Report: Irish Screen America New York

Irish Screen America Glucksman Ireland House Oct. 2, 2015 Photo: James Higgins

Executive Director and Curator of Irish Screen America Niall McKay

Matthew Carlson was at the New York strand of Irish Screen America, which showcases the best in contemporary Irish media.

New York is full of cultural enclaves – a microcosm of America itself, a melting pot of culture, identity, and language, all mingling in the streets beneath glass towers and vertical architecture. What brings these cultures together is the arts, and this year, Irish Screen America (ISA), a bi-coastal film festival celebrating Irish cinema, saw dramas, comedies, documentaries, narratives, animation, television, video games and interactive media come together. I was at the east coast edition at the NYU Cantor Film Center in New York, where I saw some fantastic, criminally underseen films and met with some lovely people who worked selflessly to make this experience possible.

Niall McKay, an Emmy-winning writer/director, is the festival’s Executive Director and Curator. When we spoke, he expressed his passion for filmmaking, filmmakers, and the curating of films, as well as the actual work involved in building a community that could support Irish film in the United States. “We do this by showing their work and connecting them with industry professionals here in New York and Los Angeles.” According to Niall, the industry parties in LA (at USC) and New York (at the Consulate General’s beautiful penthouse) helped visiting filmmakers connect with industry professionals such as distributors, sales agents and managers, while celebratory days such as “local filmmaker day” bolstered a sense of thriving community between visiting filmmakers and citizens of Irish descent who call New York / LA their home.

Traders-Chosen-NEW

There were plenty of highlights: Traders [above], by Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murphy, and starring John Bradley, about ordinary people who kill for money in a dystopian world where killing is allowed and organized according to a strict code. Cathy Brady led a directing masterclass and, later, showcased a haunting short, Wasted, about a group of stoners in a tense pressure-cooker as disagreements boil to the surface on a camping trip. But this writer’s favourite piece came in the form of Martin’s Life, a trio of animated vignettes, directed by Liam Hallihan, in which a boy and his parents have a series of elliptical conversations that focus on age-gaps and an inability to relate (in one episode, Martin watches Game of Thrones, but his dad can’t grasp the title of the show or the names of the actors due to a hearing problem.) These minute-long vignettes are infinitely relatable for anyone who’s ever had a parent ask what they’re watching or listening to.

Ultimately, Niall’s festival showed a focus on community, a love of films and their makers, and a genuine interest in helping emerging artists and directors with their careers. Festivals such as these are crucial not only for networking as a director but for keeping the communal aspect of film-going alive – a practice so commonly eschewed in our world of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and torrents. It’s an exciting time for Irish storytellers – quoth the curator, “I’ve seen a renaissance of Irish filmmakers and artists taking the production of film, television, animation, web-series and games to a new level.”

As for me, as a director and filmgoer, I hope that the bar is never set – and from what I saw, this ideal is evinced at ISA New York.

 

Irish Screen America New York took place 2 – 4 October 2015

 

 

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IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Macdara Vallely, director of ‘Babygirl’

BABYGIRL Trailer for Web

 

Niall McKay met director Macdara Vallely to talk about his  feature, Babygirl, which screens this weekend as part of Ireland on Sunday, the IFI’s monthly showcase for new Irish film.

Armagh-born writer/director Macdara Vallely’s first film, Peacefire won best first feature at the 2008 Galway Film Festival. His second feature Babygirl, about a Puerto Rican teenage girl in the Bronx, premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival and opened in the US last year. Macdara moved to New York over a decade ago and has earned a living as a furniture mover and a musician before settling on screenwriting. He now lives in the Bronx, which is the location and inspiration for Babygirl. Niall spoke with Macdara at his adopted office at a cubicle in the New York Public Library.

How did you get started as a filmmaker?

I came to the making of films in an indirect way. I didn’t go to film school. I’d been to theatre school, which I thought was a total waste of time. I don’t really do well in those kind of academic environments. Back in 2004, I brought a play called Peacefire to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I toured with the play for three months. I just thought that there’s got to be a better way than this. I wanted to turn it into a film, but I never set foot on a film set. So I wrote a short called The Love Bite.

