Director / Co-Writer Lee Cronin & Actor Seána Kerslake, ‘The Hole in the Ground’

One night, Sarah’s young son disappears into the woods behind their rural home. When he returns, he looks the same, but his behavior grows increasingly disturbing. Sarah begins to believe that the boy who returned may not be her son at all.

David Prendeville chats to director / co-writer Lee Cronin and actor Seána Kerslake about their horror The Hole in the Ground.

 

Lee, can we start with where the idea for the film came from?

Lee: It wasn’t a lightbulb moment. It was a combination of things. The first little scene of it all was a news story I read about a man sitting in his armchair in Florida. A sinkhole emerged and took him in and he died. I thought that was terrifying, to have the rug pulled in such a fantastical way. That spawned the title The Hole in the Ground which was then rolling around and around in my mind.

At the same time I was developing a story about a mother and a son and a situation of doubt between them after a trauma in their lives –  it was more a concept. The combination of these things over a number of months came together. It felt like the sinkhole that was rolling around my mind would be a great metaphor for the situation that this mother and son found themselves in. The actual development of the film was kind of a slow. Sometimes you have these lightbulb moments when an idea comes fully formed. With this one, it was more a kind of slow creep of different things coming together.

 

Seána, what was it that attracted you to the role?

Seana: I think the challenge of being in a horror movie but to make it feel real to me and real to the character – that challenge was attractive and one I thought that we could rise to. As well, a lot of the physical stuff was a huge draw, like having to be physically ready to go underground and do the fight scenes… They were huge pulls for me. And, of course, the story. I was always interested in that kind of concept of somebody you know not being who you think they are, or slightly off. There’s the idea there – do you ever really know people fully.

 

Were there other horror films you were looking at as reference points – either directorially or performance-based?

Seana: Lee had given me a list of some stuff to watch, but I did steer clear of it because there was some female performances that I knew if I watched then I’d feel maybe I’m going to take from those performances. For me, I just had to be totally emerged in this script rather than other ones.

Lee: We had our  influences and we discussed them, but we didn’t do a deep dive where we were trying to necessarily analyse other work in any way and emulate that. We were trying to be as fresh as we could be in our own way. The reason I wanted Seána in the role was because she was very different to what I had imagined this character would actually be from the get-go. I wasn’t trying to impress upon her or anybody else’s performance necessarily. It’s a case of what I saw in Seána I thought was going to challenge me and challenge the character on the page. That was the way to go about it. We just jumped in and went for it.

 

How did the casting of James [Quinn Markey] come about?

Lee: When I met Seána, she was the first performer that I met for the role, we just stopped the hunt right away. We sat down, had a coffee and decided it was right and offered her the role. But when you’re working with young performances you have to do a greater due diligence. You’re not just getting to know them, you’re trying to understand them a little more, meet their parents, get a sense of how this will all work. Especially you have a sudden responsibility when you’re making a horror film and you’re bringing an 8 year-old out on set to be part of that and to be an object of fear in the movie. So the process was a slower one. You have a casting agent that goes out and looks at a lot of different performers and then makes shortlists. You’ll see someone on the shortlist you’ll like and make mental notes. You might dig back into the longlist and look at someone else. You build these little groups and you’re always analysing and looking at what it is you want. What’s really interesting about James is that he’s not in any way a creepy kid at all. He has this ability to just step into different subtle places. But yeah, it was a long process. We did chemistry tests with Seána with a couple of different young actors. We definitely went through it. It’s the one decision, when you’re casting someone that young, that you can only make with so much confidence until you turnover and roll camera on the first day – despite all the rehearsals, because it’s a different environment once you’re on the set, so you are kind of slightly crossing your fingers. Thankfully it worked out great – he’s a little superstar.

 

Seana, the physicality of the role that you mentioned earlier, how did it compare in reality to what you imagined it to be like?

Seana: It was pretty spot on! It was tough. Brendan [Byrne – sfx coordinator] and his whole team were so amazing. It was exciting to be part of that, but tough work.

Lee: I had said to Seána in advance that it was going to be tough. We didn’t pretend that it wasn’t going to be very physically challenging – that it would be something very different for her to do. Seána had to dive in and do some pretty serious stuff. I don’t want give away any spoilers but later on in the film there are certain physical challenges that are done for real. There’s no hiding.

