Irish Women in Film Series: Mary Duffin

Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Mary Duffin

Mary Duffin achieved first class honours in her Master’s in Screenwriting from IADT and received the 2009 National Film School/ Irish Playwright’s & Screenwriter’s Guild Award for Screenwriting. She worked as company manager of Crooked House Theatre Company for seven years, and currently, her work includes drama facilitation, stage and event management, theatre directing, acting and writing. She is in development with Fantastic Films on her feature thesis screenplay with Aisling Walsh (Song for a Raggy Boy) on board to direct. Her script received funding from both the Irish Film Board and Media Europe. She was also a Storyland 3 finalist and was shortlisted by the Filmbase/ TG4 Lasair Irish language shorts scheme. Her main interests lie in the nature and application of Story in all its forms.

Mary, begin by telling us how and why you got started in the business? 

I was blown away by film from the first time I went to the cinema as a young child. I saw Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. I didn’t have a clue what it was, how it was made or how I could be part of it, but I was hooked from that very first moment and I still am, although my tastes are a little different today. I loved everything about it, the acting, directing, costumes, lighting,  the emotional investment and of course the stories. There were no film schools or even courses when I left school and even if there were I wasn’t aware that it could have been a choice for me. Through years of cinema going, movie watching on TV, copying videos all the way to DVD’s, and streaming, I felt that standards were slipping in movie making and finally gave up going to cinema altogether as I was sick of being disappointed and having to pay for the privilege. I decided (in my head) that I could do better and that’s when I decided to take a screenwriting course. I had over the years become an actor, director, drama teacher and facilitator and I had no idea when I started writing that all of that experience was invaluable to any screenwriter. So from my first VEC funded weekend course with the wonderful Michael Kinirons (to whom I owe a lot) in 2004 up to completing the MA in Screenwriting in 2009, I finally got started when Brendan McCarthy & John McDonnell of Fantastic Films approached me to option my thesis screenplay. The icing on the cake was definitely when I received the National Film School/ Irish Playwright’s & Screenwriter’s Guild Award for Screenwriting. That was the first time I felt like a screenwriter and not just a wannabe.

Apart from the MA,  I took every screenwriting class I could, attended every seminar, conference and social gathering in order to immerse myself in that world so I could understand it and hopefully carve out a niche for me. I’m not an avid fiction reader but I have a collection of books about screenwriting, drama, film and the industry which I relish the way some relish Fifty Shades of Grey. I think I most enjoyed listening to Oscar and award-winning writers speak about how they did what they did. That to me was always the source of the most practical & helpful information and wildly inspiring too.

What have been your seminal influences?

I can honestly say I have taken something from every film I have ever watched, the good and the bad, one learns so much from the bad ones, but I always did adore hard-hitting dramas. Back when Oscars were actually given to the best films,  I judged them on whether or not I wished I had written them,  The Deer Hunter, Kramer Vs KramerTerms Of Endearment, Ordinary People, and of course One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, to name but a few. Once I discovered Coppola & Scorsese, a love for truth on-screen was born. I was blown away by the bravery of not shying away from violence and not-so-nice characters. Pulp Fiction was a religious experience as I knew it was a game-changer in the writing world at least and I am an avid Tarantino fan to this day. Oddly, I have a thing for the big scale musicals of yesteryear, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly will always be my dance partners in the movie in my head.  Grease made me realise that you could tell Romeo & Juliet in any way you liked, that blew my mind. The good vs bad themes of all the great old westerns generated in me a love for the, sometimes too simplistic, good guy, bad guy stories.  And finally…or I could go on all day… Film Noir was the sexiest, most exciting and dangerous thing I had ever come across in my young teenage life and I suspect it’s that influence that helped forge in my mind images of strong independent women, something that I had felt missing in cinema and in my life experience. I think that’s changing still.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

Carrie Khouri’s  Thelma & Louise changed my view of what were turning out to be the chick flicks. It was, she said, inspired by anger and frustration at the blatant sexism she & many other women experienced almost daily. That she could take that feeling and turn it into such an amazing screenplay inspired me to write my first real screenplay. Ideas are born from the oddest places. Diablo Cody’s Junoreminded me of the different world we live in as teenagers and how film can be a window into that world. I’ve watched a lot of European cinema in the past few years and I prefer their no-holds-barred adult approach, so unlike the saccharin WASP propaganda-driven drivel that passes for mainstream American cinema.

So, you’re having a fantasy dinner party!  Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

Oooh, my favourite question! I’ll have to invite seven though as I wouldn’t like an odd number for dinner.

Albert Einstein – For many reasons but mainly so I can hear the theory of relativity from the horse’s mouth!

Oprah Winfrey – She has spoken to so many amazing people over the years it’d be like inviting them all!

Leonardo Da Vinci – So he can explain all the drawings we haven’t managed to decipher yet and tell me why the Mona Lisa looks so smug.