I’d been in New York about five years and there’s no access to funding here. It’s all private. Your resource here is human capital. I pulled about $3,000 together and got together with these guys, Samuel Crow and Ramon Wilson, and we shot this thing [The Love Bite] in six days with a digital camera. It was a great experience because it was like going to film school in a way. You learn some very important lessons, like don’t be stepping in front of the camera when you are rolling.

What happened to it?

It ended up making money, which is quite impressive for a short. It won best first short in the Galway Film Fleadh in 2004. My next short was Fiorghael (2005), an Irish language short. I was working with Tamara Anghie. She’s a fantastic producer. We had a very different experience because it was funded by the Irish Film Board and shot on 35mm.

How did you come across the story for Babygirl?

In New York, you spend a lot of time people-watching. One day I was on the train in the Bronx and I saw a Puerto Rican mother and teenage daughter on the train. The girl was reading a book and the mother was on the phone. This guy gets on the train and he starts eyeing up the daughter. He came across as a bit of a creep, to be honest. The daughter was having none of it. So then the guy started chatting up the mother. The mother was loving the attention and flirting back and then the three of them got off the train together. I was just left with the question of what happens next? So I went home started writing the script.

How long did it take you?

I banged it out in three weeks, which is great. Sometimes it can take three years. I just tried to imagine what would happen next. I tried to avoid the pitfalls of this kind of story. I didn’t want to see the girl as a victim. I wanted to see her as a proactive person who was trying to take control of her own destiny. I am a bit bored with that victim-characterization, particularly of woman. So once she started fighting back against this guy it became a lot more interesting from a dramatic point of view.

Did you do an outline or just write the script?

It’s very hard to give a hard and fast answer to that question. It depends. The scripts that I’ve been most happy with haven’t started out as an outline but more as a little idea like the girl on the train. Typically what will happen is that I’ll write a lot and once I have the raw material, I will then shape and form it from there. I could end up with a first draft that’s 160 pages long. But I think it’s very important not think too much but let the characters propel the narrative and see where it takes you.

Honestly, the outline thing is pretty helpful for funders but it can really stultify the creative process. Your conscious brain can’t create. It can criticize. It has its place but the writing comes from somewhere else.

So you don’t work off a treatment?

A treatment is a piece of prose, it’s not a piece of drama. What I am interested in is drama. I am sure there are people that really love writing treatments and are really good at it. I am just not one of them. It’s probably best to write the treatment after you’ve written the screenplay.

But you treat writing like a 9–5 job?

I don’t really think you can call it job. It’s not really work in the sense that its not hard labour. I feel very lucky to be able to sit up in that library and write. But I think a big thing is routine and just being able to set aside the time. It’s easy to fall out of the routine.

Do you work on character arc?

I find it uncomfortable talking about the writing process. I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rules. I just write. The conscious brain helps you when something is not working. It gives you certain tools. Things like characters arcs are useful to have because otherwise nothing happens but I don’t start with that. That comes later. That comes with the critical brain.

But you’ve been doing this quite a while now. Is there an inherent ability to know what form or shape a story should take that you would not have had your first day writing?

Absolutely. You have an intuition for when something is wrong. And finding out where it’s wrong. It’s like rot. Maybe you develop a nose for where it’s wrong and you go in and fix it.

How did you put the film together?

Really, it’s all David Collins from Samson Films who initiated the film. He had seen Peacefire in Galway and liked it and asked me to stay in touch. I sent him the script and he liked it a lot and said he would work on it if he could find a producer in New York.

He found R. Paul Miller, who produced a John Sayles film called Lone Star and also The Secret of Roan Inish. We shot in New York in the Bronx but we did all of our post-production in Ireland. Paul raised private equity and the Irish Film Board put in money for the post-production.

What was the budget?

