Sean Breathnach, Writer/Director ‘Beyond The Woods’

Sean Breathnach (Pic: Marcin Lewandowski)

 
Beyond The Woods is a supernatural horror film set in an isolated house in the middle of a forest, where a gathering of friends is thrown into chaos by the opening of a mysterious fiery sinkhole. Stephen Porzio braved the woods with writer/director Sean Breathnach ahead of his debut feature screening at this year’s Underground Cinema Film Festival.

 

The film feels uniquely Irish. For instance, characters give serious thought about leaving their house to get more drink while bad stuff is clearly happening. Was it fun to take the American brand of horror  – confined friends being terrorised by unknown force – and place it in a distinctly Irish setting?

 

You know, I never thought of it that way really, but you are right in your description. It was always going to be very Irish – you have to be true to what you know, and it is set here in Ireland after all. The cottage is very Irish, and the characters are all Irish. It plays to its strengths. We wanted to appeal to an international audience but the film was always going to be an Irish film. Though we do mention ‘Police’ instead of ‘Gardaí’ just to avoid confusion abroad!

 

 

The sulphur plot-point is a really good backdrop for the film. It serves as an ominous threat, as well as a symbol for the toxicity between the characters. Where did that idea originate from?

 

Like all good ideas this one has a solid base in reality, believe it or not. The idea actually came from an  article I read in a newspaper. It was about a sinkhole that had opened up in China and locals were holding branches of trees over the hole and watching as they burst into flames. Some of the dialogue in the film comes directly from that article – “Gateway to hell! Fiery sinkhole opens up on Chinese mountainside spewing fumes at 792C”. I read that article at just the right time. I had the idea of the friends in the isolated house in the woods, and the dramatic conflict, and the terror, but I wanted to do something new with the horror element. Reading that article was the lightbulb moment. That’s when everything really came together.

 

 

The characters and their interactions feel quite naturalistic. How did you go about choosing your cast and did you take any steps to make sure they felt more real… maybe using improv?

 

I’m glad that comes across, because that was exactly what I was going for. Independent films, in particular, rise or fall based on the quality of the acting. It was my number one priority with this film – getting the right people both in front of and behind the camera. I had worked with most of the cast before on short films. I knew what they were capable of. I also crafted the characters around them. I did encourage improv, and I think it worked really well. But there isn’t as much improv there as you’d think, and that’s a testament to the quality of the acting. That being said, we didn’t stick rigidly to the dialogue on the script all the time. I had a direction for the scenes, some plot points to be hit, but if the actors found a more natural way of getting there then that’s the way we went. We did the same with the camera – we shot a lot of handheld scenes so we could follow the actors and keep things flowing. Páraic and Kieran didn’t thank me for that – I should have had a masseuse on set to take care of their backs and shoulders at the end of those long days shooting, or at the very least a hot bath – but you don’t get that stuff on an independent shoot!

 

 

Two moments in the film evoked memories of John Carpenter movies  – the mirror scene in Prince of Darkness and the driving scene in In the Mouth of Madness. Was he a conscious influence and were there any other directors whose work you were channelling?

 

I am a huge fan of John Carpenter, and I love In the Mouth of Madness. When I wrote the film I wasn’t thinking of any films or directors in particular, but there’s no doubt that I am influenced by the films and books I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. Particularly the mood of those movies and books, that sense of creeping dread. The build-up of tension. Showing the audience things before our characters see them so the audience knows the danger they’re in. There are little homages in there to a few of my favourite directors, and probably a few more homages that I amn’t even aware of. I’m sure I must channel the work of many of the directors I admire in some way – you can’t help but be influenced by the greats. But, yes, it was a conscious decision to keep the mood of the film Carpenter-esque.

 

There’s been a new wave of very solid Irish horror cinema – just this year there’s been A Dark Song, Without Name and Nails. Why do you think there’s been such a resurgence for the genre in the country?

 

I don’t know is the short answer! We’ve always been a nation of storytellers, right back to Celtic times. I recall my grandad terrifying me and my sister with tales of the Ban Sidhe, haunted houses and big dogs that would appear and disappear in the fog – so there’s no doubt we have a tradition of spooky dark storytelling.  I don’t know why horror cinema has been on the rise in Ireland at the current time. But there have been a lot of great horror movies coming out of Ireland recently. Personally, I’ve enjoyed Ivan Kavanagh’s and Brian O’Malley’s work to name but a few.

 

Beyond The Woods screens on Sunday, 3rd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 

 

Buy tickets here 

 

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

 

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Paddy Murphy: How We Made ‘The Three Don’ts’

Two lads receive a simple job with a big payout. All is not as it seems and if they break The Three Don’ts, they could be in for a world of hurt.

Ahead of its screening at the Underground Cinema Film Festival, writer/director Paddy Murphy tells Film Ireland about his neo-noir, black comedy film set in Limerick. 

 

Back in April of 2015, I had shot three short films. These films had been plagued with a variety of issues and I was kind of losing my love of the industry and was thinking about packing it all in and going back to my day job. That was when I met Brian Russo Clancy; a musician and writer from Limerick. Brian and I had a coffee in mid-April and I was convinced to draft a script based on his concept for a short film called ‘The Three Don’ts’.

Two years later and many, many hours spent on set and in post-production, I can safely say that was one of the best decisions of my life. Through Brian, I was introduced to a cinematographer named Barry Fahy, who was Director of Photography on the original short. Barry and I had an immediate bond and since then we’ve gone on to shoot over a dozen shorts together and even set up our own production company – along with Brian Clancy and constant co-conspirator Aaron Walsh.

So what is The Three Don’ts? The film is a neo-noir, black comedy set in Limerick, Ireland. It tells the story of two young, naive lads named Jason McCarthy (Brian Russo Clancy) and Benson Yau (Nathan Wong) who want nothing more than to make a few bob. Benson finds out through his Uncle, that a group of lads led by an enigmatic and powerful character named Banger (Adam Moylan) are looking for someone to do a simple job, for a big payout.

What they don’t realise is that this “Simple Job” will bring them in contact with feuding families, a pair of assassins and a drug kingpin who has a hold over all involved. If they can follow ‘The Three Don’ts’ they might just make it through the night alive. But what are the chances of that…

After we had shot the original short film – which ran to 30 mins – we held a screening in our local Odeon Cinema. We filled the place out with over 400 people in attendance and we knew there had to be more to this story. Brian’s brother, Eric Clancy, who also plays Crunchie in the film, came on board and drafted concepts for two further long-form shorts. I then took these three arcs and worked to bring them into one feature-length screenplay with story input from Brian.

We originally had a 2 hour and 23 minute long cut of the film in May of 2016. While at the Cannes film festival, myself, Adam, Aaron and Barry met an Australian producer by the name of Judd Tilyard who came onboard the film as Executive Producer. He gave advice and insights on reshoots to try and bring the ridiculously long run-time down and to tighten up the plotline and arc.

Reshoots began in September of 2016 and lasted through to October. After two years, the film was finally in the bag thanks to an incredible cast and crew whose passion for the film seeps through in every frame. A huge thanks must be extended to every single person who helped make this film a reality. Without the help and support of them, this wouldn’t even exist.

Over two years, we’ve worked on this film and are so excited to be finally having the film premiere at the Underground Cinema Film Festival (UCFF). The film has already been screened for industry professionals like Nicholas Burman Vince [Hellraiser] – who also moderated the Q&A at the film’s test screening in Limerick, May 2017 – who said the film made him laugh until he cried… then started laughing again.

The Soska Sisters, directors of the films Dead Hooker in a Trunk and American Mary, were huge inspirations to me. We were so lucky to have them take a look at the film as it was nearing completion and they gave us some incredible feedback and advice. They also said The Three Don’ts was “A really fun, batshit crazy film!”.

Getting to meet all these amazing professionals and even work with them has been amazing, but not as rewarding as the knowledge that a group of friends went out together and made this film happen. That is the thing that matters most to me about the last two years. Now we are looking to the future. After UCFF, the film has a few more festival acceptances to announce.

We also have some more work to do on our sound mix, so we might run a kickstarter to cover the costs of getting that done. Our aim is to release a limited run of Blu-Rays of the film that will only be available to about 100 people. We really want to get this film out there and into the hands of genre fans everywhere.

This experience has taken me from the brink of giving up and turned this into my career. It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t taken thirty minutes to go have a coffee with a friend.

 

The Three Don’ts screens on Saturday, September 2nd at 3pm at the 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival.

Get tickets here

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

 

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‘Pilgrimage’ Writer Jamie Hannigan & Director Brendan Muldowney

 

In Brendan Muldowney’s latest film, Pilgrimage, a group of monks in 13th century Ireland must escort a sacred relic across an Irish landscape fraught with peril.

Paul Farren met up with Brendan and writer Jamie Hannigan in search of moral and spiritual significance.

Please note this interview contains spoilers

 

Paul Farren: Jamie, if I can start with you as the writer. What was the inspiration for this?

Jamie Hannigan: I wrote up this idea for the old Filmbase/RTÉ short film scheme Lasair. I got shortlisted but didn’t get in. So then I thought I could do it as a movie. I’d been watching a lot of Werner Herzog movies and I was chatting to Conor Barry [producer] about this idea of a bunch of monks dragging something of value to them, but not necessarily of a value – literally a rock. He got interested and told me to write it up. I did. Gave it to Brendan. He gave me feedback on the treatment and that became larger. Then we submitted it to the Irish Film Board, who liked it and agreed to get on board. And then Brendan came on officially to direct a draft or two after that… was it?

Brendan Muldowney: I can’t remember the exact stage. But I remember thinking that, at that early stage, it was too big a job for me to come on.  But I know I wanted to be a part.

Jamie: Unofficially, you were in the wings.

Paul: So what was it that held you to the script that you wanted to continue developing? I presume you were hooked from that first draft.

Brendan: I was hooked way before. I remember meeting in the IFI and Jamie pitched it to me and, at that stage, it was a very basic idea of monks dragging something across the country… and I think you mentioned an ambush. It was quite vague – well you probably had more than you were telling me.

Jamie Hannigan: No. It was quite vague!

Brendan: So it’s strange Paul, imagine someone pitched that to you – Right, I have Monks, 13th century, travelling through Ireland, dragging something, and you just imagine mud and trees and then there’s an ambush and there’s action. Obviously, it could have turned out bad, the story mightn’t have had legs… but it was that setting that got me.

After that it was about getting the story right, making sure that was working.  My memory is that it was a pleasant enough development process. There was a treatment that was good. We brought it into the Film Board and it went into development. I remember reading the first draft on a train with Conor Barry and I really thought it was brilliant and saying to him “this is the one”. I knew it was was going to be big. At that stage, we’d just made Savage. I knew it was bigger than we were. Our profile wasn’t big enough. But, you know, films take a long time to develop so we just kept going with it.

Tom Holland

Paul: Let’s talk about the film and its themes and ideas. To me, there’s definitely very overt political ideas running through it – it’s not just religiously themed. I wouldn’t say it’s anti-religious but it has an opinion. It doesn’t try and push an agenda, it just presents something. And, of course, we’re coming with our own contemporary attitudes. One thing I really liked was the sense of innocence of these Monks, who were suddenly being pulled into a political situation, where there’re lives being lost left, right and centre, because of other people’s agendas. And all down to this holy relic / rock that has got amazing political power.

Brendan: It’s not beating you over the head with it. Everyone can take their own interpretations. And I think we tried to do that – even in the script not just in the making of the film; that these people ascribe meaning to maybe natural events and to the rock. These are major spoilers now but what I really loved was that there was so much carnage created over what could be just a rock. That to me is what I loved about it to be honest. That appeals to me because that is the way I view the world and religion.

Paul: And the script Jamie…

Jamie: In general, with me anyway, it tends to be that you have an idea and you have lots of things float around. You need 5 or 6 ideas that all sort of work and seem interesting. It could be a character, a plot twist, a setting, a theme – at some point these ideas are bubbling around and they come together.

Paul: You shot the film in Ireland and Belgium. How did that work out for matching exteriors?

Brendan: It worked out well. You know there’s a rule that wherever your unit base is, there’s a radius then that you can’t shoot outside of.

Paul: Principle – that rule… you don’t have enough money!

Brendan: Yeh! – not even that though, it’s an agreement with the union so that people don’t have to travel too far.

Jamie: A 50 km radius.

Brendan: Exactly. So, when we found somewhere on the coast where we would shoot – in Leenane on the Mayo-Galway border – you take a radius out of there and our problem was that we only had mountains and coast. We were quite lucky because we did find this big green open area where the Norman camp is, Boycott’s Estate, so we were able to get just enough greenery. But there was no real forest that would suit. So it worked out really well that we had to shoot some of it in Belgium, which is really well known for its forests.

Jamie: In my head writing it, I was thinking of all these locations all around Ireland. That bit would be Killarney. That bit would be West Cork. That would be the Midlands, etc. But getting into the location scout plus this rule meant that Belgium worked out well for us.

Jon Bernthal

Paul: The performances all round were brilliant.You have Diarmuid played by some bloke called Tom Holland. He’s the linchpin of the whole story – we’re kind of sitting on his shoulders looking at the values of everybody else.

Jamie: He’s a blank slate.

Paul: And you’ve got Jon Bernthal, playing The Mute. He’s a really strong presence, an interesting actor. He’s kind of bubbling under the surface for the entire film. We never really get to know his full agenda. But he can look after himself… You had varying types of actors in there. Little bit of method and some not so. Tom wouldn’t be as much a method actor as Jon.

Brendan: Jon may have started off in a somewhat method manner by going silent for a week or so but then he came out of that.

Paul: You couldn’t shut him up!

Brendan: Yeh. That was his joke… “Then they wished I was silent!” It’s interesting because he had learned what he needed to do from that silence and when he needed to he would go back into that place. He had a big influence on everyone. And you say Holland is not coming from a method background but he took it very seriously and they all would get into the scenes and were willing to go to places that me and the AD would think was too dangerous. We were constantly pulling them back from things.

Paul: Which is important, coz you need them for the whole shoot! And Tom did a great stab at the old Irish.

Jamie: He was coming from a shoot from somewhere in Northern Canada. He came 2 weeks in advance, to start prepping for Irish. I wrote his Irish dialogue out phonetically and he had a great dialogue coach working with him in Paedair Cox and later Diarmuid de Faoite, who also plays The Captain.

