Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2019: Irish Talent: New Shorts 1: Documentary 

Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah)

Seán Crosson took in a selection of  documentary shorts at this year’s Fleadh, featuring works from both established and debut directors, showcasing the best of Irish talent. 

A key component of the Galway Film Fleadh’s focus on new and emerging talent is the series of short programmes featured across the festival. In total there were nine sessions dedicated to shorts at the Fleadh, covering documentary, fiction, and animation and as always the organisers deserve great credit for the focus and space they allocate to young Irish filmmakers in the programme. 

The films included in the first programme covered a wide range of topics from reflections on Irishness, to profile pieces, and considerations of aspects of the natural world.

El Hor

The programme began with the visually stunning and evocative El Hor directed by Dianne Lucille Campbell. Inspired by the beautiful Saluki dog, the film combines mythology, nature imagery, and dynamic cinematography, with otherworldly musical accompaniment. In the surreal landscapes and images created, the film is reminiscent of Maya Deren’s work, but also in its imagining of the world from the perspective of the animals featured, the work of Stan Brakhage. Overall Campbell has produced an extraordinary cacophony of sound and image, impossible to categorise but rather oddly included in a section dedicated to short documentaries; this was a work much closer in form to experimental film.

Our Land

More in keeping with documentary form was Eoin Harnett’s Our Land, an impressively realised reflection on what makes Ireland distinctive. Featuring seven contributors, each of whom provide engaging, humorous and at times insightful commentary on the topic, the documentary was excellently paced, moving effectively between its contributors and supporting footage from the streets of Galway.

Recommend Rapper

The subsequent films Recommend Rapper (Caoimhin Coffey) and Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah) (Gerard Walsh) each provided profiles of intriguing characters from Galway. Recommend Rapper focuses on would-be rapper Danny Rock from Kinvara in Galway and his efforts to produce his first music video. While generally well produced, there is an uneasy tension (never entirely resolved) evident in this work between the director’s concern to sympathetically portray the subject and Rock becoming himself a figure of fun. Farmer Michael concerns the man (Steven Timothy) behind the comic character in the film’s title who has achieved a considerable following in recent years for his entertaining and idiosyncratic YouTube videos. This is an entertaining and at times moving account of the challenges Timothy has faced in his life. However, it is also a somewhat unbalanced piece that would have benefited from either a longer profile to accommodate the tonal changes apparent or a more focused production. 

Squared Circle

Squared Circle is an interesting chronicle of a group of wrestlers setting up and performing  on Waterford promenade, accompanied by an evocative commentary of the events concerned, written by Dublin-based wrestling promoter Simon Rochford, and recited by actor Ger Carey. In its day-in-a-life structure, the documentary is an informative account of the wrestlers featured and the effort involved in the events they organise and participate in.

Making Tom

Big Tom McBride was a legendary figure in Irish country music, above all for people from his native Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan. Táine King and Lorraine Higgins’ Making Tom is a sensitively produced study of the making of a statue to commemorate the country and Irish legend, and the impact of its unveiling on residents of his home town.

Pigeons of Discontent

The final documentary featured in this programme was Paddy Cahill’s Pigeons of Discontent – this was amongst the strongest works featured in this section, imaginatively engaging with the divided opinions among local residents of Stoneybatter in Dublin city towards the large number of pigeons that gather in the area. Cahill rightly chooses to focus his camera almost entirely on the pigeons themselves and the, at times, striking and beautiful shapes they create in flight, accompanied by comments (both positive and negative) from those who share Stoneybatter with them. 

Seán Crosson

 

The Irish Talent: New Shorts 1: Documentary programme screened 10th July as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July).

 

 

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Short Film Review: Stephanie

David Deignan takes a look at Fergal Costello’s short horror film Stephanie starring Moe Dunford. 

Moe Dunford must be the busiest actor in Ireland right now. He has five feature films releasing this year – including a magnetic turn in Paddy Breathnach’s recent Rosie – in addition to significant parts in two TV series and, now, the leading role in Stephanie, the frenetic new horror short from writer/director Fergal Costello.