You’ll have to ask the producers. But I make very small films. Peacefire cost $200,000. Our production budget was very modest. We shot the film in 16 days. But despite the New York location there’s a strong Irish element to it. Brendan Dolan is the composer, I am the director, Samson Films is the production company and the film was edited by Nathan Nugent (Waveriders, The Door, Sensation). I’d never worked with an editor before and I resisted the idea but working with that guy was a great experience.

Do you find yourself improvising on set?

It’s mathematics and economics. You can divide the amount of scenes by the number of days and you have your plan. We had one and a half set-ups. So I didn’t have much room for improvisation. I don’t like saying to the DOP ‘go in there and cover that for me and we’ll make it work in the edit.’ Everything is edited in the camera and executed. If something’s not working then you go to plan B. We were shooting 12 pages a day. You can achieve that if you plan. The most valuable resource that you have is time on your set.

How did you decide on the tone?

Well I never play it for laughs. I think personally that there’s a very fine line between comedy and tragedy. The best comedies are tragic at their heart and the best tragedies are somewhat comic. The comedy has to be inherent in the material. Restraint is an important part of my process. I like an audience to lean forward. I do not like to shove certain stylistic or tonal elements down their throat.

How did you find the cast?

Both Peacefire and Babygirl deal with young people so you don’t really have a place to go find them. The girl that plays the lead in this film has never acted before. We’d been working for about two and a half years and not found what we needed. I was going to film schools, theatre schools and on the last day of auditions the second to last girl to walk in was Yainis Ynoa. It’s hard to describe but I just got this gut reaction when she walked in the door. She hadn’t opened her mouth. She’s a 15-year-old girl from the South Bronx that lived the life of the character. Actually, she’s probably tougher than the character, but she has this amazing sensitivity, creativity, and awareness. She’s just one of these people that pops on camera. You take this big risk when you hire a first-time actor. She’s not experienced, she has no agent, so we had to deal with her family. But I think she’s the best thing about the film.

Did you decide on a style to the film?

Well the style should suit the story. I am not one of these people who wants all my films to look the same. So we used handheld and we use a tripod. I did tend to use a lot of static wide shots and two shots with the girl and her mother. I like to see two people having a conversation. At times they were in profile and they looked like a mirror image of each other, which was great because my character was struggling against the idea that we are all almost destined to become our parents. The Bronx is visually a very intense place. We tried to move the camera around in that environment and it was too much. So we kept it wide and let the action take place inside the frame.

So how do you earn a living from filmmaking?

It’s not easy. It’s more complicated when you have people dependent on you to eat. [Macdara has a wife and a baby daughter.] I don’t mind suffering for my art but usually what happens is that other people have to suffer for my art. But I am very lucky that people think that I can write. Screenwriting is what pays the bills. But that’s recent, up until then I was playing music and I’d worked for moving companies.

What sort of things are you commissioned to write?

I write feature-length screenplays mostly. It’s a good learning process to work on commissioned work. You have to bring all your skills to the table. It can be more challenging because it’s not something that you initially wanted to a talk about.

What’s your next project?

I am going to Beirut in the Lebanon in a few weeks after the Tribeca Film Festival. I will be there a couple of weeks doing research for a script. Most of it is set in Beirut but it has a kind of Irish connection as well. It’s great.

Might there be some emotional similarities between Beirut and Northern Ireland?

They’re both post-conflict societies. There are a lot of similarities. That’s what you realize. People ask me how can I write a story like Babygirl about a 16-year-old Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx but the story came out easier than Peacefire, which was based on a character who was my age and grew up in exactly the same estate where I grew up.

There’s this fallacy that you should only write about what you know. I understand what people mean by that but if you only wrote about what you know you’d be very limited.

 

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland magazine Issue 141, 2012.

Niall McKay is an Emmy award-winning independent producer and director. He is the director and curator of the Irish Film New York and the co-founder of San Francisco Irish Film Festival and Los Angeles Irish Film Festival.

 

Babygirl screens on Sunday, 2nd February 2014 at 13.00 as part of the IFI’s Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.

Producer David Collins will be present at the screening.

