Issue 138 Autumn 2011 Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild: Conor Horgan

One Hundred Mornings
One Hundred Mornings
One Hundred Mornings

Over the coming weeks Film Ireland will publish online the entire back catalogue of articles written by members of the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild that have appeared in Film Ireland magazine. These popular articles give an insight into the creative process used by each writer.  

Conor Horgan on how he learnt to jump into the middle of the script when writing One Hundred Mornings.

 

I’d wanted to write a drama about an impending breakdown of society for quite a while – well, actually, ever since I’d started reading about the impending breakdown of society. My first attempt was called ‘Greenland’, and concerned a London adman who discovers something untoward while working on a major oil company account, which propels him out the doors of the agency and over to the other side. Unfortunately, the script soon descended into sub-Bourne shenanigans, with stony-faced men in black SUVs and helicopters pursuing our hero as he attempts to tell the world what lies ahead. It wasn’t great, to be perfectly frank.

 

One unfunded submission to the Film Board later, I landed in the Catalyst project, a scheme which enabled three teams of filmmakers to shoot their first feature. It was an inspiring process, and the moment I remember most clearly during the workshops was a production manager calmly telling us that for this level of budget, we couldn’t have this, that, or indeed the other. As I listened to the growing list of what the films would have to do without, something occurred to me – this is how I can define the world of a film, by its absences. Authenticity could come from taking things out rather than by adding them.

 

I had an idea I was excited by, I had a producer who wanted to read what I came up with, and I had probably the single most useful thing any writer can have – a deadline. So much of writing seems to be about surfing the deadline – start too early and there’s a lack of urgency about the proceedings, start too late and panic takes over, leaving you teetering on the back foot.

 

Setbacks

 

It took four and a half months to write the first draft. There were a few initial setbacks, such as realising after writing the first 27 pages that page 28, which was after the second of the two couples arrived in the house, was actually page 1. I hit a few more speed bumps along the way, and a writer friend gave me great advice by suggesting that I didn’t necessarily have to write the script in order. I immediately jumped into the middle of the script and wrote one of the key scenes that the entire film revolved around, then darted to the finish to write what would turn out to be the first of several versions of the end before hopping backwards to start filling in the gaps. This gave me an episodic story that I could re-order as needed, and in the pell-mell rush towards the finish line I didn’t have enough time to worry if I was making it too personal – I just put it all in.

 

I wrote in the mornings, mainly, until I couldn’t write any more. After a while the real world changed from being a distraction to something else – it took on a ghostly sheen as I became smitten with the far more interesting, more exciting world of the film. It’s a most pleasing state to be in, and if I could choose one just super power it would be to be able to enter that other world at will.

 

The last elements I put in were a couple of jokes – well, not jokes so much as a few moments of dry wit, that both suited the characters and made the tragic elements feel even sadder.

 

Moment of truth

 

As the cast and crew assembled for the first table read in the week before the shoot, I knew the moment of truth was approaching. Would the dialogue sound authentic? Would there be enough exposition? Would the whole damn thing work, or was I looking at feverish rewrites as I headed into the shoot? As that pivotal scene came closer, I shifted in my chair. As Alex Reid said the first few lines, clearly and simply, I felt something. Even though everyone there was familiar with the script, they were all leaning forward, eager to see what would happen next. It was a great moment, and I knew the writer part of me had done his job, and now I could hand my baby over to the director, hoping that he wouldn’t mess it up. I was finished. Job done.

 

Of course, you’re never really finished. There were many late night discussions during the shoot between myself and Katie Holly, the film’s producer. We huddled over a kitchen table in our B&B, figuring out which scenes needed to be combined with other ones, and which could be binned completely. Every time I rehearsed a scene, I kept an ear out for extraneous dialogue, and often dropped lines completely. Even more came out during the edit, and I think I didn’t really finish writing the film until we hit picture lock. Even after that there were a few lines of ADR to write.

 

One Hundred Mornings isn’t the first feature script I’ve written, but it is the first one that really felt like a film when I was writing it. It’s a good feeling, and one I’m looking forward to having again.

