Tuesday, November 05, 2019

My friend, Doubt

He’s not goin away, so, I’ve decided to make friends with Doubt. I think he needs a friend. He needs someone to listen, not to his complaints, and moans, and... doubt, but to what’s really going on, to what’s behind all that. And let him know, the fear he feels, is perfectly normal, natural and can be overcome.

Doubt is that friend who is always moaning, always has a problem, who doesn’t want to go anywhere or do anything because it’s too much hassle. He’s that work colleague who sees the challenge, not as an opportunity, but as a reason not to try, or grow, or be a constructive member of the team. When you come up against people like that you want to get away from them as soon as possible. But when you’re stuck with them, it can be frustrating, even toxic over a long period. They can even make you like them, you begin to doubt, to complain, to stop being a constructive member of the team. 

I’ve been infected with this way of thinking and behaving for a while now. Doubt got the upper hand for a while. However, two days ago I went for a walk with Doubt, as I often do, to take photos in the fog. He doesn’t mind doing that, that’s easy. But then I came up with an idea for a short film, something so simple, that had I had two actors with me I could have done it there and then. So I mentioned it to Doubt, and he said “No, no no no, you can’t do that, that’s going to get too complicated.” But I knew he was wrong, and for the first time in a long time I turned to Doubt and said “Doubt, Shut up!”

And you know what? He did. Then something else happened, something completely unexpected and interesting, I began to remember all these other ideas I’ve had over the last year, simple things, doable things, shoot in an iPhone in a day things. And I glared at Doubt for making me think I couldn’t do them, and he coward. But then I felt bad for him, because really, it wasn’t his fault. I was the one who listened, who decided, it was my inaction that stopped me. That’s his job I guess, and maybe he’s just trying to protect me from failing, because I’ve failed so much in my career as a filmmaker, and he knows what it does to me. But I’m not going to get anywhere if I don’t keep trying, keep failing, trying again, and maybe one day - succeeding.

Doubt’s not going anywhere, I’ve realized that, but I’ve also realized that Doubt’s not me, it’s just part of my and it’s not a part I going to let dictate what I do, or don’t do, anymore. Doubt can have a say, and I’ll listen, because I know he’s there to make sure I’m safe, but he doesn’t get the deciding vote anymore, that’s for me. And when it comes to expressing myself, and making a film I feel impassioned to make, I’m going to say “Yes” from now on.

Ain't that right, Doubt?

...

He’s not sure! 😆 


Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Prickle-ly Perch

       Being a filmmaker, a writer and director (such as I am) is a lonely and isolated existence. You spend most of your time on your own, writing, imagining, trying figure things out, the script, the schedule. As directors and writers we exist on separate islands, we can see each other, sometimes, more so now with social media, but the sea in between us is foggy. So while we can wave across at each other from time to time, we can’t see what’s going on over there in detail. You have a lot of self-doubt. One day you will see a lot of people dock at someone’s island, there seems to be a party going on, you’re not invited and no ones coming to your island, unless it’s for a short film and they seem more like lost tourists looking for directions, who politely stay because they see your desperation and feel bad for you… or they flee.


Sometimes one of your fellow islanders gets to escape, they get to the mainland! Then you’re completely screwed. Then come all the questions, “What am I doing wrong?” Why can’t I get funded?” “Should I really be doing this?” “Is the island life for me?”

Those kinds of questions don’t bare fruit. You have to get passed them as quickly as possible and realize everyone’s journey is completely different, it’s not even comparable. We diverge so much, we can’t possibly arrive at the same place at the same time, and I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you. You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in the lurch. 

Dr. Seuss was right, it happens, and can stay happening for a long time. For me, it’s been about 6 years. And that last part is the hardest (And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in the lurch.) because you know you’re the same person, you know you’re working on stuff, you know you’ve been trying to get stuff made all that time. But people get tired of hearing it, they get tired of waiting around, so they move on with their own lives, as they should. And the emails stop coming, the requests for advice stop, as if you forgot what you know, or mainly because you can’t seem to get anything done, so what use are you, and what could you possible have to offer, you’re not hot right now! The opportunities cease. You’re cold, and no one else wants to catch it. You’re in movie jail, or movie hospital, you’ve got the sickness we all dread, DOUBT. And it’s catching.

Doubt has killed more projects than anything else. It’s a disease of the mind, and it’s crippling. What’s the antidote? Simple - Work. Just work. Do something, anything. Action. Motion. These are key. It doesn’t have to be film related, but you have to get moving, you have to get out of the Waiting Place. We are predictable and fickle creatures we humans, particularly we artiste kind. We want validation, and permission. We want someone to say “Yes, this is good, now go make it.” That doesn’t always come, so lack of validation, no permission and growing self-doubt will end any career before it’s even taken a step toward a set.

Get out for a walk, get in the fresh air, a park, a beach, a hill, a forest… no, not Starbucks! Nature. We’re human. We’re part of this earth. We need air and trees and wind. It’ll wake you up. Then do something, anything, if you’re unemployed, get a job, something part-time, something to get you out of your own head and away from the heavy lump of clay that is your imagination. But keep the cogs oiled, keep writing. Keep imagining. Tackle the lump of clay one scoop at a time. There’s no rush. Stop rushing. Take it slow. Maybe take a small ball of clay, sculpt something that takes less time, less energy.