Tickets for Babygirl are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

 

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Film Ireland 141 Summer 2012 – A Bronx Tale Macdara Vallely on Babygirl

Macdara Vallely’s Babygirl screens at JDIFF 2013 on Friday 15th of February at 6:30pm in Cineworld.  

We are delighted to publish in full Niall McKay’s interview with Macdara from Film Ireland 141 Summer 2012. 

 

A Bronx Tale

Irish Film New York screenings series curator Niall McKay met director Macdara Vallely to talk about his new feature, Babygirl, which screens at this year’s Tribeca.

Armagh-born writer/director Macdara Vallely’s first film, Peacefire won best first feature at the 2008 Galway Film Fleadh. His second feature Babygirl, about a Puerto Rican teenage girl in the Bronx, will premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. Macdara moved to New York over a decade ago and has earned a living as a furniture mover and a musician before settling on screenwriting. He now lives in the Bronx, which is the location and inspiration for Babygirl. I spoke with Macdara at his adopted office at a cubicle in the New York Public Library.

 

How did you get started as a filmmaker?

 

I came to the making of films in an indirect way. I didn’t go to film school. I’d been to theatre school, which I thought was a total waste of time. I don’t really do well in those kind of academic environments.  Back in 2004, I brought a play called Peacefire to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I toured with the play for three months. I just thought that there’s got to be a better way than this. I wanted to turn it into a film, but I never set foot on a film set. So I wrote a short called The Love Bite.

 

I’d been in New Yorkabout five years and there’s no access to funding here. It’s all private. Your resource here is human capital. I pulled about $3,000 together and got together with these guys, Samuel Crow and Ramon Wilson, and we shot this thing The Love Bite in six days with a digital camera. It was a great experience because it was like going to film school in a way.  You learn some very important lessons, like don’t be stepping in front of the camera when you are rolling.

 

What happened to it?

 

It ended up making money, which is quite impressive for a short. It won best first short in the Galway Film Fleadh in 2004. My next short was Fiorghael (2005), an Irish language short. I was working with Tamara Anghie. She’s a fantastic producer. We had a very different experience because it was funded by the Irish Film Board and shot on 35mm.

 

How did you come across the story for Babygirl?

 

InNew York, you spend a lot of time people-watching. One day I was on the train in theBronxand I saw a Puerto Rican mother and teenage daughter on the train. The girl was reading a book and the mother was on the phone. This guy gets on the train and he starts eyeing up the daughter. He came across as a bit of a creep, to be honest. The daughter was having none of it. So then the guy started chatting up the mother. The mother was loving the attention and flirting back and then the three of them got off the train together. I was just left with the question of what happens next?  So I went home started writing the script.

 

How long did it take you?

 

I banged it out in three weeks, which is great. Sometimes it can take three years. I just tried to imagine what would happen next. I tried to avoid the pitfalls of this kind of story. I didn’t want to see the girl as a victim. I wanted to see her as a proactive person who was trying to take control of her own destiny.  I am a bit bored with that victim-characterization, particularly of woman. So once she started fighting back against this guy it became a lot more interesting from a dramatic point of view.

 

Did you do an outline or just write the script?

 

It’s very hard to give a hard and fast answer to that question. It depends. The scripts that I’ve been most happy with haven’t started out as an outline but more as a little idea like the girl on the train. Typically what will happen is that I’ll write a lot and once I have the raw material, I will then shape and form it from there. I could end up with a first draft that’s 160 pages long. But I think it’s very important not to think too much but let the characters propel the narrative and see where it takes you.

 

Honestly, the outline thing is pretty helpful for funders but it can really stultify the creative process. Your conscious brain can’t create. It can criticize. It has its place but the writing comes from somewhere else.

 

So you don’t work off a treatment?

 

A treatment is a piece of prose, it’s not a piece of drama.  What I am interested in is drama. I am sure there are people that really love writing treatments and are really good at it. I am just not one of them. It’s probably best to write the treatment after you’ve written the screenplay.

 

But you treat writing like a 9–5 job?

 

I don’t really think you can call it a job. It’s not really work in the sense that it’s not hard labour. I feel very lucky to be able to sit up in that library and write. But I think a big thing is routine and just being able to set aside the time. It’s easy to fall out of the routine.

