Dave Svedberg, Writer of ‘Caper

 

A film about two guys who want to blow a guy up but forget to bring a lighter.

Film Ireland nips out to the garage in the middle of a homicide to chat to writer Dave Svedberg about his short film, which screens at the Underground Cinema Film Festival.

 

The initial creative spark for Caper came from our producer Eoin Naughton. For years he’d been wanting to do something in his home town of Tullamore and a fantastic location he’d been sitting on, The Old Texas shopping centre, had just been scheduled to be sold and redeveloped. The upcoming Filmbase/Film Offaly short film award would prove the last opportunity he’d have to actually use it. It was incredibly good fortune that at this time I was desperately struggling for ideas. I reached out to Eoin on the off chance that he might have something to work with inspiration wise and was astounded when he got back to me in under two minutes with a rake of photos from this beautifully dilapidated shopping centre.

 

I’m a firm believer in writing about what you know ,which is unusual because I’m admittedly a mild-mannered man from a relatively nice area who decided to do a short about hardened gangsters trying to explode someone. Ultimately though, Caper‘s really not a short about gangsters or explosions, I wrote it in a more or less improvised way with no ending in sight and the whole ‘trying-to-find-a-lighter’ plotpoint wound up dominating the whole film. Everyone’s had one of those nightmare days where trying to accomplish a mundane task just utterly cripples you with a string of bad luck, and it’s that relatable sense of unrelenting failure and adversity in the face of something trivial that informs the film’s humour. It’s not really a parody or subversion of the gangster genre, it’s just a comedy of errors in which people just happen to be hired murderers and thieves.

 

I wrote the film quite pragmatically, cutting out anything too expensive or intimidatingly complicated to the film that might scare off potential directors. Much to my delight, once director Brian O’Neill got on board, his first piece of feedback was that these elements needed to be added back in. It wasn’t that I had told him that these things were originally there and now missing, he had independently arrived at the same conclusions I had, and then repeated them back to me. As someone who’s cautious about handing my work over to other people, this solidified instantly that we were on the same page and I’d picked the right man for job.

 

The only issue we butted heads over during the course of re-writing was the relatability of our characters. With a black comedy it’s quite difficult to strike that perfect balance where someone’s awfulness is just excessive enough to be humorous but not so bad as to become loathsome. The issue resolved itself once the film was cast. There’s just something inherently likeable about Johnny Elliot and Peter O’Byrne that allows the audience to let them away with anything, while Brian Fortune brought a perfect mix of menace and humour to the film’s more villainous role.

 

Production was an absolute breeze on account of the community being 100% behind us. We paid no fees for any of our locations, and got astounding rates for the construction of our film’s hero prop, a towering cast-iron safe from All Set Scenery. We fit our entire crew into the Central Hotel in Tullamore, again at a generously reduced rate, which added a great sense of community and camaraderie between the crew’s 50/50 mix of industry professionals and eager up-and-comers, as it turned the three days into an ongoing experience rather than just a job that people clocked in and out of. The town even put up a screening with an open invitation to encourage the locality to take an interest in local filmmaking. Caper owes just as much of what it is to where it was filmed as it does to the people who filmed it.

 

The film really came together in post, Brian was editor as well as director, which meant that none of J.J. Rolfe, our incredibly talented D0P’s work was wasted on the cutting-room floor. Paul Bushe’s colour grading combined with Kevin O’Brien’s light jazzy score gave the film a wonderful noir aesthetic that perfectly accentuates the film’s old-school slapstick vibe.

 

I am insanely grateful to everyone mentioned above, as well as the rest of the cast and crew, for making this film what it is. We’ve had a wonderful festival run, which will be culminating this Saturday at the Underground Cinema Festival in Dun Laoghaire where I hope people have as much fun watching it as we all did making it.

 

Caper screens as part of the shorts programme on Saturday, 2nd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 

 

Buy tickets here 

 

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

 

 
 
Caper is up for 5 awards at this year’s Underground Cinema AwardsBest Comedy – Directed by Brian O’Neill 

Best Supporting Actor – Peter O’Byrne

Best Editor – Brian O’Neill 

Best Sound – Arran Faye 

Best Score – Kevin O’Brien

 

 

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Stephen Clarke Dunne: How We Made ‘Thank You Come Again’

Director Stephen Clarke Dunne takes us into the world of adult shops in Thank You Come Again, which screens at the Underground Cinema Film Festival.

