Watch Irish Short Film: Disappear

 

In Disappear, Frank Prendergast plays Charlie, a young man whose life has been destroyed by anxious thoughts. He has recently come to a new and frightening conclusion about his condition, fearing that he may literally disappear into thin air. His psychiatrist, Lorraine Butler (George Hanover), tries to reason with him about the improbability of these fears. But Charlie’s deep convictions lead Lorraine to worry that this may be more than just another passing notion.

Writer/Director Shaun O Connor tells us about the evolution of the project – from idea, to radio play to short film.

 

Structurally, I love the idea of a story playing out within a restricted space, building suspense and narrative drive with dialogue alone. I was inspired by old episodes of The Twilight Zone, where short stories with huge implications would play out in small spaces with limited effects.

The idea for the film came from my own experience. In my mid-20s, I suffered from chronic anxiety and panic attacks for two years. I had a particularly frightening symptom called ‘depersonalization’, which is a constant feeling of being cut off from reality – like you’re watching life from behind a pane of glass. This, combined with anxious self-analysis, can lead to frightening conclusions, like thinking you’re in a dream you can’t wake up from, or that you’re going to disappear, which is what Charlie is convinced will happen.

Thankfully I recovered but the research, conversations and ideas I had during that time still fascinate me from a healthy perspective. With Disappear, I wanted to explore the idea of pain driving someone to believe an impossible concept, and if, and how, they can be helped.

 

 

The story began life as a short radio play that I put together with Half-Light Audio in Cork.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6HfnZNVtHk

 

 

I was really happy with the results and developed it into a short film script. I gave it to George Hanover and Frank Prendergast, two amazing actors whose work I’d admired for years. Disappear was my first dramatic script so I was initially nervous about rehearsals, character discussions, etc., but working through it with George and Frank was a joy.

Both actors were training under a fantastic coach named Tom Kibbe so they approached the characters with similar techniques, which was fascinating to observe. George developed a calm, authoritative tone befitting an experienced therapist. Frank’s performance was particularly demanding as he had to physically portray someone who’s been suffering from an anxiety disorder for 15 years and all but given up on recovery – but who is still clever, engaged and eager to interrogate his condition.

Visually, it was a challenge to bring a cinematic feel to what is essentially a seated conversation but our cinematographer, Justin MacCarthy, did an amazing job. In terms of lighting we developed a theme that Charlie is in darkness, literally and metaphorically, and Lorraine is trying to coax him out of it. We also planned out some camera moves that would heighten specific moments, like Charlie’s recounting of ‘disappearances’ throughout history.

We didn’t have a budget to speak of but thankfully there’s a incredibly supportive film community in Cork and people were willing to help out for free or next to nothing. We found a perfect ‘home practice’ location and shot all the interiors in one day, and the exteriors for Charlie’s walk were done in an afternoon. Our makeup artist, Arlene Keating, did an incredible job of accentuating Charlie’s despair by giving him a gaunt, haunted look. In fact, after we wrapped on the outdoor shoot in Cork city, people who spoke to Frank on the street asked if he was genuinely sick.

The score was composed by Brian Lane (aka Dissolve Audio) and it really makes the film. I wanted a single theme that could be varied slightly and used at different points in the story. He created this beautiful Tangerine Dream / Brian Eno-esque track that’s both mournful and mysterious and captures the tone of the piece perfectly.

 

 

The film played Irish and UK festivals before being picked up by Berlin-based distribution agency Aug & Ohr, who brought Disappear to festival audiences around the world. Most recently it screened ahead of Kissing Candice in the Triskel Cork, and is now available to watch online.

 

 

Shaun’s latest short, Mary, premieres at the Galway Film Fleadh as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 6 (Fis Éireann/Screen Ireland World Premieres) programme on Saturday, 14th July at the Town Hall Theatre @ 12:00

 

Mary

When he manages to destroy the town’s beloved Virgin Mary statue, Charlie O’Connor does the only thing he can do; frame his older brother.
Director Shaun O’Connor
Producer Sharon Cronin

 

Preview of Irish Film @ Galway

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Tips: 10 Tips For Young Directors

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1. Every Project is Practice

Don’t be afraid to just pick up a camera and start shooting. It’s all practice, and the more you get, the better. My first projects were a few short sketches with some friends, which eventually turned into a shoestring-budget feature film. None of us had any technical expertise whatsoever in filmmaking, let alone been to film school — But between us, we’d seen a lot of movies, and that awareness, just through osmosis, helped us to craft a basic sense of structure and pacing. Technically, the film leaves a lot to be desired, but that’s to be expected. By the next project, I had a much better idea of shooting, editing and fixing any technical issues I was likely to encounter.