Harper Lee – Just for writing To Kill A Mocking bird

Adolf Hitler – I think we’d all like to have a word with him.

Marie Curie – If she could thrive in her then man’s field in the then man’s world I’d like to have a chat about her experiences.

Mary Phelps Jacobs – So I can slap her for inventing the bra!

I’d cook Scallops on Clonakilty Black Pudding with a Poached Egg; Whole Spit Roast Pig with all the trimmings and Key Lime Pie. I wouldn’t give Hitler any dessert.

What’s your opinion of the current Irish film scene, Mary?

Hmmm, well it changed drastically this year. I happen to think that Terry McMahon’s Charlie Casanova is one of the best Irish films I’ve seen and to see that the industry didn’t recognise that properly was painful. I think we need to get rid of the quaintness and tourist board advertisement view of our country that seems to pervade our film industry. I think we need to show the world more than just inner city drug dealers and country bumpkins, there’s a lot more to the Irish than that. I have yet to see me, my life, that of my family and friends or acquaintances on-screen in an Irish film. Charlie Casanova came close to addressing some of this but it’s not enough. I know there are great scripts out there and many brilliant short films and features being made by disillusioned yet impassioned filmmakers, but frankly, they need more help and support than they currently receive. I am aware of the lack of funding and that times are tough but I feel that what is being funded doesn’t reflect the true picture of the variety, creativity and talent that I have read, seen and am privileged to know.

Highlight of your career so far?

Definitely my first meeting with my producers John & Brendan and our director Aisling Walsh. Sitting talking about my script and the story, hearing how Aisling saw it and how they all wanted to make it was a pretty good feeling.

And your ultimate goal?

As cocky as it sounds I really do intend to get an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Do you have any advice to offer Newbies coming into the business?

Read lots and lots of screenplays; watch lots of films both good and bad; write short scripts using each one to work on a different element as a learning tool; talk to other writers; join the guild; FINISH your screenplay; get people whose opinion you trust to read it; don’t take it personally; writing IS rewriting just as acting IS reacting; know your genre; don’t write what you wouldn’t go see (and pay for!) and always remember what the great Goldman said ‘Nobody knows anything’.

Thanks, Mary! Any final comments?

Despite what I think of the current Irish film scene, I am aware that it is young yet and like all young things, lessons need to be learned in order to flourish and grow. I suspect the Irish film industry will choose to be a hard-way learner as most teenagers are wont to be. I just hope I’m still around for the glory days that are yet to come. Keep the faith!

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Irish Women in Film Series: Marie Caffrey

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Marie Caffrey

Following very successful careers in PR and working with her family’s interior landscaping business, film producer, Marie Caffrey, worked on various freelancing projects such as Charlie Casanova and Portrait of a Zombie before joining Zanzibar Films in 2010. Marie’s short film Sylvia, funded by the Irish Film Board, recently premiered at the Galway film festival. She also produced a four-episode web series titled Cuckoo for RTE Storyland, alongside The Cause of Progress, a feature documentary directed by Chris Kelly – both productions for Zanzibar films.

Hey Marie, begin by telling us how and why you got started in the business.

I came into the Film Industry by chance in September 2009. I was, and still am, an interior landscaper. I applied as a volunteer to the Darklight Festival, and they took me on as a Production Manager for a film-making project called Hotel Darklight. Over the next couple of weeks the team brought together over one hundred people in the Industry to participate in filming ten short films in six days. Hotel Darklight will be showing as part of the Ranelagh Arts Festival this year on Wed 19th Sept at 8pm in the Ranelagh Arts Centre.

So I guess you are self-taught as opposed to having any formal film school education? 

Self taught. I was lucky to get involved with Zanzibar Films and being on set is the best education ever. However I would like to participate in EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) the professional training, project development and networking organization for audiovisual producers.

Can you share with us what your seminal influences have been? 

I began acting classes from age 10. I’ve always been into drama. But as I get older I’ve become a worse actor and a better producer. It really kicked off when I went to the Cannes film Festival in 2007 with a director friend and I liked the buzz and decided to give it a shot.

And what are your current influences? 

I saw Shadow Dancer a few days back and really enjoyed it. My taste is varied and ever-changing. I admire a good CV, attached with a better script, and exciting Directors whom I have had the pleasure to work with. Also, film boards and funding bodies, and the people who support me.

Fantasy dinner party guests? Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table. 

Females:  Lorraine Bracco, Kim Cattrall and Dolly Parton. Males: Aidan Gillen, Prince Harry and Dominic Cooper.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

With or without funding, I really enjoy the range of Irish features and shorts that are hitting the screens. I appreciate film schools and classes looking more at the script-writing process. There is certainly a great relationship among film folk and a commitment to doing the best of one’s ability and to getting out there and making films.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

Receiving funding from the IFB (Irish Film Board) and RTE…the competition is tight…so being picked is so special!