Stephanie is an ambitious, deliberately ambiguous story which wrenches the viewer by the collar and refuses to let go from the first frame to the last. The narrative begins with Joe (Dunford) determinately struggling to protect the titular character, portrayed by Aoife Spratt, from the murderous intentions of Walsh (Joe Rooney). As tensions quickly escalate between the trio, it soon becomes clear that the secretive Stephanie is not all that she seems to be.

The abrupt opening quickly cultivates a tantalising sense of mystery: it doesn’t waste a second on exposition, instead preferring to drop the viewer without warning straight into the middle of the conflict. Violence looms like an ugly shadow throughout the opening sequences, threatening to burst to the fore at any moment. Costello’s clever script subtly balances the reveal of important information with intentional misdirection early on.

The film clocks in at just under 9 minutes in length and is impressively shot in one uninterrupted take. Costello’s staging is confident and plays out seamlessly while Philip Blake and Padraic Conaty deserve props for their work on the cinematography. The camera weaves its way dynamically around the characters on screen, reacting imaginatively to plot developments as they play out. Its eye is often trained on Dunford and he doesn’t miss a beat, ensuring that the internal rhythm plays out smoothly.

Mark Murphy’s pulsating musical score works well, plunging and escalating sharply as the action does. It comes to a crescendo in the third act, as the intensity increases, and contributes importantly to the film’s all-action finale.

The narrative’s initial hook is enticing and the opening minutes deftly draw the viewer into the story, with the early exchanges engrossing. But it falters somewhat in its second half, when it runs out of reveals and the execution of a key sequence becomes a bit messy, the film becoming caught up in its own franticity. The ambition on show, however, is undoubtedly admirable and the overall technical prowess on show serves to smooth over the plot’s weak points.

Stephanie feels like a sequence cut from a larger concept. While this is a testament to the world being built by Costello and crew, it also stops the story from fully resonating in its current form. It’s a shame – considering how effectively it starts – but this is still an enjoyable, stylishly executed short that’s well worth watching. And, with the director’s website listing his next project as a debut feature currently called Untitled Awesome Horror Film, I’d hope to see more of this story on screen soon. Lord knows Dunford could use the work.

 

fergalcostellofilm.com

Fergal Costello on Vimeo

 

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Call For: SHORT STORIES Submissions

 

The Irish Film Board are acceptong submissions for SHORT STORIES, which invites filmmakers to use their imagination, creative story-telling and visual talent to excite audiences with succinct, inspiring and even entertaining films.

SHORT STORIES are live-action or animated fiction films between 2 to 5 minutes in length and have a budget of €20K.

Films may be made in the English or Irish language. If produced in the Irish language, subtitling will be necessary for festivals and sales worldwide.

The deadline is 1pm Friday 23rd March.

Parameters of the Scheme

– Number of films:                  Up to 4 per year

– Duration:                               2-5 minutes maximum

– Budget per film:*                Maximum €20,000
– Delivery:                               DCP, Prores, BluRay

The application budget should reflect costs for delivery as above and subtitling if applicable.

 

Further Details at

https://www.irishfilmboard.ie/funding/short-film-schemes/short-stories

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2018/01/05/festivals-funding-schemes-deadlines-2015/

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Kate Dolan: Little Doll

Kate Dolan tells Film Ireland how she wants to change people’s perspectives with her film Little Doll.

 

I first wrote the script for Little Doll in 2013. I was thinking a lot about my first crush on a girl in my class when I was about 7. I remember not really understanding my feelings at the time, but that was definitely the beginning of my journey as an LGBTQ person. So, I began to wonder when other people may have had their first inkling that they may be attracted to someone of the same-sex. I surveyed some of my LGBTQ friends and I was astounded that most people had feelings like this from as early as 4 years old. I thought that it was strange that I hadn’t seen any films that depicted this particular time in your life and so I started writing.

I was unsuccessful with many funding applications. I am unsure why, perhaps the content was a little bit too risqué for some people or maybe it just wasn’t what people were interested in at the time. I was about to give up hope when I got turned down for about the…6th time, when I decided to apply for Berlinale Talents 2014. They had a Short Film Script station there and to my surprise Little Doll and myself were in. There I was paired with a mentor who gave me lots of great notes, it was an amazing experience and most importantly it made me feel like the film was good and should be made. So when I got back I asked my friend from college Claire Nolan if she would produce it.

