For the day that’s in it treat yourself to Conor McMahon’s genre-bashing take on spooky spirits in his 2015 short film Strangers in the Night.
Director: Conor McMahon
Writer: Gavin Keane
14 minutes long, the film stars two of Ireland’s finest comedians: the brilliant Ger Staunton in the lead role and Martin Angolo as a comedy club MC, both fresh from their hugely successful shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. Shot in 4K on the Sony F5 by the very talented DoP Shane Caffrey, The Flight to Memmingen also features the superb Aoife Moore, Micheál Ó’Gruagáin and music from Ireland’s finest folk act Ye Vagabonds.
Pernicio is my grad film from my final year in the National Film School in IADT, Dun Laoghaire.
The idea for the white ‘execution room’ sprung to my mind some time in 2014. I think there had been a lot of debate surrounding assisted suicide at the time, and my mind began to wonder what it would look like if it was a walk-in clinic and you could kill yourself as easily as buying a Big Mac. The idea began to snowball and dragged capitalistic ideas with it with the multinational corporation that would make money off people’s desires to kill themselves, and lo and behold I had the basic idea for a film.
I sat on the idea for about two years before I put pen to paper, a process which I think worked in my favour on this project. It evolved and developed in my mind for those two years, and when it came to pitching for my final year project in college, this was the idea that was itching to get out.
I finally got on to developing the script in early September 2016. I knew the theme of suicide had been overused and almost trivialised in student films, so I wanted to stray away from those clichés as much as possible. I think I went through 11 drafts of the script in the end.
Dave Fox, Director
The way it works in the NFS is that you get allocated a week to shoot your Grad film at the start of the year, anytime between late January and late April. We were allocated February 6th – 12th. We had one week to shoot it and maybe a couple of days here or there to get pick-ups if we needed.
We held open auditions just before Christmas 2016 and my leads walked through the door and sat down in front of me, something which I genuinely did not expect to happen, but each one of them struck perfectly in-line with the characters. I met with Eoin O’Sullivan (Gary), Danielle Galligan (Sam), Mark Lawrence (Doctor) and Aidan J Collins (Receptionist) about half a dozen times before the shoot. We rehearsed scenes, explored different routes and found our favourite direction before began shooting. That was something that proved to be invaluable to me; I did most of my directing off-set. Two weeks before the shoot I locked the script – finally.
Cast & Crew
We shot 5 days over a week-long period. The big white ‘execution room’ took a full day to build and light properly and we had about 8 hours to shoot everything and tear it down again the following day, which was terrifying and exciting.
Alfie Hollingsworth was my cinematographer and we clicked really well on this shoot. I asked him about the room, how we would light it properly, how to not make it look like a student-film-looking set and how we’d avoid shadows in the jib shots. He came up with the idea of lighting the room through a 16X16 silk which we hung over the set, a brilliant idea. This, coupled with the brilliant production design of Fiona Mitchell gave us the ethereal white light in those scenes that I wanted.
We actually pimped out a super old sound editing hardware that we found in the film school and put some tubes and lights on it for the machine in the middle of the room. If you look closely at the close ups of the machine you can see ‘treble’ and ‘bass’, something which became a lot more apparent when we were screening in cinemas, but I’m hoping no one notices on their first watch.
Our other locations included my bedroom, The Dublin Dental School (the reception scenes), Dollymount Strand, the Dart, and the Lexicon in Dun Laoghaire, all secured by my producer Laura Gaynor. The Lexicon was a brand new building at the time and I thought it had a real retro-futuristic look to it. We VFX’d the Pernicio ‘P’ on the side of the building, with the help of Robert Gaynor. The shoot went very smoothly overall, except for leaving our Data Wrangler behind in the Golf Club on Bull Island, who we only remembered when we had gotten into town – sorry Robyn.
Dani during final scene
Conor Donoghue edited the piece, and did an excellent job doing so. I sat back from the project for about a week and let him do an assembly cut of his own accord. We knew soon after that we had a film. We got really lucky with the sound mix, as our mixer Janneke van Nijnanten was doing work experience down in Ardmore studios on the sound stage. She showed Steve Fanagan what she was working on and he said he would be help us out with a 5.1 sound mix, and generously he gave his time for free. Not many student films can claim to have a professional surround-sound mix so that really adds a whole other dimension to the film when it’s screened in the cinema. Darius McGann put together a brilliantly emotional and poignant original soundtrack too.