Thank You Come Again is a feature-length drama comedy day-in-the-life type story with a mosaic of seemingly unrelated characters centered around an adult shop. Dillon, Mary and Fergus have a life-changing decision to make as a ruthless diamond smuggler comes to realize their precious inventory has gone missing. Meanwhile, Harry has one last chance at getting that one last job to see him to retirement, Fr. Francis has to decide which passion he must follow in life, Lisa goes looking for her missing husband James – who likes a good refund, Fr. Rejoice has serious concerns about his young understudy who is spending too much time with a certain ‘local parishioner’, Naomi has to balance dating an adult-shop owner with working for a psychotic boss, and Bridget has to keep bringing her dear son Timmy to confession cause he can’t seem to keep himself out of a certain shop of sin.

The idea came about completely randomly as myself and John Sweeney [co-writer] were walking through the city one day. As we walked past an adult shop on the way to shoot a scene for John’s showreel we both turned to each other with the same thought in mind – wouldn’t it be hilarious if we set a film inside of one of those kooky-looking adult shops! Later that evening we had come up with the story and most of the characters in the film. As we discussed how to sum up the film in a one sentence we came up with the tag line there and then: “A Porn Shop, Priests and Blood Diamonds… What Could Possibly Go Right!?” The film was mostly self-funded by myself and John with Fingal County Council providing funding towards post-production.

Along the way, we encountered our greatest hurdle – tragically our wonderful cast member and great friend Steve Harris was killed in a workplace accident. With almost half the film still to be shot, and Steve Harris due to be in most of it, it looked as if the project was finished. Myself and John Sweeney talked about it and decided we wanted to finish the film after all the hard work everyone had put in, and especially for Steve. We managed to re-write large chunks of the remaining film and somehow got the film finished. The film is now dedicated to Steve Harris and his brother Alan who also died in the accident.

The cast and crew are really looking forward to the Irish premiere of Thank You Come Again after three and a half years of hard work against all the odds. To top it off, we have been selected as the closing film.

 

Thank You Come Again screens on Sunday, 3rd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 

 

Buy tickets here 

 

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.
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Emma Carlsson & Aisling O’Halloran, Producers of ‘The Randomer’

 

Film Ireland talks modern love with producers Emma Carlsson and Aisling O’Halloran of The Randomer, which screens at the Underground Cinema Film Festival.

Produced by the Filmbase Masters in Digital Feature Film Production Programme, The Randomer introduces us to Meg, who is trying to find a way to be a mother on her own terms. Co-producer Emma Carlsson begins by explaining how the Filmbase Masters programme prepared the students for making a feature film. “Everyday you’d have a masterclass where professionals would come in and talk about their profession. Mix that in with a lot of practical assignments where you get to try different roles within the crew, and voilà – you’re as ready as you will be! With film you learn best by doing, so I’d say the best way to prepare yourself/teach yourself how to make a feature film is to make a feature film. Filmbase gave us that opportunity.”

Aisling adds that “there is no doubt at all that Filmbase is a practice-based course, with workshops taking place in lieu of traditional lecture-based masters. There are several practical shoots throughout the year so you are really thrown in the deep end. I was a producer on our first assignment – a three-day shoot, having never worked as a producer before. It was trial by fire, but this heavily influenced my decision to pursue producing on The Randomer.”

 

The film was directed by three of the students, Naji Bechara, Caoimhe Clancy and Iseult Imbert, and Aisling admits that it was a little daunting for everyone, both cast and crew, coming into the project. Fortunately, any nerves were soon calmed when they sat in a room with the three directors for the first time. “They presented a cohesive and singular vision from the get-go. Luckily this remained strong throughout the shoot, thanks to their extensive work in pre-production.” Emma seconds that approach: “Having a clear, cohesive idea from the beginning and working with one DoP who knew how the directors wanted the film to come out was key here.”