We set up an IndieGoGo campaign after another couple rejections from short film funding bodies, and we raised 3000 euro altogether. It wasn’t a lot considering it needed to be a 4-day shoot with a Toy Shop location, a school, and “two” houses technically. Luckily, at the time, Claire lived in a huge house where we shot all the house interiors, and a friend of mine worked at an Educate Together school and they were really eager to help after reading the script. We were surprised that we managed to get Toymaster on Mary Street to allow us to shoot there after hours – that was a really fun night actually all us got a bit giddy running around a Toyshop at 10pm. We went into production in early 2015.

Casting was great fun but also quite tough. The girls we did cast were amazing and so relaxed, and had no qualms about the content of the film. However, due to the content of the film some drama schools refused to even send the script out to parents. One girl also dropped out in the final stages of casting because she was afraid that her friends would think she was gay if they saw her in the film. Things like that were disheartening and made me sad at first but then I remembered – that’s why we are making this film, to change people’s perspectives.

We had an amazing crew all of whom gave their time absolutely free. I think again it was a belief that it was a special film with an important message that drove a lot of people to help us out. My long-time collaborator Philip Blake shot it on his RED (that he luckily had recently acquired), another IADT graduate Kevin Corry edited it over a very long 2015 summer, meeting up on weekends when we weren’t working. Also Steve Lynch, a composer I had worked with on some commercials at the time, said he would score the film for free. It is so encouraging when people want to give their time and creativity to a project like that free of charge. It makes you feel like “Yeah, this is a great film!”

We were really lucky to have our premiere at Berlinale 2016. They were really happy to have a Talent Alumni back and the festival opened loads of doors to us. We didn’t really have to pay submission fees to festivals because once you’re in Berlinale, festivals just ask you for screeners. It was quite a trip, going from being rejected constantly to now getting asked to screen at festivals all over the world.

Overall there are a lot of things I wish we could have done differently, our hands were tied with budget, time, etc. – but I forget all that when somebody comes up to me at a festival and tells me that the film has affected them in a positive way. I have had some parents come up to me and say that they want to open up a dialogue with their children about what it means to be LGBT.

Little Doll was a very personal project to me and I am so grateful to all the people along the way who believed in it enough to give their time to see it to fruition – otherwise it would still be an old Celtx file saved in an “Ideas” folder somewhere on my laptop.

 

 

Little Doll screens at IndieCork in Programme 1 of the Irish Shorts selection @ 12.00pm on Friday, 13th October 2017.  

IndieCork runs from 8 – 15 October 2017

 

 

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Nathan Fagan, Director of ‘Hum’

 

Director Nathan Fagan talks to Film Ireland about his film Hum, an intimate portrait of artist and singer-songwriter, Kevin Nolan, which recently won the inaugural Guth Gafa Short Lens competition.

 

How did the project come about for you?

I first learned about Kevin Nolan from an article he wrote in The Irish Times. He discussed the challenges he has faced as a result of his diagnosis with schizo-affective disorder and how writing and performing music has helped him through some seriously dark times. I just remember being fascinated by his story and music and so I got in touch with him shortly after.

Initially, I’d been considering trying to do a radio documentary on Kevin and his music. After our first meeting, he invited me along to a performance he was giving as part of the ‘First Fortnight’ festival, at St. Patrick’s hospital, where he’s been a service user in the past. I remember watching him walk on stage, quietly sit down in front of a keyboard, and launch into this unbelievably powerful and theatrical performance of one of his songs, ‘Drowning’. By the end of the song, I’d pretty much decided to try and make a film about him.

 

Can you describe your relationship with Kevin over the filming period?

Before we started shooting anything, Kevin and myself spent quite a bit of time together just having conversations about anything and everything. We actually share a lot of the same interests in books, art and music. So, by the time we actually introduced a camera into the situation, we were both fairly used to each other’s company.