My problem is that I think too big, too complicated. I have a simple idea, but before I know it’s grown tentacles, that reach out and grab things, pull them in, then it’s too heavy to carry, too complicated to figure out. But I’ve had a lesson in scale recently. I made a short film with a group called Ablevision Ireland, who help young people with learning disabilities gain access to and experience in media; documentaries, news, and film. So I came along to help them develop this short, Little Fairy Tree. We didn’t have much money, we didn’t have much time, we had a relatively inexperienced cast and crew, and we shot on an iPhone. It was a real eye-opener.

First of all, it reminded me of how I made films as a kid, when it was just for fun, before all the rules and techniques and jargon got in the way. Then it was an exercise in time, and how to use it. We didn’t have any, I didn’t have any. Right now I’m a stay-at-home dad with 3 young kids, ages 9, 6 and 19months, my wife works full time and is out of the house 12 hours a day, so, time is not something I have, and with the energy it takes to manage them, I have ZERO left to be creative. But, here was a challenge I said yes to, and I wasn’t going to let them down.

We shot 2 hours on Tuesdays for a couple of week, an hour one Wednesday, a Friday morning here and there, we broke for Christmas and bad weather, and then had two solid Saturdays in a row to get it finished. All this over a 6 month period, and we made a film. Now, before this, I would have look at this script and said it was impossible. We needed a solid week blocked off, and I just can’t do that anymore. But, we didn’t need that, and by using the iPhone, and keeping crew to a minimum, less than minimum! We got it done.

So, here’s my advice, if you’re in the same boat, if you’re old has-been, if no-ones returning you calls, your emails, if your old film buddies have left you hanging on that pricke-ly perch. Draw a line under that part of you life. It’s over. You’re at the starting line again. Those people don’t matter. That way of doing things is gone. THIS, is Day One. But, it’s a better day one, because you have a ton of experience everyone but you has forgotten about. You’re going to crush it, and you’re going to surprise people again. But you’re going to do it quietly.
Start small. Don’t tell anyone about it, fuck social media, in fact, delete you facebook page, it’s sucking your life-force (yes, I’m aware I’ve link to this on facebook, but we know I’m right!) Come up with an idea you can shoot in one day, with two actors and shoot on your iPhone. So it has to be small. But it also has to be clever. You have to surprise and delight your audience. There’s something in this small, no budget, iPhone movie that elevates it. Three things to think about. The three Es. Entertain. Educate. Elevate. If you can entertain, you’re sorted, job done. It’ll go places. If you can educate as well, that gets people thinking, in nourishes the mind. Then, if you can elevate it, elevate your audience, make them feel something unexpected, surprise and delight them - that’s going to get them talking.

I can’t tell you how to do that, you have to do the work. But I bet you have an idea that could work. I bet you could rewrite it and add to it, and cook it down and down and down to a thick rich sauce that tastes amazing. That’s what you have to do. Let it simmer, be patient with it, take you time, taste it, add to it, taste it again. We’re old now, we can’t be rushing around anymore, our knees don’t work. Then, get you actors, find your one location, charge your iPhone, shoot it. Hit up filmfreeway, find some free festival, send it out. Be patient, it can takes months to get a bite. But it will, and you will succeed. Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 per cent guaranteed.) KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!… 


Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Lost in a tweet...

Just so it doesn't get lost in a tweet, here's a thread I posted recently. Some honesty and advice if needed. Based on experience, and the consequences of experience. Unpreparedness, and what happens, what to do, and of course, what not to do:

My now 8 year-old feature film Derelict Also in Black & White si tu préfères This was a tough shoot, 7 days (and nights), €9k, everyone worked for free, money went on insurance, location fees, expenses, accommodation, food...

Oh, and a week rehearsal beforehand. It took a year to mount the production, with finding a window everyone involved could donate a week, and about 6/8 months to finish it, again, with donated time from editor and production house

Unfortunately it never did any business. Died on the vine, so to speak, an expensive and time consuming lesson in preparation. And while I did prepare, I could have probably spent more time on the script. It's like they say, as director you take most of the credit, if it fails...

You take ALL the blame! I took all the blame, and haven't made a film since. There are many other reasons for that, but I think any chances that were coming my way took a swift left turn after this came out.

In saying that, everyone involved did stellar work, and all the actors worked like Trojans! And delivered great performances. I'm proud of a lot of it, but any failings are mine. And I don't mean to sound like I'm moaning, or looking for sympathy!

If you're reading this, think of it as more of a warning, a statement of "What Not To Do", from someone who's made the mistake, and suffered the consequences (for many years after). So, here we go:

1: Don't rush. Don't be too eager to get it done, sure, grab the bull by the horns, it's all about momentum, but make sure the script is ready. If you're not sure, then it probably isn't, get help. Get it SOLID. Then go.

2: Schedule the SHIT out of your shoot. Be realistic. Give yourself time. If you have no time, jettison scenes, locations, you don't need. Make it lean. Cut it to the bone, before you start burning daylight.