 

According to Aisling, “the process of dividing the script did not come until much later in the project, less than half a week before the shoot began. The directors worked as one the entirety of the shoot, with complete artistic cohesion across style, vision, etc. Any director could direct any scene, knowing the core of what was needed, falling into the shoot based on scheduling. Fairly enough, each director eventually directed a third of the film.”

 

The project was always on terra firme with a script from Gerard Stembridge, whose credits include Ordinary Decent Criminal and About Adam. “The script was a complete revelation,” says Aisling. “A feature film depicting a woman who is making her own choices about her life, and is unapologetic about them. That is totally refreshing in film. Dublin is portrayed as a vibrant, young city, which is rare in the gangland, grey landscape that has been the trend in the last few decades. Gerard made a script that was very easy for a young film crew to get behind, energy wise.”

 

On using Dublin as a location, Aisling recalls how one of the directors likened their vision to that of a French film: “you know that it’s set in Paris, yet you never see the Eiffel Tower. They wanted this for Dublin in The Randomer,and that was what sold their pitch to me personally and heavily influenced the project for me. We have a young, energetic team who have experienced Dublin in a different light to generations before – let’s try and get some of that energy to The Randomer. Where is the newest, best cafe? What are people listening to? Where are they drinking? That thread is something we hope shines through in the film.”

 

Looking back over the whole experience, Emma and Aisling talk about the challenges they faced and the lessons they learnt making a feature film. “When trying to get actor’s availability work with location’s availability you face a lot of scheduling difficulties,” Emma says. “I’m so proud of our crew for pushing through. While most of our crew were a part of our class, some of them did it just for the experience, and showed up everyday with a smile on their face! We were honestly so lucky to attract such an amazing group of people. Same goes for our actors, who did everything in their power to make sure we got the best film we possibly could. Something that I truly learnt throughout this project is to take one thing at a time, that problems will keep coming – but so will solutions.”

 

Aisling agrees on the challenges of scheduling. “Definitely with low-budget filming. You are at the mercy of people’s kind generosity with their time and availability, and working around this. This cafe can do this for free today, but this crew member has to work until 8pm. The make or break of a film is in pre-production. We had less than two months for pre-production and shot it, something I would definitely not recommend! Many lessons learned in such a short time period though.”

 

The Randomer screens on Sunday, 3rd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 

 

Buy tickets here 

 

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

 

 

This is an edited version of an original article published as part of our Galway Film Fleadh coverage.

 

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Noel Brady, Director ‘Self Tape’

Jim Dunne, a disillusioned actor attempts to make a self tape audition piece. Time and time again he tries to record himself, each time failing more than before. What started out as a ‘Self-Tape’ ends up being a life-lesson, and a hard lesson to learn.

Film Ireland points the camera at Noel Brady and asks him some questions about his short film Self-Tape, which screens at the Underground Cinema Film Festival.

 

 

What can you tell us about the origins of Self Tape.

I first heard about Self Tape from John Duggan while we were in production on my feature film Full Circle. John had written the monologue some years ago as part of an acting course. At that time, John had shown the script to Pat Nolan who helped him develop it a little further.  Back to the present day, while making Full Circle, John had asked if I would direct and shoot the monologue at some stage, which I happily agreed to do.

Self Tape was never meant to be anything big, with a little direction from yours truly the idea was just to get John’s words off the page and on to the screen. By this time, my feature film Full Circle had begun production. John had one of the leading roles of Ross Stapleton in the film, so Self Tape was put on the long finger.

A little time went by and production on Full Circle was on a break.  It was at this point that I really looked at the script and was very impressed with both the bravery and honesty of John’s writing.  I could see how much depth was contained within the writing and within the character, so much more than merely an actor making a self tape.

 

Talk us through the process of script to screen?

In the script for Self Tape we see a man that represents a modern male in today’s society.  A man that struggles with being a Father and a Husband. But more than this, this is someone who struggles with what it means to be a man in the 21st century.  The pressures to ‘be strong’, to ‘suck it up’, to ‘be a man’.  And yet this pretense fades to darkness, as a stifled small voice so lonely, lost and desperate crying out for help…  And yet is never truly heard.

