is an experimental documentary examining what happens when dreams leak into waking life. It is about what is real, what is not, and if it even matters.
Cast: Victoria Grove, Anne-Sophie Marie
Composer: Dominic de Grande
Creative Production Partners: seeper
Production Assistant / Designer: Rachel King
Model Maker: Anna Ginsburg
Cinematography, Live Action: Alfred Thirolle
Costume Designer: Jen Cardno
Consultant Scientist: Professor Christopher French, Dr Paul Broks
Associate Producer: James Mullighan
FB: the Sleep Paralysis Project
Tw: richpicks

Volkswagen Joe
Director: Brian Deane
Writer: Matthew Roche
Producer: Anna O’Malley, Kevin McCann
Irish Pr 2 Fri 15 1330
Time Length: 29’
Ireland, 2013
Genre: Drama
Synopsis: Joe is a dedicated, hardworking mechanic who services cars for both sides of the political divide. Unfortunately for Joe, both communities view his evenhandedness with suspicion.
Cast: Stuart Graham, Matthew O’Brien
Cinematography: Patrick Jordan
Editing: Eamonn Cleary
FB: Volkswagen Joe


Vote for ‘4 Queens’


The Filmbase / TG4 funded short film 4 Queens is competing in an online festival and needs as many public votes as possible before March 28th.

Vittoria Colonna’s short film is a black comedy about 4 elderly sisters who play a game of poker with their xanax, valium and pearls to decide who will take care of their ailing mother.

VOTE GREEN FOR BLACK HUMOR!  The Filmbase funded short, 4 Queens, is competing internationally in the Viewster Online Film Festival for black humor!

You can watch the short in full on the festival website before you vote by clicking on the stars:



Call For: Applications for FilmOffaly / Filmbase Award 2014

Call for

Illustration: Adeline Pericart


The FilmOffaly Award aims to foster filmmaking in the county whilst also promoting Offaly as a location.

The award will be given to one successful applicant who will receive €8,000 towards the cost of their production, along with one year’s membership to Filmbase, a 50% discount on equipment hire from Filmbase and their new Vendor Discount Card. Scripts of any style and genre are welcome as long as they are under 20 minutes in duration. The only stipulation is that filming must take place in Offaly in 2014.

The award sees hundreds of applications every year and has become one of the most competitive bursaries in recent years. 

The deadline for applications is Friday 4th April 2014 and application forms, guidelines and more information can be found online at


Tips: 5 Tips for Documentary Producers


Ahead of her weekend course in Filmbase this month, Vanessa Gildea gives 5 tips for documentary producers


Produce documentary subjects that you are passionate about

It could take years to finance and make the film, your love of the subject matter will be the thing that keeps you going through the tough times


Work with talented like-minded people

Find talented creative people to work with and stick with them when possible, especially directors, DoPs and editors. Film is collaborative; you need good people on your team. It brings a joy to the work but it will make all the difference to your film.


Be creative yourself

You can be creative with the budget of course, especially when the budget is low, but you should always aim to be a creative producer. Bring ideas to the table, be present at all stages of development, production and post. It is always the director’s vision but learn to nurture this creativity and support the vision. Be bold in this regard.


Meet people

Also known as ‘networking’ but I dislike that word. If you want documentary producing to be your job, then you have to get to know the people involved in the industry (at home and abroad), commissioning editors, funders, other documentary makers. Arrange to meet them, be yourself, ask for advice, listen to them, and tell them how passionate you are about your ideas, your films, your job. The documentary world is vast and small at the same time; it is a mad exciting club, be a part of it, these relationships will be the difference between making films and not.


“Take a vow of poverty”

These are the words of the late great documentary producer / director Peter Wintonick. It is slightly tongue in cheek but it has an element of truth. If money is your thing then documentary is not for you. You work long hours, you battle tirelessly and you do not get financially rewarded for the level of work you put in. But there are other rewards, they are multifaceted, unexpected and they make documentary filmmaking one of the best jobs you could ever do.


Vanessa Gildea has produced numerous one-off documentatries, a six-part series and feature docs and has received three IFTA nominations including Dambé – The Mali Project (2009), a music doc set in Mali, West Africa and John Ford – Dreaming the Quiet Man (2013) – both in the Best Feature Documentary category.


Click here for details on Vanessa’s upcoming weekend course at Filmbase: Producing a Documentary with Vanessa Gildea (29th & 30th March)

Do you want to know what it takes to produce a documentary film? With experienced documentary producer and director Vanessa Gildea at the helm, this course is designed for anyone setting out to make their first documentary film.


Call For: Filmmakers to Make a Music Video with Filmbase & Nikon

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Ever wanted to make a music video? Filmbase, in conjunction with Nikon, are introducing a new scheme that will will allow you to do just that. Successful applicants will gain access to everything they need to produce, shoot and edit a music video, including equipment, insurance, access to an edit suite and support.

Apply today and, if successful, you will get the chance to shoot on the Nikon D800 for a full cinematic experience, including a range of super fast Nikon Nikkor lenses.

We are currently accepting applications from filmmakers, however if you are a musician wanting to get a music video made we would also like to hear from you. Register your interest by following the instructions for musicians below.

The deadline for applications is 5.30pm, Friday 4th April 2014

Production Package Includes

– Nikon D800 body

– Nikkor Lenses:

  • 14-24mm f2.8
  • 70-200mm f2.8
  • 50mm f1.4G
  • 105mm f2.8
  • 24-85mm f3.5-5.6

– Grip: Shoulder Rig

– Edit Suite (Up to 3 days FCPX, FCP7 or Premiere Pro dryhire)

– Public Liability Production Insurance

Please note that this award does not include any cash prizes.


How to Apply

To apply, please download the following application form and email it, along with your CV and links to examples of your work. Applications received after 5.30pm on Friday 4th April 2014 will not be considered.

Please note that by submitting your application you will be deemed to have accepted the terms and conditions.


Terms & Conditions

Click the link below to download the full terms and conditions of the 2014 Nikon/Filmbase Music Video competition. By submitting your application you will be deemed to have accepted the terms and conditions.


For Musicians

If you are a band or musician and have a song that you would like to have a music video made for we would like to hear from you. Register your interest by emailing, using ‘musician’ as the subject title.

In the email please leave your contact detailstell us about yourself and include a link to the song.