Seána: I think in hindsight I go “yeh, that was fine” but in the doing off it there were certain moments where I was like ‘suck it up and do it’ or else there’s moments where I’m feeling a little wary –  not so much scared – I’d never say it because I knew Lee wanted me to be scared in parts of it!

Lee: Show no weakness.

Seána: Yeh. I’m like, I’m not giving him that! So in my head, I’m thinking ‘go for it!’ But it was a lot of fun – hard work, but a lot of fun.

Lee: Good hard work.

 

The Hole in the Ground is in cinemas from 1st March 2019.

 

 

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Robbie Walsh, Writer/Director of ‘Eden’

Adam is a man left homeless in the wake of the Irish financial crisis. In Eden we follow him throughout one day of his life living on the streets of Dublin. We share in Adams living experiences and sometimes heartbreaking encounters with the different people from every walk of life he has while living rough.

Writer/director Robbie Walsh tells Film Ireland about his film.

“The idea of Eden was inspired in part from a very personal experience I had when I left the military – and which I won’t delve into. When I first began to put Eden together I had seen it as a short film and wrote short two people, talking-head scenes. I was originally to play the lead role of Adam but realized I couldn’t do it, along with directing and producing.

Donnacha Coffey suggested Johnny Elliott for the role, so I contacted, met him and knew he was perfect to play the part. I reached out to some of the most underused and underrated talent around to feature in smaller but very significant roles, Sarah Carroll as a former successful mum forced to “work” the streets, Chris Newman as an obnoxious posh guy, David Alexander as a heavy, Kellie Blaise and Nicci St George Smith in short but great scenes, Stuart Foran and Kevin O’Brien almost steal the film separately.

As myself, Donnacha Coffey and Francois Grey – both on camera and DOP duties – began filming around my hometown, we knew we could get more. So I began asking Johnny to improvise mundane things Adam might do to pass time as we walked between locations. To his phenomenal credit, I didn’t have to ask often as he would improvise as we moved – washing in a river on one of the coldest days of the year still gives me shivers to this day.

We filmed for 2 days and I got a call from my editor Richard Geraghty saying “we need another scene and a bit more footage and we’ll have the feature”. So I wrote what turned out to be the best scene in the film and we filmed an extra day. After a few months edit we had a stunning little film, it hit the festival circuit and was well received – honorable mention in international excellence LA Movie Awards – and was accepted to numerous international festivals over the years, but we couldn’t get any distribution.

A while passed and some re-shoots were required, which improved the film and it became better received than before. Unfortunately, and it saddens me to say, Eden has become far more relevant today and sadder still, a more common occurrence in Irish society. It is not an easy watch and shows the darkest side to homelessness but I’m very proud of the film.

Odeon Cinemas viewed it after they released Split and agreed to show Eden so we could raise money on behalf of the Dublin Simon Community. I’d hoped I was wrong about this situation when making the film in 2012.

Eden shows on Tuesday, 5th of march in Odeon Point Village at 7pm. All proceeds and donations go directly to the Dublin Simon Community

Ticket at www.odeoncinemas.ie

 

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Ross Killeen, Director of ’99 Problems’

 

The colourful and cartoonish ice cream vans across Ireland are synonymous with childhood delight, hot summers and their unmistakable chimes – but the person behind the cone is a character often forgotten about. 99 Problems is a short documentary which delves into the humorous, charming but often murky world of the Irish ice cream van trade. The unassuming ice-cream van business on the surface seems harmless, but has in fact quite a dark undertone, where turf wars are fierce. The self declared ‘king of the ice-cream men’, Pinky, works in the community where he lives. Competition is stiff, but he manages to make a decent living from it despite the challenges he faces. Through Pinky’s one liners, observational footage and animation, 99 Problems unearths unsung toils and troubles associated with this unconventional, yet humble profession.

Ahead of its screening at this year’s Dublin Film Festival, director Ross Killeen talked to Film Ireland about how his short film came to life.

 

99 Problems was something I’d had in my head for years. It all started when my wife was taking driving lessons with a guy called Ken. He was a bit of an hilarious character and turned out he was an ice cream man. So he has loads of stories about his profession and how it actually is quite violent. That there are loads of fights with other rival ice cream men. He told her how he used to be attacked and had to carry a baseball bat in the back of the van. She’d come home and tell me all these stories and we were thinking this is crazy, this would make a great little film. I don’t think people are aware that this goes on – these territorial spats between rival ice cream men. I’m a massive hip hop fan, so it was like ‘OK I’ve got the name of the film’… and then everything just kind of fell into place.