Richard Armitage

Paul: Was it a tough sell working in 3 languages?

Brendan: 4 if you take Latin in there as well, alongside French, Irish and English.

Paul: Was there a pressure ever put on to have it in English?

Brendan: Well, some scenes were changed so that there was a certain percentage of English – 70 per cent. I don’t think it ended up as that… but that’s what was asked for. And that was in the script. But with scenes being cut in the edit, I’m not sure of the final percentage.

Paul: And what were the biggest challenges on set.

Brendan: I’ll tell you that horses are really difficult to deal with.

Paul: They’re such premaddonas…

Brendan: Yeh. They don’t do what they are supposed to do. What else… working in the water – very slow. Working with mist.

Paul: I do love that scene though when they are chasing them into the fog.

Brendan: You see, when it’s written as “the fog is so thick that you cannot see”, you need a lot of mist and it’s quite hard, even with big machines.

Paul: Was there any post work done on that?

Brendan: No, we couldn’t afford it. I would have liked it a little thicker.

Paul: What’s it like for you Jamie? You’re the one writing all these things and causing Brendan all these headaches. What’s it like to see it all made into a film.

Jamie: Interesting… I’m thinking in terms of what they were written as and imagined as and then how the crashing realities of production kick in.

Brendan: A lot of small details get lost.

Jamie: Like the lightening-strike scene – originally, that was written as a storm scene, lots of rain, mountains paths, horses and mud… things getting stuck, guys wading through mud. It was very messy.

Brendan: And we were told it can’t be done – no mud! We couldn’t even get the tankers to do rain up the path or, if we could, getting them refilled was just impossible. There’s many examples of things of things like that. It was incredibly sunny that day as well. Anything we did there was grading – all the clouds in the sky, etc., so now we’re suggesting a coming storm rather than being in a storm.

We would have needed a huge budget to execute some of the things that were in the script. Like the bridge breaking and the wheel coming down, or the scene with the archer following them- that was written with quicksand.

Jamie: That was one of those location ideas where I was thinking of places in the Midlands – and like I said we weren’t able to shoot outside that 50 km radius. It was done with lake-land in the end.

Paul: Well, it looks great. Which brings us to the cinematography – Tom Comerford. You were saying before that you did multiple camera for this film.

Brendan: Tom is great. We had 2 cameras for all the action – at the end on the beach and the ambush. It’s obviously better to have control over the shots but it’s about the coverage. I’ve learned in the edit how more important it is to have the coverage than having it perfect. I don’t think in the time we had to shoot everything – 3 days for the ambush  – that we would have had enough coverage, without the second piece of footage. There was no other way.

Paul: How much prep goes into those scenes – so that no-one gets killed!

Brendan: A lot. I started months beforehand breaking down each beat in that ambush. I would have taken Jamie’s script and broken it into lines first; so at least I know beats. Then I would have isolated anything that I thought needed special attention, whether it was special effects, visual effects, stunt work, prosthetics, make up and other stuff. It’s a long process. You have to have big round-table meetings with the departments all at the table.

Even beforehand, the preparation and the planning of all this is intense. Also it’s in 2 different countries and the same things happen. Everyone sits round and I’d have broken down any piece of action and we’d discuss it and see who could do what. It was complicated. I would talk to Jamie the whole time as well and would rewrite and number every piece of action.

Jamie: That ambush scene was much bigger in the early stages. That sort of style you want to keep a rhythm going that you’re implying action, you want to tell a story through it. But it was a lot more vague – like ‘the men attack’ ‘blood in the air’. Then that got a little smaller and you were saying we don’t have enough of a budget to show wide scenes like the Braveheart thing where all the guys clash into each other, so lets focus on the small, nasty little details of a guy getting strangled or a guy getting his arm chopped off. There’s something very visceral about that – and with sound effects over that you can feel the story by seeing these smaller gruesome, intimate details.

Paul: And it’s probably closer to the reality. I don’t think they were hanging around in their thousands and kicking each others’ arses back then anyway.

Brendan: And we felt it would be a bit messier – chopping an arm off might take a while rather than it coming clean off.

Paul: And on that image we’ll leave it. Thanks for coming in to talk to us.

 

Pilgrimage is currently in cinemas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoilers

 

Paul farren: Jamie if I can start with you as the writer. What was the inspiration for this?

 

Jamie Hannigan: I wrote this idea up for the old RTE short film scheme Lasair – got shortlisted but didn’t get in. So then I thought I could do it as a movie. I’d been watching a lot of Werner Herzog movies and I was charring to Conor Barry about this idea of a bunch of monks dragging something of value to them, but not necessarily of a value – literally a rock – I’m chatting to Conor and making stuff up as I go along hoping to interest him. And he did get interested and told me to write it up. I did. Gave it to Brendan he gave me feedback on the treatment and that became larger and then we submitted it to the Irish Film Board who liked it and agreed to get on board. And then Brendan came on officially to direct a draft or two after that… was it?

 

Brendan Muldowney: I can’t remember the exact stage. But I remember thinking that, at that stage, for me it was too big a job for me to come on.  I wanted to be a part.

 

 

So what was it that held you to the script that you wanted to continue developing?

 

I was hooked way before. I remember meeting in the IFI and Jamie pitched it to me and at that stage it was  a  very basic idea of monks dragging something across the country and I think you mentioned an ambush… it was quite vague – well you probably had more than you ere telling me.

 

No. It was quite vague!

 

So it’s strange Paul. Imagine someone pitched that to you – Right, I have Monks, 13th century, travelling through Ireland, dragging something, and you just imagine mud and trees and then there’s an ambush and action. Obviously It could have turned out bad, the story mightn’t have had legs… but it was that setting that got me.

After that it was about getting the story right. My memory is that it was a pleasant enough development process. There was a treatment that was good. We brought it into the Film Board and it went into development. I remember reading the first draft on a train with Conor Barry and thinking this is brilliant and saying to him “this is the one”. I knew it was was going to be big. At that stage we’d just made Savage. I knew at that stage it was bigger than we were. Our profile wasn’t big enough. But you know films take a long time to develop so we just kept going with it.

 

I wouldn’t say anti-religious but it has an opinion, but it doesn’t push an agenda, it just presents something. And of course we’re coming with our own contemporary attitudes. One thing I really liked was the sense of innocence of these Monks  – some fairly decent Monk types in Sligo! – and suddenly being pulled into a political situation. And all down to this holy relic / rock that has got amazing political power.

 

It tends to be – with me anyway – with scripts that you have an idea and you have lots of things float around. You need 5 or 6 ideas that all sort of work and seem interesting – it could be a character, a plot twist, a setting, a theme – at some point these ideas are bubbling around and they come together. I remember being on an airplane sitting with my notebook and the political end of how  when the Normans had invaded Ireland they did so by getting this permission from the Pope. Ireland was a Christian nation but for the Pope they were not the right kind of Christians so the Normans needed to get in there and reestablish

 

The Cistercian has his wonderful way of evolving the way  he philosophies depending what he needs all the way through the story.

Let’s talk about Diarmuid played by some bloke called Tom Holland. He’s the lynchpin of the whole story – we’re kind of sitting on his shoulders looking at the values of everybody else.

 

He’s a blank slate…

 

He believes… and he’s a little bit soiled as the story goes along. Would you agree Brendan?

 

I would yes. Going back to what you said about the themes of  religion and that it’s not beating you over the head with it. Everyone can take their own interpretations. And I think we tried to do that – even in the script not just in the making of the film – that these people ascribe meaning to maybe natural events and to the rock – these are major spoilers now but… what I really loved was that there was so much carnage created over what could be just a rock. That to me is what I loved about it to be honest. That appeals to me because that is the way I view the world and religion.

 

17 back story

 

You shot the film in Ireland and Belgium. How did that work out for matching exteriors?

 

It was all interior woodland.

 

Even more than that – you know that there’s this rule that wherever your unit base is there’s a radius then outside that that you can’t shoot out of.

 

Principle – that rule… or you don’t have enough money!

 

Yeh – but its an agreement with the union so that [eopel don’t have to travel too far.

 

A 50 km radius.

 

Exactky – so when we find somewhere on the coast where we shot near Loius burgh and our problem was you take a radius out of there and we only had mountains and coast… to get forest and greenery it’s not really there. So it worked out really well that we had to shoot some of it in Belgioum which is really well known for its forests.

 

In my head writing it I was thinking of all thetse locations all around Ireland – but getting into the location scout and this rule I was right we do it all on this beautiful but sparse  landscape.

 

You know we were quite lucky because we did find this big green open area where the Norman camp is – Boycott Estate where so we were able to get just enough greenery.

 

  • Days in Belgium. 7 6 weeks…4 weeeks on Ireland – less 2 4-day weeks in Belgium

Actors dynamic – they all bonded.

 

Did you actively aid that? No what aided it was putting them on a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

  • Performances all round were brilliant. You had veryng types of actors in there – bit of method in there…

John may have started off in asomewhat method manner by going silent for a week os so and then after that came out of that.

 

You couldn’t shut him up!

 

Yeh. That was his joke… “Then they wished I was silent!” It’s intetetsring because he had learned what he needed to do from that silence and when he needed to he would go back into that place. He had a big influence and yu say Holland is not coming from methody but he took it seriously and they all would get into the scenes and they were willing to go tp llaces that maybe me and the AD would think may be dangerous.

 

Sand did a great stab at the old Irish.

 

He was coming from a dhoot from somewhere in Norgthern Canada. Hecame 2 week sin advance – to start prepping for Irish. I wrote his dialogue out phonetically and he had a dialogue coach working with him. Paedair Cox and Diarmuid.

 

The chemistry was there on the screen, And you were well served by your Irish actors a as well, Hugh Ruiari John Locjhlainn Diarmuid

 

A tough sell – three languages…

 

Final Draft is crashing..

 

$ languages – Latin French, Irish & English – was there a pressure ever put on to  jave it in English.

 

Well some scenes were changed so that there was a certain percentage of E English – 70per cent – I don’t think it eneded up as that – but that is what was asked for. And that was in the script – but with scenes being cut in the edit I’m not sure of the final percentage.

 

and

 

So

 

Horses are really difficult to deal with

 

  • They’re such premaddonas…

Yeh – they don’t do what they are supposed to do. YThere was athe grey horse who I kep t hearing had tooth ache and that he was a biy young.

 

What eles  working in bthe water – very slow. Working with mist.

 

I do love that scene though when they are chasing them into the fog.

 

You see – when it’s written as the fgog is so thick that you cannot see “ , you need a lot of mist amdnd it’s hard e bven with big machines.

 

Was there any post work done on that.

 

No we couldn’t afford it. I wasa told we could fill in gaps but bythe time . I would have liked it a little thicker.

 

What’s it like for you Jamie – you’re the one writing all these things and causing headaches – what’ sit like to see Brendan’s headache in film.

 

Interetsing… I’m thinking in terms of what they were written as an imaging as and then how the crashing realities of production

 

  • A lot of small details get lost

Like the second lightening scene – originally that was written as a storm scene, lots of rain, mountaims paths and horse – things getting stuck in guys are wading through mud

And we were told it can’t be done – no mud!

 

We couldn’t eve get tankards to do te rain up the path or if eq could yto getthen refilled was just impoosiible .- and there’s many examples of things like that. It was incredibly sunny that day – everything we did there was grading all the clouds in the sky, etc so noe we’re suggesting a coming storm rather than being in a storm . I even the archer following that was written as quicksand – we would have needed a huge budget to execute some of te h things  that were in the script. Breaking bridges quicksand and the like…

 

That was one of those location ideas where I was thinking of places in the Midlands – and like I said we weren’t able to shoot outsidethat 50 kn radius. – so you compromise y’know.

 

It looks great – which brings us to cinematography – Joe Comerford – I presume your difficulties are his – you were saying before that you did multiple camera for this film.

 

Yes we had 2 camera fo ral the action – the end on the beach and the ambush. I asked for 2 fo rthe Norman camp but unknownst to me I arrived on the second camera was off in a green screen – and it wasn’t even we were shooting on RED and it was a small Canon  that was shooting extras for duplication I the background. But we could have doen with a second canera on the Norman camp – we were running out time and there’a scene I had storyboarded 8 different ways but I only got the one shot at it…

 

But the multiple camera worked fgo ryou on the action scenes.

 

Oh yeh obviously it’s better  to have control over the shots but it’s about the coverage and I’ve learned in the edit how more important it is to have the coverage tahan having it perfect coz there’s been times where I’ve nbeen wishing evevn the camera had of been running longer after – so to have the second piece of footage – I don’t think in the time we had to shoot everything – 3 days f rthe ambush …w ewouldn;t have had enough coverage so yeh therwas no other way.

 

How much prep goes into those scenes – so tah tno-one gets killed!!

 

A lot. I starte months beforehand breaking down each beat in that ambush. I would have taken jamie’s script and broken it into lines first – so at least I know beats.. then I would have isolated anything that I think needed special attentaioon – whether it was special effect visual effects or stunt work or prosthietic make up and other stiff – yknow it’s a long process…you have to have big round table meetings with the departments all at the table.

 

Even beforehand the prep and te panning of all this is intense becaiuse also it’s in 2 different countries – the csame tings happen everyone sits round and  I’d have brokendown any piece of action and we’d discuss it and see who could do what. I would talk to Jamie the whole time as well and would rewrite and number every piece of avtion.

 

In preproduction. That scene was much bigger in the early stage vague the men attack blood in the air – then that got more smaller and you were saying we don’t have that much of a budget to show wide scenes like the Braveheart thing whwr all the guys clash into each other so lets focus on the small nasty little details of a guy getting starangled or a guy getting hos arm hacked off… there’s something very viscreral about that – and with sound effects iover that you can feel the story by seeing these small gruesome intimate details.

 

And it’s probably c;ose  to the realirty – I don’;t thonk they were hanging around in their thousands and kicking w=eachioters arses back then.

 

And we felt it would be a bit messier – chopping an arm off might take longer than it coming clean off – I was just going to give you an example there – at the start of the ambush there’s a slingshot.. so you would have the first scout who gets hit on the neck – so youu’d have to communicate this with all the departmnets costume would ne dot know that this character who’s going to get shot from wayback before from  Ireland can’t have chainmail on the neck .. there’s a lot of detail… and we had to think it through properly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoilers

 

Paul farren: Jamie if I can start with you as the writer. What was the inspiration for this?