 

Do you work on character arc?  

 

I find it uncomfortable talking about the writing process. I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rules. I just write. The conscious brain helps you when something is not working. It gives you certain tools. Things like characters arcs are useful to have because otherwise nothing happens but I don’t start with that. That comes later. That comes with the critical brain.

 

But you’ve been doing this quite a while now. Is there an inherent ability to know what form or shape a story should take that you would not have had your first day writing?

 

Absolutely. You have an intuition for when something is wrong. And finding out where it’s wrong. It’s like rot. Maybe you develop a nose for where it’s wrong and you go in and fix it.

 

How did you put the film together?

 

Well really, it’s all David Collins from Samson Films who initiated the film. He had seen Peacefire inGalway and liked it and asked me to stay in touch. I sent him the script and he liked it a lot and said he would work on it if he could find a producer inNew York.

 

He found R. Paul Miller, who produced a John Sayles film called Lone Sta rand also The Secret of Roan Inish. We shot inNew York in the Bronx but we did all of our post-production inIreland. Paul raised private equity and the Irish Film Board put in money for the post-production.

 

What was the budget?

 

You’ll have to ask the producers. But I make very small films. Peacefire cost $200,000. Our production budget was very modest. We shot the film in 16 days. But despite the New York location there’s a strong Irish element to it. Brendan Dolan is the composer, I am the director, Samson Films is the production company and the film was edited by Nathan Nugent (Waveriders, The Door, Sensation). I’d never worked with an editor before and I resisted the idea but working with that guy was a great experience.

 

Do you find yourself improvising on set?

 

It’s mathematics and economics. You can divide the amount of scenes by the number of days and you have your plan. We had one and a half set-ups. So I didn’t have much room for improvisation. I don’t like saying to the DOP ‘go in there and cover that for me and we’ll make it work in the edit.’ Everything is edited in the camera and executed. If something’s not working then you go to plan B.  We were shooting 12 pages a day. You can achieve that if you plan. The most valuable resource that you have is time on your set.

 

How did you decide on the tone?

 

Well I never play it for laughs. I think personally that there’s a very fine line between comedy and tragedy. The best comedies are tragic at their heart and the best tragedies are somewhat comic. The comedy has to be inherent in the material. Restraint is an important part of my process. I like an audience to lean forward. I do not like to shove certain stylistic or tonal elements down their throat.

 

How did you find the cast?

 

Both Peacefire and Babygirl deal with young people so you don’t really have a place to go find them. The girl that plays the lead in this film has never acted before. We’d been working for about two and a half years and not found what we needed. I was going to film schools, theatre schools and on the last day of auditions the second to last girl to walk in was Yainis Ynoa. It’s hard to describe but I just got this gut reaction when she walked in the door. She hadn’t opened her mouth. She’s a 15-year-old girl from theSouth Bronx that lived the life of the character. Actually, she’s probably tougher than the character, but she has this amazing sensitivity, creativity, and awareness. She’s just one of these people that pops on camera. You take this big risk when you hire a first-time actor. She’s not experienced, she has no agent, so we had to deal with her family. But I think she’s the best thing about the film.

 

Did you decide on a style to the film?

 

Well the style should suit the story. I am not one of these people who wants all my films to look the same. So we used handheld and we use a tripod. I did tend to use a lot of static wide shots and two shots with the girl and her mother. I like to see two people having a conversation. At times they were in profile and they looked like a mirror image of each other, which was great because my character was struggling against the idea that we are all almost destined to become our parents. TheBronxis visually a very intense place. We tried to move the camera around in that environment and it was too much. So we kept it wide and let the action take place inside the frame.

 

So how do you earn a living from filmmaking?

 

It’s not easy. It’s more complicated when you have people dependent on you to eat. [Macdara has a wife and a baby daughter.] I don’t mind suffering for my art but usually what happens is that other people have to suffer for my art. But I am very lucky that people think that I can write. Screenwriting is what pays the bills. But that’s recent, up until then I was playing music and I’d worked for moving companies.