I started trying to meet as many ice-cream men as I could. It’s not something you expect to be doing –  you’re around the pub with the lads and they ask you what you’re at and I’d be saying I was out with Mr Softee or I was with Mr Jingles.

My wife’s driving instructor Ken was Mr Jingles and he introduced me to Mr Pinky (Mark Jenkinson), the subject of the film. Initially, I had this Reservoir Dogs Tarantinoesque type scenario in my head. The metaphors are all there – a man driving around getting the kids addicted to his produce; being territorial about his area and driving other dealers out of it. That was 4 years ago. After a break from production I returned and realised I needed to streamline the focus and settle on one driver and tell that story well. And after listening to Mark’s stories it was clear that the film just needed to be about him.

We focused on Mr Pinky and his route and spent some days observing him. He’s a great character and I really enjoyed hanging out with him. It also made me realise how hard drivers work and the pressure they face every day, including that of other drivers coming on their territory – there are no regulations to stop anyone from doing that. So you’re always looking over your shoulder. But they are enterprising. That appealed to me. I’ve my own company and my father was an entrepreneur before me and I’ve always admired people with a good work ethic who are out there doing their thing. That’s one of the things that drew me to Mark was how hard he worked. It struck me that being an ice cream man was just like any entrepreneur. Work hard, be tenacious and look for new opportunities. In spite of all the challenges Mark’s work ethic was always strong. As he says himself, “I could give you a list of things you’ve to put up with in the ice cream business but I go by what my ma’s philosophy was and my da’s philosophy was…. everybody has a right to make a living.”

We finally shot the film last summer. Did a few interviews with Mark. Got a really talented animator, Jonathan Irwinto bring Mark’s back-stories to life, which really works well. The whole idea was to keep the visuals quite colourful and although there’s some serious stuff there I think the film overall is quite fun.

 

 

99 Problems screens on Monday, 25th February at 6.pm at the Light House as part of the DIFF Shorts 3 programme at the Dublin International Film Festival 2019 (20 February – 3 March 2019).

Buy tickets at www.diff.ie

 

 

 

Preview of Irish Films @ Dublin International Film Festival 2019

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Shane J. Collins, Writer/Director of ‘Dub Daze’

Dub Daze is a comedy/drama set in the north, south, and centre of Dublin city. Get to know Dan and Baz, two friends looking for kicks on their last day of school; Cork medical students Jack and Seán who arrive in the capital to find their way amongst Ireland’s affluent youth; and songwriter Fi who struggles to break through on the cut-throat Dublin music scene.

Shane J. Collins talks to Film Ireland about his comedy-drama feature, “a passion project for all involved, a celebration of our love for Dublin City. I wanted to make a film that explores the different perspectives of Irish youth living in Ireland with classic themes of music, friendship and love re-examined to reflect an updated perspective of modern Dublin.

The film came about from my time in IADT. I had previously written a Northside Story. I met Leah Moore and wrote a Central story based on her. Mark O’Connor, one of my screenwriting tutors, gave me some advice that triple narratives usually work well so I thought I should really try write a Southside story and put them all together. Writing the story, I found passion and inspiration from some of Dublin’s best films, including Adam & Paul, Intermission, Kisses, The Commitments, and The Last Of The High Kings.”

Designed by street artists “Subset”

Self-financed on a shoestring budget, Shane is no stranger to taking on the various departments involved in making a film, “I had a good few jobs. I honestly think a massive challenge was doing the art department myself – that was a nightmare at times. But he insists that is not important “because when the film plays on the screen nobody cares who did all the jobs. They just care does this story work, is the acting good, am I engaged in this film – that’s the bottom line.”

The film’s soundtrack features a wealth of Irish musicians and it was important for Shane to get it right as “music plays a central role with a coming-of-age story, like Dazed & Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, American Graffiti.” Musicians include Brame & Hamo, Bantum, Laurie Shaw, Majestic Bears, Makings, Noel O’Brien, Indian, Rhob Cunningham, Sammy Dozens and This Side Up, “who all gave their music so generously.”

The film features a cast of 44 new acting talent and Shane describes it as a showcase for new and upcoming Irish actors. “I was really lucky, I tapped into the acting community in Ireland and they really knocked it out of the park. We all banded together knowing what this film could potentially be for everyone.”