Although the film is only 19 minutes, we actually shot it over the course of about a year, with considerable breaks in between shoot days. Initially, I think Kevin was probably surprised at how much time it takes to get enough material for a documentary. I think there were definitely times where he wanted to get back to making music without having us hanging around filming him. It was worth it in the end, however.

 

How was it for you to witness Kevin’s creative process at work?

His creative process is fascinating. He works unbelievably hard at his art – treating it like a 9 to 5 essentially – but his productivity is often interrupted by his illness.

During the writing of his debut album,’Fredrick and the Golden Dawn’, he developed this routine for himself. He would wake up around 4 or 5 am, put on a full suit, and then sit down at his desk for the entire day creating songs. This went on for close to eight years – with breaks in between where his illness might become problematic or unmanageable and he might need to spend some time in the hospital.

If you listen to the album, there’s everything on there: piano, bass, electric guitar, drums, saxophone, xlyophone, organ, cello – even the musical saw. He taught himself – over the years – how to play many of these instruments himself, so as to be able to write and record the kinds of songs he wanted to make.

He also appears to draw on very eclectic sources for inspiration: poetry philosophy, folk tales, cowboy novels, dreams.

 

What was it like filming the live performances?

Shooting these performances was definitely a bit of a challenge. Before making this documentary, I knew next to nothing about capturing audio for live music. Foolishly, I think I just assumed it was similar to capturing regular location sound. I didn’t realise the level of expertise and experience necessary to capture high-quality audio like this. Luckily, however, we had the help of two people: Caimin Agnew, who did an unbelievable job capturing sound for the performances, and Christopher Barry, who allowed us to raid equipment from his recording studio for the day and provided some extra guidance during the shoot.

As always, Kevin delivered some incredibly powerful performances that day. Experiencing him live really is something to behold. It’s amazing to watch how Kevin transforms from this bookish, somewhat soft-spoken man into this amazingly theatrical, almost bombastic persona when he gets on stage.

I was also very lucky to get our DoP, Simon O’Neill, on-board at this stage. He really went above and beyond to help us capture the energy and uniqueness of Kevin’s performances on the day.

 

Did making the film have any impact on your understanding of mental illness?

Making the film has definitely changed my understanding of mental illness. Before making it, I only had a basic understanding of conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizo-affective disorder. Not only that, but my understanding of these conditions would have been largely gleaned from the media or popular culture.

I think there’s a tendency to sensationalise people living with these conditions in Hollywood movies, the media and popular culture. There’s a tendency to reduce individuals to their conditions and to ‘other’ them. The reality, of course, is much more complex and differs greatly from person to person. Individuals living with these conditions have full, rounded lives just like anyone else – with careers, families and relationships – but simply have the added challenge of maintaining their mental health.

I think Kevin – by being so open and honest about his experiences – can help shatter some of these misconceptions and offer a more nuanced understanding of what it’s like to live with a condition like this. That’s certainly one of the main goals of the film.

 

What was Kevin’s reaction to the film?

It’s been entirely positive – which is a massive relief. You never really know how people are going to react to seeing themselves on screen for the first time (I’m not sure how I’d react, to be honest) so that’s always an anxious experience.

We had our first official screening at the Guth Gafa festival just this month. I think Kevin was fairly nervous just before the screening – I certainly was, anyway – but it all went well. In fact, when they announced we had won the Short Lens competition and they wanted me to come up and answer a few questions, it was Kevin reassuring me, as I’m not really a fan of public speaking.

 

What are the plans for the film – screenings, etc…

We have another screening coming up at the end of this month, at the Still Voices film festival, in Longford. It’s also been selected for the Barcelona Short Film Festival and the Au Contraire Film Festival, in Montreal, who have kindly offered to fly myself and Kevin over to Montreal for the screening and provide us with accommodation. I also just received some exciting news from another festival abroad – which I’m not allowed to share just yet!

Other than that, we’re hoping some more festivals will screen it and really just to get it in front of as many people as possible.

 

You can find Kevin Nolan’s website here: https://www.kevinnolan.info/

Plus his critically-acclaimed first album can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/mrkevinnolan/sets/fredrick-the-golden-dawn-by

 

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Review of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh • New Irish Shorts 7: IFB World Premiere Shorts

Deirdre de Grae finds a lot to admire at the Irish Film Board World Premiere Short Films programme at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.

