In 2012, the Arts Council celebrated 60 years of supporting the arts with a series of exhibitions titled ‘Into the Light – 60 Years of Supporting the Arts’ held in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Sligo. The exhibitions consisted of works selected from over 1,000 pieces which make up the Arts Council collection.
To mark the occasion, the Arts Council and RTÉ supported the making of four short films which respond creatively to the collection.
One of the short films, A Prevailing Wind, combines archive footage with contemporary music performance to celebrate the developing value of art in Ireland over the past 60 years, and the strength of the shoulders that we all now stand on.
“We went to the cinema after the interview. It was a Monday afternoon, and we were treating ourselves for having got shortlisted at all. So the voicemail when we came out saying ‘it’s a yes’ was a treat indeed.
“Then the realisation of the project we now had ahead of us – celebrating 60 years of Irish contemporary art, using archive footage and filmed improvised musical response. All in 3 short minutes. To be delivered in one month. Goodbye quiet evenings.
“The music side went swimmingly. With Donal at the tone helm, Hector painting with the projector and Myles behind the lens, it was a special capturing of some very beautiful music, improvised with a real sense of ease and knowledge by three of the top of the class; Seán Mac Erlaine, Caoimhín O Rathallaigh and Maitiú O Casaide.
“Meanwhile the archive. I think it was 12 DVDs that we took out of the RTÉ libraries. A week of manic stitching and re-stitching followed. Watching and scrapping, squeezing and tightening, carving a re-carving. And that was just the rough-cut.
“The finished result could probably have emerged 50 different ways, but even through the over-tiredness and over-exposure I still do like this one – the pride it instills and the nod it gives to the strength of the shoulders that we all stand on.”
Ronan and Rob Burke’s 2009 short film Runners stars Mark Butler, Aaron O’Toole, Siobhan Shanahan and Aidan Gillen, and won the IFTA for Short Film at the 7th Annual Irish Film & Television Awards in 2010.
Looking back on the film Ronan Burke told Film Ireland that “Runners was made as part of the IFB’s Signatures scheme. It’s a raw snap shot of a couple of days in the life of a young man called Derek who has come to a crossroads. He’s been operating as a low-level drug runner for a local low life and while he’s not particularly adept at this occupation he doesn’t see many other options available to him. His parents seem ill-equipped to give him guidance in this regard and the vacuum is filled by the wrong type of people. Ironically, Derek is concerned about the fate of his younger brother and tries his best to provide him with some kind of guidance – almost as if he knows that while it may be too late for him, his brother still has a chance.
“The screenplay was written by Pierce Ryan and what we found interesting about it was that. although this kind of situation is often self perpetuating. there was a ray of hope in the fact that Derek had a degree of self awareness and concern for his brother’s future. And there was a sadness in the fact that an eighteen year old would consider themselves beyond having a bright future.”
James Farrell lives in Rathnally Co. Meath. He’s a farmer and shares his house with his cats. Ciarán Deeney’s 2008 film, God and Napoleon, is a portrait of James, a religious man and an outsider in his community.
Speaking to Film Ireland about his short film, Ciarán said:
“God and Napoleon is a few years old. It came about through a chance meeting with a cattle dealer in County Meath who introduced me to Jimmy, the subject of the film. The big picture was that I was researching a documentary about farmers who lived on their own. Unfortunately that big picture project never came about but happily God and Napoleon became the smaller picture.
“Once I was introduced to James, I knew he had an interesting voice and decided to spend a few days with him on his farm. It was very pressure-free, just me, him and a camera, nice and simple. We just chatted and I observed. I recorded directly to a laptop (cards were out of my budget back in those heady days) and I think that feeds into the sort of unmanned feel which I liked.
“As with all documentaries, the footage lay on a hard-drive for a while as I figured it out in my head. I did suggest to James that I come down with a bigger crew and do something a bit more ambitious but he was having none of that. He had said his bit and that was that which I understood.
“The film was edited quite quickly once it was decided that there would be no more filming. I put it out there into festivals with no great goal of conquering the world, just finding a few ears. It has connected with people, mostly Irish people, and there’s been some got some really great feedback from it, which has been warming.
“I haven’t heard from Jimmy in a while now but he did ring me out of the blue maybe a year or two after finishing the film. He was wondering if he could come over to my place for Christmas dinner. I was on the spot and on reflection I think he sort of was testing me, seeing if I was a real friend perhaps. It crushed me to say no as it just wasn’t possible. I think subjects of documentaries tend to be passing friends unfortunately, people to enjoy in the moment and that’s that.”
Tríd an Stoirm (Through the Storm) is Fred Burdy’s 2012 animated seven-minute short film created in Windmill Lane Pictures in Dublin, starring Katie McGrath.
It tells the story of a young woman trying to bring her drowned husband back from the dead.
For that, she’ll face a Banshee and will go on a harrowing journey into the Otherworld.
Speaking to Film Ireland Fred Burdy said, “I am French and moved to Ireland in early 2011 to work in Windmill Lane Pictures as a CG Artist. I always tried to write a nice story to tell and Ireland inspired me to look into the traditional Irish myths. I chose the Banshee as a classical Irish character but decided to take a lot of liberties with the Otherworld itself.
“The script of Tríd an Stoirm was written in my spare time and visually conceptualized in the beginning of 2011 and funded by the Irish Film Board. Sean McGrath agreed to produce the film and was an amazing help getting this done.
“This project was a huge team effort -140 full CG shots – and it was wonderful to work with everyone involved, with the support of Windmill Lane.