 

 

2. Be Brutal with the Script

Get rid of anything that’s extraneous or just for show. A line might be a great kiss-off or a scene may be super-smart, but unless it makes sense in the context of the story, it won’t sit right. I work with a brilliant writer, Tadhg Hickey, and we have established a work process whereby we are both ruthless with every draft of the script. The goal is always to work it out as economically and cinematically as possible. And remember: the shorter your script is, the smaller the budget and schedule will be, too.

This was myself and Tadhg’s first short film from 2010, called Tearing Strips:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhkhSl6rtR8

 

 

3. Plan the shoot and over-schedule

Plan out all aspects of the shoot to the best of your ability. The more organized you are, the more you’ll be able to deal with the inevitable problems and necessary improvisations that will arise on the day. Also, where possible, allow plenty of scheduling leeway. The time needed to set up, address minor issues etc., will inevitably accumulate throughout the day, and you need to allow for that. It’s much better to tell your actors and crew that you need them until 8 and send them home at 6, than it is to tell them they’re needed until 6 and have to keep them on set for an extra two hours.

 

4. Learn how to work with a crew

One of the benefits of working with DSLRs and home editing software is that it allows for a huge amount of individual control. In theory, you can create an entire film project on your own. But if you want to pursue filmmaking seriously, you’ll need to work with a crew at some point (and remember that no film funding body will give you cash unless they know you can manage people and money properly).

The first time I worked with a crew was on a music video for the band Echogram. It was initially quite daunting, but once you remember that everyone just wants make something that best represents them creatively and technically, it’s just a matter of asking for what you want and letting people do their job.

https://vimeo.com/24836158

Note: Regardless of the scale of the crew, make sure you have a good DoP and sound recordist. The less you have to worry about how a scene is going to look and sound, the more you’ll be able to direct what’s happening within it.

 

 

5. You can learn from anywhere

You don’t have to have gone to film school to make movies. In fact, there’s almost nothing that you could want to achieve visually that someone else hasn’t done in some way or another — and made a YouTube tutorial on how to do it. There are endless free tutorials online that will help you to get the best out of both your camera and software.

The Vimeo Video School has some great general filmmaking advice for all aspects of production:

https://vimeo.com/videoschool

For After Effects users, the tutorial section of the Video Co-Pilot website is a fantastic resource:

http://www.videocopilot.net/tutorials/

I consulted these extensively when making the music video for ‘Summertime’ by Toy Soldier, and was able to set up a basic greenscreen post-production pipeline on my PC.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNyndJPjTM

 

 

6. Festival Submissions

I recently attended a seminar where a group of film festival programmers spoke at length about their experiences. One said, ‘If you finish your film and just send it off to the top ten festivals in the world, forget about it.’ You need to research your audience and pick your festivals carefully. For example, when we were sending out our film Uisce Beatha, we looked up festivals that would have large Irish contingencies; i.e., the Boston Film Festival, the Chicago Irish Film Festival, etc. Play to the strengths of the film and find your audience. It might be an extra day’s work, but it will benefit your film immeasurably and save you a small fortune in submission fees.

UB_Cliffs_300DPI Tadhg Hickey as ‘Tom’, in a scene from Uisce Beatha, which recently won the ‘Filmmakers’ Choice’ award at DC Shorts, the biggest short film festival on the East Coast of the US.

 

 

7. Attend Film Festivals

Go to as many film festivals as you can (whether your film is in it or not). Check out what the standard is like, see what type of films are getting funded and do plenty of networking with other filmmakers. Get business cards made and hand them out. And make sure to follow up with people via email / Facebook / Twitter etc, as you never know what creative projects might emerge from the contacts you make.

 

8. Make your film a genre that you’re passionate about

If you love horrors, make a horror. If you’re into gritty social dramas, make a gritty social drama. Spielberg once said something along the lines of, ‘I make films that I would want to go and see’. If you’re making something that you’re really looking forward to seeing on the big screen someday, you’ll have all the creative drive you need to deal with the pressures of making a short film.

 

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 James Browne as The Man In Black in a scene from Shaun’s new short horror-comedy, Rest My Bones.

 

9. Watch new films, read new stories, get new ideas

Get inspiration: Watch lots of good movies, and seek out stuff that you may not normally encounter. For example, check out the foreign film selection on Netflix, which is very extensive.

Also, read lots of books. Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes) once said that in order to stay creative, you should read one short story, one poem and one essay every night before sleep. That might be a bit much for most, but even one short story per evening will keep the creative juices simmering.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Wr7ABrMYU

And read ‘The War Of Art’ by Steven Pressfield. It’s a small, succinct book about the creative process, and contains the best advice on the topic that you will ever read.

 

10. Remember that it’s a collaborative effort

In his book Catching The Big Fish, David Lynch outlines one of the main reasons he got into filmmaking: ‘Because it seemed like a lot of fun’. And that’s exactly what it should be. There’s a lot of pressure, granted, but at the end of the day, it’s a creative process, and to participate in that in any capacity is a rare, amazing thing.