Do you have an ultimate goal? 

One by one, to bring together the perfect working team so that each project I embark on will have a committed and fun team to tackle any project, big or small.

Thanks Marie, any final comments you would like to add? 

I love meeting new people who have an interesting idea, so please do get in touch!

For more information on Marie Caffrey: www.delsolarfilms.com

 

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Irish Women in Film Series: Audrey O’Reilly

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Audrey O’Reilly

A graduate of the National Film School in 1998, Audrey O’Reilly has been working as a writer and director with increasing success. That year her co-written script Honor Bright was announced as the winner of the Miramax Script Writing Award, and she went on to be awarded an RTÉ / Irish Film Board Short Cuts Award, a short film grant for emerging filmmakers. The resulting film In Loving Memory was a hit on the festival circuit and won a number of awards including the Prix du Public at the prestigious Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival. Audrey then wrote and directed Clare sa Speir one of the 2001 Oscailt short film series which has been included on the Irish Leaving Certificate syllabus.  In addition a ‘Short Short’  she wrote entitled Chicken was selected for official competition in the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. She has also worked as a writer for the RTE soap opera Fair City as well as the popular television series On Home Ground. Teenage Cics a six-part television drama series which she herself co-wrote and directed for TG4, was nominated for the 2006 Smart Telecom Best Drama Award. She has also branched into theatre writing and her play Skin & Blisters toured with Team Education Theatre. She adapted Kate Thompson’s award-winning children’s novel The New Policeman for producer Hawk Koch and Penny Vincenzi’s Windfall for Pivotal Pictures. She is also developing two feature scripts ‘It Takes Three to Tango’ and ‘The Winter Truce’ as well as a television series for TG4. Audrey served for five years as chairwoman of the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild. She now divides her time between Paris and Ireland. She is represented by Mark Casarotto of Casarotto Ramsey & Associates.

Audrey,  how and why did you get started in the business? 

Well I had always adored film, but, having grown up in Cork in the 80s, it didn’t even occur to me that it was a career possibility. I was working in an Irish pub in Bologna, having graduated with a very mediocre BA, and was at a complete loss at what to do next, when my Aunt Kathleen sent me a prospectus for Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design. She thought I might be interested in doing a weekend course in mending ceramic but instead I saw a week-long portfolio preparation course for it’s diploma course in Film & Television and BAM! Light bulb moment! I knew what I wanted to do with my life and haven’t done much else since then.

Did you partake in any formal training or are you self-taught?

As soon as I realized that this was what I wanted to do, I started to read and watch everything about film making I could get my hands on. I studied for a year in Ballyfermot before transferring over to the Film and Television diploma course in DLCAD, now the National Film School. I am also eternally grateful for the stunning courses in writing and directing I’ve done with Screen Training Ireland over the years. If I ever win an Oscar, they’ll be getting a thank you. Then of course I’m a voracious Film and TV addict and get anxious if I haven’t been to the cinema at least once a week. Add what my friends have called ‘an overdeveloped interest in the human condition’…. or ‘gossip and other people’s business’, and you pretty much have a mind primed for story telling.

What and / or whom have been your seminal influences?

It might sound twee, but I would have to say my mother. I used to be in and out of hospital as a kid and, in an attempt to take the sting out of some of the trips, she used to take me to the cinema as a treat. A  published writer herself, she used also make up long episodic stories especially for me. It’s hardly any wonder film and storytelling assumed a huge importance in my life. Also, from a very young age, I adored old Hollywood movies. Singing in the Rain is still an all time favourite. Earlier this year I sat in an auditorium at a Q&A with director Stanley Donen, watching Gene Kelly twirling around a lamp, and I wept. Donen spoke of how when he was child he was inspired by the ‘joy’ and sense of transportation he got from films and wanted to be involved in that world. Well he, and many like him, Hawks, Capra etc, have had the same effect on me.

On the writing front I will never forget the moment I heard the immortal line ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ in Billy Wilder’s & I.A.L Diamond’s Some like it Hot. The utter perfection of it blew me away and Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond have set a high bar to aspire to since. I now know that last line was popped in there until they could come up with something better, but somehow that happy accident makes it even more inspiring.

And can you list your current inspirational influences?

Right now, I find myself being more inspired by what’s going on in television. The David Simons, the David Chases, the Shonda Rhimes etc etc etc. My current TV crush is Lena Dunham.  I love that she’s taking up where Sex in the City left off and is creating a series which speaks viscerally and truthfully to an under represented female audience.