Talking about the film’s upcoming screening, Shane takes a deep breath. “It’s nearly 20 months since I started this. It’s taken a lot out of me physically and mentally. I think I’ve aged 10 years! But to find out that this film was getting to play is an amazing opportunity. Grainne Humphreys [Dublin International Film Festival Director] has been so kind to give us a great spot on Saturday to screen the film. It really means a lot going forward as I’m very passionate about the future of Irish film and I really want to be able to showcase so much new talent.”

 

Dub Daze screens on Saturday, 23rd February at 2pm at Cineworld as part of the Dublin International Film Festival 2019 (20 February – 3 March 2019).

Buy tickets at www.diff.ie

 

 

Preview of Irish Films @ Dublin International Film Festival 2019

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Richard Waters, Director of ‘In A Stranger’s House’

Richard Waters explains his journey to making the found-footage horror In A Stranger’s House.

The dreaded sophomore effort. Uff… No matter how well prepared you are, you just can’t ever really be ready.

My journey started off strong in 2010, with the feature film I co-produced with Alison Scarff for director Michael McCudden, called Sodium Party. Just two years later, Alison and I were making the romcom The O’Briens with Sodium star Slaine Kelly, which was my debut as a feature film director (unless you count the terrible feature I made as a teenager). Released in 2013, that little film achieved far beyond its station.

Sodium Party

Those first two features were ultra low-budget, and absolute challenges to make, but our entire team had the passion to make them, and nothing could stop that desire. When we were making Sodium Party, I thought ‘that’s it. After this, we won’t have to struggle to make our next feature’. Then on a very slightly higher budgeted The O’Briens, I thought ‘that’s it. This shows we aren’t a one-hit wonder. People will definitely help us make our next feature’.

Oh boy, was I wrong…

The following years were like a record stuck in a groove. We never had a look in with funding bodies. We found ourselves meeting with more and more people who swore up and down that they could definitely get this or that film made, only to go silent after months or years of time wasted working with them. I made a huge mistake of signing on to a ‘big budget’ crime feature that was ‘funded and ready to shoot in six months’, but of course had no money and no chance of shooting. Ever. But by the point I realised this was dead on arrival, the momentum from The O’Briens had slowed, and I was back in the cycle of trying to get scripts through application phases and meeting people who could “definitely” make the film happen. I never stopped chasing making my next feature, but the excitement of filmmaking became the drudgery of trying to be a salesman of my own ideas and failing miserably. I wouldn’t say I ever lost my passion, but my energy became redirected into my work as an editor for TV and trying to make a living, only peppering my cinematic passions with short films, music videos, the odd skit, and lots of writing that we could never get off the ground.

The O’Briens

My lowest point though, was last year, in 2017, when Alison and I helped make a teaser episode of a TV show we were pitching with some friends, and I clashed quite dramatically – for me, at least – with one of the heads of departments. Feeling compromised beyond reason, the project ended up being disappointing for me, and the experience was a sour one that knocked my usually unwavering resolve and confidence. So I locked myself away from the film world to lick my wounds.

Or at least I tried to. With about a week’s notice, Alison and I were surprised with an invite to attend the inaugural New Blood pitch/workshop at the massively popular Frightfest in London – one of my all-time favourite festivals. The refreshingly candid conversations with passionate filmmakers spurred Alison and myself on to one of our most creative periods, in which we are still in to this day. We continued our conversations and pitches, all the while making secret plans of how to turn a budgetarily realistic idea into a film off our own backs. We could and would figure this out.

Not a month later, I found myself house-sitting in the family home. With the creative spark sizzling, I decided to try something… different. With Alison’s Canon 7D and a creepy porcelain doll I still have no clue why we have in the house, I filmed myself in a found footage-style sequence that involved some camera and editing trickery to bring the supernaturally-tinged scene to life. And it worked.

Definitely not spooky

Bolstered by this, I figured out an entire narrative and began doing research to help fill in the holes needed to make the story fulfilling for a viewer. Drawing inspiration from some of my favourite found footage films and a fascination with creepy internet videos, I went for a raw shooting style to try emulate that feeling of watching something real. The influences of the likes of the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Creep are pretty clear, but it’s Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek and the 1963 version of The Haunting that I drew on most, to drive home the realism and bring a more palpable terror than just jump scares.