The script touched on many issues that I felt gets over looked in today’s society.  So much so that I was compelled to make it into a short film.  And so I picked up the phone, rung John and asked if he would mind if I expanded on his writing to develop it into a screenplay and ultimately into a short film.  He loved the idea and told me to go for it, and so I did.

In the original script the character ‘James Dunne’ is performing a piece for Self Tape – the piece is ‘The Boor’ my Anton Chekhov.  This was originally performed three times, with the character stopping having made mistakes.  I edited this down to two times, and from here I made only minor changes to the original script.  However, I felt that the original script was more suited for stage.  As the character speaks, we learn of his thoughts of suicide in the form of a proposed car trip up in the Wicklow mountains. To add a new dimension to the script, I elaborated on the car trip and turned it into the character walking in the Wicklow mountains instead, walking to his end.

I felt that this new element gave the script a good juxtaposition.  Having the character walking in the wilds of the Wicklow hills would be a stark contrast to him seated in front of the camera.  This particular element really opened up the script and made it more filmic.

In the script his words sounded of desperation, hinting at suicide.  Suicide is always a tricky one to tackle, it’s something that pops up a lot in short films.  So the challenge I had was not to make it the focal point of the film, rather a crossroads, and more importantly a choice.  With this in mind I finished the first draft of the script with the small changes and the added scenes of the character walking.  I crossed my fingers and sent it off to John to see if he would like it.  Thankfully, John came back to me and loved what I had done and we agreed to set about taking the words off the page and up onto the screen.

John and I had met up and thrashed out the finer details of the script.  We decided that we would only see the main character in the film, with his wife only being mentioned and seen in an old photograph.  His son would remain off camera and would be represented by toy ‘Nerf’ bullet.  This choice would prove crucial in the final film with the ‘Nerf’ bullet becoming a key device in the telling of the story.

 

Let’s chat about shooting the film…

Production of the film was over two short days of about 5 hours each, with a crew consisting only of yours truly.  Day 1 was shot in my house using only natural light that flooded in the front window.  A reflector was set up on the opposite side of John to bounce the natural light.  Sound was achieved by a carefully hidden Zoom H4 on the table.  In essence the film was shot on two different cameras at the same time. With a third camera acting as a prop.  Needless to say, this was a no-budget production.

The character in the film is using a simple camcorder to record his self tape.  This particular camera was a prop, the actual footage that we see in the film is coming from a Canon 600D DSLR.  The screen on the back of the camera was in turn shot on a ‘Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera’, the same camera I’m shooting Full Circle on.  The idea of shooting the same scene at the same time using two cameras lends an extra level to the film.  We see how the character is in front of the camera that he performs too, while on the main camera we see how the mask falls.  This was a technique that I also used on a short I previously made called Alicia’s Mask, starring Doey Mulligan.

 

The story itself is non-linear.

The chronology of the film is deliberately mixed up, hoping back and forth on the time line to tell the story.  As the films begins we’re in the present tense and are introduced to the character as he walks a lonely path in the Wicklow mountains.  His voice is heard as he performs his monologue from ‘Anton Chekhov’.  As we leave the  hills of Wicklow his voice over leads us into the past tense.  We cut to where we now see the character sitting in front of the camera.  Here just as he breaks the fourth wall, he turns the camera off.  Cut to black and the title of the film fades up.

By opening up the film in this way, it informs the viewer of the proposed disjointed style of story telling, and they understand the jumping about in the time-line.

In the film the character continues with his self tape, his voice becomes a voiceover as we cut to days earlier, dark days reflecting the characters journey and his slow decline.  Again only natural lighting was used, shooting interior I let the light of the window blow out, the character in essence becomes a shadow, a reflection of how his self worth is slowly eroding.

As a contrast to these images we follow the character as he walks a lonely road high up in the Wicklow mountains.  I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot this sequence but could not remember how to get to the location.  I had shot at this location before on a TV pilot I produced called ‘Ghostriders’ starring Pat Nolan and Dave Duffy. Gerry Wade was also involved in that production so I rung my old friend and asked if he could bring myself and John up to the location.  He kindly obliged and production began on day 2 of Self Tape.