So, imagine that you are having a  fantasy dinner party. Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

I am trying desperately to think of some people from outside the arts but, damn it, if we’re going to be gossiping about show biz all night, they’d only be bored.  Orson Welles, his old pal and my rather curious teenage obsession, Michael MacLiammoir. Nora Ephron, famed conversationalist and director. Josephine Baker and Bette Davis, two cool ladies, and Stellan Skarsgard. I recently watched an interview where he was so blisteringly indiscreet and candid I immediately added him to my fantasy dinner party guest list.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I am constantly humbled by my peers who manage to continue to work and produce films despite plummeting budgets and great obstacles. To my shame I haven’t seen as many of the recent films as I’ve been living abroad and very few seem to receive an international release. On that subject, while I’m impressed by the very personal art house films being produced, I feel there’s a need for more mainstream fare that would have a shot at a decent life in the Cineplexes and switch a wider Irish audience on to Irish film. I find the new wave of home-grown horror very inspiring but how about a decent Irish rom-com? I have a script if any one is interested.

Can you pinpoint any highlights of your career so far?

Well obviously the various prizes have been nice. Standing on the red carpet at Cannes for the closing ceremony as writer for Chicken was a huge buzz, until they separated the producers and writers from the directors and herded us up the back stairs of the auditorium. Hanging out with Robert Evans in his bedroom in Hollywood was also fun. I shall leave that story to your imaginations.

Yet it’s the moments it all came together work-wise which I’ll remember on my death-bed.  On set, Britta Smith’s performance making me cry while directing In Loving Memory. Looking through a lens at Alison Franklin or Oisin O Murachu in Teenage Cics and realising they had the elusive ‘it’ factor… sooo many moments with the many kids I’ve worked with over the years.

I vividly remember one wet and rainy November night standing on the Shankill Road in Belfast. I was directing The Day We Skipped the Bus, with ten shivering school girls who had never acted a day in their lives. My lead had been whisked off by social services, the production manager was trying to negotiate with paramilitaries to shoot in the Johnny Adare Estate, which, by that time, had become our safe haven. I was sick as a dog, cold wet and exhausted. Yet at that moment I realised there was nothing in the world I would rather be doing. That was a highlight!

What would you consider to be your ultimate goal, right now?

To direct feature films which gives an audience even a fraction of the joy that films like Singing In the Rain, My Life As a Dog,  and Some Like It Hot have given me.

Thanks Audrey, and finally, any advice for Newbies entering the world of filmmaking?

Keep the faith, keep learning and develop inexpensive tastes in the meantime.

Check out Audrey’s work…

In Loving Memory: http://vimeo.com/18363263

Chickenhttp://www.vimeo.com/18346463

Photograph by Conor Horgan

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Irish Women in Film Series: Shannon Moncrief

 

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Shannon Moncrief.

Shannon Moncrief is an American / Irish independent film maker based in Dublin. She established the film company Pandora Picturesand wrote, directed and produced the short film The Legend, which is currently on the international film festival circuit and has been selected to screen at the 2012 Underground Film Festival, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, happening from the 13th-16th September. Her credits include directing the musical event ‘TrócaireLive‘ and ‘Basso Continuo’.  She also shot and directed a music video for Meteor’s Best Band Awardees Future Kings of Spain. She is currently in pre-production on a feature documentary about the Dublin Underground music scene over the past three decades called Kingdom of the Conscience as well as in pre-production on a music video.

Hello Shannon! Can you start by telling us how and why you got started in the business? 

I came into the business from the writing side. I was working on a novel based on experiences I’d had working in conflict zones out of college and shared my draft manuscript with my brother who’s a cinematographer in LA. He thought the story would make a good film and asked if I’d considered turning it into a screenplay. I didn’t know how to write scripts at the time, but the very next day a pamphlet arrived in the post offering free screenwriting classes with Michael Kinirons at the local library! I was hooked and over time enrolled in a series of courses, including a workshop in London with Syd Field and a Pro-Series Screenwriting Intensive with Hollywood Producer, Hal Croasmun. One of my short film scripts was so tangible to me that I couldn’t imagine handing it to someone else to make. So, I set up a film company, drafted a story board, gathered a crew, produced and directed the film myself.

Did you have any formal instruction, like film school etc, or are you self-taught?

I studied film at the University of Paris so I built my foundation of directing from the French auteur New Wave model. In addition to the screenwriting classes, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to acquire film making skills from courses supported by Irish arts funding.  Through Filmbase, I took a directing class with Vinny Murphy and learned camera and lighting from Michael Lavelle, who recently won the World Cinematography Award at Sundance. I’ve also attended workshops at Screen Training Ireland on ‘How to Make Your First Feature’ with Graham Cantwell and Masterclasses with David Simon, the creator, producer and writer of The Wire and Mark Romanek, the award-winning music video director.  I’m continually studying, learning and growing as a filmmaker.

What and/or whom have been your seminal influences?