 

www.script.ie

www.conorhorgan.com

 

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland autumn 2011 issue 138 published 1st July 2011.

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One Hundred Mornings

One Hundred Mornings

 

DIR/WRI: Conor Horgan • PRO: Katie Holly • DOP: Suzie Lavelle • ED: Frank Reid • DES: Lucy van Lonkhuyzen • Cast: Ciarán McMenamin, Alex Reid, Kelly Campbell, Rory Keenan

 

Conor Horgan’s debut feature, One Hundred Mornings, is a post-apocalyptic film set in rural Ireland. An unmentioned catastrophe has seen the end of technology, energy and communication, and two couples are weathering the disaster in a lakeside cabin. Times begin to get difficult as food gets scare, and the already frayed relationships within the group begin to bend and snap as they do what’s necessary to survive.

 

Although a great piece of filmmaking, One Hundred Mornings is let down somewhat by the lack of warmth and likeability in its main characters. This, along with the increasingly unfortunate plot twists and relentless tension means it’s quite a challenging film to watch. Nonetheless, it’s a must-see; being clever, well-made and featuring some great performances. One Hundred Mornings also touches on some thought-provoking concepts, and is a breath of fresh air from the bog-standard, end-of-the-world flicks that get churned out of Hollywood.

 

It’s also nice to see that even after society breaks down, people continue to cut and maintain lovely lawns.

 

Gemma Creagh

 

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

One Hundred Mornings is released on 6th May 2011

One Hundred Mornings – Official Website

 

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Flat Lakes Festival screens 'One Hundred Mornings' and 'Circus Born'

The Clones Film Festival Marquee at the Flat Lakes Literary & Arts Festival will screen the documentary, Circus Born, by Matt Skinner as well as Conor Horgan’s apocalyptic drama One Hundred Mornings. The latter, which was co-financed by the IFB, Filmbase, TV3 and BAI, will be the closing film at the festival at 7:00pm on Sunday 6th June.

The Flat Lakes Literary & Arts Festival will take place in Clones, Co. Monaghan this week from 4–6 June. For more details on the festival line up visit www.theflatlakefestival.com

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Issue 132 – Spotlight – One Hundred Mornings

onehundredmornings
Ciaran McMenamin as Jonathan in 'One Hundred Mornings'.

Ross Whitaker talks to Conor Horgan about his award-winning debut feature.

Conor Horgan is a man in a hurry. He squeezes me in for a chat in a Dublin café the day before he is due to fly to the Slamdance festival in Park City, Utah, where his debut feature – One Hundred Mornings – will have its North American premiere.

For his first film to be chosen for Slamdance is a creditable achievement in itself but over the coming days the film makes a substantial impression at the festival, where it receives a Special Jury Mention and is described by Filmmaker magazine as, ‘Achingly humane and stringently observed’.

One Hundred Mornings was one of three films green-lit by the Catalyst Project to go into production with a €250k budget. The other films were the festival favourite Eamon and the as-yet unreleased Redux but the scheme was also responsible for incubating other fine films like His & Hers and Savage, that weren’t funded by the project itself but were developed to the point that production was almost inevitable, and were ultimately successful.

What comes across so strongly in conversation with Horgan is just how much he enjoyed making this intense, moving film. His eyes light up when he thinks back to the process, holed up in a Wicklow location for four weeks.

Bleak film, happy set
‘The film is quite bleak, you could say, but the set was the happiest set I’ve ever been on. Perhaps that was a reaction to the material. We were a group of people doing something that we believed in and believing it was something we could do well. There was a strong feeling amongst the cast and crew that we had the potential to make a good film.’

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 132.

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Irish Film ‘One Hundred Mornings’ Wins At Slamdance

Bl!nder Films first feature film One Hundred Mornings, funded by the Catalyst Project and directed by Conor Horgan has won an Special Jury Mention for the Best Narrative Film at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January 2010. It was one of 10 feature films screened at the festival in the Narrative Feature Competition line-up, chosen from over 5000 applicants. This is the first time an Irish film has been selected for the festival.