This sequence was once again shot on the ‘Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera’.  Sound was recorded on camera for this part of the shoot, but was not usable.  The sound for this entire scene was achieved through sound design and a little foley work. I did however record John’s footsteps on the Zoom as this is the first element we hear in the film before truly being introduced to the character.

It was a challenge to shoot Self Tape with no crew, but with just John and I on the shoot it made the production one of the most personal film experiences I have ever had, and a privilege to share with my friend.

 

Self Tape screens as part of the shorts programme on Saturday, 2nd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 

 

Buy tickets here 

 

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

 

 

 

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Stephen Horgan: How We Made ‘Behind the Veil’

A young man begins to investigate why someone is leaving him Occult-like cards, and why a mysterious masked figure is watching him. Meanwhile, an apparently supernaturally-gifted young woman attempts to escape her oppressors and start a new life for herself.

Writer/Director Stephen Horgan takes Film Ireland Behind the Veil, which screens at the Underground Cinema Film Festival.

 

 

I went into writing Behind the Veil drunk on David Lynch films. I loved and was fascinated by the narrative and visual freedom that Lynch’s surrealist style gave him within a film. I basically set out wanting to make a visually vibrant and also hopefully fairly exotic film that felt a bit like a cinematic acid trip. As well as that, the plan was just to make something that didn’t look or feel typically Irish -maybe it does now, I’m not sure… this was back in 2012/2013.

It was originally going to be a less wacky film about an eccentric delinquent in a mask, and then one image just changed it all – a foreign girl, in what looked like a burqa, holding a set of cards that had a supernatural ability. Somehow this image got in there and the whole thing became about a group of sinister folks who use this girl’s supernatural abilities. A bit like the Solitaire character from Live and Let Die. I was originally actually going to use normal playing cards and tried to find out if any cultures applied special meaning to any playing cards. That came to nothing, and I decided I’d just make up a set of cards and give them names and symbols  -although the symbols were the work of Fiona Patten, the film’s production designer. I wanted there to be some sort of Asian influence on the film, so I watched a few Japanese films, such as Audition and Death Note. I actually watched a few others too, but whether you’d see the influence or not, those two films were the only ones that really gave points of inspiration.

I did a bit of casting my friends for the most part, rather than casting experienced actors  -although there were a few of the latter, such as Emma Dunlop and Emily Lamey, and Dave Duffy from Irish television, and, as someone who does fancy himself an actor, I did indeed cast myself.

Getting the necessary funding was only made possible because of the generosity of producer Victor McGowan’s family. I’ve known Victor since I was five, so I think his family took that as enough reason to help us as much as they did, and they really did. We held various fundraisers and launched a crowdfunding campaign, but every step of the way we only got what we needed thanks to the McGowans and Dawsons – both sides of Victor’s family.

Shooting was initially only supposed to last two weeks and a bit in 2013  -we thought this was going to hit festivals in 2014 – but it became clear after an early screening in January 2014 that four additional scenes plus a reshoot were needed, and shooting only concluded in July 2014. This was followed by a long, long pre-production phase during which I wrote another feature, directed a short, actually gave up on Behind the Veil because of the sheer amount of work clashing with a degree I was doing, re-edited the movie on better software, re-edited it from scratch three more times due to the new programme crashing… and then finally it got fully finished at the end of last year!

As for the look of the film… I like things that look weird. The main influences in terms of the cinematography were Argento’s Suspiria in terms of the surreal, crazed colours and the music video for The Dead Weather’s ‘Die By The Drop’, in which I liked the modern gothic feel and the way the video played with its shallow depth of field. We basically went crazy with the lighting, and it was a really collaborative process. We felt it was okay to play around this much because at the end of the day, the film we were making essentially features a clash of black magic and mad science. If you can’t go wild with lighting that, you can’t really go wild with lighting anything.

The sound of the film was hugely influenced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ work on Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I spent weeks, probably months, trying to just figure out how they created those sounds. Very obsessive, I know. Still haven’t figured it all out, but I do feel like I got somewhere with it. I actually made a lot more music for the film than what you hear in it, but it was all worth it. I also wanted to add in an exotic feel to go along with the Deepthi character and the black magic – which in the film is called ‘Ikhru’, so you’ll hear bits and pieces that are trying to sound like Eastern music. I’m hoping it works!