 

The Galway Film Fleadh is an important platform for Irish short film. Hundreds of short filmmaking crews and cast attend the festival each year, helping to create the unique Fleadh buzz. There is a symbiotic relationship between festival and short film, if one portion is removed, the other will not thrive. The Irish Film Board had the Fleadh shorts equivalent of a ‘prime time’ slot – 12 noon on Saturday – and the atmosphere was phenomenal. The world premieres screened to a full house, including excited cast and crew of the short films. Although the IFB shorts premiere is always busy, this year seemed more popular than ever, with tickets selling out weeks before the screening date. Potential audience members crowded the steps and foyer of the Town Hall Theatre, hoping to acquire last-minute cancellation tickets for the sold-out programme. Those of us who were lucky enough to have a ticket were kept entertained for the packed programme: eleven shorts were shown, comprising six animations and five live-actions films. The short films screened were funded from three Irish Film Board schemes: Short Stories (live action or animation, max. budget of €20,000), Frameworks (animation only, max. budget of €46,000), and Focus Shorts (replacing the Signatures fund, max. budget of €50,000). This year, the theme given for the ‘Short Stories’ fund was ‘Tribes’ – filmmakers were asked to create films exploring the type of tribe that fascinated them the most. The short films were introduced by James Hickey, Chief Executive of the IFB, who later announced their commitment to supporting female writers and directors in the film industry – read more here

 

Although the shorts in this programme were impressive overall, two films stood out and lingered long after the screenings were over:  Time Traveller, written and directed by Steve Kenny, and Late Afternoon, written and directed by Louise Bagnall, which was awarded ‘Best Animated Sequence in a Short Film’.

Late Afternoon, written and directed by Louise Bagnall (an animator on Song of the Sea), captures some very honest moments and emotions that are familiar to anyone who has an elderly relative. In this way, although located in Ireland, the film is absolutely universal. In her film, Louise allows us an insight into the memories of an elderly lady, ‘Emily’, acted wonderfully by Fionnula Flanagan. She shows us those moments when an elderly person may forget their age and once again relive their younger days, which often happens in the days before passing away. The memories represented are the gleeful moments Emily spent as a young girl, playing on the shore, falling in love – and the audience is swept into this joy with her. These memories are counteracted by the sadness of her current relationship with her daughter, who she no longer recognises. Louise’s film is definitely a ‘tear-jerker’ – possibly the most moving film I had seen all week, and I regretted wearing mascara that day!

Late Afternoon was produced by Nuala González Blanco at Cartoon Saloon.

 

 

Time Traveller, the first film funded under the new ‘Focus Shorts’ Irish Film Board scheme, was written and directed by Steve Kenny.

This was the best acting performance of the festival so far, that I had seen, by Tom Doran playing ‘Martin’, a young traveller boy.  Although billed as starring the excellent and convincing Barry Ward, newcomer Tom Doran as Martin steals the show. Martin is obsessed with Back to the Future and has built an impressive DeLorean replica (for a small boy) using scraps and an old banger. There are some hilarious moments when Martin, armed with a hammer, whacks the car gleefully and very convincingly – I suspect young Tom enjoyed shooting those scenes. The comedic timing and visuals are excellent in Time Traveller, there seems to be the happy mixture of a good script, great cast and fantastic editing, all coming together to make a great short film.  A lot of praise is due to the editor, Colin Campbell, who also edited Michael Inside and The Young Offenders (for which he was nominated for an IFTA) as well as many short films. The film has some more serious moments, involving an eviction, and touching on the inevitability of change and leaving things behind in life.  In this way, the film is both heartbreaking and heart warming.

Time Traveller was produced by Forty Foot Pictures

Short films screened in this programme:

Macarooned (dir. Alan Short & Seamus Malone), Neon (dir. Rioghnach Ní Ghrioghair), Where is Eva Hipsey (dir. Orla McHardy), An Island (dir. Rory Byrne), Nice Night for It (dir. Rachel Carey), Late Afternoon (dir. Louise Bagnall), A Different Kind of Day (dir. Maria Doyle Kennedy), Bellwether (dir. Caroline Campbell), Departure (dir. Aoife Doyle), Deposits (dir. Trevor Courtney), and Time Traveller (dir. Steve Kenny).

