Eleanor McSherry goes behind the scenes with the young filmmakers of ‘Hothouse Group’, who collaborated on the short film ‘Captured’ in conjunction with the Fresh Film Festival.

When everyone else was getting ready for Halloween 2011, a bunch of young Irish filmmakers were preparing to make their first funded film in Castleconnel, Co. Limerick. This is how it happened:

For over 15 years Fresh Film Festival has worked with many young Irish filmmakers. During the 2011 festival, Fresh decided to collaborate closely with a bunch of very talented and experienced young filmmakers to form the ‘Hothouse Group’. The group was made up of 15 young filmmakers, all assigned specific roles to work on a short film. The Hothouse group met on the last day of the festival and agreed to apply for the Youth Ensemble Scheme through the Arts Council and were successful. What was amazing about it was that out of 44 applicants the Arts Council awarded only 19 projects, so it was a big coup for the group!


‘Hothouse’ production team

Mia Ferguson, the public relations officer for the film, filled me in on rest of the details: ‘Captured is a short film, made by a ‘Hothouse’ production team of young filmmakers from throughout Ireland. The Hothouse project was initiated by the Fresh Film Festival who assembled the group in April of 2011 with a view to providing a platform for filmmakers to share their work. This gathering of 15 young Irish award winning filmmakers was the first of its kind and resulted in the group making an application for funding. In July the group was awarded a grant under the Arts Council’s Youth Ensemble Scheme to produce a short film dealing with identity.’

Pre-production began on 24th August with a treatment by Penny McGovern (director) being selected for development and everyone was assigned their role/s. The shoot week was scheduled for the Halloween break and the group was set out on the pre-production road.

Penny McGovern

With the aid of Skype and Facebook the ball started to roll and gathered momentum, the team negotiated many obstacles along the way and eventually the shoot week came. The shoot was hard work but it rarely seemed so to the tireless crew. On the contrary, it was a bigger challenge heading home to regular timetables and gruelling school work and the train-ride home was a bitter pill to have to swallow.

For first time producer Mia Ferguson the apprehension at the start of the process gave way to pride and a sense of achievement ‘I admit, in the beginning I was apprehensive as to the likelihood of us all getting along and working together as quickly as we would have to, but I’m glad to say I was pleasantly surprised.’ This pride is echoed by David Cullinan, the film’s art director: ‘It was by far the best experience I’ve had so far in filmmaking.’

Like every filmmaker who sets out on a shoot, there are some things that you just can’t wrangle, the weather, an errant schedule or a very tight budget… but all was dealt with, and it never once stopped the fun! “My experience was absolutely amazing. Even at my most stressed, looking back at it now, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was an experience and a half!’ Penny told me.

The production was a daunting challenge in the early days, but it has been realized thanks to the incredible effort and unshakeable belief of not only the 13 surviving filmmakers, but also the committed, tireless staff of Fresh Film Festival.

Now, in post-production, the crew remain connected through virtually every possible medium. For many of the crew, the project is finished with until the premiere, but for the P.R. and editing departments, the race is far from over.

The group also hosted a discussion panel at the Junior Galway Film Fleadh where they offered valuable tips and advice for other budding young filmmakers. Having worked on the short with the Hothouse group I can truly say they were a bunch of very hardworking and professional film makers, who have a great future ahead of them!

Eleanor McSherry


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