 

Jamie Hannigan: I wrote this idea up for the old RTE short film scheme Lasair – got shortlisted but didn’t get in. So then I thought I could do it as a movie. I’d been watching a lot of Werner Herzog movies and I was charring to Conor Barry about this idea of a bunch of monks dragging something of value to them, but not necessarily of a value – literally a rock – I’m chatting to Conor and making stuff up as I go along hoping to interest him. And he did get interested and told me to write it up. I did. Gave it to Brendan he gave me feedback on the treatment and that became larger and then we submitted it to the Irish Film Board who liked it and agreed to get on board. And then Brendan came on officially to direct a draft or two after that… was it?

 

Brendan Muldowney: I can’t remember the exact stage. But I remember thinking that, at that stage, for me it was too big a job for me to come on.  I wanted to be a part.

 

 

So what was it that held you to the script that you wanted to continue developing?

 

I was hooked way before. I remember meeting in the IFI and Jamie pitched it to me and at that stage it was  a  very basic idea of monks dragging something across the country and I think you mentioned an ambush… it was quite vague – well you probably had more than you ere telling me.

 

No. It was quite vague!

 

So it’s strange Paul. Imagine someone pitched that to you – Right, I have Monks, 13th century, travelling through Ireland, dragging something, and you just imagine mud and trees and then there’s an ambush and action. Obviously It could have turned out bad, the story mightn’t have had legs… but it was that setting that got me.

After that it was about getting the story right. My memory is that it was a pleasant enough development process. There was a treatment that was good. We brought it into the Film Board and it went into development. I remember reading the first draft on a train with Conor Barry and thinking this is brilliant and saying to him “this is the one”. I knew it was was going to be big. At that stage we’d just made Savage. I knew at that stage it was bigger than we were. Our profile wasn’t big enough. But you know films take a long time to develop so we just kept going with it.

 

I wouldn’t say anti-religious but it has an opinion, but it doesn’t push an agenda, it just presents something. And of course we’re coming with our own contemporary attitudes. One thing I really liked was the sense of innocence of these Monks  – some fairly decent Monk types in Sligo! – and suddenly being pulled into a political situation. And all down to this holy relic / rock that has got amazing political power.

 

It tends to be – with me anyway – with scripts that you have an idea and you have lots of things float around. You need 5 or 6 ideas that all sort of work and seem interesting – it could be a character, a plot twist, a setting, a theme – at some point these ideas are bubbling around and they come together. I remember being on an airplane sitting with my notebook and the political end of how  when the Normans had invaded Ireland they did so by getting this permission from the Pope. Ireland was a Christian nation but for the Pope they were not the right kind of Christians so the Normans needed to get in there and reestablish

 

The Cistercian has his wonderful way of evolving the way  he philosophies depending what he needs all the way through the story.

Let’s talk about Diarmuid played by some bloke called Tom Holland. He’s the lynchpin of the whole story – we’re kind of sitting on his shoulders looking at the values of everybody else.

 

He’s a blank slate…

 

He believes… and he’s a little bit soiled as the story goes along. Would you agree Brendan?

 

I would yes. Going back to what you said about the themes of  religion and that it’s not beating you over the head with it. Everyone can take their own interpretations. And I think we tried to do that – even in the script not just in the making of the film – that these people ascribe meaning to maybe natural events and to the rock – these are major spoilers now but… what I really loved was that there was so much carnage created over what could be just a rock. That to me is what I loved about it to be honest. That appeals to me because that is the way I view the world and religion.

 

17 back story

 

You shot the film in Ireland and Belgium. How did that work out for matching exteriors?

 

It was all interior woodland.

 

Even more than that – you know that there’s this rule that wherever your unit base is there’s a radius then outside that that you can’t shoot out of.

 

Principle – that rule… or you don’t have enough money!

 

Yeh – but its an agreement with the union so that [eopel don’t have to travel too far.

 

A 50 km radius.

 

Exactky – so when we find somewhere on the coast where we shot near Loius burgh and our problem was you take a radius out of there and we only had mountains and coast… to get forest and greenery it’s not really there. So it worked out really well that we had to shoot some of it in Belgioum which is really well known for its forests.

 

In my head writing it I was thinking of all thetse locations all around Ireland – but getting into the location scout and this rule I was right we do it all on this beautiful but sparse  landscape.

 

You know we were quite lucky because we did find this big green open area where the Norman camp is – Boycott Estate where so we were able to get just enough greenery.

 

  • Days in Belgium. 7 6 weeks…4 weeeks on Ireland – less 2 4-day weeks in Belgium

Actors dynamic – they all bonded.

 

Did you actively aid that? No what aided it was putting them on a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

  • Performances all round were brilliant. You had veryng types of actors in there – bit of method in there…

John may have started off in asomewhat method manner by going silent for a week os so and then after that came out of that.

 

You couldn’t shut him up!

 

Yeh. That was his joke… “Then they wished I was silent!” It’s intetetsring because he had learned what he needed to do from that silence and when he needed to he would go back into that place. He had a big influence and yu say Holland is not coming from methody but he took it seriously and they all would get into the scenes and they were willing to go tp llaces that maybe me and the AD would think may be dangerous.

 

Sand did a great stab at the old Irish.

 

He was coming from a dhoot from somewhere in Norgthern Canada. Hecame 2 week sin advance – to start prepping for Irish. I wrote his dialogue out phonetically and he had a dialogue coach working with him. Paedair Cox and Diarmuid.

 

The chemistry was there on the screen, And you were well served by your Irish actors a as well, Hugh Ruiari John Locjhlainn Diarmuid

 

A tough sell – three languages…

 

Final Draft is crashing..

 

$ languages – Latin French, Irish & English – was there a pressure ever put on to  jave it in English.

 

Well some scenes were changed so that there was a certain percentage of E English – 70per cent – I don’t think it eneded up as that – but that is what was asked for. And that was in the script – but with scenes being cut in the edit I’m not sure of the final percentage.

 

and

 

So

 

Horses are really difficult to deal with

 

  • They’re such premaddonas…

Yeh – they don’t do what they are supposed to do. YThere was athe grey horse who I kep t hearing had tooth ache and that he was a biy young.

 

What eles  working in bthe water – very slow. Working with mist.

 

I do love that scene though when they are chasing them into the fog.

 

You see – when it’s written as the fgog is so thick that you cannot see “ , you need a lot of mist amdnd it’s hard e bven with big machines.

 

Was there any post work done on that.

 

No we couldn’t afford it. I wasa told we could fill in gaps but bythe time . I would have liked it a little thicker.

 

What’s it like for you Jamie – you’re the one writing all these things and causing headaches – what’ sit like to see Brendan’s headache in film.

 

Interetsing… I’m thinking in terms of what they were written as an imaging as and then how the crashing realities of production

 

  • A lot of small details get lost

Like the second lightening scene – originally that was written as a storm scene, lots of rain, mountaims paths and horse – things getting stuck in guys are wading through mud

And we were told it can’t be done – no mud!

 

We couldn’t eve get tankards to do te rain up the path or if eq could yto getthen refilled was just impoosiible .- and there’s many examples of things like that. It was incredibly sunny that day – everything we did there was grading all the clouds in the sky, etc so noe we’re suggesting a coming storm rather than being in a storm . I even the archer following that was written as quicksand – we would have needed a huge budget to execute some of te h things  that were in the script. Breaking bridges quicksand and the like…

 

That was one of those location ideas where I was thinking of places in the Midlands – and like I said we weren’t able to shoot outsidethat 50 kn radius. – so you compromise y’know.

 

It looks great – which brings us to cinematography – Joe Comerford – I presume your difficulties are his – you were saying before that you did multiple camera for this film.

 

Yes we had 2 camera fo ral the action – the end on the beach and the ambush. I asked for 2 fo rthe Norman camp but unknownst to me I arrived on the second camera was off in a green screen – and it wasn’t even we were shooting on RED and it was a small Canon  that was shooting extras for duplication I the background. But we could have doen with a second canera on the Norman camp – we were running out time and there’a scene I had storyboarded 8 different ways but I only got the one shot at it…

 

But the multiple camera worked fgo ryou on the action scenes.

 

Oh yeh obviously it’s better  to have control over the shots but it’s about the coverage and I’ve learned in the edit how more important it is to have the coverage tahan having it perfect coz there’s been times where I’ve nbeen wishing evevn the camera had of been running longer after – so to have the second piece of footage – I don’t think in the time we had to shoot everything – 3 days f rthe ambush …w ewouldn;t have had enough coverage so yeh therwas no other way.

 

How much prep goes into those scenes – so tah tno-one gets killed!!

 

A lot. I starte months beforehand breaking down each beat in that ambush. I would have taken jamie’s script and broken it into lines first – so at least I know beats.. then I would have isolated anything that I think needed special attentaioon – whether it was special effect visual effects or stunt work or prosthietic make up and other stiff – yknow it’s a long process…you have to have big round table meetings with the departments all at the table.

 

Even beforehand the prep and te panning of all this is intense becaiuse also it’s in 2 different countries – the csame tings happen everyone sits round and  I’d have brokendown any piece of action and we’d discuss it and see who could do what. I would talk to Jamie the whole time as well and would rewrite and number every piece of avtion.

 

In preproduction. That scene was much bigger in the early stage vague the men attack blood in the air – then that got more smaller and you were saying we don’t have that much of a budget to show wide scenes like the Braveheart thing whwr all the guys clash into each other so lets focus on the small nasty little details of a guy getting starangled or a guy getting hos arm hacked off… there’s something very viscreral about that – and with sound effects iover that you can feel the story by seeing these small gruesome intimate details.

 

And it’s probably c;ose  to the realirty – I don’;t thonk they were hanging around in their thousands and kicking w=eachioters arses back then.

 

And we felt it would be a bit messier – chopping an arm off might take longer than it coming clean off – I was just going to give you an example there – at the start of the ambush there’s a slingshot.. so you would have the first scout who gets hit on the neck – so youu’d have to communicate this with all the departmnets costume would ne dot know that this character who’s going to get shot from wayback before from  Ireland can’t have chainmail on the neck .. there’s a lot of detail… and we had to think it through properly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kevin de la Isla O’Neill, Director of ‘Acorn’

Kevin de la Isla O’Neill tells us about the seed that became the Acorn.

 

What can you tell us about the film?
It’s a sweet and fun story about a mum who gets called into the Principal’s office at her son Gregg’s school during nativity play rehearsals. She assumes it’s because he’s in trouble again and is ready to defend his actions, however the principal has something rather different to tell her about Gregg​ which leaves her completely gobsmacked.

How did you become involved in the project?
I entered the Filmbase Short-Shots scheme as a director back in Feb 2016. It’s where directors, writers and producers come together to create one of 4 films offered by RTÉ/Filmbase.

As a director in the scheme, I had to first find a script I liked through various methods. Among them, a Facebook group where people send and request scripts and also a few speed-dating events for writers and directors. So after an extensive selection process I came across Jonathan’s [Hughes] script and I found his sense of humour to be very in tune with my own. I contacted him and we got on great, so pitching the idea came naturally. After that, we had to find a producer that would serve the project best. So we approached Sharon Cronin [producer] with our ideas on the project and she happily came on board to make the perfect team complete.

Can you tell us a little about putting the cast together?
Casting Gregg was the most important at the beginning and we saw some boys who had a lot to offer. But we all thought Luke [Kerins] brought that something extra, a kind of ’knowing’ look in his eye. He was also​ a bit​ older than what​ we were looking for but looked young enough for the part, which I think worked in his favour as he did a fantastic job! For Barbara we always had Norma Sheahan in mind, and when approached, she happily came on board.

We went through many ideas for the mother and principal and we all had suggestions that would make the characters very different, but in the end we decided on Aideen Wylde and Aidan O’Hare, who were both comfortable with comedy and they worked incredibly well together, and really made the characters their own; a very unique take on the roles that we were thrilled with.

How involved was Jonathan in the filming process?
Jonathan was very involved from the beginning and whenever we had questions about the script or characters he was always on hand to help or advise, and to make changes where we needed to if things weren’t working. He travelled over from London where he was residing at the time and was on set for the filming days,​ so I think it was all really exciting to see his script come to life. It also helped when we needed to rejig things very quickly on set, to get his opinion on how the changes might make the characters react, etc.

Any particular challenges you faced on this production?
There were various types of challenges as there are with any production, whether it’s a short or a feature, working with a big crew or small, and then working with children and animals, etc. So sometimes it comes down to trying to get the most out of the budget and dealing with time restrictions or location limitations, etc. scheduling picks-ups with actors and crew.

Sharon is an extremely competent producer and organized everything with acute efficiency, which meant we had a more than capable team throughout production, so challenges were quickly addressed when faced with them.

Working with Director of Photography Richard Donnelly was also a great asset, as I had worked with him once before and we seem to speak a common language, so when faced with any challenges we would quickly find a creative solution to the problem at hand.

No matter the budget or scale of production, you always wish you had more time and budget. In this case we were fortunate to have Natasha Waugh as our 1stAD, so thanks to her shoot management we were able to get the most off our time on location.Some locations kept changing and, as the story takes place on a school, we had to wait for a holiday break from the school to be used in order to shoot there, as weekends would be too restrictive. Also due to location access, some scenes were cut and replaced by others.

As the film takes place during nativity play rehearsals, the costume and production design are hugely important as the costumes are very specific, specially for the children, but Ciara Coleman-Geany did a fantastic job creating these and then the set design was very prop heavy, but Jill Beecher, our set designer, looked after that extremely well too, from finding bits and pieces everywhere​,​ to creating​ a very​ Christmassy look​,​ to​ even​ building a full stage for the nativity play rehearsals​, as there was none at the location​.

At some stage we had a very visual scene in a swimming pool, but that proved too burdensome due to the time allowed at the location and the amount of time we had for the shoot as a whole.

There were​ a lot of VFX required, which​ were done in After Effects, that you probably wouldn’t even notice​ (and shouldn’t)​, which is a great thing if it doesn’t stand out of course. But it takes an incredible amount of time and patience to do those types of things especially when working to a deadline on a small budget​, etc. But it’s all part of the process and we want to make sure that the best possible version of this film is the one you see on screen at the end of the day. So all the challenges make it worth it.