My mom was a tremendous influence on introducing me to film and nurturing that passion. When I was about four years old, I remember her waking me up one night to see a movie on TV that she explained was by a brilliant Swedish Director named Ingmar Bergman and really wanted me to see.  As I sleepily watched Wild Strawberries in my nightgown, I can remember being riveted by the story imagery and subtle tension on-screen. That night had a profound effect on me and sparked a magical love for film within. Growing up, my mom would take me and my brother to the movies regularly and not just to the kids films either, but to foreign films, documentaries and adult themed even. My mom was an English teacher and encouraged us to talk about the films we saw and analyse the plot, characters and symbolism to better understand the story. I think by her introducing me to film at an early age as something to be comprehended visually and cogently, it enabled me to naturally combine the screenwriting with the directing. I still enjoy discussing a film after I’ve seen it and consider it a part of the entire movie going experience.

Who are your current favourite and/or influential people?

I continue to be enamoured by the French New Wave directors, most notably Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and screenwriter Marguerite Duras. To me, their films still exude a freshness. I also love the stimulating vision of Asian Directors Akira Kurosawa, Wong Kar Wai and Ang Lee. My favourite directors of the moment that stand out above all others are Sophia Coppola and Spike Jonze. They make great music videos as well as features. I like the screenwriting styles of Charles Kaufman and Alan Ball and would be honoured to work with Cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

Fantasy dinner party guests: Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

David Bowie because he’s fascinating and ground breaking; Jesus for the insight; Albert Einstein who could offer a different perspective to the conversation; Andy Warhol who would turn the party into a happening; Francois Truffaut for the stories; and Anais Nin for the poetic input and to get us all dancing.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

When considering the state of the Irish film scene, I think you first need to check the pulse of the Irish Film Industry. I see the two as inextricably linked. The reality as we know it is that we’ve faced an overall economic downturn and budget cuts were made across all sectors, including the Irish Film Board. Although, even with the coffers down by 14.9% for 2012, we should stay heartened that they still have a pot of funds available to support film making schemes and training. What has changed is that the IFB is going to have to become more focused on return for investment and we Irish film makers are going to need to adopt this approach as well. Film can be an expression of art, but the bottom line is it’s a business. There’s an old Hollywood expression that ‘film is time and money’ and I think the Irish film scene is now facing the truth of this idiom. The funding is there, but the competition is stronger. Current films proposed for funding are going to need to be made with a view towards distribution and profit, not just telling a nice story.

The film scene itself seems to have recently gone through an identity crisis, but on the surface appears to be prospering with Irish film makers recently taking top awards at A-list international film festivals Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, and Toronto and nominated for five Academy Awards®. In this time of slashed budget cuts, continued support of the industry confirms that it’s an integral part of Ireland’s job and tourism creation with 20% of all tourists identifying television and film images as their reason for visiting.

I’d like to see Film Producers filling in the financial gaps by identifying complementary and additional sources of support apart from the Irish film industry. Kickstarter is an example of alternative ways of raising film funds. It’s great that the film industry provides assistance in releasing films into local theatres and I hope this continues to grow. Irish films can generate ticket sales at the box office locally and internationally as proven by the recent successes of The Guard and His and Hers. I would also like to see national cinemas getting more behind Irish filmmaking and running Irish shorts before their feature presentations.

Can you pinpoint the highlight of your career so far?

Interviewing Vedran Smailovic, (The Cellist of Sarajevo) and filming his absorbing performance. It was so inspiring to talk with him about his past iconic gesture against war when he played his cello publicly outside in the rubble while the city of Sarajevo was under siege. When I asked him if he ever went back to Sarajevo, he replied, ‘I don’t go back, I go forward!’ You can’t help but be changed after a conversation with someone like him. To me, getting his moving story out to others is part of what the beauty and purpose of film is about.

What would you say is your ultimate goal?

To win the pinnacle of achievement in this profession – the Oscar® – twice. One for Best Director and one for Best Screenplay. They would make nice book ends.

Do you have any advice to offer ‘newbies’ coming into the business?

If someone is interested in filmmaking, my advice is to get active. Start crewing on films, any films. In the beginning, I first crewed on a documentary and music video and even ended up making a cameo appearance in it! The aim is to gain experience. There are constantly people looking for crew members.  Film Ireland’s notice board is one place where jobs are posted. Once on set, do the best job you can. Be reliable, thorough, professional and learn the ropes. If more education is needed, there are some great programmes sponsored by Filmbase, Screen Training Ireland, local Arts Councils and libraries. If someone wants to write for film, then start writing. Attend film events, get to know the film scene and your craft. If someone wants to make their own film, funding schemes are still available, but it’s no longer a perquisite. Filmbase rents equipment at a fair price and video cameras aren’t that expensive to purchase. I’ve even seen an amazing film shot entirely from an iphone video camera app. Making a film today doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You can download software to make your own edits and upload the films electronically to submit to film festivals all over the world. In this modern age of technology the film industry is a much more open field.

Thanks, Shannon, any final comments you would like to add?

Joseph Conrad once said that to be happy in life you should find your bliss and follow it. Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing your passion whatever it is. If it’s filmmaking, then start making films. If it’s writing, then write!