 

What sort of things are you commissioned to write?

 

I write feature-length screenplays mostly. It’s a good learning process to work on commissioned work. You have to bring all your skills to the table. It can be more challenging because it’s not something that you initially wanted to a talk about.

 

What’s your next project? 

 

I am going to Beirut in the Lebanon in a few weeks after the Tribeca Film Festival. I will be there a couple of weeks doing research for a script. Most of it is set in Beirut but it has a kind of Irish connection as well. It’s great.

 

Might there be some emotional similarities between Beirut and Northern Ireland? 

 

They’re both post-conflict societies. There are a lot of similarities. That’s what you realize. People ask me how can I write a story like Babygirl about a 16-year-old Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx but the story came out easier than Peacefire, which was based on a character who was my age and grew up in exactly the same estate where I grew up.

 

There’s this fallacy that you should only write about what you know. I understand what people mean by that but if you only wrote about what you know you’d be very limited.

 

 Niall McKay

This article was first published in Film Ireland 141 Summer 2012.

www.jdiff.com

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Zero budget Festival Programming: Ten Dos and Don’ts About Programming a Niche Film Festival.

(Parked)

Zero budget Festival Programming: Ten Dos and Don’ts About Programming a Niche Film Festival.

What had started out as a hobby has taken over my life and become a full time job – but without the pay – of course.  But that’s the indie film biz for you.  Few people are going to make a killing from a small film festival.  This is my third film festival that focuses on Irish films.  I started the San Francisco Irish Film Festival eight years ago then co-founded the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival four years ago. When I arrived in New York last winter, I saw an opportunity to start an Irish screening series to showcase films that would otherwise not get seen in the Big Apple. My objective is to help Irish film and filmmakers make their way in the US. Seemed odd to me that an Irish plumber or bricklayer could arrive in New York and get a job in couple of hours, but Irish filmmakers have a tough time navigating the US market.

Irish Film is a curious beast. It’s not foreign enough to be considered foreign and not American enough to compete with US independent cinema. In Ireland, local films have a hard time going up against the US blockbusters and have an equally tough time competing with US indie flicks.  Local filmmakers shy away from American’s obsession with the hero’s journey and try instead and follow in the footsteps of European art films. It’s taken time to grow the craft of filmmaking in Ireland. Now however, Irish film is at its most interesting juncture in history. The country produces some twenty to thirty feature films each year and while ten years ago it would have been unusual for an Irish film to be featured in Cannes, Sundance, Telluride, or Toronto. Now it’s unusual if there isn’t.  There’s four Irish films in Toronto this year. Most years, at least one film, usually a short, gets an Academy Award nomination.

There are ten to fifteen world-class filmmakers who are producing a steady flow of excellent films. Well-known directors such as John Carney (Once) and Kirsten Sheridan (August Rush) have joined forces with lesser-known directors such as Lance Daly (Kisses) and formed a production hub in Dublin called The Factory. Meanwhile, new directors such as Lenny Abrahamson, Ken Wardrop, and Juanita Wilson are producing critically acclaimed films that are beginning to do well in Europe as in the US.

This year, I’ve been fortunate because I will have the New York premiere of the documentary Knuckle, a visceral look at bare knuckle boxing among the Irish Traveller community (HBO are turning it into a dramatic series), the Galway Film Fleadh-winning feature Parked, with Colm Meaney, and The Runway, starring Demián Bichir (Weeds).  All three films will get be released in the United States in the next few months. I will be bringing all three films and their filmmakers on a three city tour of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Irish Film New York is co-presented by NYUs Glucksman Ireland House and funded by Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland Program, The Irish Film Board and Moet Hennessy USA.  So here are some of the lessons that I have learned about creating a new festival:

knuckle

(Knuckle)

Top Ten Dos and Dont’s

1. Do
Know your audience. Like independent film, each start-up film festival needs a base.  The base for the San Francisco Irish Film Festival and for Irish Film New York is Irish ex-patriots between ages 25 and 50.  They are a vastly different audience from the Irish immigrants of yesteryears. Find this core base that will be the foundation of your festival audience. But having said that,  your base will keep your festival alive, but it’s not what will make it prosper.  You’ll need to reach beyond the niche to independent cinema lovers.