You must be excited about Galway…
I am very excited about Galway as I feel we have a lovely little film with a lot of heart. I’m really looking forward to seeing the film on the big screen and hearing its 5.1 mix, which was done and designed by Mutiny post, ans the score, composed by Sarah Lynch, was performed by the RTE concert orchestra, thanks to the IMRO | RTÉ Scoring for Film Program, so it should be an amazing experience to see and to listen to.

It also has been a while since I’ve been in Galway as part of a film project in the programme, instead of in the market pitching, etc. So I’m really looking forward to getting to showcase our film, network and talk about the next projects in order​ to develop further and enjoy all that the Fleadh has to offer.

 

Acorn screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts 4 on Friday, 14th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 12.00.

Buy Tickets

The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017.

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Andrew Stevenson, Director of ‘Man to Man’

We talk Man to Man with director Andrew Stevenson ahead of his short film screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

What can you tell us about Man to Man?

Well, the film is a poignant short story of a father-son relationship, told through a series of conversations as the two catch up over a quiet pint in their local to discuss life, love, and everything in between. It takes place over a number of years, and – hopefully! – presents a subtly emotional tale of bonding, fellowship, and the circle of life.


It’s obviously quite a personal film – how did it come about?

As you may have guessed, it was inspired by my relationship with my own father, who has been an incredibly influential figure in my life. It struck me one evening, when we met for a pint, that our kind of relationship, and the effect it has on each person, isn’t something you often see in film. Or in real life, actually. Father-son relationships are quite difficult to examine and/or explain, largely because it requires acknowledgement of the underlying emotions involved, and men are traditionally not supposed to have any! I guess that’s why I saw a potentially interesting subject matter in this as a story. It attempts to address that unspoken – often deliberately muted – male connection, and presents the variety of emotions that contribute to the characters’ understanding of, and ultimately love for, one another in a subtle and understated way.

 

The chemistry between Hugh Gormley and Killian Coyle is key to the film.

Both actors did a phenomenal job, and brought so much to the characters and their on-screen chemistry. Despite having never met before, the pair had a natural, relaxed rapport immediately, and this was so helpful to the realism and believability of the film.

 

Did you always know you would direct it?

Yeah. In fact, part of the reason I wrote it was to create something for me to direct. I knew what I wanted to achieve with the story – to use inference and indirect narrative as a kind of decoy for what the real story is about. Because of this, the script would probably not have been the easiest to interpret for an outside director. And of course, directing is what I want to do above all else. I really only write and produce out of necessity, to facilitate the directing. The jury is still out on my ability at all three though!

 

How was your experience as director?

It was amazing. Directing is such a funny role, because your ‘talent’ is recognising the talents of everyone else and combining them. Our crew were incredible – so committed, efficient, and skilled. In particular, Rua Meegan [DoP] made each scene look beautiful and rich, despite only having a tiny pub snug to work with! And Michael Donnelly V [Editor] tied the story together better than I ever could have myself, so to have him involved was a privilege as well. I received all sorts of favours, advice, and help from too many people to mention but needless to say I am so grateful to everyone for what they gave. This was my first professional short film, and it took a long time – from writing and fundraising at the beginning, to shooting, editing, mixing and now festival entering – but I have to admit I’m really happy with how it has turned out.

 

What were the important lessons you learned from your time as AD that you brought to bear on the director’s role?

Funnily enough, I actually kind of had to 1st AD the shoot due to unfortunate circumstances on the day. This shoot needed to be really efficient, because we only had two days and multiple lighting setups and hair/make-up/wardrobe changes to simulate time passing and the ageing process. As you’ll see in the film, Rua [from above] and Madonna McNamee [Stylist] and her team did an excellent job creating that sense of passage of time. And they also very graciously put up with me being bossy and impatient trying to get everything in place as quickly as possible! It came down to the wire but we got there in the end. I think I stopped crying at that point.

 

You must be excited about Galway…

Thrilled to be going to Galway. I’ve never been before but I’ve heard it’s a fantastic week of film and fun. The actors and loads of the crew will be coming down as well so it’ll be great to catch up with everyone too! And I’m also looking forward to seeing all the other shorts – just being in the same competition as Jim Sheridan and Ben Cleary is exciting in its own right! And all the Irish features, one of which I worked on. As a heads-up I’ve been told to pack a spare liver. All I’ve got is an old sponge in the boot of my car. Should be grand, right?

 

Man to Man screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts 1 on Wednesday, 12th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 10:30.

Buy Tickets

The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017

 

 

Preview of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2017

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Len Collin, Director of ‘Sanctuary’

Gemma Creagh talks to Len Collin about Sanctuary, which introduces us to Larry and Sophie, two people with intellectual disabilities, who long to be together in a world that does everything to keep them apart.

Sanctuary is currently in the  following cinemas and will tour regionally nationwide

Eye Galway;

IMC Dun Laoghaire;

IMC Galway;

Irish Film Institute;

Light House;

Movies @ Dundrum

 

 

 

 

Podcasts

 

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Emma Eliza Regan, Writer/Director of ‘Wild Fire Nights’

Emma Eliza Regan

Emma Eliza Regan gives us a glimpse into the world of Wild Fire Nights, which screens at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

What can you tell us about Wild Fire Nights?

It’s a 17-minute contemporary drama, that centres around Lila – a deeply troubled and dysfunctional young woman, who tries to maintain an image for the world, but inside she’s crumbling and trying to numb the pain out. I’ve tried to reflect the inner world of young women today, all the grey areas that don’t ever get tapped into on Irish screens. The ‘selfie generation’ has created a situation where one’s validation only comes from her sex appeal – there’s severe consequences on the psyche of young women, which I could see around me every single day, as young as 14 up to 34. Anytime I looked at my phone, whether it was Facebook or Instagram, it was there, so I was trying to capture the real darkness and the massive psychological consequences of it all.

 

… and the title, Wild Fire Nights?

 The film was called ‘Unfiltered’ for a while, but the title Wild Fire Nights seemed to really depict the total destructiveness and utter waste… it expressed how one tiny situation can ignite something in us, that causes a series of events, that just spread fast and destroy everything in such an irrevocable way.

I called her Lila as it comes from the Hebrew word for ‘’Night’ and ‘Dark Girl’ – which was fitting for her.

 

How did the story come about for you? 

The character itself came from a night out – I was in a cubicle, and there were empty vodka and pregnancy tests thrown on the floor, and I guess that image was such a very dark juxtaposition that it stuck with me. Who was this girl, and how did she end up in here?  I also would see so many young women completely out of it and nobody really investigates that. I wanted to dig a bit deeper and see well what is going on in a young woman that she’d need to do that? What has happened? Most of these girls are just deeply hurt and trying to cope.

 

Wild Fire Nights

Were you planning to direct from the get-go?

Yes, I had such a clear vision of it that it just made sense. Also, I started to feel that directing was the one place where I could contribute something substantial – I was able to use my own voice, instead of offering just the little tiny box of my performance.  I was at the stage I wanted to move on from playing the school girls, and use my other capacities too and create my own work.

I suppose as a girl in my twenties myself, I felt I could write about certain topics and portray them in a way that’s totally authentic – so I just started writing what I saw and questioned around me.

 

What was it like directing your first short?

I really enjoyed the experience! It was hard work too, being responsible for so much, but I just rolled up my sleeves and kept going because I was so passionate about it and had fun times with the crew around me.  I’ve always been sort of observing and contributing ideas on every set I was on anyhow, I hang around on set watching what’s going on even after I’m wrapped… so it was a natural decision for me.  It was the post-production I needed to learn a lot, all those elements were new to me, so I took away a huge amount of lessons from the edit.

 

Hanging around on set

What experience as an actor did you bring to working behind the camera. 

Firstly, all a director needs to do is make sure the actor doesn’t feel like it’s acting… make it about not acting as much as possible. I was very in tune with them all anyhow, and gave them complete trust to keep the takes fresh and spontaneous. I knew from experience that if something doesn’t work, scrap it, it’s not working for a reason, change it around rather than stay there forcing and forcing a scene. I have been on sets where a director keeps forcing it, although it doesn’t feel right, so I was sharp in keeping each scene instinctive from my acting side of my brain. For an example, James Browne, who’s one of the most instinctive actors anyhow, I had him swinging around on bars of a boat as Lila tried to talk to him about her mother’s death, it was actually written as them sitting by the beach, but I knew I needed both that tension and lightness…. Also, the same with Dara Devaney, before his scene I gave him a bowl of porridge to be feeding the granny, that one tiny action told more about his character than any words could – so I used a lot of simple, authentic actions in a scene to click a performance into place.

 

Did you pick up a bag of tips from directors you have previously worked with?

Of course, I mean I was privileged to have that experience with very talented people, so of course it shaped me in some way. I did learn a huge amount about performance and film in general from Shimmy Marcus when I was in the Factory, he deconstructed everything from script to the edit to the performance, and taught me that it’s much about show rather than tell… Then on set,  I went with longer takes with certain actors, like Gerry (Mc Sorley) and David Murray, because I knew the level of experience they carried, and that those extra few seconds after the scene would be where they would just nail it, and I remember Ivan Kavanagh working with us in a similar way. Also, I personally think Brendan Muldowney is a phenomenal director, I love how he captures so much tenderness in the darkness of the subject matter –  so if I could have learnt anything at all from a director I worked with, that would be it.

 

You assembled a great cast. Can you tell us a little about this?

I had a very clear idea of who would work from the writing stage. I had worked nearly everyone with previously, except Gerard McSorley –  although we were both on Penance last year, we hadn’t any scenes together, but he is such a prolific actor, someone I admired for years on film, and he connected with the subject matter on a personal level, so he brought a lot of real and powerful truth to that scene. He had me in tears and it was still only on his close-ups, so that’s the strength and brilliance of his performance for you right there.

With James Browne and Dara Devaney, they were both actors that I did theatre with at the very start that I sort of just clicked with. Dara Devaney and I had worked in the Abbey and we became good pals, he’s got such a genuine and honest quality to him, and I knew our ease with each other that would come through on screen. He added a very warm and kind presence in the final scenes, and James Browne was also someone I met back at the very start. I did a version of A Midsummers Nights Dream when I was 17,  and then, earlier this year, I was in a screening of Lorcan Finnegan’s Without Name at ADIFF and he absolutely stole every scene. He has that exact mix of both elusiveness and danger, and he brought so much intensity to Flynn. He’s also going to be in Maze which screens at the Fleadh on Saturday night, so he’s gaining a real momentum in her career now, and think he’s only going to go from strength to strength.

With David Murray, we worked with one another on Jack Taylor – and again, was the first and only choice for the role –and he brought such an edge to that scene. I loved his performance in Amber. He’s a great voice, and had that mix of both masculinity and vulnerability it needed.

 

How did you find the role of producer?

Very full on, I have actually helped produced some projects over the last few years, so I wasn’t totally clueless. It was a huge amount of work with locations, insurance, health and safety, getting the whole crew together, catering, but my production designer, Steve Kingston, came board as a co-producer and helped me out with everything. So when we were both working together, we actually had a lot of fun in the process.

 

You must be excited to screen at Galway…

Yeah, it will be great to have a screening and finally see how people react to it.  It’s only the start for this film.

 

 

Wild Fire Nights screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts: Way Out West programme on Wednesday, 12th July at the Radisson Blu Hotel at 2.30pm.

 

Buy Tickets

 

 

 

 

Preview of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2017

 

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Tristan Heanue, Writer/Director of ‘A Break in the Clouds’

 

 

Tristan Heanue gives us a look at A Break in the Clouds, which screens at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

What can you tell us about A Break in the Clouds?
 
It is about a young couple who are struggling in different ways following the birth of their first child. It follows them over one morning as things come to a head.

 

How did the story come about?

It came from a few different places. A few friends of mine had babies in quick succession and I saw first hand the different types of strain that it had on them. It just stuck with me and I wanted to tell a story that showed what the pressures were like for both sides during this time.

 

Did you always know you wanted to direct this story?
 
Yes, I had been working on the script for over a year and it was always in my head to direct it. Originally, I hadn’t planned to act in it as I submitted it to a short film scheme, but once we didn’t get selected for that I had to re-think it. Paddy Slattery [producer] had always suggested me acting in it so I decided to go for it. I had a wonderful cinematographer in Narayan Van Maele who made the whole experience so much easier. We spent a day in Connemara walking through the locations and planning everything so when the time came for me to step in front of the camera for my shots he had it all under control.

 

You’ve worked with Paddy Slattery before – what does he bring to the table?

 

A number of things, he is always the first person to read my scripts so I trust him more than anyone. He gives the best advice when it comes to screenwriting and doesn’t sugar coat it. He always helps you keep belief in a project and pushes you on when you sometimes might be having doubts about the material, which usually happens weekly!

 

What were the important lessons you learned from your debut directing experience that you brought to bear on this film?

 

Mainly to not try to cut corners with anything, to be more prepared. Sometimes you look back at the other films and see little mistakes and you just do your best to not do the same again. I spent a lot more time on the script also, it went through quite a few different versions as we had a certain budget and had to make sure it was possible to shoot it on that.
 
How important was the chemistry of the cast to successfully tell this story?
 
It wasn’t as important as maybe on others. All the characters are somewhat estranged in it or have bad communication with each other so I think it would have worked either way. But as it happened everyone kinda knew each other. I had met Marie Ruane, who plays Natalie, a few times before and we spent an evening rehearsing our scene beforehand but that was the only rehearsals we did for the film. Gemma-Leah Deveraux, who plays Sarah, and Marie had also known each other for years so they were comfortable working together. And I had also met Linda Bhreathnach, who plays Ally, a couple of times before so that always helps things flow a little better.

 

You must be excited about Galway
 
Yeah, I’m so excited to show this film to people. I’m nervous as well of course but I think the excitement is maybe edging it this time. Galway is obviously special for me being a native so it will be great to have all my friends and family there with me.

 

 

A Break in the Clouds screens at Galway Film Fleadh on Friday, 14th July at the Town Hall at 10am as part of the New Irish Shorts 4 programme.

 

 

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Tom Ryan, Writer / Director of ‘Twice Shy’

 

Gemma Creagh met Tom Ryan to talk about his film Twice Shy, which is released in cinemas 23rd June 2017. 