 

 

Awards:

Late Afternoon (dir. Louise Bagnall) won Best Animated Sequence in a Short Film. An Island (dir. Rory Byrne) won the James Horgan Award for Best Animation

 

 

 

New Irish Shorts 7: IFB World Premiere Shorts screened on Saturday, 15th July 2017, as part of the 29th Galway Film Fleadh (11–16 July 2017).

 

 

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Kevin de la Isla O’Neill, Director of ‘Acorn’

Kevin de la Isla O’Neill tells us about the seed that became the Acorn.

 

What can you tell us about the film?
It’s a sweet and fun story about a mum who gets called into the Principal’s office at her son Gregg’s school during nativity play rehearsals. She assumes it’s because he’s in trouble again and is ready to defend his actions, however the principal has something rather different to tell her about Gregg​ which leaves her completely gobsmacked.

How did you become involved in the project?
I entered the Filmbase Short-Shots scheme as a director back in Feb 2016. It’s where directors, writers and producers come together to create one of 4 films offered by RTÉ/Filmbase.

As a director in the scheme, I had to first find a script I liked through various methods. Among them, a Facebook group where people send and request scripts and also a few speed-dating events for writers and directors. So after an extensive selection process I came across Jonathan’s [Hughes] script and I found his sense of humour to be very in tune with my own. I contacted him and we got on great, so pitching the idea came naturally. After that, we had to find a producer that would serve the project best. So we approached Sharon Cronin [producer] with our ideas on the project and she happily came on board to make the perfect team complete.

Can you tell us a little about putting the cast together?
Casting Gregg was the most important at the beginning and we saw some boys who had a lot to offer. But we all thought Luke [Kerins] brought that something extra, a kind of ’knowing’ look in his eye. He was also​ a bit​ older than what​ we were looking for but looked young enough for the part, which I think worked in his favour as he did a fantastic job! For Barbara we always had Norma Sheahan in mind, and when approached, she happily came on board.

We went through many ideas for the mother and principal and we all had suggestions that would make the characters very different, but in the end we decided on Aideen Wylde and Aidan O’Hare, who were both comfortable with comedy and they worked incredibly well together, and really made the characters their own; a very unique take on the roles that we were thrilled with.

How involved was Jonathan in the filming process?
Jonathan was very involved from the beginning and whenever we had questions about the script or characters he was always on hand to help or advise, and to make changes where we needed to if things weren’t working. He travelled over from London where he was residing at the time and was on set for the filming days,​ so I think it was all really exciting to see his script come to life. It also helped when we needed to rejig things very quickly on set, to get his opinion on how the changes might make the characters react, etc.

Any particular challenges you faced on this production?
There were various types of challenges as there are with any production, whether it’s a short or a feature, working with a big crew or small, and then working with children and animals, etc. So sometimes it comes down to trying to get the most out of the budget and dealing with time restrictions or location limitations, etc. scheduling picks-ups with actors and crew.

Sharon is an extremely competent producer and organized everything with acute efficiency, which meant we had a more than capable team throughout production, so challenges were quickly addressed when faced with them.

Working with Director of Photography Richard Donnelly was also a great asset, as I had worked with him once before and we seem to speak a common language, so when faced with any challenges we would quickly find a creative solution to the problem at hand.

No matter the budget or scale of production, you always wish you had more time and budget. In this case we were fortunate to have Natasha Waugh as our 1stAD, so thanks to her shoot management we were able to get the most off our time on location.Some locations kept changing and, as the story takes place on a school, we had to wait for a holiday break from the school to be used in order to shoot there, as weekends would be too restrictive. Also due to location access, some scenes were cut and replaced by others.

As the film takes place during nativity play rehearsals, the costume and production design are hugely important as the costumes are very specific, specially for the children, but Ciara Coleman-Geany did a fantastic job creating these and then the set design was very prop heavy, but Jill Beecher, our set designer, looked after that extremely well too, from finding bits and pieces everywhere​,​ to creating​ a very​ Christmassy look​,​ to​ even​ building a full stage for the nativity play rehearsals​, as there was none at the location​.