3: Shot list. If you can storyboard that'll help, if that's not your bag, do a shot list, you won't have time to be messing around. Have a shopping list, know what you need. Grab it. If inspiration hits, grab that too, but know what you need. You need a detailed roadmap.

4: See if you can do a test shoot, shoot one scene for a day. This will tell you a lot. It'll tell you how long it's really going to take. Plan your shoot accordingly. It'll also help get you in the rhythm.

5: During the shoot, no short cuts, be brave, be demanding (even if people have agreed to work for free, they signed up, expect their all, give your all), COMMUNICATE, trust your instincts, don't second guess yourself and ignore those second guessing you, be adaptable, have fun!

Don't forget it's a film, not war! You're not being shot at. You're literally living your dream, even when you're in thick of it, when you're regret ever having decided to do this, second guessing each decision you're making, it's just a movie, enjoy yourself!

Be prepared for it to be hard, if you haven't done it before, it will surprise you and challenge you and demand everything of you at every turn! Both mentally and physically. Hit the gym before you shoot! Especially if you're out of shape! You're going to be on your feet ALL DAY!

Get ready for it, getting physically ready will help prepare you mentally. If you're on a low to no budget film, you're going to be doing multiple jobs, you're going to be lugging equipment, you need stamina.

You need to lead the charge. You're the boss. You're the general. You're Jesus! People are looking to you for everything. Embrace it. Own it. Put yourself in the centre of the room and take charge. If you want your shoot to run smooth, be smooth!

You may be doubting yourself. But hide that shit, save it for another day, you've work hard to get to this point, put your weeny hat in the closet and put on your Master and Commander captain hat on! Be the fucking captain of your ship.

If you need to cry, or shout, or have a moment, find a dark corner two miles away. Your cast and crew don't need that shit. Save your suffering for after the shoot, and be prepared to suffer. It'll hit you hard, emotionally and physically.

I was unprepared for the release of finishing, I felt good at first, but they you have the mountain of post to climb, which is so daunting you might feel like you can't. But climb it you must. And it's a fucker when you have a cold, a bad back and fucked up feet!

I came off this film sick, there was a set cold that went around everyone. We all got sick at the end of it. I put my back out and destroyed my feet. I don't know what happened to them, but my skin reacted to something, and they were a horrible frankenstein mess for ages after...

in fact, 8 years later, they never went back to how they were before. It's weird. I don't know what to tell you, look after you feet and back, be physically prepared. When it's over, take a week or two off, and then get back in.

Post may take a while, maybe longer than you hoped. Endure. Engage. remember your vision and try to stay positive and excited. But, work on other stuff too. Start to think about what's next, think about what you learn and how to apply it to the next film.

Research festivals, hit up contact programmers, send rough cuts, set up all the social media stuff and communicate with your audience. If you've crowdfunded this you all ready have a community. Tap into that. Keep them updated and in the loop.

Don't drop off, they will be the advocates of your film, because they were in it from the start, they own a piece of it. Remind them and tap into their social networks.

This film maybe 3, 4, 5 years of your life. Own it. Enjoy it. Give it everything at every stage, because this will be your true film school. You will learn so much! I can only tell you so much, what potholes to avoid, but you will only learn to drive by taking the wheel yourself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

In need of a little Christmas Miracle... namely funding!


We enter 2019 still in the trail of “10 Days in December”, a script we’ve been trying to get made for 4 years or more. We original thought of making it as a short, “One Day in December”. We even ran a month long crowdfunding campaign, which failed! But I think we asked too much for what it was. It also occurred to me, if we were going to put this much trouble into a short, and it’s a lot of trouble to do a short properly, let’s just do the feature! So, we set out on getting 10 Days made. 

The actual 171 page first draft of 10 Days in December
It took a while to write the script, we were both working full time, in busy demanding jobs, me at Apple, Maryann at Stanford. Not to mention the fact we had two small kids and no real support network, no family who could drop in frequently, take the kids for an hour here and there. So we would write at night, after the kids went to bed, between the hours of 9:30pm and 12:30am. Over the course of a year we got a feature script written.

Of course, that was just the first draft. So we started rewriting. I wasn’t really happy with where it was, or indeed, my own ability. I was starting to doubt myself. So I took some time out to reeducate myself. Blow off some cobwebs and unlearn some bad habits. 

The Rewrite
I did the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass, which was ok, I picked up a few hints and tips. Also the Ron Howard MasterClass, same thing. Where I found the most insight was from a book by Linda Seger called How to make a Good Script Great. It is by far the best screenwriting book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few over the years. It breaks down the process in the most constructive, practical and simplest way. It’s to the point, clear and concise. If you’re starting out as a screenwriter, or you want to get into filmmaking, start there. You wont regret it.

So I went back in. By now, about two years had gone by and we started contemplating shooting this thing. We were already going back to Ireland for Christmas, so we started playing with the idea of shooting it then, Christmas 2016. But it was too close, there wasn’t any money, so we settled on a proof of concept. We raised a couple of grand, gathered the cast and crew, booked the gear and we were set.