Twice Shy, is a modern, coming-of-age drama that revolves around a young, unmarried couple who set off on a road trip from Ireland to London, as the result of an unplanned pregnancy. The film charts the ups and downs of their relationship by juxtaposing their dramatic journey with flashbacks to happier times in their romance. 

The film stars Shane Murray-Corcoran and Iseult Casey in the lead roles and features support from a stellar cast including Ardal O’ Hanlon (After Hours, Fr. Ted), Pat Shortt (The Guard, Garage), Mary Conroy (Ros na Run) and Paul Ronan (Love / Hate).

 

 

 

 

Irish Film Review: Twice Shy

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Conor Armstrong Sanfey, Director of ‘Lift’

 

In Lift, Sean’s vicious attack leaves a man unconscious and him stranded in an elevator with five others. In the confines of the lift, love has a chance of blossoming – violence has a chance of erupting – Sean has little chance of escape. With his freedom hanging in the balance can the people who fear him offer him one last chance of redemption?

Mark Sheridan talks to director Conor Armstrong Sanfey about his debut feature, which screens at Filmbase on 21st June 2017.

 


 
 
No Budget Presents a Special Screening of Lift at Filmbase, followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.

The proceeds from the event will go towards supporting independent filmmaking in Ireland.

Tickets €5 in advance through eventbrite and €6 at the door.
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/no-budget-presents-a-special-screening-of-lift-tickets-34838357465

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Zoe Kavanagh: Director and Co-Writer of ‘Demon Hunter’

 

A young girl tormented by the tragedies of her past is brought in for questioning by the police over the death of a man, who she claims to be a demon. Detective Beckett realizes this is the same girl he made a broken promise to six years ago that he’d find the monster that raped and murdered her 12 year old sister. The girl warns of a powerful man named Falstaff who will stop at nothing to claim her soul, Falstaff abducts Detective Beckett’s daughter and now this young girl is his only hope and ally in rescuing his daughter from this demonic cult and proving to him that Taryn Barker is the Demon Hunter.

Mark Sheridan talks to director and co-writer Zoe Kavanagh about her film, which plays in select cinemas June 6th.

Zoe talks about her influences, making the film and self-financing it, music and actors, the film’s success on the festival circuit, and the need for audiences to support Irish films.

DEMON HUNTER in Cinemas June 6th for a LIMITED TIME only BOOK NOW.
DUBLIN- Movies @
CORK – THE GATE Multiplex
Also available on DVD & Video on Demand June 12th

 

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Caoilfhionn Dunne, Actor, ‘In View’

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Gemma Creagh talks to actor Caoilfhionn Dunne about her role in Ciaran Creagh’s In View, which is released in cinemas from 19th May 2017.

Caoilfhionn plays Ruth, whose life is one of burgeoning guilt dominated by rage, alcoholism, depression and self-loathing which has its origins in a once-off drunken indiscretion with a work colleague some years previous. 

In View was awarded first prize for best screenplay at the 2016 Rhode Island International Film Festival and Caoilfhionn was nominated in the best actress category in the 2017 Irish Film and Television Awards.

 

What’s your background in acting?

I trained at the Gaiety School, a part-time, one-year course first of all and then a full-time, two-year course. I had been in the University of Limerick studying law, French and Sociology but dropped out about halfway through to do acting. 

 

Every parent’s dream… 

Yes, it really is. As you can imagine they were over the moon! At first, I was mainly working in theatre, but got into film when I did a short with Hugh O’Conor called Corduroy, and then Love/Hate came along, which was my big TV break. 

 

What’s different about working in theatre, film and television, and what is it you like about them?

Well, they all bleed into each other in some respects. I love live theatre. I love the feeling of being in the room with an audience and feeding off them. There’s a wonderful exchange that happens in that one moment. The next night it is you and an entirely different group of people. So, each night, everybody in the room together has a shared, unique experience. I love that about theatre.

I love film because you get to experiment with how little is required to express a huge amount. I love playing with that. And how much you can convey with as little as possible.

And with TV,  the great thing is you get to create a person and carry them through a longer storyline. And you become part of a family.

They all have their own things but do feed into each other a lot.

 

Turning to In View, Ruth is a very intense character to play. How did you get into the headspace for this?

I read it and just went on what Ciaran [Creagh, the writer/director] had written. I didn’t want to pay too much attention to her job or her identity as a guard, but just to focus on a human being who feels there is no other option. I wanted to explore that. It’s a subject that is very close to my heart, especially with what’s happening in Ireland at the moment and how we do not deal with mental health problems and the problems associated with them. So it was tough, to say the least, but it was worth it to get that character and these subjects on the screen.

They’re subjects that have affected every single Irish person on some level, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not. Those things have been around us, if not in us then around. So it’s important to have look at that and acknowledge it.

 

As an actor, do you bring something of yourself to the characters you play?

I think they are all bits of me – when I approach something I try to find what I know of it. You have to look at yourself and ask, is there a bit of me like that? There’s four main states of being: happy, sad, afraid and angry and we’ve all been there in varying degrees. That’s where I start… what do I know? How can I access that? What part of me do I have? I think that is important for me to maintain a truth throughout what I’m playing, to ground it in something real.

 

Is there any role in particular you’d like to play?

Mmmmm. I would love to do a comic book movie… something with action.

 

You had a few action scenes in Love/Hate – did you get a taste for it?

I did, but I want to be green-screening this, jumping off stuff. Doing mad things. I’m a big comic book and fantasy fan so that’s the kind of stuff I love reading and it’s something that I’d love to do – and it’s big at the moment.

 

Who would be the person you love to play?

I’ve always had my eye on Jean Grey from the X-Men but they have their new Jean Grey now so that’s gone out the window. I suppose I’ll just have to write one myself!

 

And you can base it in Ireland. I think we’re due a good superhero movie.

Yeh. I think we need a good action movie in Ireland. The last one was Haywire with Gina Carano, jumping across  Dublin rooftops and kicking the life out of lads. So, I think we’ve nailed the comedy and the tragedy; it’s time for a big action movie in Ireland.

 

If you were starting out now and you could give yourself some advice, what would it be?

I would say, get  to do everything. Do stage, do screen, do dance, learn to juggle, learn to ride a horse. Learn as many skills as you possibly can because one day that there will always be dips and there will be times when one side of things isn’t going as well. And, also, just arm yourself with as many skills as you possibly can because they will always come in useful and you may open yourself up to jobs that otherwise would have been unavailable to you.

In View is in cinemas from 19th May 2017

 

 

Interview: Ciaran Creagh, writer/director of ‘In View’

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Interview: Nick Hamm, Director of ‘The Journey’

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The Journey is a fictional account of the extraordinary story of two implacable enemies in Northern Ireland – firebrand Democratic Unionist Party leader Paisley and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness – who are forced to take a short journey together in which they will take the biggest leap of faith and change the course of history.

Shane Hennessy caught up with director Nick Hamm to explore the journey behind the film.

 

What was it about this event that made you want to make a film about it?

What was attractive to us was making a film about two politicians who initially hated each other and then came to like and respect each other and together achieved peace because of that relationship, we thought about how we could dramatize that. And we found that there was a particular journey that occurred at St Andrews where McGuinness and Paisley shared a plane, and during that journey they began communicating and eventually achieved friendship. That’s the reason we did it.

 

Did you get a chance to meet McGuiness or Paisley in preparing for the film?

Colm Meaney had supported McGuinness in his 2011 Presidential campaign and a good relationship with him, I had met him (McGuinness) before production as well. He didn’t ask to read the script, neither did Paisley’s people. They were both very respectful of the process and we were very respectful towards them in return.

 

The film is a drama/comedy, did you feel it was risky approaching such a delicate subject comedically?

Well comedy is a staple of Irish culture, North and South. If you don’t address that, and allow it be part of the storytelling, then you’re wasting your time. You can’t do something this serious and not allow the audience to laugh. And also, these two characters were just very funny together. They had a strange relationship and enjoyed each others humor.

 

Timothy Spall’s performance as Ian Paisley is outstanding, but considering he was playing one of the biggest and most caricatured figures in Irish culture, did you need him to tone it down at times?

Paisley’s a tricky part to play, not many people could do it correctly. Tim and I worked on it a lot before even filming.  But Tim’s one of those actors who genuinely becomes the characters he’s playing – it’s wonderful to see. This wirey Englishman who becomes this bombastic 6ft 6 Irishman. He was always my first choice.

 

Halfway during the film the car crashes and the two characters are walking around the forest, key scenes take place in a torn-down church and a cemetery. At what point did you decide that the entire film would not take place in the car?

What we wanted to do was set everything up in the car, the confined space makes them deal with each other and forces a relationship. After you’ve had that moment you can take them out of the car and they’ll still be together. The movie is about stripping away all of the artifice of democracy, all paraphernalia and political discourse and you just have two people dealing with each other, and in that environment you often share more than you don’t share. That’s what we wanted to show – that if these two people can find peace, then anyone can.

Can you talk about the role of the driver, what role you wanted him to play both narratively and thematically? From the outset he comes across as a sort of everyman moderator between the two.

That’s a good way describing it, actually. He’s part of a younger generation, that does’t know anything about these two guys. So by him not knowing, he shows us the way they behave is fascinating and idiosyncratic. He had to be a figure who is completely benign and without any agenda.

 

You obviously weren’t to know that Martin McGuinness would pass away so closely to the film’s release. Has the film’s reception been affected by this?

Well, we screened the film in parliament the other day, which was a fascinating experience. I think the film now becomes about redemption and remembrance. 30 years ago McGuinness was a hated figure in English culture, so in that sense the re-analysis of what he became is what the movie is studying. Is this man a terrorist or a freedom fighter? And this is true about Paisley too, he was every bit as loathed throughout Ireland for his actions in the same way McGuinness was. So the message is to look at history, with all the terrorism that is happening everywhere now, and to use history as a means of correctly judging the present.

 

On that point, is it more accurate to look at this film as a homage to peace, or as a warning of just how tenuous peace is?

This film is a celebration of concession, of people sitting down and talking things over rather than fighting. It’s also a tribute to two politicians who changed the course of history, and should be recognized for doing this.

What were the biggest challenges with directing?

The challenge was keeping the story moving and opening it up enough so that the audience didn’t feel too confined, that was the real test.

I thought the sound editing was masterful…

I’m absolutely thrilled you said that, make sure you print that loud and clear so that they get some love.

 

In terms of the interchanges between the two characters, McGuinness is the more open and humorous initially, Paisley at one point admits he doesn’t accept that change is possible either in himself or in other people. Was he always meant to be the more belligerent one?

Paisley didn’t like McGuinness at all, so the first twenty minutes is just McGuinness doing most of the talking because Paisley thinks the journey will be over in 30 or so minutes so he can get on the plane and go home. It is a fictional account, but it’s sort of how this exchange might have played out based on historical facts.

 

Is this sort of subject matter something you’d like to revisit again?

No, I’ve done enough on peace. I need to do something on war.

 

Ian Paisley asks are we Martyrs or Men Of Faith. Themes like this would appeal to the wider world in its current predicament; are you happy with the general reception it’s been getting?

I think the press we get in the UK will be a lot different from everywhere else for somewhat obvious reasons. But I’m okay with that.

 

The Journey is in cinemas from 5th May 2017

 

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Interview with Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, producer of ‘Lady Macbeth’

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Grace Corry talks to Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, the producer of Lady Macbeth.

Set in rural England, 1865, Katherine (Florence Pugh) is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family are cold and unforgiving. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

 

What was it about this project that appealed to you?

 

It really started with Nikolai Leskov’s novella and Catrina, the protagonist in the book – she was just such an intriguing, complex female protagonist that I really wanted to explore her story. Plus there was the chance to work with William Oldroyd, the director, and Alice Birch, the writer, who adapted the book.

 

Both have had a remarkable couple of years, particularly in the theatre. How did the relationship come about between the 3 of you?

Somebody recommended I watch a short film called Best, which was the Winner of Best Short Film Competition at Sundance London in 2013. I watched it and fell in love with it. I thought it was incredibly original, brilliantly executed  and so clever. I wanted to meet him and when we met we got on like a house on fire. During that meeting he told me had just met Alice and that she had an idea to adapt this Russian novella. She hadn’t written anything yet but we both loved the novella and decided to join forces and started developing the project together and adapting it and setting it in 1865 rural England rather than the Russian setting of the novella.

 

What was the thinking behind that?

Isolation is such a huge theme in the book and we felt the time and the setting in Northumberland in rural England would reflect that theme. We did look at contemporising it but we just felt we wanted to protect the period element of the story and we were drawn to British period dramas and wanted to do something a little bit different with that. We felt this sort of story would be a way of doing that.

 

For a period drama you had a fairly small budget – how much of a challenge was that as a producer.

It was definitely a challenge making a period film on such a small budget but we figured it out and because of the way we made the film in terms of us being a team of equal partners in it together, which it made it easier in ways. Yes, it was a challenge – but it was fun figuring it out!

 

Lady Macbeth is in cinemas now

 

 

 

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Podcast: Liam Gavin, ‘A Dark Song’

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Paul Farren caught up with director Liam Gavin to chat about his character-driven horror A Dark Song, which follows Sophia, a young woman who insists on renting an old house in the remote countryside so that she can hire an occultist named Solomon. She needs him to perform an ancient invocation ritual, the Abramelin, to summon up Sophia’s Guardian Angel so her wish can be granted. She wishes to talk to her murdered child, a desire that consumes her.

The ritual is an extremely arduous one. They are to seal themselves in the house for months as it plays out. As they get deeper into the rite they run the risk of turning on each other, of going mad. But when Solomon finds out that Sophia has not been truthful about her wish, a greater danger threatens them. In the dark, they find that they are no longer alone in the house. They are now in the world of real angels, and real demons. The house is surrounded with a line of salt, it is the only protection they have. They must not cross it, no matter how bad it gets.

 

A Dark Song is released in cinemas 7th April 2017

 

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Podcast: Ben Wheatley,’Free Fire’

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Paul Farren talks to Ben Wheatley about taking a procedural look at action with Free Fire, breaking it down to an atomic level, planning the shoot, the production design, the ’70s setting, scriptwriting and the inspirations behind Armie Hammer’s suave look.