Everything came together well in the end. We were well organised, believed in ourselves but also, we got really lucky with a lot of things and a lot of people helped us out on this film, to whom I am extremely grateful.
Student films are hard, everyone is learning, people can be unsure of themselves, and other people can let you down. I’m happy to say no one let us down with this film, everyone outdid themselves. We set ourselves a goal to make a student film that didn’t feel like a student film, and I think, and hope, we achieved that.
“I’ve had Billy Joel stuck in my head all day”, said Lindsey, at the desk next to me. “Wouldn’t it be funny if he was actually stuck in your head”, I replied, before quickly following up with “that would make a cool film” as I am prone to do to. And so Gustav was born.
Or at least conceived. I tend to leave ideas gestate before attempting the first draft when I have a deadline for another project. This was the case with Gustav, or ‘Billy’ as it was originally called – but Mr Joel didn’t return our calls.
After a few passes at the script – I’m lucky to have a small network of people who read my work and give feedback – we were ready to put together a team.
Crew on set
Steven Daly from Brainstorm joined as producer, James Mather, who shot our previous film, The Final Fairytale, came on board, and him and his team, who all generously gave up their weekend for a few bowls of Thai food, were again a pleasure to work with.
The central performance was absolutely key to the success of the film and we thought of Seán [T. Ó Meallaigh] really early on. Denis [Fitzpatrick, co-director] knows him well and I loved him in the Vincent Gallagher short, Love is a Sting, so knew he’d be great. Thankfully, he liked the script and was up for it. Charlene Gleeson is a great actor and naturally very funny so was perfect to play Dee.
Brian Lane from Dissolve Audio, a Corkman based in Manchester, came on board as music supervisor, an obviously important role for this project and his help was invaluable.
Although we’ve been friends since we were 5, Denis is a Liverpool fan and I’m a United fan. We shot on the day Liverpool played United and kept an eye on the score in between takes. Luckily it finished 1-1 so we could enjoy post-shoot pints – we gave the goalscorers Zlatan and James Milner a thank you credit in appreciation.
In Ribbons has come to the end of its festival journey. Over the last three years, the film has been welcomed at almost forty festivals worldwide, the latest screening at the 2018 ‘Disappear Here Film Festival’ in Donegal.
Set in 1960s Ireland, In Ribbons begins with young Laurie excited and carefree as she goes for a walk with her Dad… until they reach the grounds of an ominous, grey building. As the door closes on the only world she knows, darkness envelops her and she is abandoned to a place of fear, an orphanage, where silence rules and identity is stripped away. Laurie however, holds firm to her sense of self, her spirit and resilience through the power of her dreams and her memories. The final scene shows Laurie, defiantly clutching a lock of her hair as she peers up at the moon.
Apart from a few ethereal words that echo from ‘Laurie’, the screenplay contains no dialogue, an essential exclusion from the beginning for the screenwriter. As the story moves from joy to fear, and light to dark, Caroline’s vision was to draw the viewer into a journey with the main character through her heightened, though childish, sensual experience. Therefore, a hugely important element of the story narrative was the sound, which was expertly engineered by Neil Horner.
The story is quite personal to Caroline, though she stresses that it is not a judgmental one and does not sensationalize what was a very profound experience – not just for ‘Laurie’, but for thousands of children like her, taken on that same journey, some unwittingly tricked, some kicking and screaming, some so damaged, so desensitized that it didn’t really matter what the destination was.
Written and co-produced by Caroline Farrell, the film was directed and edited by Marie-Valerie Jeantelot, who also co-produced. With the expert guidance from Tom Dowling, who came on board as Line Producer, the team gathered an incredibly talented and generous cast (Patrick O’Donnell, Geraldine McAlinden, Melissa Nolan and Rebecca Waldron), and being an Indie production, a crowd-funding campaign was organised, and raised one quarter of the budget through donations from some very generous friends. The team also applied for a bursary from Kildare County Arts Service, which was successful, and raised another quarter. Caroline and Marie-Valerie covered all remaining expenses.