DOP Ivan McCullough and me talking shots
We came home for a family holiday with one days shoot planned, three days before Christmas. I thought it might be stressful, it wasn’t, it was wonderful! Everything I hoped it would be. Fun, creative, invigorating, we just wanted to keep shooting! Alas, we couldn’t, we had to go home. (You can see the result here.)

We went back to work and life, I kept working on the script and editing the proof, which took a while, and then, our third child came along! So, as you can imagine, life got a whole lot busier and whatever spare time we had to write, was gone.

But the passion for the project burned. We decided, if we really wanted to do this we needed to be on the ground, in Ireland, so, along with many other reasons, we decided to move back. We bought our tickets and we were on our way.

While we prepared I put together an application for development funding with the Irish Film Board. We applied, and waited and waited and waited... for some reason it took the 8 months to consider the application. They rejected it in the end. We were also sending to producers and production companies in Ireland, only to face more rejections or, in classic Irish style, no reply at all.

What kept us going through all this was the fact that it was landing with a few people. And the people who liked it, loved it. They understood what we were trying to do. They got the jokes, the homour, the atmosphere we were trying to create. Even when we entered (and got rejected by) the Nicholl Fellowship, the readers notes were 50/50. One reader loved it, understood it, got everything we were trying to do and gave it a “Yes”. The other guy just got hung up and why the characters weren’t sleeping together straight away, and that made it a “No” for him/her. 

So, baby number three came along, 6 months later we would immigrate back to Ireland. No work got done during that time. But we weren’t resting on our laurels. We organized a half-cast reading (full cast weren’t available on the night). It was great. Great to see some people again, others for the first time, and hear the script out loud. Made it closer to being real.

Cast Table Read - Earlier This Year
By the way, these actors have been amazingly patient through this process. I think if someone promised me a job and four years went by, I’d have walked long ago. But I guess it’s the nature of this business, projects come and go, some happen quickly, others take their time, need their time. I’m grateful for the understanding of fellow artists and collaborators.

So, here we are, entering 2019 and we’ve already been on quite a journey with this film, before anything has rolled on it, or come close to rolling. 4 years in we still feel like we’re at the start of this, still figuring it out, still learning. I hope it’s the Universes way of telling us it, we, just aren’t ready yet. Saying “Don’t rush it. When is time, when is ready, when you’re ready, everything will fall into place.”

It’s going to be a strange feeling when that happens. Finally. Really. Standing on set, calling “Action” for the first time. It will be a surreal moment. But a moment we’re continually striving toward. And no film I’ve done will feel more earned than this one.

Next steps? Keep working on the script. Get it right. Then, somehow, find the money. 


So, here we go, again, wish us luck, me, my co-writer and wife, my cast and crew. We’re going to need every ounce of goodwill and good vibes to get this thing made. It’s a miracle anytime a film gets made. And us starting to feel like that’s exactly what we need, a miracle! But then, it is Christmas, this is a Christmas movie, and if ever there was a time for Miracles, it’s now.

Keep paddling... that's Life

“The Book of Life” was on TV this morning, so sat and watched it with the kids, it’s a beautiful piece of work from Guillermo Del Toro as producer and Jorge R. Gutierrez as director. 

It is exquisite, glorious to look at and endlessly fun and entertaining, with real emotion running through it. It’s an action/adventure with a character in search for meaning and acceptance at its center. I remember when Coco came out, I think the two were in production around the same time, and Coco, coming from the behemoths that are Pixar and Disney, stole much of its thunder. 

This happens a lot, I don’t know what it is, genuine coincidence, parallel thinking, theft?! Gasp! In Hollywood, surely not! But it happens. I can attest to that, it’s happened to me a few times. I remember my old writing partner and I spent months developing a script about three friends, who lose a friend, and are employed to go to India in search of a woman. Then Wes Anderson announced “The Darjeeling Limited”. 

It ended up being nothing like the story we wanted to tell, but the foundations of the story were so similar it made it pointless pursuing it. All that to say, while “The Book of Life" and “Coco” are stories about a guitar playing hero, facing pressure from family to be something they are not, forced to enter the afterlife in search of truth and meaning... they are entirely different, unique, wonderful and worthy. If you haven’t seen “The Book of Life”, check it out, you’re bound to love it.

Filmmakers Side note: This is a tough area, you spend so long working on something only to have the wind taken from your sail by a larger ship. That may have set sail much later than you, but has the power to out run you. It’s disheartening. But you just have to paddle for a while, until the next gust comes along to carry you to different, often distant shores. 

Many of us set out on the same path, some just have bigger, faster, better funded ships. It’s the tough thing about being an indie filmmaker. You wish you could make people see your vision, make them understand it will be entirely unique and different to Director Goliath’s film. But most companies aren’t willing to take that risk. 

I once had a refusal based on a script I co-wrote called “The Race”. A cycling movie about an old champ coming out of retirement to race in the rás, Ireland’s largest bike race. They rejected it based on the fact there had been another cycling movie the year before, “The Flying Scotsman”, about and Olympic track racer... it’s like saying, “we’re not going to make “Saving Private Ryan” because “The Thin Red Line” came out last year”… they’re both set in WW2 and entirely different stories. 