 

 

Armnie Hammer
Armie Hammer, left, whose look was inspired by:

 

DanOBannon
Dan O’Bannon

 

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and Tony Roberts

 

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Interview: James Phelan, writer ‘Striking Out’

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Sarah Cullen caught up with James Phelan, writer of the RTE drama Striking Out, which follows the tumultuous professional and personal life of Dublin-based solicitor, Tara Rafferty, and her fledgling legal firm.

Acorn TV is giving the Irish legal drama an exclusive U.S. premiere on its streaming service on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.

I think one of the stars of Striking Out has got to be Dublin itself – the place looks fantastic! I wonder how important the location and setting was in the writing of the script?

Naturally enough, a huge amount of credit has to go to the director Lisa (James Larsson) and the DOP Frida (Wendel). I’m sure there’s an argument to be made for this being a case of an outside eye looking at the city afresh and while there’s an element of that, it was always envisaged that Dublin be the final character of the piece at script level too.

And I guess that’s what’s great about Dublin for drama. You can mould your vision for your drama around different and differing areas that are all legitimately and authentically Dublin. Even the juxtaposition of our beautiful historic districts bumping up against stunning new modern architecture really works well onscreen.

Overall, it was an upfront ambition to openly acknowledge that Dublin is an attractive city. I think I alluded to the connection between New York and Sex and the City in early style notes for the show. You want it to feel rooted and real as opposed to an affectation. But on a level deeper than optics, I did want to stock an attractive show about Dublin with attractive people without sacrificing depth. And without ever having to apologise for it. If Dublin gets a tourism boost out of how well the show looks, what a lovely upside.

 

There’s a lot of in-depth analysis of the Irish legal system going on in Striking Out. Did you feel the need to do any research for the court proceedings and the legal aspects of the storylines?

Oh yeah, I think you have to do due diligence and have the world sound and feel right. You don’t want to straitjacket the drama either by being overly zealous and overly exact but there is a balance to be struck. I have a slight grounding through studying law for a few years but really it’s the feel of the law in practice that has to feel right and real.

It’s not a show ‘about solicitors for solicitors’ but you want to evoke a recognisable world where the setting is a convincing crucible for drama. That said, adhering to the reality of the law would inherently kill so much drama if we had to truly acknowledge or account for every naturally occurring delay or adjournment that would crop up. So it’s definitely a balance between creating a case that would resonate with our main character Tara and then finding the entry point that cuts to the quick of drama. As in most screenwriting lessons – that entry point was generally as late as possible so Tara could be proactive, positive and effective.

 

Would it be fair to say that scriptwriting on Striking Out is a rather different affair to your historical comedy drama Wrecking the Rising? How did you manage to shift from one style to the other?

I’m definitely of the mind that any writer should have an adaptable style. The material is king and dictates so much. If a writer has a style that is so pronounced and particular and rigid –  I doubt it would always serve differing subject matters properly.

In my book, I think the language and style of writing is sculpted to extract the most and evoke the most from any premise. A period horror script should read so differently from say – a cyber thriller. Even from the same writer. Obvious, I know. But one style does not fit all. Or suit all.

Wrecking the Rising probably contained a couple of different styles in that it had fictional modern men alongside real historical figures. I guess the most delicate balance there was to embrace the fun and whimsy of a time-travelling plot while also striving to be weirdly respectful, insightful and even poignant.

One of my ambitions setting out with Wrecking was not to have the historical characters converse in ‘patina-encrusted speech mode’. I loved how in JFK every minor character Jim Garrison interviews feels real and in the moment. And almost preoccupied in that moment by something personal. Hence, I had Connolly obsessing about his missing hat. Rather than fretting about masterplans or recounting all the events that lead to the occupation of the GPO. They all knew why they were there. Why on earth would they be reiterating it endlessly?

I’m delighted with Wrecking. And delighted it felt so different from Striking Out. And hopefully the next couple of planned dramas and features will feel very different too.

 

There’s some serious acting talent going on in Striking Out. When you were writing did you have any of the actors like Amy Huberman or Neil Morrissey in mind?

Well Neil was a bit of a bolt from the blue. Just in terms of a casting coup. The character of Vincent was created during the period of development that the show went through. He was always erudite and charming with a slight self destructive streak. Neil was inspired casting. He embodies Vincent so well. It looks effortless like all great acting.

It was the opposite situation with Amy because it’s a case of going from an actor I hadn’t thought of for Vincent to pretty much the only actor I suggested for Tara. And it was merely a suggestion. From a lowly writer with no power to swing these things. But back in the very early days when the producers asked who I saw in the role – I just thought instinctively Amy would be a great fit for Tara. On our lengthy journey to the screen, the show is never truly in casting mode until things get more concrete as it nears production. So there’s a lovely symmetry in Amy ending up in the role. And excelling in the role.

 

Were there any scenes or characters you particularly enjoyed writing?

I spent the most time on Episode 1. It’s an ultra dramatic start that kicks off the show and it has a propulsion that plunges Tara and the viewers into an engrossing chain of events. I always liked that Tara and Ray found each other and bonded on this most traumatic dramatic day. Seeing that connection blossom and the actors bringing it to life was very satisfying.

 

Did you spend any time in collaboration with Striking Out’s other writers, Rob Heyland and Mike O’Leary?

I hope I had lot of the groundwork in place by the time the boys came onboard. I had plans in place for the four episode arc but between us we divided it up and fleshed it out.

I guess I saw my job as show creator as equipping the other writers with compelling cases and a vivid cast of characters to play with. And through which they could explore and expand our world.

For example, when I came up with the bigamy case for Episode Three and the organ donor angle that underpinned it, I knew a writer as experienced as Rob would knock it out of the park, which he proceeded to do.

Overall, I’m most proud that of all the intellectual and storytelling rigour applied to Striking Out that the world and cast of characters I created really stood solid. You can tell that something is working when characters you conjured out of thin air are being instantly discussed as very rounded relatable characters. That occurred with so many characters from Tara’s mum to Eric’s father and everyone in between.

 

And finally, without giving too much away, the finale of Striking Out certainly left scope for a second season. Do you think Tara and the gang might return to our screens?

Striking Out was definitely designed to be a renewable and returnable series. I think there is plenty of mileage in the tank for it because I think an audience want to see more of Tara’s journey. It was my plan if we were lucky enough to get a second series that we see Tara returning to the dating scene and depict her enjoying her life again. Which she surely was before she discovered Eric’s cheating. An audience hasn’t seen that aspect of her yet.  I think Amy and the rest of the cast can grow even further into these roles and entertain the nation for a while yet.

 

Premieres March 17 at https://acorn.tv/strikigout.

 

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Interview: Hilary Rose, actor ‘The Young Offenders’

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With the release of The Young Offenders on DVD and online platforms, Gemma Creagh took advantage of a telecommunications device to chat to Hilary Rose about her experiences playing Mairead MacSweeney in the hit Cork comedy.

 

Can you tell us about working with Alex Murphy and Chris Walley. It’s obvious on screen that there was a great rapport between the three of you. 

It was great. We spent a lot of time together. I took them shopping for their costumes, had lunch and coffee, bought props with them, and just did loads of little activities together so that we would have that relationship when we went on set. It worked. We just all connected together as this oddball family unit. We still all hang out together. They’re really great guys.

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It’s so funny when you see the reaction to the two lads after they had been transformed into their characters. Obviously, I met them as they were but some of the cast and crew only met them in character when the transformations were done. They were really stand-offish with them – when they’re in character with the accents they’re quite intimidating. And then off screen they are just these lovely middle-class boys out of school doing their thing and people, were like oh my God… they just hadn’t realized how much of a transformation had gone on.

 

What was it like as an actor working with Peter Foott? 

Peter’s great. He’ll give you an idea and then shove you onto the path and you need to go and do the groundwork yourself, which is great as an actor because it gives you a certain amount of freedom. For me, I like observing people, looking for quirks and different things and characters kind of come out of that. A mish-mash of all these things and obviously what the writer has written as well. Peter gave us all a lot of rehearsal time so that if there was stuff he wasn’t happy with, stuff he felt that wasn’t in keeping with the character he had written, we were able to tweak that. So the characters grew organically in the rehearsal period.

 

You must have had a lot of fun on set – were many of the scenes improvised?

A lot of the scenes were improvised. For me, my experience on the hidden camera show The Fear was really helpful. Prank shows are all about improv. Peter was great to allow us to do that. We used to do our scripted take and then we would do what we called “the X take”, which was the improv take. We were allowed to do and say whatever we wanted within the boundaries of the scene. That was really fun stuff. And then of course with PJ on set, I think we spent 50 per cent of the time just laughing at him and it was often really hard to get through takes when he was around.

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I heard the hair was improvised!

When we were in rehearsal, we were doing a lot of character work. PJ turned around to me and said wouldn’t it be great if he had a bald spot. When we said it to Peter you could see PJ go… well I have to do it now. We shaved it on set. It turned out the caterer was also a hair dresser. She turned up one day with our lunch and then shaved PJ’s head.

 

You must be chuffed with the success of the film and the reactions it’s getting.

It’s been amazing. It’s really been an amazing year. We really didn’t expect to get the reaction that we did.  We just hoped that it might get into a couple of festivals, maybe win an award, put us on the map a little bit. But the way it snowballed is incredible. It’s still in cinemas in Cork and it’s done so well in the UK and is going world wide. It was number one on iTunes and got some great reviews. It’s been incredible.

 

The Young Offenders is available in all good DVD stores as well as on Amazon and the Wildcard Distribution website. The movie is available to view across online platforms in Ireland including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and Eir.

 

 

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Interview: Niall McCann director of ‘Lost in France’

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Photo: Greg Dunn

 

Shane Hennessy goes in search of director, Niall McCann who’s Lost in France.

There’s a lot more to Lost in France, Niall McCann’s latest documentary about the Chemikal Underground record label, than the music and the people involved in it. The stark contrast of the music industry and city of Glasgow, the two scenes in which the label rose to prominence, between then and now is almost as compelling as the stories told throughout. Neither the industry nor the city in its modern form can allow for a similar venture like Chemical Underground to thrive.

Social welfare is a recurring theme in the film for instance. “Nowadays”, McCann laments, ’the biggest enemy in society seems to be someone on the dole’. McCann is open and very much thankful for his own usage of social welfare in order to follow through on his personal ambitions.

“I was on the dole for a long period while I was making this, enrolling in a few courses. The demonization of people on welfare is interesting these days, because the dole is integral to the arts. The continued dismantling of public and political life where now it seems less about helping people and more about punishing them – for something that has nothing to do with them.”

It’s in this sense that Lost in France becomes about more than its subjects, or the music deriving from them, it’s about art and expression in all its forms. A passion project five years in the making, one gets the feeling from speaking with McCann that his affinity with this subject runs far deeper than his love for the music it spawned.

“At some point we need to have a discussion about whether we care about the arts, people aren’t given any time anymore. For a project like Lost in France, as soon as you see money for it you just owe it all to people. And don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky to have a career doing what I’m doing, but I’m still hoping that I’m not doing 9-5 for a while.”

Unlike most other music documentaries of the retrospective variety, we’re not fawning over global icons reminiscing about the good old days they’ve since been saved from.

“Some of these guys are struggling, Hubby (RM Hubbard) recently had to post on his Facebook that he was in a bad place financially and asked people to buy his new EP, he got a good response but it’s not easy for people to do that. Stewart Henderson still runs Chemikal Records, but he’s recently finished his training to become a fireman so he can keep the label going. These are the sacrifices people are willing to make. These guys can’t get by on their music alone.”

Which would make one think that the opportunity to have a documentary made about the folks involved at the label would represent some much needed exposure and income, but McCann said that wasn’t quite the case.

“When I first approached them there wasn’t a whole lot of willingness to make the film, Chemikal was on its knees and with the state of the music industry currently, the guys there were more interested in keeping it afloat than celebrating its legacy. The fact that I’m not from Glasgow probably worked in my favor, I think, because I was new and a bit different.”

With the catalogue available with which to score the film, one can only imagine the turmoil that came with choosing what songs to leave out rather than which ones to put in. But certain scenes, such as RM Hubbard’s sombre instrumentals in one of the film’s more reflective segments, makes it impossible to think of anything more fitting. But were director and musicians always in agreement with how, or how often, their music was used?

“Hubby is incredibly talented, I couldn’t possibly leave his music out, but it is an ensemble piece so you can’t please everyone all the time. Getting the balance between telling the different stories and moving on was difficult.

In many ways the songs picked themselves, We had no idea the Maurons were going to play ‘Jacqueline’ for instance. But I asked Hubby to play ‘False Bride’, so I had an idea of what I wanted but it was dictated by the people we brought. And obviously in the story of the label, the Bis single being on top of the pops was a very important moment so that had to feature.”

The characters themselves that appear in the film are portrayed as just that – themselves. Their mature and measured outlook, along with their jaded expressions as they ponder what could have been is often sobering. But one could be critical of the film for suppressing tension with nostalgia, whether it’s recanting old tales from the back of the bus or going through old photos over pints. But there are some moments shared between them that border on outright resentment. Paul Savage and his wife Emma Pollock share a playful but sincere joke and their own expense about getting married. “They’re still a couple,” Niall points out. “But to be honest, when people look at a married couple after so many years of marriage and say “why don’t they just say they love each other?”…To me that says more about them than the people they’re talking about.”

For all the talk in the movie about market forces precipitating the band’s decline, how much was in-fighting responsible for things going awry?

“When money’s tight it affects relationships, so in that sense I think market forces was undoubtedly the biggest effect. It’s difficult to separate the person from the professional when you’re this immersed in what you do. I sensed a lot of regret with regards to The Delgado’s breaking up. It was much more difficult for Emma (Pollock) to make it as a solo singer than as lead singer of The Delgados. They’re open enough with each other to share these moments on camera, but ultimately what’s kept the whole thing together is that they love each other, all of them. And they all believe in making art.”

McCann is strident with his views towards the funding of artistic ventures in Ireland and Glasgow as well.

“The music industry, for now, certainly on the level of Chemical Records – it’s fucked.”

But that’s not to say that he’s pessimistic about its future. Glasgow was the epicenter of the UK’s music scene, the rise and fall of Chemical Underground was inextricably tied to the city’s cultural heyday, with more music halls than in any other city in Europe. But McCann insists the interest is still alive and well, if a little more understated.

“Any time you go into a pub in Glasgow the people that work there are in bands. The lead singer of Twilight Sad (who is featured in the movie) was working for Rock Action, Mogwai’s record label.
So now it’s shifted to becoming more a part-time thing or a hobby, which is fine – people can still make an album – but they mightn’t make it to their third or fourth even they make something spectacular.”