Surprisingly, shooting the film by myself with zero budget wasn’t all that cumbersome. Beyond some logistical planning for the more ghostly sequences, and editing as I went along to make sure the pace and story were on track, the biggest challenges were losing my camera knowledge to make the footage more amateur, and delivering lines in a less coherent yet more realistic way. Basically the antithesis of a typical film. Not one to usually consider myself an actor, my choice to step in front of – or primarily behind, I suppose – the camera became part of the thrill of the challenge for me.

I had to deliver as realistic a film by myself, starring myself, using techniques I had to pull off alone. And bar the involvement of a few actors for a few seconds of screen time, everything to do with In A Stranger’s House is me. I don’t say that to be boastful. I’d much prefer to be back in my team with Alison, Michael and Slaine, but after the disheartening experience the previous year, and before that, a long stretch of rejection, being able to get back on the horse, on my own terms, was empowering. The stakes felt low, and the rewards high. If I couldn’t pull it off, who else would really know? At the very least, I could look and tell myself I made something without compromise.

Beyond the production, I cut the film, made the music, did the sound design – I could write a whole essay on that nightmare – created the poster, transcribed and timed the subtitles, QCed the film, and I am reaching out to any and everyone I can to share what has proven to be a much bigger endeavour than I expected 14 months ago when I decided to try a little experiment.

I made a genuine passion film using all the skills I could, to try captivate and terrify the audience, and most importantly, not to bore them. The reactions so far have been so much more positive than I expected, with people connecting to the story and being able to tell that this film isn’t something that was rushed together in a weekend but born out of a genuine love for horror and creepy stories.

My ultimate lesson from this whole experience has to be that having money makes filmmaking easier, but in lieu of that, passion and a stubbornness not to quit definitely make up a lot of ground.

 

In A Stranger’s House is available via VOD to buy/rent from Amazon and irishhorrorfilm.com worldwide now.


weirdprettypictures.com

 

 

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Interview with Miwako van Weyenberg

Gabrielle Ulubay introduces Belgium filmmaker Miwako van Weyenberg and talks to her about her film Summer Rain, which screened at the 2018 Cork Film Festival.

Miwako van Weyenberg is a filmmaker from Belgium who has so far produced three masterful shorts: Hitorikko (2014), Il Faisait Noir (2015), and Zomerregen (2017). Her protagonists find themselves in emotionally challenging situations which often lead to personal growth, greater emotional intelligence, or an altered sense of identity. Having grown up at the crux of multiple cultures, van Weyenberg has a particularly astute sensitivity to these issues and to the minute details of life that often change our relationships, our outlooks, and even the way we see ourselves. Hitorikko (or Only Child) , for instance, gives audiences insight into the psyche of a young boy who discovers that his divorced father has since taken up a new girlfriend, re-situating the boy as an older brother rather than the only child he has always been. Il Faisait Noir (or It Was Still Dark), on the other hand, explores the world of two twin brothers, along with the psychological effects on one twin when tragedy strikes them.

Zomerregen (Summer Rain), van Weyenberg’s most recent film, focuses on a ten-day period of time in which a young boy with mixed-race identity stays with his grandparents. The grandfather is faced with his own prejudices, and this tension heightens when the two are left alone for a length of the child’s stay. After seeing this film at the Cork International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to speak with van Weyenberg about her film.

 

Your film Summer Rain addresses all sorts of relevant issues like prejudice, multiculturalism within families, and diversity. Could you talk about your process in making the film.

So first of all, while I wouldn’t say Summer Rain is an autobiographical film, of course many elements of it come from a personal space – like the main character, I am half Japanese and half Belgian myself. I wanted to make something that’s really personal, but I also think that the subject is something that’s really universal.”

 

Would you be able to expand on that subject?

The subject is identity, and the search for identity in many different ways. I think that on one hand, it’s in a family, but on the other hand it’s in the idea of double nationality, where people have this ideas about what you are and what you should be.I think that’s something that can complicate the search for identity, and the search for identity in a family is complicated anyway. You have your father and your mother, and you came out of those two people, but you always look for yourself in that mix. I think when you also have that aspect of culture, that also complicates the search.

 

 

Speaking of the parents, and the idea that each of us are half of each, a choice in the film that I found really interesting is that the audience never sees the parents. We hear the father’s voice, but there isn’t much elaborated on in terms of the mother and father. I appreciated that detail, and have my own thoughts about why that’s a fitting and appropriate choice, but could you expand on what your intentions were in leaving those characters so vague?