Refusing to see the story as unique because it also has a bike in it is entirely narrow-minded and short sighted, but you’ll come up against this a lot. You just keep paddling, and wishing for a bigger boat. And maybe if you catch the right wave and land on the right shore you’ll get the bigger boat and next time you’ll get there first. The trick is, just keep paddling, because that’s life.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

I Should Be Writing.

I should be writing. But I'm on facebook. I should be reading. But I’m on twitter. I should be drawing. But I'm on instagram. I should be creating. But I’m distracted. Endlessly distracted. 

I can’t blame these platforms. Sure, they’re a bright shinny shopfront, but I could pass by. Except I’m the type that has to go in. I’m the type that has to buy the thing. Even though I can’t really afford it and should be spending my money on rent, bills, food. My time on writing, reading, creating.

I’ve decided to trying something different this year. I’m not deleting my accounts, they’re still up there. But for a while I’m going to step away from them and really try to focus on my creative endeavors. I have plenty to do. So, instead of scrolling for 20 minutes on twitter and facebook, maybe clicking on two or three interesting articles in that time, I’m going to start disciplining myself to do something creative. To work on my script for “10 Days in December”, which needs work. To work on my novel, “The Cats of the Crescent”, which I’ve had for nearly 10 years. To work on some smaller, new ideas I have. To work on the stuff I’m actually getting paid to do!

I also want to get back to film, and rediscover my passion for it, because, to be entirely honest, I’ve lost it. I sat down to do my top ten list of movies of the year, and I suddenly realised, I didn’t have a top ten! I don’t think I’ve seen that many movies this year. I used to see movies all the time. Several a week. Some times a couple a day. I can’t do that anymore, I have three kids! If I see more than one movie a day I’m usually watch Despicably Me 2 17 times.

I want to get back to study. I used to read about film all the time. Books, books on film, on directors, on camera, on technique, on lighting. Articles in journals. I’d buy all the film mags, Sight and Sound, Moviemaker, Filmmaker, Film Ireland, Digital Filmmaker, American Cinematographer, Empire and even Total Film! Just to get a fix, just to be up to date on everything that was going on and coming out. I don’t do that anymore. 

I don’t watch a lot of film, I don’t read about films and I don’t enthuse and gush about films like I used to. I follow a lot of successful filmmakers online, indie and mainstream, highly successful, working, newbies and oldies, and they all have one thing in common, they love film, the gush film, they talk 95% about film and their love for it (the other 5% is usually facepalming something Trump has just done.)

I used to be like that. I didn’t have twitter back in the day, but I’d do it to whoever was willing to listen. And there was usually someone nearby who shared my passion, or at least, like film enough to listen to me waffle on. I want to get some of that back. Or rediscover film, in a new way. With a different understanding. Fall in love again, and this stage in my life. Before I make another film.

And I do want to make another film. I’m not doing it because I have to, or because I’ve found myself on this path and don’t know how to get off. I’m doing it because I love storytelling and I love film. I love what it does and how it does it. I love that it can surprise, delight and change people, at least, change their way of thinking in a moment, that may lead to real change, inside a person and in a community. It shines a light in the dark. In the dark of a room, and of a soul.

My plan, or, hope I should say, is to be distracted less. To study and watch more. To see more films. To read more books. To clear my watch-list, and the 200+ DVDs, among the 1000+ I own, that I haven’t watched yet! I hope to be blogging more here too. I’ve kind of let this go over the years. Life. But I’m hoping to compile my thoughts, edit them, and present them in long form here, rather than in passing bursts of hot takes. And I’ll post updates on projects. It’ll be more like a journal. So, back to it I guess, I hope.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Our Rejected Application...

I thought I'd share the application I made to the Irish Film Board early this year. As just an insight into the amount of work that goes into such a think, and the amount of work that can still be rejected.

Here it is, our rejected application:

Along with the 104 page screenplay, we sent...

A sample Poster:



Our Proof-of-concept:


Featuring our lead actor, Graeme Coughlan and Grace Fitzgerald. Shot by DOP Ivan McCullough, and featuring the music of America recording artist, Jon McLaughin.


1 0  D A Y S  I N  D E C E M B E R  -  S Y N O P S I S
F r a n k  W.  K e l l y   &   M a r y a n n  K o o p m a n  K e l l y

Tagline:
They were looking for something. They found each other.
Logline:
Will and Lucy are looking for something new in life. When they find each other, they become the change they are looking for. But will their differences tear them apart before they’ve had a chance to be together?
Synopsis:
Lucy and Will are two independent, successful young people on opposite sides of the world. Individually, each are coming to a crossroads in their lives. They want things to change, but don’t know how or when that change will come. 
When they meet each other for the first time at a film festival in America, they are all at once swept up in something sweet and exciting and unlike themselves - and without realizing, they become the change they were both looking for. 
When Will leaves the festival to return to Ireland he invites Lucy to join him there for Christmas. She accepts and some weeks later arrives in Ireland for 10 days with him. 
As they get to know each other against the backdrop of an Irish Christmas, strolling beneath the lights, spending warm nights by the fire, enjoying live music with friends, Christmas dinner with family, the connection between them grows and they fall in love. 
But even as their hearts grow closer, they realize that things may not be so straightforward. Apart from the distance, Lucy is a devout Christian and Will is an Atheist. While Will was has no time for God, Lucy says “It’s not just what I believe, it’s who I am.” 
Will doesn’t want to deal with it. But it becomes all Lucy can think about. Will doesn’t realize it, but the stakes are much higher for her. This has the potential to tear her family apart. Lucy needs to reconcile this. Will needs to accept the responsibility. It starts to divide them. 
Yet the connection between remains strong - they both feel it. The question is, is it strong enough to hold them together? 