You can check out Shannon’s website at www.shannonmoncrief.com

Her facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/?ref=hp#!/pages/Shannon-Moncrief/436681913039167

 

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:

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Irish Women in Film Series: Vittoria Colonna

 

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Continuing Caroline Farrell’s Irish Women in Film Series: Vittoria Colonna.

Vittoria Colonna is an Irish/Italian filmmaker. She studied fine art in Rome’s L’Accademia di Belle Arti, trained as an actor in The Gaiety school of Acting, Dublin and Opera singing in Tuscany. Her visual flair and energy gave Vittoria the opportunity to direct several music videos for, among others, Julie Feeney, Dirty Epics, Preachers Sonand The Coronas; winning her the Best-Styled Music Video at the Irish Music Television Awards (IMTV) in 2009, Best Music Video at The Los Angeles Film & Script Festival 2012, Golden Ace Award Winner at The Las Vegas Film Festival 2012 and a Golden Palm Award at The Mexico International Film Festival in San Diego 2012. Most impressively has been the touring success of her feature documentary, Identities, and My Identity which was awarded The Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) Human Rights Film Award. The performance art pieces from the film were selected as part of the Worldwide Italian Pavilion & 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2011. Vittoria is also a member of the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland (SDGI).

Welcome Vittoria! Tell us how and why did you get started in the business? 

My journey began with a drive to find out: Why am I here? Who I was and what did I want to achieve from life and when would I have the answers, if ever? Creativity and expression were my strongest tools growing up. I was good at many artistic endeavours but found it hard to master one expertise and so I became a Jacqueline of all trades, so to speak! I painted, sculpted, acted, even trained in Bel Canto, but then found myself falling in love with film. Here I could multitask through the most powerful medium known. The painter in me loved the solitude, the music helped me escape and my inner actor craved for love and catharsis… moving images and stories helped me marry all these desires into directing, writing and producing.

What has been your educational journey in film? Formal or self-taught?

Film is not a pure art form, it’s a mish-mash of creatives, business and so many points of views. You learn to follow your instinct and inner voice. I am mostly self-taught. I had learnt that some teachers should ‘do’ and not teach. I suppose I wanted to make my own path in film and didn’t want to be told how to think and work. Past experiences taught me this lesson. I always had hope that when I was ready the right teacher would come along. Unfortunately I never found him or her, BUT I did discover other filmmakers like myself and formed friendships and joined groups. Film is about relationships and I watched and learnt from others successes and mistakes. I’m still always learning something new from every project.

And your seminal influences?

I have always been influenced by outsiders, survivors, art, artists and story tellers. Even you the reader fascinate me! If you have something to say and with conviction I will listen. I want to connect, to feel excited about a subject and sometimes that can manifest in the strangest places. Of course I have been greatly influenced by amazing directors such as Fellini, Bertolucci, Kubrick, Godard etc… as well as YouTube links by the passionate amateurs. I think I’m constantly switched on to the muse, you never know when she will strike?! Never stop seeking…

So who are your current favourites / influences?

Well this week… Hmmm….I just finished a music video so I have to mention these guys: Romain Gavras (M.I.A -Born Free,  Bad Girls) and Vincent Haycock (Calvin Harris– Jump) for their great work! Also I can’t get enough of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu films….hugely inspiring!!

Imagine that you are having a fantasy dinner party. Living or dead, name six people you would love to have as guests around your table.

Only six?! That is tough! Ok an intimate dinner so let’s have the girls over: Actress, Bette Davis could cook. Painter Tamara de Lempickacould serve the guests. My great Grandmother Andrea Torrigianiseated on my right. The artist Frida Kahlo on my left and I would be face to face with the 16th century poet and my ancestor, Vittoria Colonna!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene? 

Ireland produces some very high quality indie films, and I love that for such a small country, we really push production values. Our stories are strong in identity but I would love to see more international stories come through here, expanding beyond our cultural cocoon. I want to be surprised and I’m always excited to see bolder, braver choices being made and that includes roles for women. More alternative female characters and stories please!

Can you tell us what has been the highlight of your career so far?

The latest project is always the highlight but I guess I may be known more for some of my music videos and the feature documentary ‘Identities’ which focuses on five transgender stories. I have just finished two projects this month; a music video for The CoronasDreaming Again’ and a short film for TG4/Filmbase ‘4 Queens’ that will be airing in September.

Ultimate goal?

To tell stories that speak to others and myself… Ultimately I want to direct feature films, moving documentaries and internationally high-end music videos.

Thanks, Vittoria. Any final comments you would like to add?