That all bodes relatively well for the art scene over there, but what about closer to home? McCann, by now an established filmmaker promoting his third feature film, still struggles to get his projects off the ground.

“I see myself as a filmmaker, everything I do outside of that is to get enough money so I can make my next film. Constantly dwindling budgets aren’t good for anyone, including the audiences. I just think, without being too puritanical, that if you do a good job in making something that’s well received, you should be given the chance to work with a budget.”

While citing Keith Potter as one of the main driving forces behind the recent success of Irish films (“…he transformed the board as far as I’m concerned” ), he doesn’t afford as much clemency to people who have shown slightly less gratitude to the IFB.

“I don’t think the Film Board should ever fund John Michael McDonagh again after what he said about Irish films; he’s obviously an ego-maniac. I thought Calvary was fucking awful and The Guard was a load of shit too, not to mention offensive. I don’t like misanthropy and he and his brother (Martin McDonagh, In Bruges, 7 Psychopaths) write movies without a single likable character in them. As an Irish filmmaker myself I think it’s offensive what he said, and it’s amazing that he’d say it after being funded by the Irish Film Board. It troubles me that if he was someone whose films weren’t as financially rewarding that it would finish him, but that’s the problem with living in a market economy.”

This is a theme inflected throughout Lost in Paris as well, the market mechanics that allowed for the space in which bands like the Delgado’s and Mogwai to flourish are diminishing as genres more conducive to the ever increasing pace of the music industry grow in popularity.

“With more music out there more than ever, it’s more white noise than music now. But it helps some genres of music more than others, electronic and dance is much more accessible to produce but if you’re in a band that needs to get into a studio to make something then it’s not that much easier than before.”

McCann’s next project is a collaboration with Adrian Crowley with the working title Long Distance Swimmer, which is currently in the writing phase.

“We want to explore creativity and what an artist really is, but also trying to demythologize it, to show people the more difficult, the more human aspect of it. It’s going to be someway subjective.”

For now the focus is on Lost in France. “It’s not just for the fans of the music,” McCann insists, “I think everybody will appreciate it on some level, it’s the people that go to see the movie that make movies like this happen.”

It’s out today. Get along and watch it.

Screenings and Q&As with Niall McCann, Emma Pollock and RM Hubbert:

6.15pm – 03/03 – IFI Dublin – Tickets

6.30pm – 04/03 – The Gate Cork – Tickets

6.30pm – 05/03 – EYE Galway – Tickets

There are a series of gigs around Ireland that will accompany the film’s release including Emma Pollock & RM Hubbert LIVE:

Friday March 3rd – The Workman’s Club, Dublin

Saturday March 4th – Connolly’s of Leap, Cork

Sunday March 5th – Roisin Dubh, Galway

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Interview: Ciaran Creagh, writer/director of ‘In View’

Ciaran Creagh Writer Director In View

Writer / director Ciaran Creagh talked to Film Ireland about his film In View, the story of the implosion of Ruth Donnelly, a thirty-something Garda officer, whose drunken indiscretion set off a chain of events which she never could have foretold. A couple of years have now passed and Ruth’s life is one of burdening guilt dominated by rage, alcoholism, depression and self-loathing. Ruth eventually concludes that there is only one way for her to make amends with the world.

 

The subject matter of In View is particularly challenging for a filmmaker – can you tell us how the project came about?

This was one of the challenges facing me when writing the screenplay. From the outset, this film is more than just about depression and suicide. I wanted it to touch on the larger, more universal story of human guilt, the way sometimes one can never move on with their lives and also the extreme and sometimes nonsensical measures people take to placate their guilt.

I had the central idea of the story and then came up with the characters and scenarios.  While writing the screenplay I carried out a lot of research into the area and spoke to organisations working in the sector.  They all welcomed the raising of these issues into the national debate on a topic which really needs to be talked about.  Of course, the more you get into a project the more you learn and discover. This can ultimately change the direction of the script, which of course it did.

Through this process the script went from being initially a chase movie to save Ruth to the telling of a story through the eyes of one character.  The art of writing a screenplay is very demanding but I don’t feel that any particular topic should increase that challenge unless it is so close to your heart that you, as a writer, can’t step away to be impartial.

 

From script to screen – you frame the world in a particular way in the film that informs us of the main character’s state of mind; obviously working with David Grennan as your DOP was crucial to achieve this. And then there’s getting the final project through the edit working with Tony Cranstoun. 

In every feature there are three films. The script is the first as to how the writer sees it. The second is the director of photography, with the third being the cutting room. Dave Grennan is a hugely experienced DOP who brings an awful lot to the table. What Dave did is to take what’s on the page and turn it into not just pictures but the visual experience for the audience. We worked together really well and understood each other. Trust is so important and as a writer/director you are exposing yourself on film and you need this sort of relationship with your DOP. I would give an idea of what I wanted and Dave just made it come to life. Simple as that. I think that is what you call talent!

The third part of the equation is the edit. On In View this was Tony Cranstoun. Tony has an amazing CV and the breadth of his experience really helped make this film what it is. He continually pushed me and came up with solutions when none seemed possible. The pacing of In View is pretty amazing considering that the assembly was 155 minutes and the completed film 93 minutes. I suppose the key to a good editor is to figure out what the director wants and then push it way past that point to a place where you watch the film over and over again and can’t think of any further changes. Tony got me there.

 

Can you tell us about the decision to have the main character as a garda?

When I came up with the main theme of the film I then needed to create the backstory and lead character.  I love character and especially making them in some way an anti-hero. Given the story sentimentality could have crept in very easily and there is nothing worse on screen for me than having the lead as a weak character. The police deal with and protect us from the very worst in society but this cannot but rub off. It gives this inner resilience to compartmentalise awful things they encounter and this is what the lead character in this film needed. She needed an inner strength and by making her a garda, the character could take on a persona which is both believable and real.

In View - Ruth (Caoilfhionn Dunne) listens from behind the door

Caoilfhionn Dunne as Ruth is immense in the film. What did she bring to the role as an actor.

Caoilfhionn was terrific in the role and has been praised by everybody that has seen the film and has been lauded by all of the reviewers for her stunning performance. Her character is in every scene and half of the scenes in the film have no dialogue. The actor who had to play the lead character was always going to have to be terrific to carry this film. If the audience didn’t believe her portrayal of Ruth, they wouldn’t believe the film either. I know I am biased but her performance is in my opinion unsurpassed in 2016 in Ireland.

 

You didn’t do too badly with the rest of the cast either.

How lucky were we! The cast was pretty amazing and reads like a who’s who of Irish talent. Stuart Graham, Ciaran McMenamin, Gerry McSorley, Maria McDermottroe… need I go on. So much talent and ability and all so generous and understanding of what we were trying to achieve with the film. When you work with experienced actors they will know what they must bring to the film and have a level of professionalism which gives great reassurance to any director.

The balance of the characters at script stage was a real challenge since you have to ensure that  the focus is on Ruth as this film is about her journey and how she interacts with the environment that she encounters. The spark between all the actors was instant with all having a very strong instinct for the characters and an immediate rapport with each other as actors.

 

I read that the script was originally written with a male lead in mind. Can you explain your decision to change that.

I worked on the script for about one year and one of the producers, Simon Doyle, was very involved in the process. We brought the script to a really good place and we felt that it was ready for production. Out of the blue, one evening while sitting at home, it came to me, what if the main male character and the supporting female character switched roles without changing the characteristics of their individual character.  I rewrote the script in the matter of 24 hours and knew straightaway this simple change would make this film something special – showing a female in a male dominated world.  I think women are generally a lot more complex and, as a writer, this gives you so many more places you can go when exploring a character.

 

What has been audiences’ reactions to the film?

It has been pretty amazing everywhere we have been. Whether it was the Ireland, the US, Germany, Poland or Estonia the reaction has been great from the reviewers but especially the audience.  I have had a number of audience members approach me who have been touched by depression and suicide in some way and all have been so positive about In View. When we were trying to fund the film the usual funders you would approach all said that the lead character would never hold an audience. This certainly was not my experience. She is the anti-hero and you are sucked into her world.

 

Recently there was Frank Berry’s film [I Used to Live Here] about suicide clusters and now your film, which both make an important contribution to public discourse around suicide.

In View is an original piece of filmmaking which directly relates to the on-going crisis of suicide in Ireland and in many other countries around the world. Its approach, by focusing on the character and how she develops throughout the feature, is a very distinctive voice and is challenging in how it shows an individual’s view of the world and the progression of her life to what she sees as its successful completion and atonement.

This is not a popular choice of topic for a film and I do understand that – but writers are supposed to challenge and I hope in some way that I have contributed in some meaningful way to the debate that needs to happen.  Frank’s film is great and while looking at similar themes shares something in common with In View, that is the terrific performance of the lead actor, Jordanne Jones.

I hope that the audience will find the film an accurate and true reflection of a person’s life who had found herself in a bad place through circumstances of choices made. This is not about judging the character of Ruth but is about trying to understand and have compassion for her. All that she can see is all that is now gone. How many people around the world feel this every single day?

 

 

 

Caoilfhionn Dunne, Actor, ‘In View’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview: Daniel Gordon, director George Best: All By Myself

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Daniel Gordon talked to Film Ireland about his new feature documentary, George Best: All By Myself.

Maradona good, Pelé better, George Best. As far as iconic footballers go, George Best is up there with the gods – indeed, Pelé himself called Best the greatest footballer in the world. But sadly, for all his football genius, his name is also synonymous with the tragedy of his early demise and death from alcoholism. Director Daniel Gordon has brought the genius and the tragedy together in his feature documentary George Best: All By Myself.

Gordon originally got involved when a production company in Belfast approached him after seeing his powerful 2014 documentary about the Hillsborough disaster. Gordon jumped at the opportunity to direct a feature that could take in the scope of George’s life that could “only be served in a feature documentary,” according to Gordon. “The nature of TV is quite superficial so the opportunity with cinema in this case was to make a proper in-depth portrait of a great football player who had a dark side – we all knew a little bit about that but what really shocked me when I got into it was the depth of that dark side as well as the upside of the football – that was the attraction for me.”

To use a football cliche the film is a game of two halves taking the viewer on a journey through the highs of his success to the lows of his disease.  Gordon says, “You can’t tell one side without the other, or favour one side over the other. They are both equally valid – the split between the genius and the flawed side, and I wanted to tell that deeper story of both sides. For me it would have been wrong just to focus on him as a wonderful footballer while at the same time it would have been wrong just to do a hatchet job on him and only pick from the interviews the dark bits.”

Watching those years when he was taking football to a new level, it is striking to hear the amount of warnings he was given concerning where off-the-field temptations may lead him – sadly warnings he failed to understand. Gordon adds though that “equally there were times when he was crying for help and there ‘s footage in Majorca when the press go after him  but no one realises he needs help here. So it went both ways –  people warned him and he ignored them – he cried out and people ignored him.”

As he struggled with life after football, George battled with depression and comes across as quite a lonely man. Gordon says, “Even though he was really popular and the centre of a room, he could be quite lonely. He didn’t like his own company, which always doesn’t bode well. He didn’t really have a gang of really, really close friends and he wasn’t particularly social. He became quite lonely and didn’t like to be on his own at all, which is quite childlike, that yearning to have people around him – which I imagine would have come from his own childhood.”

Ultimately, the film is a story of addiction as much as anything. Gordon notes that the football journalist Hugh McIlvaney says of George that he was addicted to football, “and you might thing that’s a safe thing – what better thing to be addicted to? But actually for someone like that it’s quite dangerous. You’re getting a high every week going out there and at that age where it’s all coming natural to him, it’s amazing. Everyone loves him and he gets all that success and the European Cup Final in 1968. What a high and he’s never going to get that high again. For someone like that, with that personality, he’s always going to be chasing the high. There you have the amazing thing about football but it’s all downhill from there. The level of addiction he had was something I discovered in the edit. That addiction is not something that can easily be switched on and off,  and he couldn’t manage that. Even on a rehab programme when the counseller advised him,  he walked out really quickly. He knew he couldn’t do it. He had to live with that.”

 

George Best: All By Myself is currently in cinemas.

 

 

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Interview: Director Billy O’Brien and Actor Max Records, ‘I Am Not a Serial Killer’

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Gemma Creagh talks to director Billy O’Brien and actor Max Records about their film I Am Not a Serial Killer.

Billy discusses how 3 Irish filmmakers ended up making Dan Wells’ novel about Middle America into a film and Max reveals how he got into acting and Where the Wild Things Are. Along the way, Billy talks about Christopher Lloyd’s subtle acting technique and, of course, there’s chat about the weather and Trump.

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Podcast Interview: Gerard Walsh wri/dir of ‘South’

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Stephen Porzio talks to Gerard Walsh about his film South, which is out now in Irish cinemas.

South tells the story of Tom, a young man struggling with the recent death of his father. After finding a note from his estranged mother he decides to hit the road and try to find her. Throughout this journey Tom also tries to overcome his crippling stage fright as a musician. Along his journey he meets Jess, a free-spirited young woman that captivates his mind and heart.

 

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South is currently screening:

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Podcast Interview: Pieter-Jan De Pue, director of ‘The Land of the Enlightened’

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Stephen Porzio talks to Pieter-Jan De Pue, the director of the Irish co-production The Land of the Enlightened. 

A  group of  Kuchi  children  are  living  in  a  minefield  around  Bagram  airfield,  Afghanistan.  They dig out old Soviet  landmines  in order to sell the explosives to child workers in the  Lapis  Lazuli mine.  Meanwhile  Gholam  Nasir  and  his  gang  control  the  mountains  where  caravans  are smuggling the blue gem stones to the border of Tajikistan and Pakistan.

When Gholam’s gang is not  guiding  the  caravans  over  the  frozen  rivers,  they  dream about  Afghanistan  after  the withdrawal of the Americans. Some of them will grow up as soldiers, others will remain with the caravans.

But  Gholam  dreams  about  marrying  and  living  with  his queen  in  the  palace  in  Kabul.  Will Afghanistan have a new king after the foreigners will have returned home?

The co-production was produced by Morgan Bushe for Irish production company Fastnet Films together with Savage Film, Submarine, Eyeworks and Gerbrueder Beetz Produktion.