For me, the story is just about the relationship between the child and his grandfather, so that is what I focused on. I think that in short film, it’s tempting to want to say everything, but it’s impossible because it’s a short film. So I really wanted to focus on that relationship. Also, he’s dropped there for ten days, nearly two weeks, so he doesn’t have access to his parents. His mom is in Japan, so he can only talk to her on the phone, but then there is still a time difference. So he’s really isolated in this countryside environment in Belgium, which he’s not used to because he’s from Brussels. I wanted him to be really out of his comfort zone, and I think that his parents are the comfort that he has, so I wanted to eliminate that. The grandmother is also a source of comfort, but then she ends up being taken out of the picture. So I really wanted to focus on the relationship between the grandfather and the grandson, and what happens when they are forced to live together and have no other option.

 

I appreciated that, and I also really enjoyed how you used the claustrophobic, isolated space of the home, along with the symbolism of planes in the film. I am glad that there were planes chosen specifically in the film for the child to fold, because there’s that stereotype around Japanese children that they will be folding paper cranes.

[laughs]

 

I think the choice of planes really subverts those problematic expectations. On the one hand, the little boy also likes planes because that’s a very normal thing for a child to be preoccupied with, but I also think that in the context of Summer Rain, the planes symbolize freedom. Could you talk about the choice of using planes in the film, and what that symbol meant to you?


It started from a point of planes being an obsession of a typical little boy, but it has more meaning when he finds himself stuck in a really isolated place. Also, his grandfather being a retired pilot, and discovering that connection, adds symbolism. So for me, the planes have a lot of meaning in a lot of different ways, but it starts from a really innocent obsession with things on wheels, and can fly, and go fast.

 

Right, and I feel like we go on that journey as we’re watching the film: It starts out as an adorable obsession of a little boy, and then the grandmother says, ‘look, he likes planes just like his grandfather,” and it becomes loaded with all this familial significance. It’s not just a plane, just this thing that flies and goes fast, anymore.

It’s not just the object anymore, by the end. I think the plane is the symbol of that relationship between the child and his grandfather.

 

I definitely appreciated that. Could you also talk about the process of casting the film? The little boy was excellent, and it can be very difficult to find child actors, yet you discovered this young boy who demonstrates such depth. Children are inclined to pantomime rather dramatically when they think of acting, but his performance was marked by incredible subtlety.

Right. I always work with children as main characters – this is my third short with children as main characters. For me, the acting process for a child is something that I’m used to. I did casting in Belgium, and I prefer working with children that have no acting experience at all. I did castings for half Japanese, half Belgian kids, and it was a difficult process because they needed to be able to speak Japanese but also French or Dutch, or they needed to at least be bilingual. But the boy, whose name is Kazuki, walked into the room and I knew after one second that he was the boy. And I did second rounds and the whole casting process to be sure, but I was convinced from the moment I saw him. It was an interesting process, because he brought so much to the character, and he became the character.

 

He really did. Did he understand the issues that the film was touching on? Because I think that children are exposed to those daily microaggressions and understand that they are being treated differently on a certain level, but on the other hand, you and I were talking earlier about how children who experience discrimination don’t necessarily understand why they are being treated badly or differently. So did that prompt any conversations with the boy? How do you think his age impacted the language and behavior used around these issues on set?

I think that children don’t really understand discrimination, because it makes no sense, but they do understand that it happens. They understand the concept of it, and of course him being half Japanese, and living in Brussels -that’s how I grow up. A lot of the scenes and the comments made in the film are also things that he gets on a daily basis, because I worked based on what I experienced. He’s an incredibly smart kid, and I never had to explain anything. Actually, I never give the screenplay to actors in advance. We just do it on set. But I read the screenplay together with him, we talked about the story, but we didn’t read the entire script as a dialogue. So we talked about the subject and how he experiences living in Belgium as a half-Japanese kid, but I didn’t have to explain anything. He felt a bit like a small version of myself, wherein he just understood what I wanted to say. He’s an amazing kid.

 

Yes, I can tell. That’s something that we can see an as audience: He embodies this duality between innocence and quiet, knowing observation. Every time someone is subject to discrimination or some microaggression, it’s like the incident is noted and filed away. It adds to this bank of somewhat unfortunate wisdom, and we can see this happening with the child in Summer Rain. Considering the rise of right-wingism, particularly in Western Europe, and the idea of being able to say whatever one wants to minorities without those words mattering, what has the reception been like for the film so far?