Lucy has to do a lot of soul searching. Will has to decide if this relationship - if Lucy - is worth fighting for. They both come to realize that they don’t have to change to be together. They just have to accept each other for who they are, and simply love each other. 


1 0  D A Y S  I N  D E C E M B E R  -  W R I T E R ’ S  N O T E S
F r a n k  W.  K e l l y   &   M a r y a n n  K o o p m a n  K e l l y

STORY

Lucy and Will are coming to a crossroads in their lives. They want things to change. But they don’t know how that change will come. When they meet each other at a film festival in America, they become the change each other was looking for. 

They become fast friends and begin to fall for each other. When Will leaves the festival to return to Ireland he invites Lucy to join him there for Christmas. She accepts and some weeks later arrives in Ireland to spend 10 days with him.

As they get to know each other, strolling beneath Christmas lights, spending warm nights in by the fire, listening to live music with friends, at Christmas dinner with family, the connection between them grows and they begin to fall in love.

But as they get to know each other better, they soon realize that begin together may not be so straight forward. Apart from the distance, Lucy is a devote Christain, Will is an Atheist. While Will was has no time for God, Lucy says “It’s not just what I believe, it’s who I am.”

Will doesn’t want to deal with it. But it becomes all Lucy can think about. Will doesn’t realize it, but the steaks are much higher for her. This has the potential to tear her family apart. Lucy needs to reconcile this. Will needs to accept the responsibility. It starts to divide them.

But the connection between them is strong. They both feel it. The question is, is it strong enough to hold them together?

Lucy has to do a lot of soul searching. Will has to decide if this is worth fighting for. They both come to realize that they don’t have to change to be together. They just have to accept each other for who they are, and love each other.
CHARACTERS

The aim in this story is to create realistic characters. Each and every person in this story is based on a real person, and we want to try to capture that level of realism. While infusing it with a heightened level of drama, warmth and humour. 

Each character should move the story forward and move the main characters toward their goals. That is our aim with every new character. They have a job to do. But they are also their own person. We want the audience to feel as though they have their own complicated lives going on in the background, while Lucy and Will are on screen.

There are also some incidentally characters, smaller character who are not in the main group of players. These characters are important. They are part of the tapestry of Ireland. They bring character and color to Lucy’s experience. She is not only falling in love with Will, she is falling in love with Ireland.

So you will meet The Chipper and his Wife, Mary and Maude (passengers on the train), Al and Paschal (barmen in two different pubs) Seany, the barfly, and others. They are there to sure up the world these characters inhabit, add texture, color, warmth and tone to every moment.

DIALOGUE

For me dialogue is key. In the script we’ve have tried to create a natural flow. Dialogue that is smart, funny, charming and very Irish, in the most truthful and genuine way possible. While the dialogue serves the plot, and each character drives the story forward, it is also part of the tapestry that surrounds them, that Lucy sees, and hears. It brings color to the world, as well as warmth and humor too. It endears Lucy, and the audience, to Will and this place. 

It is also functional. It is constructed to move the plot forward, to reveal aspects of the characters, to saturate the world in color and to bring an authenticity to the piece. We want the audience to experience small-town Ireland and see and hear it in an honest way.

TONE

We want this to be a story full of warmth, joy, humour and love. Brought to us by friends, family, cold wet days, warm winter nights, pubs and parties, get togethers, live music, strolling through the throng of Christmas streets and crocked alleys. This is Ireland at Christmas, and no one does it better than the Irish!

We want to create and environment that brings the audience in, makes them wish they could step into the screen and join this couple and their friends for a pint.

TROUBLE SPOTS

The theme of faith is a big one, and not one that is often been tackled in what might be considered a rom-com. We feel it is a worthy theme, and one that will find an audience. It’s not as straight forward as “Will they or wont they?” it’s more like “Can they and should they?”

We think the script is strongest at the beginning and the end, we think it’s working there. And there are a lot of great moment all through the script. But Act II is giving us the most difficulty. The script falters and drags here. We need to get under the bonnet and work on it. We also want to look at sub-plots. Expanding this story, these characters, fleshing the story out.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT

There is a lot we think is working in the script. We really feel we’ve hit the mark with tone, how we want to portrait Ireland, the town, Will’s family and friends and all the little moments in between. We now want to focus on Will and Lucy, and how to balance their new love for each other, in contrast to the concerns they have, both practical and spiritual. 


We don’t want the audience to feel this is a pointless endeavor. We want them to be routing for this couple, willing them to sort out their differences and be together. So right now, that is where we feel the development is required and that is the next step to help elevate this script. We want the time to explore different avenues, find a range of movements within the script and keep readers, and audience members, on the edge of their seats and hoping and praying that these two can get it together!