The film was shot over three days, at three separate locations, including the Grangegorman building (the former mental hospital, St Brendan’s) which replicated the ominous façade of Goldenbridge Orphanage.
In Ribbons won the JURY PRIZE at the ‘Worcestershire Film Festival’ 2015, and BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM at both the ‘Los Angeles Cinefest’ and ‘The Seadance Film Festival’ in Spain, 2016. It was also awarded BEST DIRECTOR and BEST SOUND [Neil Horner] at the ‘Wolves Independent IFF’ 2016, in Lithuania, and was the only Irish film to screen at the ‘Arts & Cinema Corner, Women Deliver 4th Global Conference’ 2016, in Copenhagen. It received a MERIT AWARD for Best Drama at the ‘International New York Film Festival’ 2015, and has been nominated for many more, including Best Experimental Film at both the ‘London Film Festival’ and the ‘Lisbon International Film Festival’, 2016. In 2015 it was nominated for Best Connection of Sound and Image at the ‘Braunschweig International Film Festival’ Germany, Best Cinematography [Basil Al Rawi] at the ‘Underground Cinema Film Festival’ and for the European Fiction Award AND the Most Creative Short Film Award at the’ Corti Da Sogni International Film Festival’ in Ravenna, Italy.
In Disappear, Frank Prendergast plays Charlie, a young man whose life has been destroyed by anxious thoughts. He has recently come to a new and frightening conclusion about his condition, fearing that he may literally disappear into thin air. His psychiatrist, Lorraine Butler (George Hanover), tries to reason with him about the improbability of these fears. But Charlie’s deep convictions lead Lorraine to worry that this may be more than just another passing notion.
Writer/Director Shaun O Connor tells us about the evolution of the project – from idea, to radio play to short film.
Structurally, I love the idea of a story playing out within a restricted space, building suspense and narrative drive with dialogue alone. I was inspired by old episodes of The Twilight Zone, where short stories with huge implications would play out in small spaces with limited effects.
The idea for the film came from my own experience. In my mid-20s, I suffered from chronic anxiety and panic attacks for two years. I had a particularly frightening symptom called ‘depersonalization’, which is a constant feeling of being cut off from reality – like you’re watching life from behind a pane of glass. This, combined with anxious self-analysis, can lead to frightening conclusions, like thinking you’re in a dream you can’t wake up from, or that you’re going to disappear, which is what Charlie is convinced will happen.
Thankfully I recovered but the research, conversations and ideas I had during that time still fascinate me from a healthy perspective. With Disappear, I wanted to explore the idea of pain driving someone to believe an impossible concept, and if, and how, they can be helped.
The story began life as a short radio play that I put together with Half-Light Audio in Cork.
I was really happy with the results and developed it into a short film script. I gave it to George Hanover and Frank Prendergast, two amazing actors whose work I’d admired for years. Disappear was my first dramatic script so I was initially nervous about rehearsals, character discussions, etc., but working through it with George and Frank was a joy.
Both actors were training under a fantastic coach named Tom Kibbe so they approached the characters with similar techniques, which was fascinating to observe. George developed a calm, authoritative tone befitting an experienced therapist. Frank’s performance was particularly demanding as he had to physically portray someone who’s been suffering from an anxiety disorder for 15 years and all but given up on recovery – but who is still clever, engaged and eager to interrogate his condition.
Visually, it was a challenge to bring a cinematic feel to what is essentially a seated conversation but our cinematographer, Justin MacCarthy, did an amazing job. In terms of lighting we developed a theme that Charlie is in darkness, literally and metaphorically, and Lorraine is trying to coax him out of it. We also planned out some camera moves that would heighten specific moments, like Charlie’s recounting of ‘disappearances’ throughout history.
We didn’t have a budget to speak of but thankfully there’s a incredibly supportive film community in Cork and people were willing to help out for free or next to nothing. We found a perfect ‘home practice’ location and shot all the interiors in one day, and the exteriors for Charlie’s walk were done in an afternoon. Our makeup artist, Arlene Keating, did an incredible job of accentuating Charlie’s despair by giving him a gaunt, haunted look. In fact, after we wrapped on the outdoor shoot in Cork city, people who spoke to Frank on the street asked if he was genuinely sick.