It’s really interesting, and a huge compliment, that what I hear a lot is that this film is something we need right now, and that this film needed to be made right now. Obviously it’s a compliment, but it’s not just something that’s needed right now. It’s been my story for my entire life, and it’s been other people’s story for their entire lives. So I think it feels more universal at this point, because people can relate it to what’s happening in the world right now.

 

Right, because it’s just that right now there’s a lot of visibility around those issues.

Yes. There’s more of a clear link between the film and things that are happening right now. It’s nice to hear that people link the story to themselves or things that they’ve heard, because it’s such a personal story for me and it’s nice to hear that such a personal story has resonated. It’s a personal story, but a universal impact.

 

I like the way you put that. I mean, there was a really interesting moment in the beginning when his grandparents think they’re doing something nice by giving him a pair of chopsticks. It was a great moment, because it’s so relatable. As a Latina, I can relate that to people presenting me with something like maracas and saying, ‘Here you go. This is your thing, isn’t it?’ And when the boy asks for a fork instead of chopsticks, the parents clearly think he’s being rude or ungrateful, though in reality it’s just that they don’t understand. So yes, it’s a film that we need now, but that’s because we’ve always needed it.

Yes, exactly.

 

So what made you use chopsticks for that moment in the film? It was such a subtle, poignant image.

Yes, because I think that the moments when I experienced that strangely naive racism – because I do like to call it naive racism – I get it through those small moments. It’s not people screaming at me on the streets like, ‘You’re Asian,’ it’s more like, ‘Here are some chopsticks. I’m sorry we don’t have rice. Is it okay if you have bread?’ [laughs], It’s more of those subtle things that are so naively racist, because it’s such a misconception but so funny at the same time. It’s just absurd, and to them it’s a nice gesture, even though it makes no sense. That’s why I chose the chopsticks, because it’s so racist yet so funny at the same time.

 

I also like that about the film, because it’s not too serious all of the time. That’s not to say that serious films are invalid, because in truth they can be excellent, but sometimes films about racism can be so heart-wrenching and emotionally traumatic that they’re largely inaccessible. This film, on the other hand, has comedy built into it, and it’s also very touching and hopeful, whereas many shorts tend to end violently.”

Yes, yes.

 

There’s also that movement within the filmmaking community that happy endings in films are overrated, but I like that Summer Rain ends on a note of hope. Of course it’s not that traditional, classical Hollywood, Singin’ in the Rain type of ending, but it’s still a positive one. What led you to end the film in that the way?

For me, it was important to have some kind of closure, because those two weeks at his grandparents’ house do something to him, of course. But I also didn’t want to make a full circle, and for me it was important for the audience to know that this was the end of those two weeks at house, but it was the beginning of a whole new relationship with his grandfather that would be even more complex. Then, of course, the hospitalization of the grandmother isn’t explained, and you know that will be a big part of his life from that point on. So, for me it was important to end on the beginning of a new thing.

 

Right, because there was a moment I really liked with the actress who played the grandmother, in which the child asks if she’s going to be home soon and she says yes, but there’s a hesitation in her voice that adults can certainly pick up on. And then the doctor is so kind to the child, but then asks the grandfather to step outside. It’s very jarring for a child to be in a hospital and see tubes spilling out of someone he cares for, but the grandmother tries her best to comfort him very subtly. Is that someone that you directed the actress to do?

 

Yes, for me, in the script and in the way I directed it, it’s very clear that it’s not going well with the grandmother in the film, and I think that’s the habit of adults trying to save a child from the truth. But a child is smart, and they sense these things.

 

Right. I love the line where he says, ‘I’m not stupid.’

Yes [laughs]. I think it’s just that adults like to believe they know more than children, and they may have more knowledge but children sense things in a purer way than adults, I think, because they’re not relying on all of the facts and information. They just sense what’s happening.

 

Exactly. So to start to wrap things up, I think that the medium of short film is overlooked within the realm of film-going. Filmmakers often seem to appreciate and seek out shorts, because they’ve often made them before, but shorts are not promulgated to the rest of society to the same degree that feature are. So, having made three short films, could you talk about the medium of short film and why you find it valuable and more appropriate for certain stories? It’d be great if you could talk about that within the context of your past work and any projects you’re working on moving forward.