 

Behind the Veil screens on Saturday, 2nd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 

 

Buy tickets here 

 

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

 

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Brian Stynes: How We Made ‘Penitent’

In between cups of tea, Brian Stynes tells Film Ireland about Penitent, his first foray into features, which screens at the Underground Cinema Film Festival.

 

Brainstorm, brainstorm, cups of tea, brainstorm. I had just finished shooting my last short film (1914 Street) and I looked around at the small crew assembled in my tiny flat and blurted it out: “I want to try a feature”, silence, I hadn’t even started to edit the short but I knew I wanted to put the experience of the many short films  to bigger use. “We can do it, if we break down the individual scenes, and shoot it like a lot of short films, we can do it”

So that’s how it started; hadn’t even got a story but that’s where the cups of tea (and brainstorming) came in.

Partner in crime, Michael Linehan who had always been a fixture in the short films was well versed in writing screenplays, that coupled with my laziness and ear for a good story, was the basis for many meetings where we would take an idea and expand on it.

Initially, the story was just about a paroled man dealing with the guilt of killing a child accidentally until we researched and discovered that this would not warrant a custodial sentence, there would need to be intent, or, if the person was under the influence, in which case it would be a case of dangerous driving causing death.

We learned a lot while researching the ins and outs of laws, well, laws pertaining to our story but that was great – we could now embellish, add layers to the story and lead character, we discovered as we wrote, I say we, meaning Michael wrote while I scratched my chin and said “no” a lot. Writing actually became very easy due to the central complex scenario, ie. a man goes to jail for having contraband in his car; contraband was discovered during a garda search of the car; car was involved in a fatal accident; driver had just received some very bad news, and was not aware that the contraband was in the car. That set-up alone allowed us to introduce the satellite characters, which adds even more complexity yet still keeps the central idea as its driving force, a man dealing with an unforgivable crime.

I knew from the start that Penitent was going to be bleak with a no hope ending, I didn’t shy away from this because I know there are people living who have had to deal with this very situation and I feel it’s important to show how helpless and hopeless a person finding him or herself in this predicament will feel.

Script finished,  I begin the task of breaking it down into scenes for budget requirements, I don’t know any producers so I have to do it myself. Script broken down, big excel sheet with all the requirements complete, I start making the phone calls, emails, letter writing to get locations, crew, services, stuff in general. Then I cast, After years of making short films, I tend to stay with people I like, added to that, I will approach actors that I have just seen in a play and ask if they would test for a role.

Cast and crew in place, locations acquired, shootings begins on January 30th 2016. It would continue until March 2017 and I’m editing as I go. I like to edit early on in case I want to do a re-shoot, which happens a few times. The biggest concern is continuity – a shoot over that length of time will be a nightmare, but, if I shoot all scenes with satellite characters in one go, it will only leave the central character to worry about. Michael, who plays the lead in the film,  was very diligent with hair/beard growth, what clothes he wore for what scenes – another good reason to edit as you go, Michael can see what he was wearing in a scene leading to current scene.

Guerrilla-style would be an understatement. We shot the lead character in prison (Spike Island) while tour guides brought visitors into the cell we were shooting in. On two separate shoots, members of the public tried to intervene in the action that was being filmed, an off-duty doctor pulled her car in during the filming of the car accident scene and rushed over to the actor playing one of the paramedics, while a scene where one actor was hitting another actor saw a passerby trying to stop the fight despite multiple cameras and sound equipment highly visible. I had a gut feeling we were getting good footage!

We had a screening for cast and crew and their reactions said it all. They hadn’t expected the film to be this good – an insult and a compliment all rolled into one, but I was happy with the result. Penitent is not an easy watch by any means and whatever problems the characters are going through are still there at the end of the film. No neat bows, no answers given. Just as in life.

 

Penitent screens on Saturday, 2nd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 

 

Buy tickets here 

 

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

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Sean Breathnach, Writer/Director ‘Beyond The Woods’

Sean Breathnach (Pic: Marcin Lewandowski)

 
Beyond The Woods is a supernatural horror film set in an isolated house in the middle of a forest, where a gathering of friends is thrown into chaos by the opening of a mysterious fiery sinkhole. Stephen Porzio braved the woods with writer/director Sean Breathnach ahead of his debut feature screening at this year’s Underground Cinema Film Festival.

