Storyland is RTÉ Drama’s competition made up of eight series of competing webisodes. Each time a new webisode is published people vote for their favourite. The webisodes that get the most votes get commissioned to make the next episode. After four webisodes one series will emerge as the winner of Storyland 2012.
Peter White visited the set of Cuckoo, one of this year’s webisodes hoping to get commissioned. Cuckoo follows disaffected teenager Niamh Keegan, who feels like a spare part in her boring, staid family unit. A photo in the newspaper makes her question her identity.
On a breezy December afternoon, I make my way through the winding streets of Ranelagh following the directions to ‘the house with the big light outside.’ I can’t help thinking to myself that if this ‘big light’ is a streetlamp, my search may prove fruitless. To my delight, I turn a corner to find a great big spotlight on the path pointed directly at a bedroom window. This must be the place.
Cuckoo is a series of short webisodes (original episodes shown on the internet) and is one of the entries in the fourth season of the RTÉ Storyland series. The competition kicks off on February 13th, when each entry’s first episode will be available to view online. One team will be eliminated by public vote each round. The filming of subsequent episodes is dependent on Cuckoo’s success in each round, but judging by the talent involved in this production you’d have to fancy its chances.
Cuckoo is directed by Danann Breathnach who has previous success with a number of short films (check out his excellent A Love Story… In Milk on Vimeo) as well as possessing a recognisable face courtesy of his time as an MTV presenter. And when that face is behind the camera he has a penchant for stylish flourishes, which should lend themselves nicely to the Cuckoo world of Niamh Keegan.
So who is Niamh Keegan? Niamh, played by Pagan McGrath, is a teenage girl who can’t relate to her parents and feels as if she doesn’t belong. Nothing unusual about that, but in Niamh’s case her feelings may be justified when a digitally aged photograph of a child abducted a decade earlier is printed in the newspaper. The image bears a striking resemblance to Niamh and she can’t help wondering if this is the cause of her sense of alienation. Over the course of four instalments Niamh sets out to investigate the startling similarities.
On set in a semi-detached house in Ranelagh feels remarkably like life with a teenage girl living under your roof. Whilst filming takes place upstairs, people are shouting downstairs for quiet, with the iron fist of the sound engineer swiftly quashing any racket. Movement between rooms for new scenes is accompanied by moments of deafening noise as hordes of people rush about upstairs carrying cables and equipment. Whilst McGrath is busy filming upstairs, downstairs is blessedly peaceful where we enjoy a nice cup of coffee wrapped in whispered conversation; very much like life with a teenager indeed.
The sitting room doubles as a waiting room and is an opportunity for cast and crew to relax when not needed. Niamh’s father Brendan, played by the charming Brian Fortune, spends much of the afternoon here as his scenes took place in the morning or are due after nightfall. Fortune regales the room with stories of his time spent as Bowen Marsh in Game of Thrones (much to my pestering and delight) as well as his summer spent filming a delightfully B-movie horror film, Wrath of the Crows, in Italy. The sitting room further provides a welcome respite from the biting wind that howls through the main corridor of the house due to the crew’s constant movements between back garden and front door.
On Set — with Sean Plunkett
Shooting wraps on schedule and the crew gratefully depart into the night in anticipation of another long day of filming tomorrow. The RTÉ Storyland series is to be commended for the exposure it gives to up and coming Irish talent. We can all benefit from the addition of some fresh movers and shakers on our screens so do yourself a favour and check out all the entrants on February 13th. Let’s shine a spotlight on the fourth season of Storyland and shape the future of RTÉ together.
The first episode of Cuckoo will be broadcast on 13th February 2012 on RTÉ’s Drama website www.rte.ie/storyland