The Slamdance Film Festival is in its sixteenth year. Its main focus is on films by first time directors with low budgets and its lineup of narrative and documentary films are programmed in the spirit of its motto ‘by filmmakers, for filmmakers’.

Starring Ciarán McMenamin, Alex Reid, Rory Keenan and Kelly Campbell, One Hundred Mornings is set in a world upended by a complete breakdown of society where two couples hide out in a lakeside cabin hoping to survive the crisis.

For more about the film, click here: www.onehundredmornings.com

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BSÉ/IFB Catalyst Project is first Irish Feature to World Premiere at Slamdance

Bl!nder Films have announced that their first feature film One Hundred Mornings, funded by the Catalyst Project and directed by Conor Horgan, is to have its world premiere screening at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January 2010. It will be one of 10 feature films screened at the festival in the Narrative Feature Competition line-up out of over 5000 applicants. This is the first time an Irish film has been selected for the festival.

Starring Ciaran McMenamin, Alex Reid, Rory Keenan and Kelly Campbell, One Hundred Mornings is set in a world upended by a complete breakdown of society, where two couples hide out in a lakeside cabin hoping to survive the crisis. As resources run low and external threats increase, they forge an uneasy alliance with their self-sufficient hippie neighbour.

One Hundred Mornings is writer/director Conor Horgan’s first feature film, though he previously directed the award-winning short The Last Time, which screened at Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, and Tampere and was the recipient of seven awards, including the UIP Director Award and Best Irish Short at The Cork Film Festival.

www.slamdance.com

For more information on the Slamdance line-up, please click here: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118012525.html?categoryid=3768&cs=1&query=slamdance+2010

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Issue 128 – Shoots & Roots

Gavin Burke reports on the Catalyst Project, a scheme set up to nurture budding filmmakers.

shootsandroots

‘The main thing is that I got to write and direct a feature film. I got a huge amount of creative freedom to make the film I wanted to make and I’m incredibly grateful for that opportunity.’ Conor Horgan, writer and director of One Hundred Mornings.

It’s tough making films. They cost a lot of money and because the economic downturn is showing no signs of levelling out just yet, the chance to get any kind of film made is becoming ever more precarious. With this in mind the Catalyst Project was launched in 2007 – 3 movies, 3 teams of writers, directors and producers, a budget of €250,000 each – and aimed at first-time filmmakers and emerging talent in all areas of production. Can a film be made on €250,000 and will low-budget filmmaking be with us for the foreseeable future?


Fast-track

‘Our aim was to encourage new talent, provide training and mentorship at every stage and to “fast-track” films into production’, says Alan Maher of BSÉ/IFB. ‘We felt that as much experience as possible should be gained on the ground without going through months or years of raising finance for a larger budget. It was hoped that new, distinctive voices would emerge from this process. Through the initial workshops, we also wanted to encourage filmmakers to talk to each other, to establish contacts and networks that would hopefully lead to exciting collaborations in the future.’

Whittling down a massive 400 hopeful projects to 50 and then to just three wasn’t an easy task, but it was completed in November of 2007. So where are we now?

One of the three films funded, Eamon, is the only film to have completed post-production to date. A brooding, satirical drama, Eamon’s plot follows a family on holiday whose attempt to get a short break from their problems at home doesn’t materialise as they are forced to fight for survival. ‘Nothing else can push you forward as a writer/director like making a low-budget feature film,’ says Eamon’s director Margaret Corkery. ‘It is very rare for a first-time feature filmmaker to get the opportunity to make a fully state-funded film with total creative control.’

Alan Maher’s ‘training at every stage’ has certainly benefited PJ Dillon, the director of Redux, a psychological thriller set in a rural town that sees the life of a woman (played by Amy Huberman) turn upside down when her ex-con boyfriend turns up to reveal a secret she has been keeping from her husband. PJ is in the middle of editing now, a skill he has a newfound respect for. ‘Nothing quite prepared me for editing a feature,’ says PJ. ‘Getting the rhythm and pacing of a feature film right is very difficult and should not be underestimated. I hope I’ve gotten this one right and, given the chance to direct another feature, I’m sure the experience gained here will inform how I approach shooting in the future.’

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 128

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