1 0  D A Y S  I N  D E C E M B E R  -  D I R E C T O R ’ S  N O T E S
F r a n k   W.  K e l l y

VISUAL STYLE    



Cinematic. Colorful. Warm. A classic love story.

We are at the beginning of development on this project, but I see it as a film with an ease of flow, while also having a visual elegance, and at times, playfulness. Perhaps landing between Linklater’s Before Trilogy and Jean-Pierre Jennet’s Amelie, or perhaps closer to A Very Long Engagement. But only as a reference point. I don’t want to copy these films. This will be my own thing. 

My hope is to create a beautiful, warm and intimate film. One that is vibrant, colorful and energetic. I’ve engaged the services of DOP Ivan McCullough, who’s work illustrate his ability to capture these elements (Good Vibrations, The Eclipse). You can see our work together in my short film Emily’s Song, as well as the Proof-of-concept for this project.

The characters are moving through life, through the world, the landscape and towns within the story. Mainly they are moving from one stage of their lives to the next. Bringing a change that will alter both their lives forever. So I want the camera to reflect that in its movement. There is a great deal of walking around in this film, so we will use an easy-rig for these moments. While also employing the use of dollies, jibs and cranes were needed, to create the cinematic style.

There are many reveals in the film, both for the characters and the environment. As you will see in the Proof-of-concept, when will reveals himself to Lucy, the camera cranes up from behind a wall to reveal the entire town, reflecting Will revealing himself to Lucy. We have moments like this through out the script and they will be designed to reflect what the character is  communicating, whether spoken or not.

DIALOGUE

For me dialogue is key. I have tried to create a natural flow, with dialogue that is smart, funny, charming and uniquely Irish, in the most truthful and genuine way possible. While the dialogue serves the plot, the characters and drives the story forward, it is also part of the tapestry that surrounds them. It is part of the landscape/soundscape of Ireland that Lucy sees, and hears. It brings color to the world, warmth and humor too. It should endear Lucy, and the audience, to Will and his home. 

The dialogue is constructed to move the plot forward, to reveal aspects of the characters, to saturate the world in color and to bring honesty to the piece. I want the audience to experience small-town Ireland, to see and hear it in an honest way. 

LOCATION

The Film is set throughout Ireland and in America. Act 1 takes place in Indianapolis. I’ve chosen Indiana for several reason. Among them: 1. It’s where the actually events happened. 2. These scene are set during the Autumn and Indiana is beautiful during Autumn, the color on the trees are amazing. 3. As a small scale independent film Indiana could be useful, we are very well connected there and can pull a lot of favors. 

In Ireland the main location is Drogheda, with visits to Dublin and Kilkenny. Why Drogheda? It’s my hometown, it’s were the actually events took place and I’m maybe bias, but I happen to think it offers a lot of beautiful Vistas. Check on the Proof for… well, proof!

MUSIC 
The film is not a musical, but it is musical. Music will play a large part in the film. We want this film to have a killer soundtrack, showing off the best of Irish talent, with some indie American artists thrown in for good measure. In the Proof-of-concept you will hear a song called Christmas Saved Us All by American artist Jon McLaughlin. Jon performed the Oscar Nominated song So Close for the Disney movie Enchanted. He is a friend of co-writer Maryann Koopman Kelly and kindly allowed us to use his song. 
We have approached several well known Irish artists who have expressed interest in being part of the project, and feature in musical cameos within the film. The film will be peppered with musical interludes, and songs by Irish singer songwriters. The aim here is to create a rich backdrop to the film. To create an overall experience, both for Lucy and the audience. Lucy is not just falling in love with Will, she is falling in love with Ireland, and in turn, Ireland, and all it’s experiences are help Lucy fall deeper in love with Will. 



ON SET 

I have a way of working that is very easy going. I like to create a relax environment on set. A safe environment, where everyone can collaborate. I don’t like people to be stressed, I don’t like shouting, anxiety does not lead to creativity. It is a place where people can be themselves, collaborate, share ideas, try things. I want my films to be an experience, to be fun. I mean, what’s the point in making movies if it’s not fun?! Come on, this is a privilege, we’re living the dream here, let’s not turn it into a nightmare. 

But my goal is always to keep everyone focused on the film. To deliver their best work. To bring their best ideas to the room and not be afraid to share them. To communicate, at all times. My job is to stand in the center of the room, to guide people, help people, answer all the questions I can and to hold on to the single, over riding vision that has brought everyone into that room, and to communicate clearly, concisely and effectively at every moment.

DIVERSITY

As director it would be remiss of me not to mention diversity within the story and on set. 

The story is an honest piece, the characters are based on real people, so we were not consciously trying to “tick boxes”. But we have made a concerted effort to make each character a fully developed person, and given them an authentic voice. So while the characters serve the plot, they are coming from an honest place, and have their own fully developed story. 

On set I have always sought to employ female crew. For me it’s been about finding the best people for the job. Unfortunately we’re in a male dominated business, so I’ve realized I need to look a little deeper and a little longer to give everyone the best chance to be seen, and for those opportunities to really be equally divided. 