I have recently been questioning the role of women within the film industry. In Cannes this year there was an uproar to the gender imbalance that no female directors were in competition. I’m sure the films were chosen on their merit of which, all directors/creators happened to be men, but in a shocking manifesto entitled “The Cannes Film Festival 2012: a Man is a Man is a Man!,” La Barbefacetiously congratulated the festival’s president Gilles Jacob and the rest of its jurors for failing to include a single female-directed film among its 22 nominees for the 2012 Palme d’Or. The letter was published in the French newspaper Le Monde, “never let the girls think they can someday have the presumptuousness of making movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps except when attached to the arm of a Prince Charming.”

Now however ridiculous this sounds, this argument does raise questions: Do some of us ladies still feel hindered to become directors? If so, is it because we halt careers due to family restraints? Maybe because we think the director’s job is still predominately a man’s role? Or do we feel limited to a stereotype role of only producing ‘sensitive or ‘empathic’ stories, hindering our creative voices? (Kathryn Bigelow certainly breaks this cliché!) I don’t have the answers but I have my opinions, for sure. I know breaking into this industry is no easy task and takes contacts, time and sacrifice, regardless of your gender, but at least the results are worthwhile!

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:
 
Check Caroline’s Time Standing Still, her collection of short stories at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46613
Follow Caroline on twitter https://twitter.com/CarolineAuthor
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Interview: Irish Women in Film Series: Rita-Marie Lawlor

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Continuing the series Irish Women in Film, Caroline Farrell interviews Rita-Marie Lawlor.

Rita-Marie Lawlor is an independent filmmaker from Dublin. She set up her independent film company RML Films in 2005 and made several TV pilots, short films and features, including A Scare, Less Ordinary and Remember Me? Rita-Marie’s documentary, Gloves and Glory, is currently in production, and focuses on female boxing in Ireland. She is also prepping a new feature script while getting ready to take on a Masters Degree in screenwriting at IADT in Dun Laoghaire this coming October.

First question, Rita-Marie, how and why did you get started in the business? 

I wanted to be involved with film since childhood. I began writing at 11 years old in 1989 and by the time I was a teenager I was sending my works off to production companies. It was later in life (24) when I went to film school for two years and it was a great move. I learned a lot more on how to format scripts and break them down for directing scenes and how to work with actors too. Pretty much for most of my life it has been my desire, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Which film school did you attend? 

I studied full-time in Colaiste Dhulaigh and graduated with a B TEC HND in film production. I was awarded a distinction in directing and producing along with a Best Film Award.

Seminal influences?

I’m a big fan of Shane Meadows, Martin Scorsese and Jim Sheridan. I love the way Mike Leigh develops his ideas with the actors. In TV writing it would be Jimmy McGovern, Kay Mellor, John Sullivan and Amy Jenkins.

If you were to imagine a fantasy dinner party,  name six people, living or dead, that you would love to have around your dinner table.

Jimi Hendrix for the guitar, Janis Joplin for the singing – followed by a chat over a whiskey. Martin Scorsese, Samuel Beckett, Emma Restall Orr and Daniel Day-Lewis. A diverse bunch with lots of stories – would definitely be an inspiration for a great film script!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I am happy to see that there are lots of independent filmmakers in Ireland who are out there making films regardless if they are getting proper funding or not. Years ago it was more difficult, filmmakers really needed a lot of money, but now you can hire great equipment or invest in it and make films. I would like to see more Irish drama though, a lot of films lately are a bit the same to be honest. Lots of zombie films, gangster/action films and others in that genre – not that there is anything wrong with making those type of films but personally I love a great story with lots of reversals and clever writing with brilliant actors. There’s nothing like watching a good old-fashioned quality drama unfold, something that you’d still be talking about months after you’ve seen it and to be inspired by it. I think Charlie Casanova is the only Irish film within the last few years that has had an impact, nothing like it was ever made before – certainly not in Ireland anyway. I think filmmakers need to tap into this style of filmmaking more, be daring but be clever about it too.  I think certain Irish film festivals should be more supportive of the unfunded films, some of them seem to only screen films that are Film Board/Filmbase funded which doesn’t seem fair. I know of a few really great films that didn’t get into the Galway Fleadh this year, which is a shame.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?  

Having the privilege of working with great actors. Having my films screened at festivals is always a highlight for me and having them screened on TV too.  I’ve had one of my films screened on English, Australian and New Zealand TV channels, so I’m hoping the same will happen for my other ones.

And your ultimate goal?

To keep making films and to make my singular voice heard rather than doing it for the money. Plain and simple really, just to be successful in what I do and for people to like what I write and what I create. I wouldn’t mind a cinema release for one of my films in the future – now that would be pretty nice!

What advice would you offer to Newbies?

To remember why you wanted to be a filmmaker in the first place. Be original and be inspired – but don’t copy.  Make your own creative voice heard, regardless of what everyone else thinks. Stick to your own ideas and write what you know, embrace good actors when directing and watch what unfolds – it will be more rewarding than a big cheque.  Watch over rushes as soon as you can get them, rather than waiting until the film’s wrapped – learn to spot disasters before they happen and don’t leave everything to be fixed in the edit – fix it on set and have a good AD!  Treat the cast and crew with respect, especially if there is no money involved.  Make sure there’s plenty of food and taxi/train fare, and treat them well.  You have to remember that they are working long hard hours and giving up their time for YOUR film – so always remember that, and of course give them a copy of the finished piece.