2. Do
Program only those films that you want to watch until the end.  What are my criteria?  Films that make me laugh or cry, make me angry, frightened, or sad, films that crawl into a space in my brain and just won’t leave.

3. Do
Create as many partnerships as possible. Partnerships are the key to a low budget and a big success. Where possible, partner with film distributors, cultural organizations, museums, newspapers and businesses. Partnerships are free and they help grow your festival’s reach and presence.

4. Do
Low budget festivals like Blanche Dubois “always depend on the kindness of strangers.” Your festival will get nowhere without lots of favors.  In turn, always treat your festival as an opportunity to provide services to others.  This can mean something as small as taking a filmmaker out for a pint or making sure you introduce a filmmaker to a potential distributor.  If you’re only in this for what you can get out of it, then your festival will be short-lived.

5. Do
Be careful how you define your niche films. Irish Film has become a little tricky in the last few years. I define it as films made in Ireland or with an Irish cast. There are a number of excellent films that are financed by the Irish Film Board and made by an Irish directors abroad that I’d love to program.  Irish filmmaker Juanita Wilson’s “As If I’m not There,” for example is beautiful film, but it takes place during the Bosnian war so it’s a hard sell as an Irish film. I am not against programming these films but I may need to create a special program called The Irish Abroad to tell my audience what they are getting.

6. Do  
Go to events where your target audience may be and announce your festival. Nothing works better than a personal invitation. Tell them about the rare opportunity they have to attend your festal.  This is by far the best way get your audience.

7. Don’t
Don’t produce large gala events unless you want to spend your time producing large gala events. This will become your job. They generally soak up all the money they earn. They can be useful for building profile but building profile becomes its own job and you want to focus on screenings films.

8. Do
Do be aware that inviting celebrities and stars to come to your festival will cost a great deal of money. They usually fly first class, take limousines and bring their own hair and makeup people. And why not? They are at the top of their game.  But make sure you have an extra $10 K in the kitty jar.  Speaking of the kitty jar…

9. Do
Reduce your budget to zero or as close to zero as possible. Partner and profit share with your festival venue, if possible. Find sponsors who will underwrite specific costs. For example, perhaps they can give you a voucher for your postcard printer or lend you their PR agency or pay for airline tickets out of their travel budget. Cash donations are hard to come by and all your time will be spent fundraising instead of putting on the festival.  Having said that find a way to pay yourself for your time. [OK, so I’ve not quite figured that one out yet but I’ll let you know.]

10. Don’t
Take it personally. Remember the people who let you down, don’t give you their films, don’t return your phone calls, ignore you pleas and walk straight by you at parties don’t hate you personally. So move on and remember you’re doing this for fun.

Niall McKay

Niall programmes The San Francisco Irish Film Festival and Irish Film New York

This article originally appeared on www.indiewire.com

www.mediafactory.tv

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'Knuckle', 'Parked' and 'The Runway' to screen at Irish Film New York

 

Irish Film New York

A new Irish Contemporary Screening Series at NYU

The very best in contemporary Irish cinema comes to New York with a special three-day screening series running from Friday, 30th September to Sunday, 2nd October featuring filmmaker Q&As, panel discussions, and filmmaker receptions.

Films include Knuckle, a visceral look at bare knuckle boxing among the Irish Traveller community, the Galway Film Fleadh-winning feature Parked, a story of friendship, hope, and perseverance between two ‘neighbours’ living in their cars, starring Colm Meaney, and The Runway, where the citizens of County Cork come to the aid of a South American pilot who has crash landed in their town.

All three films are up for limited release in the United States in the forthcoming months. Other films screening include Marian Quinn’s 32A, Maya Derringtons’ documentary Pyjama Girls, and Tom Hall’s Sensation.

The event is co-presented by NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House and funded by Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland Program.