I love the short film medium. I think that you can be very direct and that you can get to the point in shorts, because you don’t have the time to go around the story. You just show what’s happening, and you have all the backstory that you need within those 15 minutes.

 

Right, it needs to be very tight.

Yes, and that’s what I love about short films. But of course, like I said, I want to believe that I am make very personal and intimate stories that can reach a universal audience, and to reach a universal audience, short film is a difficult medium. That is why now I’m writing my first feature film, and I feel that it’s just a different form of art, so it doesn’t feel like a feature film is a long short film and short film is a short feature film. It’s just two different things and two different ways of expressing something.

 

It’s like the difference between a novel and a short story – completely different mediums and ways of telling stories. People accept that, but I do think it’s an indication that audiences have yet to fully take film art seriously. Film has been considered art for a long time, of course, but I think many people are stuck in the mindset that films are mindless entertainment, as opposed to writing. So people are less inclined to see divisions within the medium of film art, and are more likely to see shorts and features simply as variations of each other.”

Yes, exactly.

 

Finally, what’s the common thread that runs through your work? What do you tend to focus on?

For me, it’s the search for identity, in many different ways. Of course, they are all coming of age, but I don’t really like the term ‘coming of age,’ because I don’t think it fits. In a way, the search for identity is a coming of age story, but I think that a search for identity can happen in so many different ways, and then it will just so happen to be the story of a child, or a child who grew up in different cultures. I do keep coming back to those search for identity stories.


Summer Rain (Zomerregen)
Miwako Van Weyenberg / Belgium / 2017 / 20 mins / Subtitled
Keita, an 8-year-old boy from a Belgian-Japanese family, has a difficult relationship with his grandfather.
Producer: Antonino Lombardo


Summer Rain screened on 12th November, 2018 as part of the International Shorts 3 programme at the Cork Film Festival.

 

 

 

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Viko Nikci, Writer/Director of ‘Cellar Door’

Cellar Door tells the story of young lover Aidie as she searches for her son while in the grip of the Church. But as she gets closer to the truth, she suffers uncontrollable shifts in time and place that send her spiralling.

Gemma Creagh sat down with writer/director Viko Nikci to open up the Cellar Door and find out more about his moving mystery thriller.

Cellar Door is showing at Cineworld, Eye Cinema, IMC Dun Laoghaire, The Gate and Movies@Dundrum.

 

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Kate Dolan

Filmmaker Kate Dolan was recently named in the Irish Times Top 50 people to watch in 2019: Ireland’s hottest young talent. Gemma Creagh sat down to talk to Kate about her career to-date and what we can look forward to in 2019. 

Kate graduated with an Honours Degree in Film & Television Production from the National Film School, IADT in 2012. There, she majored in Directing and minored in Editing. Her graduate short Breathe In (2012) was selected for a number of Irish and international film festivals. She then worked as a Broadcast Producer in TBWA Dublin for almost 2 years after graduating.

In 2014, Kate attended Berlinale Talents to develop a short called Little Doll at the Short Film Script Station. The film depicts the first same-sex crush of a young girl. The short then premiered as part of Generation Kplus at Berlinale 2016. For her work with Little Doll, Kate was included in the British Council’s fiveFilms4freedom 2016 Global List – 33 inspiring people from around the world promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights every day.

In 2016 Kate was chosen to take part in the Guiding Lights, the UK’s leading mentoring scheme for filmmakers and was paired with director Alice Lowe (Prevenge, Sightseers)

In 2017, Kate was funded by Screen Ireland to make Catcalls, an irreverent horror about a sexual predator who gets what’s coming to him. The film won Best Short Film at the YDA Ireland in 2018 and has played at many festivals all over the world since its premiere at the Cork Film Festival in 2017.

Recently, Kate was selected for Screen Ireland to take part in their inaugural POV scheme. The selected projects will enter a development and mentorship phase before three will be greenlit, with a budget of up to €400,000 each – the money has been ring-fenced from Screen Ireland’s overall production budget. They will be aiming to enter production in late 2019/early 2020. You Are Not My Mother is a horror feature to be written and directed by Kate and produced by Deirdre Levins (Nails) for Fantastic Films.

In the world of music videos, Kate has gained praise for her work with Bitch Falcon and Maria Kelly as well as her recently critically acclaimed video for Pillow Queens’ ‘Gay Girls’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate Dolan: Little Doll

 

 

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