Don’t be fooled by the stereotype of the shouty, angry director. If you’re not happy with something or somebody, you can usually sort it out with a quiet word. Listen to your cast and crew. Their ideas are just as viable as yours, and their collective technical expertise is probably way better than yours. If the atmosphere on set is tense and dictatorial, you won’t encourage a sense of collaboration and fun. And if it’s not fun and collaborative, what’s the point?

 

Shaun O Connor’s short film work has won awards at various festivals, including the Corona Cork Film Festival, Chicago Irish Film Festival, the Fastnet Short Film Festival, the Kerry Film Festival, and the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival. Shaun has also directed numerous music videos, and his video for ‘Conspiracy’ by Echogram won an award at the 2011 Irish Music Television Awards. Shaun has also directed work for corporate clients such as Concern and Lidl.

 

Most recently, Shaun’s short film Uisce Beatha won the ‘Filmmakers’ Choice’ award at DC Shorts in Washington DC, the biggest short film festival on the East Coast of the US. It was also selected to screen at the Raindance festival in London, Europe’s biggest independent film festival.

 

Shaun’s collected work can be seen at www.shaunoconnor.com

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True Cork Titanic Tale Wins Big At DC Shorts Festival

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 Shaun O’ Connor (left) receiving the Filmmakers’ Choice Award from DC Shorts Festival Director Jon Gann in the Gibson Guitar Showroom, 709 G St NW

Uisce Beatha’ wins prestigious Filmmakers’ Choice Award

A short film made in rural Cork for just 300 euros has won a major award at the biggest short film event on the East Coast of the United States.

Uisce Beatha won the Filmmakers’ Choice Award at the DC Shorts festival, which concluded last weekend. Festival director Jon Gann presented the award to the the film’s director Shaun O’ Connor at the awards ceremony in the Gibson Guitar Showroom, 709 G St NW.

Uisce Beatha was the only Irish film to feature at DC Shorts, from a selection of over 150 international shorts. It screened on the Saturday of the festival at the U.S. Navy Memorial’s Burke Theater, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, and was very warmly received. The Filmmakers’ Choice Award is the short voted for most by the festival’s attending filmmakers, which included directors from Brazil, Argentina, Russia and across the US.

Set in 1912, Uisce Beatha is the true story of Tom, a young man who leaves his home in rural Ireland to cross the ocean on the ill-fated ‘Titanic’. But a night of celebration beforehand results in a twist that will affect Tom’s fate drastically.

Writer and lead actor Tadhg Hickey came across the story while researching the dozens of Irish people who had purchased tickets for the Titanic but not actually boarded the ship. Fascinated by Tom’s story in particular, the filmmaking team immediately set about adapting it for a short film.

Production of the film took place in various picturesque locations around County Cork. Though the film was made without funding, friends and family helped out on set where possible; local actors also lent their talents.

Having a tiny budget on a period film meant that the filmmakers had to be very creative. Period costumes were borrowed from a local theatre production, and one scene was shot on an antique railway to achieve the look of an old train journey.

But the work paid off, as Uisce Beatha has proven to be an audience favourite at festivals, winning awards at the Cork Film Festival and Chicago Irish Film Festival. It has also screened at film festivals in Boston and San Francisco. However, the win at DC Shorts is a major milestone in terms of international exposure for the Irish filmmaking team.

Shaun said, ‘My team and I are absolutely thrilled at having won an award at DC Shorts. The film was a tiny production, made with people helping out for little or no payment. It was an honour just to be screened at DC Shorts with international productions of such a high caliber, but to win the Filmmakers’ Choice Award is incredible. I’m so thankful to Jon Gann and all of the volunteers for making me feel so welcome and putting on an amazing festival. Hopefully I’ll be back next year!’

Shaun recently finished post-production on his new short film Rest My Bones. Writer Tadhg and producer Aideen are both working on theatrical projects, and Tadhg also has a new television sitcom script in development.

Shaun and Tadhg’s previous work can viewed at: www.shaunoconnor.com

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New Music Video from Cork Director released

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The latest music video from award-winning Cork director Shaun O’ Connor has just been released online. ‘Wind On Waves’, a modern classical piece written and performed by flautist Katrina Emtage and cellist Ilse De Ziah, features stunning scenery from Cork and Kerry. It can be viewed online now at www.shaunoconnor.com

This unique video was shot entirely using greenscreen technology, which allows the musicians to be placed within environments that have been shot separately. The footage of the musicians was shot over two days in February in Cork’s Studio 5108, while the landscape footage was shot over three weekends in stunning locations like Cork’s own Gougane Barra and Carrauntoohill in Kerry. Over the next few months, Shaun combined the footage and generated the digital effects to give the video its unique look.

‘Wind On Waves’ had its world premiere in the atmospheric setting of Fort Camden in Crosshaven and has received a very positive response since it debuted online.