RESPONSIBILITY

We believe the proof of concept works. It captures the mood of the script, the chemistry between the two actors and what we’re trying to achieve. We think with support and funding we can elevate this to the next level, and create an authentic film, full of warmth, homour, friendship, music, fun and love. However I wanted to mention one thing about the proof that has been playing on my mind since we made it. Since the events on the last year have caused a new and acute awareness in the global consciousness toward the treatment of women, I have looked at myself as a writer to do better.

There is a joke that I regret leaving in, where Will jokes about his Dad to Lucy, saying, “Be careful about my Dad, he might try to grab your arse when my Mam’s not looking…” I thought hard about taking it out. I discussed it with my co-writer (wife) and Grace, our female lead. We decided it was fine and would be received as it was intended, a slightly irreverent cheeky Irish chap, making fun of his Dad! The thing is, it doesn’t even reflect the character of Will’s Dad.

Recently we men have been forced to look at the part we play in perpetuating this toxic environment, in every choice we make, no matter how small. And making a joke that seems to make sexual harassment an acceptable, good natured act, is not OK. It is inappropriate, irresponsible and belittles the subject. I can’t take it out of the proof of concept, but I have taken it out of the script. It, and any jokes like it, will not appear in this script. I hope it wont detract from your enjoyment of the proof, or get in the way of our intention.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT
  1. Script
  2. Storyboarding
  3. Schedule
  4. Budget
  5. Cast and crew
  6. Finance
Script 

This is largely covered in the Writers Notes provided, but our goal is to continue to hone the script. To work on the troubled areas, and bring out the best in the story and the characters to create a beautiful script.

I put a huge amount of work into a script. The image to the left you can see how I treat each page. I think about it terms of plot, character and dialogue development. And to constantly ask if everything on every page is serving the story.

Storyboarding 

Storyboarding helps me focus. While a common part of the pre-visualization process, it also helps me at the writing stage. I can very quickly see how scenes flow, and find ways to cut, be more concise and bring clarity to troubled areas. 

It’s a different way of thinking, more creative, less technical. My mind switches gear and I can often find solutions to problems I could not when writing.

Schedule/Budget

I will begin this process in early 2018. This will help get a measure on the true scope of the production. This will help us shape the script.

Cast & Crew 



The leads are cast, with Graeme Coughlan as Will and Grace Fitzgerald as Lucy (above). These guys are wonderful, and have been on the project from day one. They have great chemistry together, and really understand the characters and this story, which you will see in the Proof.  We also have Peter Sheridan (right) playing Anto, Will’s Dad (Peter has also been a very useful advisor on the script). We cast Peter after seeing his one-man show, Break a Leg . We felt he really captured the spirit of Anto.

We originally set out to make this film as a short. The short acting as the proof-of-concept. But it soon became apparent that this was a bigger project. 
So we decide to put all our energy into making the feature. First refusal has been given to the cast of the short film, which features Clare Monnelly, Ross MacMahon, John Morton and others. The cast of the short are tentatively committed to the feature, schedules permitting.

With the cast my plan was always to find a cast with chemistry, people who fit together like puzzle pieces, so when you see them together for the first time, it doesn’t feel like the first time, but the 1000th time. I look for collaborators, actors who bring something to the table, who surprise and delight me and help elevate the script to new and unexpected heights.

I don’t like to rehearse. I do a table read, some blocking but I like the nervous energy that comes with the first time. I think magic can happen in those moment. I don’t want to lose that magic in a room, only seen by a handful of people. I want to be surprised. I would rather face the fear and capture it on set. 

As a director my aim is always to create a safe place for actors to try things. I run a relaxed set. I don’t shout. I don’t like anxiety. We’re living the dream here, I don’t want to turn it into a nightmare for anyone, most of all, me! I like to create a team, a troupe, who are all in it together. We’re all working toward this goal of making a great movie. So I want everyone to be involved in that, so the cast and crew discover and create it as we go. 




1 0  D A Y S  I N  D E C E M B E R  -  L O O K   B O O K
F r a n k  W.  K e l l y   &   M a r y a n n  K o o p m a n  K e l l y









So, all this was to get a few quid to help us continue working on the script, to get into good enough shape to go into production. The entire process, from assembly to final rejection, was about 8 months.

The lack of funding means it just takes longer, it means we have to be a bit more creative with our time. Had I got the funded it wouldn't have stopped me being a stay-at-home Dad, or my wife having to work full-time. But it may have taken some of the strain off, meant we could pay some bills, organized childcare a couple of days a week. Freed up some valuable windows of uninterrupted time to focus on this script and get it where it needs to be. Perhaps turning a year of pecking away at it, in a couple of months solid work.

But we'll get this screenplay done. We'll find a way to make this film, as I have with all my films. Where there's a will, there's a way, and we've been willing this story into existence for 4, going on 5, years now. If people can't see that passion, can't believe in that determination, can't look at 15 years of struggling, and working, and willing, and writing, and not get behind it with a few grand, I'm glad. Because I don't want work with those people either. 

So, no hard feelings. Only continued determination to make this film.