The main events include:

  • Seven screenings hosted by Glucksman Ireland House NYU at NYU’s Cantor Film Center.
  • A ‘Meet the Filmmakers’ panel discussion co-presented by Tisch School of Arts and Irish Film New York.
  • An Irish documentary showcase presentation at POV’s offices in Brooklyn.
  • Industry brunch with film producers, distributors, and agents hosted by the Irish Consul General in New York.

Tickets: $10-$12

Venue: NYU’s Cantor Film Center, 36 East 8th Street

To find out more and to view a trailer of the festival visit: www.irishfilmnyc.com

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Niall McKay talks to Brant Smith Director of 'In-World War'

Vivienne Connolly in 'In-World War'

Filmmaker Niall McKay talks to artisan filmmaker DJ Bad Vegan, aka Brant Smith, about his upcoming off-beat, low-budget, sci-fi feature In-World War. The film was partly shot in Dublin and features model Vivienne Connolly.

Set 70 years in the future, the main character is trapped in a virtual reality historical simulation of the war on terror years, our time, and every time he tries to log out he wakes up in a different body in a different city.

Brant talks about shooting in three cities with three different cameras, casts and crew, plus his thoughts on self distribution and the festival circuit as a ‘backpack budget’ filmmaker.

www.diysucks.com – Brant’s general low-budget filmmaking website
www.inworldwar.com – Brant’s website and blog for the Film
www.niall.org – Niall McKay’s website

This is a podcast of 22 minutes 30 seconds.

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Interview with Niall McKay – Director of 'A Song for Dad'

A Song for Dad

Ross Whitaker talks to Niall McKay, director of narrative documentary A Song for Dad, which airs on RTÉ 1 on Tuesday 4th August at 10.20pm. The film, which premiered in February at the Dublin International Film Festival, explores Niall’s relationship with his Jazz musician father, Jim, who in the 1970s raised his two young sons on his own in Dublin.

In this Film Ireland Web Exclusive, Niall talks about making a film which follows a very personal journey from the depths of suicide and depression to the heights of new beginnings, marriage proposals, and homecomings.

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Visit www.asongfordad.net for more info on the film and to view the trailer.

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RTÉ One to Broadcast ‘A Song for Dad’

San Francisco Irish Film Festival director and Emmy award-winning filmmaker Niall McKay will have his personal documentary, A Song For Dad (also known as The Bass Player), broadcast on RTÉ One on Tuesday August 4th, 2009 at 10.20 pm.

A Song For Dad explores Niall’s relationship with his Jazz musician father, Jim, who in the 1970s raised his two young sons on his own in Dublin. Scored by Jim’s jazz music, this film questions what it means to be a son, a husband and a father.

For more information about the film, please click here: www.asongfordad.net

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‘A Song For Dad’ Doc to Screen on RTÉ One

The intertwined yet separate lives that define an adult son’s relationship with his parents are explored in A Song for Dad, a narrative-style feature documentary that will screen on RTÉ One on 4th August.

This intimate film about the relationship between director Niall McKay and his jazz musician father, Jim, reveals an absorbing and moving story of two journeys back home to Ireland.

As Niall helps Jim prepare for his return to Ireland after the death of his second wife, father and son recall their family’s struggle in handling the depression, alcoholism, and tragic death of Niall’s mother – and its far-reaching effects on both men, even thirty years later – as each embarks upon a new phase in their lives. The time that father and son spend together at the crossroads is short, but healing. For while Jim is returning home after decades of living abroad, Niall is gathering the courage to redefine his view of family and relationships – and even start his own.

Beautifully shot in Ireland, France, Switzerland and the USA, and scored with Jim’s bass-playing, the film is a unique and thought-provoking portrait of an Irish father and his son, a personal documentary, and a road movie. Jim McKay compares the nature of jazz music with living his own life in the same improvisational style. ‘You have to busk it,’ he advises his son.

‘This beautiful and moving film will haunt you for years’ – Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting.

The trailer for A Song for Dad can be viewed at http://thebassplayermovie.com/

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