Find out more about the documentary at www.thelandoftheenlightened.com

 

 

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Podcast: Interview with Johnny O’Reilly, writer/director of ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’

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Stephen Porzio talks to Johnny O’Reilly about his film Moscow Never Sleeps, a multi-story drama that weaves through Moscow’s choked cityscape as it celebrates its birthday with a massive fireworks display. Over the course of one day, many lives will change forever.

Capturing the kinetic energy of the Russian capital, Johnny O’Reilly’s Moscow Never Sleeps cleverly interweaves five compelling stories in a provocative statement on Putin’s Russia.

Moscow Never Sleeps is a drama about the hidden bonds that connects us all. The film dives headlong into the volatile intersections of contemporary Moscow and the intimate lives of five people: An entrepreneur whose business empire comes under siege by powerful bureaucrats, a teenage girl mired in the misery of a broken home, a young man forced to chose between his girlfriend and his grandmother; a beautiful singer torn apart by the pursuit of two men, and an ailing film star who gets embroiled in a bizarre kidnapping.

These stories weave through Moscow’s choked cityscape as it celebrates its birthday with a massive fireworks display. They reveal the unrestrained energy of Europe’s biggest city and the cruelty and beauty of the Russian spirit.

The film stars many of Russia’s best-known actors including Alexey Serebriakov (Leviathon). It was written and directed by Irish filmmaker, Johnny O’Reilly who has lived in Moscow for 12 years. The film aims to give audiences a unique view of Russian humanity, to present a true impression of a vibrant culture overshadowed by egregious policies of a corrupt government and to capture the pulsating spirit of Europe’s biggest city.

Moscow Never Sleeps is released in Irish cinemas on 11th November 2016

 

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Moscow Never Sleeps is released in Irish cinemas on 11th November 2016

moscowneversleeps.com

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Interview: Charles Harris, author of ‘Jaws in Space: Powerful Pitching for Film and TV Screenwriters’

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Two screenwriters once walked into a Hollywood producer’s office and said three words: ‘Jaws in space.’ That pitch won them the contract for the blockbuster movie Alien. Award-winning director, Charles Harris, wants to teach you how to do the same in his new book: Jaws in Space: Powerful Pitching for Film and TV Screenwriters.

Jonathan Victory talks to Charles about his step-by-step guide to ensuring the perfect pitch.

 

In your previous book, Teach Yourself: Complete Screenwriting Course, you touched on the pitching process but with this book you tackle it head on. 

I wanted to expand on Complete Screenwriting. I spent some time, about a chapter and half, two chapters, going over the premise at the beginning of writing and then the pitching at the end. Although they seem to be two separate things, the two are intimately linked. Essentially, the first thing I do when I am writing, and what I teach people about their writing, is develop my own pitch. Apart from anything else, I’m the first person I have to convince to spend time and money on the project. If I’m going to spend months, if not years, on the project I need to be convinced there’s a pitch at the end of it.

So it happens at the beginning and at the end of the process. In Complete Screenwriting, as the title suggests, I take you through the process, the different ways of developing a screenplay for cinema or TV from the very beginning to the very end. But, of course, there was only a certain amount of space in the book and there was a lot of areas of pitching, premise development and the whole process of doing the pitch itself that I really didn’t have time for in that book. So it was great to be able to spend some time developing those ideastaking things that in some cases might have been a paragraph and turning them into a chapter with a lot more detail in and going into a lot more depth. Also, talking to some really good writers about their experiences and quoting them and generally being able to dig a lot deeper into one of the most crucial areas. Nowadays, if you don’t have a good pitch, quite apart as I said from convincing yourself, you’re not going to convince anybody else. Everybody now needs a good pitch to sell a script, to sell an idea, to sell a project, whether it’s a writer, director or producer, or even an agent.

The title of your book comes from the story of two screenwriters walking into a Hollywood producer’s office and saying three words: “Jaws in space.”

It is rare that you can get a story that you can boil down quite so short. “Jaws in space” is great because in three words there is everything you want to know. The truth is that for even the biggest names it is going to be tough actually raising the money from a pitch.  The pitch is a very simple job and I think it actually makes it a lot easier if you realise it’s not about selling the script, it’s not about selling the project, it’s not about financing the movie – it’s about getting people to read the script. That is basically the job of the pitch. The best outcome of the pitch is if someone says “send me the script”.

The pitch itself has got to tick the boxes. At a screenwriter workshop, we used to bring producers in and we’d ask them “What do you want?” They’d be friendly, helpful and tell us everything they knew and you’d ask “what scripts do you want” and “how can we make sure you get what you want?” They would kind of fumble because they don’t really know. What they would generally say was “bring us something that excites us.” It is true – film and TV is all about excitement. It’s about hot air, if you like. There’s more hot air in the business than there is celluloid and that is what gets things made. But, what they don’t tell you is that there are five basic tick boxes that any producer has to tick in their own mind, whether they’re conscious of it or not. If you don’t tick those boxes in your pitch then you will get nowhere.

This is your A, B, C, D, E that is in the book.

A is appropriate – is your idea appropriate for the person you are pitching to?  Which may sound obvious and yet many people are going to a pitch without having done any research into the production company or the agent they’re talking to. Not everything is appropriate for everybody. So first off, you have to do your due diligence as a writer and find out what it is they do. Sometimes that’s easy – nowadays, you can do that research a lot of the time on the internet. Sometimes it’s a question of just asking, talking to people. That’s why I often say at a pitch meeting the first thing you should not do is pitch. The first thing you should do is have a conversation. Basically, a pitch is about having a conversation. It’s not a big performance. So A is, is it appropriate to their needs – and you need to find out what their needs are.

B is budgetable. In other words, does the budget of what you’re doing fit the likely markets? It’s a mistake and one of the big myths that many screenwriters tend to buy into is that you work out the cost of a script, of making the film from the script and that is going to be the cost of the movie. Whereas, the truth is it’s actually the other way round. What you budget a movie at is what you think you can sell it for. So you need to have some sense of the markets – not the exact budget in pounds and pence – but you do need to have some sense of is this going to appeal to the multiplex,  is this a big budget movie, is this a little indie movie that I can’t afford to spend too much money, I can’t afford to put in helicopter gun ships and armies and all sorts of expensive effects. It’s important to know, does this sound like something I can do within the budget that is going to work for the market?

C is cinematic or televisual. That’s the stuff all the other books talk about. In other words, does it work for the screen, which is crucial. Many people pitch ideas which are lovely but are not screen ideas. They might work beautifully as a novel, for example, but you wouldn’t be able to put it on the screen and make it work. There’s that visual, cinematic element that is vital. That’s not to say you can’t have a very good film about two people sitting in a restaurant. My Dinner with Andre was a very nice movie like that – but it was cinematic because of the way the characters played through their interaction.

D is for different. In other words, what makes your idea standout as being different from the rest? Now you can fairly say “Hang on, I go to the cinema every week and all the stuff there in the multiplexers is the same as everything else.” “I open the TV guide and they’re making 200 cop shows that look identical.” Yes, absolutely. There’s a lot of copycatting the industry. But if you are trying to break in from outside you need to bring something that is different – something that’s you, that’s special. What is a Jonathan Victory script, for example. What is that special something? The thing is, they’ve got a hundred thousand writers who can write the same as everybody else to a certain level of third-rate script. What they don’t have, and what they need, is somebody who can bring something a bit special and different. They don’t know until they see you whether you can bring that something special. I see a lot of scripts that are very well written but they just fall down because you think, well I’ve seen all that before… why should I watch it again?

E is for employable. It’s the flipside of A – not just are they appropriate for you but are you appropriate for them? Can they work with you? What are you bringing to the table? That could be a track record but doesn’t have to be. It could be some particular connection with the story. It could be your passion for the story. There’s a lot people can work on. There was a Ken Loach movie made some years ago. A guy came to them who’d worked on the railways. He’d never written a script in his life, but he knew the railways backwards and he had a really good idea for a story. They hired him and essentially, with a script editor, Loach’s company taught him how to write a script. They worked together and created a very nice script. So in this case your own personal connections might be the thing that sell the script. Or maybe blogging. using social media nowadays, you can produce a blog and show that you have a got a following for your particular story or subject. This way you’re going to get a lot more interest for your stories.

So A, B, C, D, E – whatever you say to them, your 2-sentence pitch, part of what they’re thinking about, on some level or other is, have I ticked all those 5 boxes, and if not, you are going to be struggling.

Jaws in Space: Powerful Pitching for Film and TV Screenwriters by Charles Harris is available now in paperback.

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Interview: Greg Sestero, co-star of cult film ‘The Room’ & author of the ‘The Disaster Artist’

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Ahead of his appearance at Filmbase, Gemma Creagh talked to Greg Sestero, co-star of cult film The Room. Greg is also the best-selling author of the The Disaster Artist, a memoir of his time as an aspiring actor in Hollywood, leading to his bizarre friendship with the mysterious and iconoclastic director of The Room, Tommy Wiseau. The Disaster Artist garnered critical acclaim and commercial success with the book recently being released in the U.K by Little Brown and also adapted into the film, The Masterpiece by director James Franco.

 

First off, how did you meet Tommy Wiseau?

I met Tommy in acting classes in San Francisco. It was quite a conservative class. People were quite reserved. When Tommy went up there, he performed a Shakespearean sonnet that was so mind-blowing I thought, ‘I got to do a thing with this guy’. And so I approached him. That’s how we met.

So, you were obviously friends with him when he was working on The Room. How did you become involved?

We were roommates when he was writing. He always wanted to be an actor and Hollywood didn’t really  see his talents, so he decided to write his own screenplay. He wrote a part for me to be in it. At first, I was reluctant. Then the night before filming he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – if I didn’t make the movie it would be the biggest mistake of my life.

With regards his writing process, how did he come up with his ideas?

I think he was inspired by his own personal stories and the way he sees life. He’s also very much into ’50s films, Tennessee Williams, Marlon Brando and James Dean – I think The Room was a culmination of all that and his perspective on life.

How involved were you in the filmmaking process itself?

I just pretty much helped to Tommy carry out his vision. It was his vision from the start and I was just there to support him. I never really wanted to change any aspect of it. I felt it would work a lot better for him if he just did it his way. I was just kind of there to pick up the pieces and make sure the whole thing went forward.

I know there were a lot of last-minute rewrites, what was the mood like onset?.

It was the first time making a movie so there was chaos and some dysfunction – and a lot of humour! A lot of things happened that were pretty funny, looking back. Ultimately, it was Tommy trying to make a movie his way and a bunch of people trying to understand that.

What was it like when it all blew up as a cult phenomenon?

I observed the film for a few years after it came out and film students picked it up and started spreading it. A few years later, I was living in Europe when the movie really blew up. I was stunned to know it was playing in places like New York and London to sold-out crowds. It was intriguing for me, despite being in the movie, just how people were responding to this vision that Tommy had of this drama. They loved it for all these different reasons. Soon enough I was attending screenings with Tommy. I came to Dublin and was in London – there’s something about the film that people love.

One of those things that struck me about The Room is that there’s authenticity there; there is real emotion behind it.

There really is something there. I think that it’s the fact that he was really trying to send a message through his film. People can see that and they respond to that.

Let’s talk about your book The Disaster Artist – how did that come about?

With the cult success and the touring, I was getting a lot of questions about how I got involved in the film and my relationship with Tommy. I thought the best way to tell the story was for me to go to the beginning and share what a crazy and surreal journey it was meeting Tommy, our unique friendship and how it led to the both of us stumbling our way into this cult success; what it is like to have a dream and try to pursue it against all odds. I thought there’s a lot more there than just the making of a cult movie. My goal with it was to really share something that had heart and humour as well.

So how did the James Franco ‘The Masterpiece’ adaptation come about from your book?

James read it and wrote a terrific article in his column about what he liked both about the book and The Room. He got it and wanted to turn it into a film. I have been lucky enough to see a cut of the film and it’s really terrific. I’m just grateful that someone with James’ talent saw the message the book was sending.

Is it strange to see another actor play yourself as an actor playing a role in a film?

It was a pretty fascinating and surreal experience. But with the book I always saw it as a film, so I removed myself from myself at that time. It was more exciting than anything else. It’s taking your story and putting it in another dimension – it’s very freeing in a lot of ways… it’s no longer your story. It’s great therapy actually. I recommend it!

What can you tell us about the documentary you are screening on Tuesday here at Filmbase in Dublin.

It is a short documentary with interviews with all the actors about the making of the movie and it becoming a cult phenomenon, and the fans. It gives you a well-rounded perspective of what it was like to be inside The Room. Also, I’ll be doing a book reading and, hopefully, I’ll be showing a big surprise to the Dublin fans of something new.

Voicesonfilm in association with Filmbase and NUI Galway present The Disaster Artist: Inside The Room with Greg Sestero at Filmbase @ 7pm, Tuesday, 27th September 2016.

 

 

 

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Video: Interview with Sennia Nanua, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’

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The Girl With All The Gifts is the new thriller adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name by M.R Carey and directed by Colm McCarthy (Peaky Blinders & Ripper Street).

A scientist (played by Glenn Close) and a teacher (played by Gemma Arterton) are living in a dystopian future as they embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie played by newcomer Sennia Nanua.

In this video, Sennia Nanua takes us behind the scenes and answers a few questions.

 

 

The near future; humanity has been all but destroyed by a mutated fungal disease that eradicates free will and turns its victims into flesh-eating “hungries”.  Only a small group of children seem immune to its effects.

At an army base in rural England, this group of unique children are being studied, subjected to cruel experiments by biologist Dr. Caldwell.  Despite having been infected with the zombie pathogen that has decimated the world, these children retain normal thoughts and emotions.  And while still being subject to the craving for human flesh that marks the disease these second-generation “hungries” are able to think and feel making them a vital resource in the search for a cure.

The children attend school lessons daily, guarded by the ever watchful Sergeant Parks.  But one little girl, Melanie, stands out from the rest.  Melanie is special.  She excels in the classroom, is inquisitive, imaginative and loves her favourite teacher Miss Justineau.

When the base falls, Melanie escapes along with Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parks and Dr. Caldwell. Against the backdrop of a blighted Britain, Melanie must discover what she is and ultimately decide both her own future and that of the human race.

 

The film is released Friday, 23rd September 2016

 

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