At some stage we had a very visual scene in a swimming pool, but that proved too burdensome due to the time allowed at the location and the amount of time we had for the shoot as a whole.

There were​ a lot of VFX required, which​ were done in After Effects, that you probably wouldn’t even notice​ (and shouldn’t)​, which is a great thing if it doesn’t stand out of course. But it takes an incredible amount of time and patience to do those types of things especially when working to a deadline on a small budget​, etc. But it’s all part of the process and we want to make sure that the best possible version of this film is the one you see on screen at the end of the day. So all the challenges make it worth it.

You must be excited about Galway…
I am very excited about Galway as I feel we have a lovely little film with a lot of heart. I’m really looking forward to seeing the film on the big screen and hearing its 5.1 mix, which was done and designed by Mutiny post, ans the score, composed by Sarah Lynch, was performed by the RTE concert orchestra, thanks to the IMRO | RTÉ Scoring for Film Program, so it should be an amazing experience to see and to listen to.

It also has been a while since I’ve been in Galway as part of a film project in the programme, instead of in the market pitching, etc. So I’m really looking forward to getting to showcase our film, network and talk about the next projects in order​ to develop further and enjoy all that the Fleadh has to offer.

 

Acorn screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts 4 on Friday, 14th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 12.00.

Buy Tickets

The 29th Galway Film Fleadh runs 11 – 16 July 2017.

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Emma Eliza Regan, Writer/Director of ‘Wild Fire Nights’

Emma Eliza Regan

Emma Eliza Regan gives us a glimpse into the world of Wild Fire Nights, which screens at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

What can you tell us about Wild Fire Nights?

It’s a 17-minute contemporary drama, that centres around Lila – a deeply troubled and dysfunctional young woman, who tries to maintain an image for the world, but inside she’s crumbling and trying to numb the pain out. I’ve tried to reflect the inner world of young women today, all the grey areas that don’t ever get tapped into on Irish screens. The ‘selfie generation’ has created a situation where one’s validation only comes from her sex appeal – there’s severe consequences on the psyche of young women, which I could see around me every single day, as young as 14 up to 34. Anytime I looked at my phone, whether it was Facebook or Instagram, it was there, so I was trying to capture the real darkness and the massive psychological consequences of it all.

 

… and the title, Wild Fire Nights?

 The film was called ‘Unfiltered’ for a while, but the title Wild Fire Nights seemed to really depict the total destructiveness and utter waste… it expressed how one tiny situation can ignite something in us, that causes a series of events, that just spread fast and destroy everything in such an irrevocable way.

I called her Lila as it comes from the Hebrew word for ‘’Night’ and ‘Dark Girl’ – which was fitting for her.

 

How did the story come about for you? 

The character itself came from a night out – I was in a cubicle, and there were empty vodka and pregnancy tests thrown on the floor, and I guess that image was such a very dark juxtaposition that it stuck with me. Who was this girl, and how did she end up in here?  I also would see so many young women completely out of it and nobody really investigates that. I wanted to dig a bit deeper and see well what is going on in a young woman that she’d need to do that? What has happened? Most of these girls are just deeply hurt and trying to cope.

 

Wild Fire Nights

Were you planning to direct from the get-go?

Yes, I had such a clear vision of it that it just made sense. Also, I started to feel that directing was the one place where I could contribute something substantial – I was able to use my own voice, instead of offering just the little tiny box of my performance.  I was at the stage I wanted to move on from playing the school girls, and use my other capacities too and create my own work.

I suppose as a girl in my twenties myself, I felt I could write about certain topics and portray them in a way that’s totally authentic – so I just started writing what I saw and questioned around me.

 

What was it like directing your first short?

I really enjoyed the experience! It was hard work too, being responsible for so much, but I just rolled up my sleeves and kept going because I was so passionate about it and had fun times with the crew around me.  I’ve always been sort of observing and contributing ideas on every set I was on anyhow, I hang around on set watching what’s going on even after I’m wrapped… so it was a natural decision for me.  It was the post-production I needed to learn a lot, all those elements were new to me, so I took away a huge amount of lessons from the edit.