 

The film feels uniquely Irish. For instance, characters give serious thought about leaving their house to get more drink while bad stuff is clearly happening. Was it fun to take the American brand of horror  – confined friends being terrorised by unknown force – and place it in a distinctly Irish setting?

 

You know, I never thought of it that way really, but you are right in your description. It was always going to be very Irish – you have to be true to what you know, and it is set here in Ireland after all. The cottage is very Irish, and the characters are all Irish. It plays to its strengths. We wanted to appeal to an international audience but the film was always going to be an Irish film. Though we do mention ‘Police’ instead of ‘Gardaí’ just to avoid confusion abroad!

 

 

The sulphur plot-point is a really good backdrop for the film. It serves as an ominous threat, as well as a symbol for the toxicity between the characters. Where did that idea originate from?

 

Like all good ideas this one has a solid base in reality, believe it or not. The idea actually came from an  article I read in a newspaper. It was about a sinkhole that had opened up in China and locals were holding branches of trees over the hole and watching as they burst into flames. Some of the dialogue in the film comes directly from that article – “Gateway to hell! Fiery sinkhole opens up on Chinese mountainside spewing fumes at 792C”. I read that article at just the right time. I had the idea of the friends in the isolated house in the woods, and the dramatic conflict, and the terror, but I wanted to do something new with the horror element. Reading that article was the lightbulb moment. That’s when everything really came together.

 

 

The characters and their interactions feel quite naturalistic. How did you go about choosing your cast and did you take any steps to make sure they felt more real… maybe using improv?

 

I’m glad that comes across, because that was exactly what I was going for. Independent films, in particular, rise or fall based on the quality of the acting. It was my number one priority with this film – getting the right people both in front of and behind the camera. I had worked with most of the cast before on short films. I knew what they were capable of. I also crafted the characters around them. I did encourage improv, and I think it worked really well. But there isn’t as much improv there as you’d think, and that’s a testament to the quality of the acting. That being said, we didn’t stick rigidly to the dialogue on the script all the time. I had a direction for the scenes, some plot points to be hit, but if the actors found a more natural way of getting there then that’s the way we went. We did the same with the camera – we shot a lot of handheld scenes so we could follow the actors and keep things flowing. Páraic and Kieran didn’t thank me for that – I should have had a masseuse on set to take care of their backs and shoulders at the end of those long days shooting, or at the very least a hot bath – but you don’t get that stuff on an independent shoot!

 

 

Two moments in the film evoked memories of John Carpenter movies  – the mirror scene in Prince of Darkness and the driving scene in In the Mouth of Madness. Was he a conscious influence and were there any other directors whose work you were channelling?

 

I am a huge fan of John Carpenter, and I love In the Mouth of Madness. When I wrote the film I wasn’t thinking of any films or directors in particular, but there’s no doubt that I am influenced by the films and books I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. Particularly the mood of those movies and books, that sense of creeping dread. The build-up of tension. Showing the audience things before our characters see them so the audience knows the danger they’re in. There are little homages in there to a few of my favourite directors, and probably a few more homages that I amn’t even aware of. I’m sure I must channel the work of many of the directors I admire in some way – you can’t help but be influenced by the greats. But, yes, it was a conscious decision to keep the mood of the film Carpenter-esque.

 

There’s been a new wave of very solid Irish horror cinema – just this year there’s been A Dark Song, Without Name and Nails. Why do you think there’s been such a resurgence for the genre in the country?

 

I don’t know is the short answer! We’ve always been a nation of storytellers, right back to Celtic times. I recall my grandad terrifying me and my sister with tales of the Ban Sidhe, haunted houses and big dogs that would appear and disappear in the fog – so there’s no doubt we have a tradition of spooky dark storytelling.  I don’t know why horror cinema has been on the rise in Ireland at the current time. But there have been a lot of great horror movies coming out of Ireland recently. Personally, I’ve enjoyed Ivan Kavanagh’s and Brian O’Malley’s work to name but a few.