The score was composed by Brian Lane (aka Dissolve Audio) and it really makes the film. I wanted a single theme that could be varied slightly and used at different points in the story. He created this beautiful Tangerine Dream / Brian Eno-esque track that’s both mournful and mysterious and captures the tone of the piece perfectly.
The film played Irish and UK festivals before being picked up by Berlin-based distribution agency Aug & Ohr, who brought Disappear to festival audiences around the world. Most recently it screened ahead of Kissing Candice in the Triskel Cork, and is now available to watch online.
Shaun’s latest short, Mary, premieres at the Galway Film Fleadh as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 6 (Fis Éireann/Screen Ireland World Premieres) programme on Saturday, 14th July at the Town Hall Theatre @ 12:00
When he manages to destroy the town’s beloved Virgin Mary statue, Charlie O’Connor does the only thing he can do; frame his older brother.
Director Shaun O’Connor
Producer Sharon Cronin
Staccato centres around Thomas Croydon who is busy rehearsing for his debut piano recital. His attention, however, is divided elsewhere – to the young gardener out in the grounds, whom he so desperately wants to keep.
Director Eoghan McQuinn gives us the low-down on how the film came together.
When I get an idea for a film, it usually comes from a couple of practical sources. I think of the locations I could use, local places that could evoke an emotion on screen. I’ve always been drawn to period dramas. I’d not seen too many stories portraying gay relationships in a period context, and I wanted to use that subject to explore themes of repression, delusion, social expectation, and exploitation of the working class.
People responded to the emotion of the story and the potential for arresting imagery in pastoral and stately settings – particularly cinematographer Miguel Angel Viñas, he pushed to shoot on the Arri Alexa with an extensive lighting kit giving the film a grand and timeless look that would evoke the era we wanted to depict.
I also met with several potential producers who expressed an interest, and in January 2014 came to Caroline Kealy, who really understood what I was aiming for with the project, and the many components that would need to be coordinated to pull it off. She was also someone who I felt was capable of pulling together several strands of a relatively complicated production working with a restricted budget, so I felt very fortunate to get her on board.
Everyone was so professional and committed themselves to really putting in the time to collaborate and elevate what was on the page. We had some incredible actors. It was very important to me to have the cast as prepared as possible for their scenes – working with accents and getting the rhythm and timing of the scenes right, while also exploring the chemistry between Craig and Kevin – working hard to build up an intimacy and rapport between them. If I couldn’t sell the intensity of feeling between the two young men, the drama of the film would be non-existent.
Getting the locations was an interesting challenge. Luckily we did find three locations willing to open their doors to us, Ardgillan Castle in North Dublin (interiors), and Killruddery House (exteriors) and Tinakilly Hotel in Co. Wicklow.
Wardrobe was obviously another key component of this production and finding costumes that were both visually appealing and accurate for the period was a big hurdle. We then found out about a place called Nomac Productions in Co. Waterford,their beautiful intricate gowns and waistcoats that really took the audience into the world we were trying to evoke.
For a film centred around a young pianist, the actual piano he plays was a pretty vital prop. Caroline had the unenviable task of sourcing a Grand Piano on a budget of zero, with only weeks to go until the shoot. Having this as the centerpiece for the recital scene was absolutely essential, and I’m so grateful we managed to nab one against the odds.
Staccato stars Craig Grainger, Kevin O’Malley, Marian Rose, Sophie Merry, Pauline O’Driscoll, Sarah Gallagher, Elijah Egan, Muireann Toibin, Victor Feldman, George Bracebridge
It had Official Selection at the Washington DC Independent Film Festival, Kashish Mumbai International Film Festival, QFlix Philadelphia International Film Festival
Staccato is a self-financed short film written and directed by Eoghan McQuinn and produced by Caroline Kealy. Principal photography was completed in 2014 with cinematographer Miguel Ángel Viñas on the Arri Alexa, provided by Panavision Ireland and lights by Cine Electric and Con Dempsey. The film was shot on location in stately homes in North Co. Dublin and Co. Wicklow. Production & Costume Design by Sorcha Dianamh. The film features classical piano performed by pianist David O’Shea. The film was edited by Dylan Knapp.
Radha is a 22-minute drama with horror elements. Director Nicolas Courdouan spoke to Film Ireland about the story behind the film.
” evokes the feel of a J-Horror”