“The actress Katie McGrath was amazing – she was cast originally for the young woman part but really wanted to play the Banshee! So we tried her for both voices and it actually worked amazingly well.
“The festival run proved successful, the film was shown around the world and won four awards for Best Animation – oddly enough, all in different parts of the United States.
“It was a great project to work on, and we hope it will be enjoyed by many. I am really thankful to the Irish Film Board for funding us, and for the involvement of everyone in Windmill Lane. I really felt welcome in this country that I now call home!”
Ivan McMahon’s 2010 short film TV Dinner is a darkly comic musing on mankind’s somewhat dubious position at the top of the food chain.
Speaking to Film Ireland, Ivan recalls how the film came to be:
“TV Dinner was funded under the Irish Film Board’s Virtual Cinema scheme with a view to creating short projects suitable for online distribution. The simple concept for this sketch was inspired by our three year old son Robert who, one morning, jumped on the bed and announced that he had had a strange dream about a shark jumping out of the TV to eat him.
“We developed the idea from there, exploring mankind’s somewhat dubious position at the top of the food chain, contrasting the Great White shark as apex predator with the ‘Great White’ human who has devolved from primordial hunter to passive consumer.
“In essence TV Dinner is a fun cautionary tale inspired by a child’s dream.”
DIRECTOR /PRODUCER: Ivan McMahon
SCRIPT: Molly O’Driscoll
Declan Cassidy’s Veronique (2009) introduces us to Darren, a man who loves his new simulated-personality in-car computer system Veronique. And not in a particularly platonic way. However, he finds virtual love has limitations when he takes his new girlfriend up lovers lane late one night…
Looking back at making the film, Declan told Film Ireland :
“Veronique presented a series of challenges for me. I usually direct my own scripts but this one was written by my producer, Bill Tyson. The film was funded under the Irish Film Board’s “Virtual Cinema” scheme which provided a tiny budget for quite an ambitious project involving CGIs, complex driving scenes and multiple locations.
“Shooting the film involved car clamps for driving shots and some acrobatics on the part of our DP Shane Tobin to capture the strange angles that show us ‘Veronique’s point of view. The main artistic challenges, however, came in post production. The plot revolves around a guy falling for his sexy new ‘satnav’ – the Veronique of the title. It was essential, therefore, to come up with something that might feasibly be a satellite navigation system with an attractive look and personality. I got Australian actress Martha Christie on board. I filmed her saying all of her lines and then used stills from that footage in Photoshop to create ‘Veronique’. I also played with colour saturation to help move the film from its cheery beginning to its dark conclusion.
“While Veronique is a tongue-in-cheek black comedy, it does make a valid comment, I feel, on our growing love affair with technology.”
DIRECTOR: Declan Cassidy
PRODUCER/SCRIPT: Bill Tyson
Based on the Short Story by Bryan McMahon, A Woman’s Hair (2005) is set in Corcoran’s Bar at the end of the 1950s. Eight-year-old Elaine is sent away from home when her mother dies. Returning to the bar several years later she discovers things have changed.
The film’s director Conor McDermottroe told Film Ireland that the idea for the short film came to him via the producer Kate Bowe:
“Kate asked me to read it way back when. She loved the story and thought it would make a great short film. At that stage I was still acting and had no real desires to write and or direct. However, I thought the story was beautiful and I urged Kate to push forward with it, and that I would do anything I could to help.
“It was a few years later when I got my skates on with writing and directing; I had two shorts on my CV and was pushing forward with a feature screenplay I had written. I knew that before I would get the go-ahead to make a feature I’d need to prove myself with as much directing work as possible. I was aware of the scheme that Bord Scannan na hEireann/the Irish Film Board and RTÉ was running and remember thinking that A Woman’s Hair would fit the bill. Immediately I contacted Kate asking if anything had ever happened with the story she loved so much. Thankfully nothing had. I pitched myself for the job, got a yes, and started adapting straight away.
“Soon after we signed off on the screenplay, and put our application into the IFB and RTÉ. We got the funding and early in 2005 we shot the film. Our main location was a shed in a field in Kildare and we used The Gravediggers in Drumcondra for the pub interiors.
“I’m very proud of the film, all the cast are terrific but young Orlaith Donnelly has to be singled out. One of the happiest evenings of my career thus far, was after winning Best Film at the Venice International Short Film Festival, and with the award for Best Film under my oxter, Kate and I went for a grand tour of the Venice late night establishments.”
DIRECTOR/ SCRIPT: Conor McDermottroe (Based on the Short Story by Bryan McMahon) PRODUCERS: Kate Bowe, Marina Hughes PRODUCTION COMPANY: KT Films
In Admit One, a dancer confronts a cinema. The film uses the energy of modern dance to examine cinema as passive escapism. The dancer – at first active and then reduced to an image captured on a cinema screen – is contrasted with the rigid awkwardness of the cinema audience.
Director Steven Woods spoke to Film Ireland about his 2010 short film: “Admit One is a Dance Film. It is experimental with some stop motion and is non-narrative. However it does communicate – in the primal way as only dance can do.
In it a dancer journeys through a cinema. As he enters the foyer, lights come on and the dancer reacts as if he is caught up in a net. The cinema too reacts, chairs and tables swirl and move. The dancer is captured and transferred to the cinema screen from where there is no escape.
The elemental energy of modern dance – now on the cinema’s screen is contrasted against the rigid awkwardness of the audience watching. But as always art finds a way and at least one member of the audience has been affected.”
Admit One was part of the “Dance on the Box” scheme commissioned by the Art’s Council and RTÉ.