 

Beyond The Woods screens on Sunday, 3rd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 

 

Buy tickets here 

 

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

 

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Paddy Murphy: How We Made ‘The Three Don’ts’

Two lads receive a simple job with a big payout. All is not as it seems and if they break The Three Don’ts, they could be in for a world of hurt.

Ahead of its screening at the Underground Cinema Film Festival, writer/director Paddy Murphy tells Film Ireland about his neo-noir, black comedy film set in Limerick. 

 

Back in April of 2015, I had shot three short films. These films had been plagued with a variety of issues and I was kind of losing my love of the industry and was thinking about packing it all in and going back to my day job. That was when I met Brian Russo Clancy; a musician and writer from Limerick. Brian and I had a coffee in mid-April and I was convinced to draft a script based on his concept for a short film called ‘The Three Don’ts’.

Two years later and many, many hours spent on set and in post-production, I can safely say that was one of the best decisions of my life. Through Brian, I was introduced to a cinematographer named Barry Fahy, who was Director of Photography on the original short. Barry and I had an immediate bond and since then we’ve gone on to shoot over a dozen shorts together and even set up our own production company – along with Brian Clancy and constant co-conspirator Aaron Walsh.

So what is The Three Don’ts? The film is a neo-noir, black comedy set in Limerick, Ireland. It tells the story of two young, naive lads named Jason McCarthy (Brian Russo Clancy) and Benson Yau (Nathan Wong) who want nothing more than to make a few bob. Benson finds out through his Uncle, that a group of lads led by an enigmatic and powerful character named Banger (Adam Moylan) are looking for someone to do a simple job, for a big payout.

What they don’t realise is that this “Simple Job” will bring them in contact with feuding families, a pair of assassins and a drug kingpin who has a hold over all involved. If they can follow ‘The Three Don’ts’ they might just make it through the night alive. But what are the chances of that…

After we had shot the original short film – which ran to 30 mins – we held a screening in our local Odeon Cinema. We filled the place out with over 400 people in attendance and we knew there had to be more to this story. Brian’s brother, Eric Clancy, who also plays Crunchie in the film, came on board and drafted concepts for two further long-form shorts. I then took these three arcs and worked to bring them into one feature-length screenplay with story input from Brian.

We originally had a 2 hour and 23 minute long cut of the film in May of 2016. While at the Cannes film festival, myself, Adam, Aaron and Barry met an Australian producer by the name of Judd Tilyard who came onboard the film as Executive Producer. He gave advice and insights on reshoots to try and bring the ridiculously long run-time down and to tighten up the plotline and arc.

Reshoots began in September of 2016 and lasted through to October. After two years, the film was finally in the bag thanks to an incredible cast and crew whose passion for the film seeps through in every frame. A huge thanks must be extended to every single person who helped make this film a reality. Without the help and support of them, this wouldn’t even exist.

Over two years, we’ve worked on this film and are so excited to be finally having the film premiere at the Underground Cinema Film Festival (UCFF). The film has already been screened for industry professionals like Nicholas Burman Vince [Hellraiser] – who also moderated the Q&A at the film’s test screening in Limerick, May 2017 – who said the film made him laugh until he cried… then started laughing again.

The Soska Sisters, directors of the films Dead Hooker in a Trunk and American Mary, were huge inspirations to me. We were so lucky to have them take a look at the film as it was nearing completion and they gave us some incredible feedback and advice. They also said The Three Don’ts was “A really fun, batshit crazy film!”.

Getting to meet all these amazing professionals and even work with them has been amazing, but not as rewarding as the knowledge that a group of friends went out together and made this film happen. That is the thing that matters most to me about the last two years. Now we are looking to the future. After UCFF, the film has a few more festival acceptances to announce.

We also have some more work to do on our sound mix, so we might run a kickstarter to cover the costs of getting that done. Our aim is to release a limited run of Blu-Rays of the film that will only be available to about 100 people. We really want to get this film out there and into the hands of genre fans everywhere.

This experience has taken me from the brink of giving up and turned this into my career. It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t taken thirty minutes to go have a coffee with a friend.

 

The Three Don’ts screens on Saturday, September 2nd at 3pm at the 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival.

Get tickets here

The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.

 

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