This ambitious video was made possible with the help of a host of local Cork talent and was produced by Brendan O’ Regan, CEO of Zenith Technologies in Ringaskiddy.

Shaun said:
‘Making a music video on this scale was certainly a challenge, but I feel that it has turned out extremely well. The fact that we can produce a piece of such visual complexity speaks volumes for the production facilities and talent available in Cork.”

Shaun has received accolades for his music video work in the past, having won an Irish Music Television Award for his video ‘Conspiracy’ for the band Echogram in 2011. He also had great success last year when his short film Uisce Beatha, written by and starring Tadhg Hickey, won the award for ‘Best In Cork’ at the Cork Film Festival. It has since been screened and nominated for awards at festivals around the world. Most recently, Shaun presented Uisce Beatha and two of his previous films at the Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival in Maine, USA.

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New Short Film From Award-Winning Cork Filmmaker Premieres This Week

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James Browne as ‘The Man In Black’ in a scene shot in the School of Medicine, University College Cork.

 

Award-winning Cork director Shaun O’ Connor will be presenting the premiere screening of his new short film Rest My Bones on Friday June 14th in Studio 5108, Monahan Rd Business Park, Monahan Rd in Cork City.

Rest My Bones was made with the financial assistance of the Arts Division of the Cork City Council and is an ambitious, all-Cork production. Scenes were shot at Dennehy’s Bar on Cornmarket St, The Boardwalk Bar on Lapp’s Quay and University College Cork. The shoot also involved a complex night scene at the picturesque Curraghbinny Woods, close to Carrigaline.

The film stars Frank Prendergast as Jim, an ex-alcoholic who, after losing his job, makes the fateful decision to order a whiskey. But before he can drink it, a stranger at the bar tells him a dark tale that might just change his mind…

Rest My Bones also stars James Browne, Charlie Ruxton, Rupert Stutchbury and a host of other local actors.

Director Shaun O’ Connor had great success last year when his short film Uisce Beatha, written by and starring Tadhg Hickey, won the award for ‘Best In Cork’ at the Cork Film Festival. It has since been screened and nominated for awards at festivals around the world.

Most recently, Shaun presented Uisce Beatha and two of his previous films at the Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival in Maine, USA.

Rest My Bones will have its premiere Cork screening at 8pm, June 14th at Studio 5108, Monaghan Business Park, Monaghan Road. The screening is free and open to the the public.

Shaun said:

“I am very excited to premiere ‘Rest My Bones’. Everyone involved did a huge amount of work and I think that it showcases Cork filmmaking talent in every stage of production, from the actors through to lighting, music and editing. I look forward to sending the film to festivals around the world and hope that it will do very well on the international stage.”

Shaun’s previous work can viewed on his website at: www.shaunoconnor.com

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Cork Filmmakers Rack Up Six Screenings at Two American Festivals

 Uisce-Beatha-Irish-Short-Film

Director Shaun O’ Connor and writer / actor Tadhg Hickey are currently gaining lots of exposure on the American festival circuit, with six of their films screening at two festivals.

At the recent Chicago Irish Film Festival, their short films Mutt, Rint and Uisce Beatha were shown, and Uisce Beatha took home the Third Place Festival Award.

 

www.chicagoirishfilmfestival.com

 

And next weekend, three of their films (Nietzsche No. 5, Rint’ and Uisce Beatha) will also screen at Maine’s biggest annual film event, the Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival, which takes place from the 4th – 7th April.

 

http://lafilmfestival.org/

 

Their films (all made independently and without funding) have also received no less than three award nominations at the festival:

 

Uisce Beatha for Best Short Film

Shaun O’ Connor for Best Director (‘Uisce Beatha’) and

Rint for the People’s Choice Award

 

Shaun will be travelling to the festival to do a Q&A, following the screening of the short films.

 

Produced by Aideen Wylde, Uisce Beatha has proven to be an audience favourite at festivals. It won the ‘Made In Cork’ award at the Cork Film Festival 2012, and has gone on to receive various screenings, nominations and awards at:

Boston Film Festival 2012

Chicago Irish Film Festival 2013

Healdsburg International Film Festival 2012

San Francisco Irish Film Festival 2012

 

Kerry Film Festival 2012

Waterford Film Festival 2012

Ford ’8 Minutes’ competition 2012

Dare Media Underground Short Film Festival 2012

Underground Cinema Film Festival 2012

 

Shaun has just finished post-production on his new short film Rest My Bones, which was made with the financial assistance of the Cork City Council Arts Division.

Tadhg Hickey and Aideen Wylde are currently working on their new play with their theatre production company ‘Cheery Wild’. Tadhg also has a new sitcom script in development.

 

Shaun and Tadhg’s previous short films are available to watch at: www.shaunoconnor.com

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