Producer Mark Coffey tells Film Ireland about romantic comedy Writing Home, made as part of the Filmbase Masters Course.
What can you tell us about Writing Home?
Writing Home is a romantic comedy and tells the story of Daniel Doran, the writer of a string of international bestsellers of dubious literary merit. He returns reluctantly to a small rural village in Ireland where he has to deal with family politics, the old flame he walked out on and the daughter he’s never met.
How does the Filmbase Masters programme prepare you for making a feature film?
The Masters programme sets you up well for making a feature film. In the first term the focus is on the academic side of filmmaking where we learned about each aspect of the filmmaking process with a few practical assignments. The second term concentrated much more on the practical side of things and the assignments allowed us to experience each department’s roles and responsibilities on set. Our final assignment was crewing the short film QED, which also premieres at Galway, and it allowed us to work alongside established cast and crew in the Irish film industry.
Cast & Crew
Did you enter the course knowing you wanted to be producer?
I entered the course knowing I wanted to be a filmmaker and was interested in writing, directing and producing. After graduating in science from Trinity, I moved to Los Angeles for a year and worked as a production assistant on a number of commercials and TV shows. It wasn’t in the Steven Spielberg league but I got a great variety of experience from reality TV to high-end drama. When I returned to Ireland, I worked on some films produced by Treasure Entertainment and believe the skills I picked up in the US and Ireland led me towards the producer role.
There were 3 directors on Writing Home – Nagham Abboud, Alekson L. Dall’Armellina and Miriam Velasco – how did that work?
It’s actually not as bad as it sounds. The toughest hurdle was between themselves in transforming three voices into one. Of course each of them brought their own skills and perspectives and they worked intensively as a team in pre-production to ensure a consistent vision for the film. I understood with having three directors that I needed to take a backseat in the creative process on this occasion.
What was it that attracted you to Conor Scott’s script?
It was a laugh reading through it and there’s plenty of funny moments that I hope the audience at Galway will enjoy. The main character, Daniel, has an interesting character arc and, although he is funny, he still has to face the consequences of his actions and learn from his experiences.
Can you tell us about some of the biggest challenges you faced and lessons you learned.
The first big challenge was finding a location for a rural Irish village. After unsuccessful scouts in Kildare and Wicklow, I hit upon the idea of setting the film in Carlingford, where I spent many happy childhood summers growing up. The locations were perfect and the people were very welcoming and generous but the only way we could have Carlingford as the setting was if I could find accommodation for about 20 members of cast and crew. The next problem was how to get everyone there when so few people could drive or had transport of their own – but we managed it and spent almost two weeks filming in the Cooley peninsula.
Another big challenge was the shoot in London. The crew of four, and the two actors that joined us, were fairly new to the city and, although we had done our research, we couldn’t be certain that our plans would go off without a hitch. Sadly, three days before we arrived, the London Bridge attack had taken place and the tension in the city was palpable. Despite that, we found people very helpful and we got most of the material we had been hoping for.
The most persistent challenge was the constant need to raise funds. We organised a crowdfunding page and I managed to get sponsorship from a number of businesses and Louth County Councillors but the budget was extremely tight and a constant worry.
Although the production was stressful at times, it was a great experience and the biggest lesson I learned is to be prepared for the unexpected.
Writing Home screens on Wednesday, 12th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 22:00 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh 2017
Writing Home screens on Wednesday, 15th November at The Gate Cinema at 18:45 as part of the Cork Film Festival
Dates: Starts September 2018
1 year full-time course
Filmbase offers a unique, industry-facing masters-level course aimed at preparing filmmakers for the reality of writing, developing, pitching, producing, shooting, editing, posting and distributing feature films in digital formats.