 

Hanging around on set

What experience as an actor did you bring to working behind the camera. 

Firstly, all a director needs to do is make sure the actor doesn’t feel like it’s acting… make it about not acting as much as possible. I was very in tune with them all anyhow, and gave them complete trust to keep the takes fresh and spontaneous. I knew from experience that if something doesn’t work, scrap it, it’s not working for a reason, change it around rather than stay there forcing and forcing a scene. I have been on sets where a director keeps forcing it, although it doesn’t feel right, so I was sharp in keeping each scene instinctive from my acting side of my brain. For an example, James Browne, who’s one of the most instinctive actors anyhow, I had him swinging around on bars of a boat as Lila tried to talk to him about her mother’s death, it was actually written as them sitting by the beach, but I knew I needed both that tension and lightness…. Also, the same with Dara Devaney, before his scene I gave him a bowl of porridge to be feeding the granny, that one tiny action told more about his character than any words could – so I used a lot of simple, authentic actions in a scene to click a performance into place.

 

Did you pick up a bag of tips from directors you have previously worked with?

Of course, I mean I was privileged to have that experience with very talented people, so of course it shaped me in some way. I did learn a huge amount about performance and film in general from Shimmy Marcus when I was in the Factory, he deconstructed everything from script to the edit to the performance, and taught me that it’s much about show rather than tell… Then on set,  I went with longer takes with certain actors, like Gerry (Mc Sorley) and David Murray, because I knew the level of experience they carried, and that those extra few seconds after the scene would be where they would just nail it, and I remember Ivan Kavanagh working with us in a similar way. Also, I personally think Brendan Muldowney is a phenomenal director, I love how he captures so much tenderness in the darkness of the subject matter –  so if I could have learnt anything at all from a director I worked with, that would be it.

 

You assembled a great cast. Can you tell us a little about this?

I had a very clear idea of who would work from the writing stage. I had worked nearly everyone with previously, except Gerard McSorley –  although we were both on Penance last year, we hadn’t any scenes together, but he is such a prolific actor, someone I admired for years on film, and he connected with the subject matter on a personal level, so he brought a lot of real and powerful truth to that scene. He had me in tears and it was still only on his close-ups, so that’s the strength and brilliance of his performance for you right there.

With James Browne and Dara Devaney, they were both actors that I did theatre with at the very start that I sort of just clicked with. Dara Devaney and I had worked in the Abbey and we became good pals, he’s got such a genuine and honest quality to him, and I knew our ease with each other that would come through on screen. He added a very warm and kind presence in the final scenes, and James Browne was also someone I met back at the very start. I did a version of A Midsummers Nights Dream when I was 17,  and then, earlier this year, I was in a screening of Lorcan Finnegan’s Without Name at ADIFF and he absolutely stole every scene. He has that exact mix of both elusiveness and danger, and he brought so much intensity to Flynn. He’s also going to be in Maze which screens at the Fleadh on Saturday night, so he’s gaining a real momentum in her career now, and think he’s only going to go from strength to strength.

With David Murray, we worked with one another on Jack Taylor – and again, was the first and only choice for the role –and he brought such an edge to that scene. I loved his performance in Amber. He’s a great voice, and had that mix of both masculinity and vulnerability it needed.

 

How did you find the role of producer?

Very full on, I have actually helped produced some projects over the last few years, so I wasn’t totally clueless. It was a huge amount of work with locations, insurance, health and safety, getting the whole crew together, catering, but my production designer, Steve Kingston, came board as a co-producer and helped me out with everything. So when we were both working together, we actually had a lot of fun in the process.

 

You must be excited to screen at Galway…

Yeah, it will be great to have a screening and finally see how people react to it.  It’s only the start for this film.

 

 

Wild Fire Nights screens at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh as part of New Irish Shorts: Way Out West programme on Wednesday, 12th July at the Radisson Blu Hotel at 2.30pm.

 

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Preview of Irish Film @ Galway Film Fleadh 2017

 

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