Thanks, Rita-Marie! Any final comments you would like to add?

It’s tough going, long days and long nights. But you have to enjoy it and when you see your idea going from talking about it – to script – to shooting – to editing – and then to a cinema screen – nothing can explain how special and rewarding that feels.

You can check out Rita-Marie’s Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RML-Films/147668425244609

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:
 
Check Caroline’s Time Standing Still, her collection of short stories at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46613
Follow Caroline on twitter https://twitter.com/CarolineAuthor
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Interview: Irish Women in Film Series – Eilis Mernagh

 

In the start of a new series Caroline Farrell interviews a selection of Irish Women in Film, beginning with Eilis Mernagh.

The first lady to be featured in this series is prolific screenwriter and producer, Eilis Mernagh. Eilis is the writer and co-producer of Tiger [2012], a short thriller directed by Cathal Nally.  She also produced the short film, Prodigal Son [2010], written and directed by Colin Scuffins. Her short film, Regards to the Chef [2009], directed by Kian and Ewen Pettit, was featured in the Darklight feature production, Hotel Darklight. All I Want for Christmas, a feature script, has been optioned to a TV Production Company in the U.S, and Eilis was also an Altantis Award recipient at the Moondance Film Festival, 2011.

So Eilis, how and why did you get started in the business? 

I’ve always written stuff but for some reason never screenplays. Then I did this two-day course with Laurence Henson at the IFI (Irish Film Institute) back in 2007 and got completely hooked. It’s been a happy obsession/major hobby-turned new career ever since.

Did you have any formal instruction (film school, etc.) or are you self-taught?

Self-taught – I read other screenplays, go to seminars and talks and try and write as much as possible.

What have been your seminal influences?

Loads of things – I grew up spending a lot of time with my mom’s parents and my granddad was obsessed with Westerns and old gangster movies, so I must have seen hundreds of them. His favourite comedian was Bob Hope and my script The Heartstoppers was really a modern-day, (less racist!) version of Hope’s comedy The Ghostbreakers. Then my aunt who used to have to babysit me would take a load of kids to Eighties films like E.T., The Goonies, Short Circuit, etc. etc. I’ve probably watched two films a week since I was a kid. I’m a film whore – I find I learn as much from watching bad movies as I do from the good ones. I like a good story, well told, with great characters in most genres but I prefer comedies, adventure films and thrillers.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

I like the fact that female comedy is really getting somewhere – finally. I hope we look back on Bridesmaids and see it as the start of a new wave of comedy rather than the high point of a phase. Joss Whedon is a genius – would give my right arm to work with him – as is J.J. Abrams. After seeing Winter’s Bone, I’d love to work with Debra Granik.

Okay, so you’re having a fantasy dinner party!  Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around that fantasy dinner table?

Jack Lemmon (to see if he was as awesome in person), Kathryn Bigelow (another lady I’d love to write a script for), Joe Ezsterhas (for the crazy), Maureen O’Hara (for the Hollywood stories ), Garson Kanin (even more Hollywood gossip) and Ian Fleming (for the spy stories).

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I think it’s unfortunate that there is no money. Not that there ever has been any, but I think what’s badly needed are some real huckster producers, people who can raise money somehow, by whatever means, so we can make some bloody films. I’m thinking of someone like Lloyd Kaufman or Roger Corman, real characters who make things happen. The producers we have tend to be nice, well-meaning middle-class people who have two ways of raising money: the Film Board and European co-productions. What about thinking a bit more creatively on this? Once the money’s there, we need to ask ourselves the question: what do people want to watch? Not ‘how am I going to show the depths of despair of the Irish psyche’, but what do people want to see on Saturday night at the cinema? And once we’ve all been honest about this (let’s face it, the answer is, they want entertaining films that have great stories and compelling characters), we need to write those scripts. If it’s a question of budget limitations, look at Attack the Block. Great film, great characters, very little money spent.

Highlight of your career so far?

Winning a screenplay award at the 2011 Moondance Film Award.

What would be your ultimate career goal?

Winning an Oscar® – I want one of those little gold men for the mantelpiece.

Thanks Eilis… any final comment you would like to add?

Yes – there’s loads of talent out there, everyone just needs to believe in themselves, ignore the staggering amount of negativity, and keep truckin’…

 

You can check in with Eilis through her blog: http://dublintohollywood.com/

Caroline Farrell is an author and screenwriter:
 
Check Caroline’s Time Standing Still, her collection of short stories at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46613
Follow Caroline on twitter https://twitter.com/CarolineAuthor

 

 

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