Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ben Wheatley on Down Terrace and an Ethos for Indie Filmmaking

As I get ready to go into production on my next film, my third feature length film (second dramatic feature)  10 Days in December, I was going back through some old emails, notes, pieces of advice and I came across an email from director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England, High Rise). I was about to start making Derelict and feeling a bit of pressure. I was in Dublin, I remember it quite well, because I was on the way to a meeting at the Irish Film Board about funding the project (the would eventually reject my application) and I picked up a copy of Sight & Sound.

There was an article about Mr. Wheatley and his forth coming film, Kill List, which hadn't been released yet. It was also largely about Down Terrace, his debut feature film. Everything about this film sounded so familiar to me, the experience, the scale, the budget, the schedule, the location, it was like he was talking about Derelict


I got very excited. Quick stepped to Tower Records, the guy scoffed, never heard of it, prick! So hot tailed it to HMV, "Yep, over here," said the clerk and lead me right to it. Soon as I got home that day I watched it, and re-watched it. It was fantastic. A brilliant brilliant film. I loved it. It did so much, with so little and dispelled a lot of doubt for me. I finally felt like I could make Derelict with what I had.

So I decided to drop Ben an email. I talked about my own project, and how much I enjoyed Down Terrace, he got right back to me with a very encouraging email and some really great, and simple advice. Going back over it I thought it was worth sharing. So, I asked permission to share, and he agreed. So, here is some worthy, practical advice from Ben Wheatley, director of Down Terrace, Kill List, A Field In England, Sightseers, High Rise and the forth coming Free Fire.

Ben Wheatley - Director
On Prep: 

"I cant believe how little prep we did... No read through with all the cast, No rehearsals, No storyboards, no shot lists. I was on an advert so didn't do any prep beyond looking through the house with Laurie Rose (dop) the day before."

Personally, I wouldn't recommend this approach, and I'd imagine Mr. Wheatley wouldn't now either,  in fact he ended the email by saying: "so it can be done... with little prep... not that id ever do it like that again ;)" - but it goes to show what can be achieved once you have a good script, a strong director, strong cast and crew, strong vision and passion. I have to imagine that going in they had a good sense of what the piece would be, a feeling of what the tone of the piece would be, because the tone of Down Terrace is so strong.

On Production:

"One thing i did have was Andy Starke producing. He kept the whole thing under control. We really didnt feel any pressure..."

This is vital in my opinion, having someone on set, that's not you, taking the reins of the production. Someone who can be trusted to take care of things while you concentrate on the creative side. I've never had this, not fully anyway, I've always produced my own films, so I'm worrying about budget, and gear rental, and contracts, and lunches... and it definitely detracts from what you can give to the film. Try to find someone who can handle all that stuff, that's not you!

On Set:

"We had nothing to lose and nothing to prove. It was great. I think that freedom helped the performances no end. The actors just lived in the moment and i didnt over block them. They did their thing and Laurie (Rose - DOP) and i worked out minimal coverage.

I think this attitude it vital to a healthy production, don't think too much beyond the movie you're making, give your all to it and be true to it and be in the moment. "Nothing to prove and nothing to lose" should be every independent filmmakers production mantra. This method of not blocking, letting the actors just be and the DOP find them is known as Induced Documentary style, it was something that William Freidkin developed in films like French Connection, giving the film a much more realistic feeling.  (Click on the link above for a really cool video essay on Freidkin and this style.)

On Style:

"Down Terrace also benefited from aggressive new wave editing. Dont like a line or a performance? Chop it out. Never leave anything bad in the film. Embrace jump cuts. Cut out cliche as if its cancer. Never let the characters say any exposition."

Simple, but great advice. As I'm editing my latest script this is something really worth remembering. And as soon as you cut that stuff out, you'll find you script, or film, instantly gets better. Trust your audience, they're smart. Treat them like intelligent people and give them an intelligent film.

This short and concise email really helped me get ready for Derelict. And has helped me again as I edit 10 Days in December. I hope it helps you with whatever you're working on at the moment. Thank you Mr. Wheatley for the advice.

"Fuck the system!"
                  - Ben Wheatley, 2011

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

No Rules

First rule of film is there are no rules. OK, there are rules, and it helps to know them, but once you know them, you can break them. There is a cinematic language, there is a way of doing things that makes sense, and it's best to understand that, so you don't spend a lot of time and money making crap, which will only delay you in the long run.

Here are some links to people who know what they're talking about. Filmmakers and teachers alike. People who taken the time to understand the craft of filmmaking, and it is a craft, things go together to make a final, finished product, and the more you study, the stronger and more beautiful the finished article will be:

Billy Wilder

This interview is a little dated, the questions are badly dubbed, and the sound isn't great, but if you ignore all that, everything Billy Wilder says is pure gold. Lots of great anecdotes, but also great advice about writing, and who better to learn from that one of the all time masters.

Every Frame a Painting

Short essays by film buff Tony Zhou, these little films are very well put together and really get you thinking about film form and how cinema works. They're energetic and inspiring.

Criterion Collection Closet

Strange one, but I love movies, and I love DVDs and Blu-rays. They might seem outmoded now, but for me it's the tangible aspect, and the instant access memory. When I see a wall of my DVDs, I can grab a box, or even just look at the title on the side of the box, and instantly access that movie in my mind, and everything it means to me, everything I learned from it. When it's on a hard drive I can't to that. The connection from our hands to eyes is important, it's in everything we do, especially as filmmakers, as people who make stuff, we use out hands and our eyes in sync. I like watching great filmmakers do that same thing, I love watching them light up as they talk about their favorite movies and it's good for suggestion of what to watch. I've discovered so many great films from these suggestions.

Stanley Kubrick

This short speech when Stanley Kubrick received the Life Time Achievement Award from the DGA says a lot, he even manages to redefine a thousands year old myth. - here's something to think about as well when think of Kubrick, who we all agree is one of the all time great cinematic masters: In 1953 Stanley Kubrick made the not-so-great "Fear and Desire", 3 years later he made the brilliant "The Killing", a year after that he made his first masterpiece - "Paths of Glory". 4 years, from wannabe indie filmmaker to legendary cinematic master. Vision and Persistence pay off. Don't give up. Keep at it. Believe and be better. Build Better Wings.


When I'm gearing up for a film, or feeling somewhat stagnant, these are the people I seek out, listen to, learn from. But for me, doing is learning, and nothing will be greater learning experience then going out and making a film. In the meantime, you should start to get yourself ready, and if you're in the waiting place, in between productions, it's important to keep the mind sharp, to remember and to be inspired.

I always think you need to surround yourself with the artifacts of you craft, find a space, a room, a workshop, a studio, and office, a corner of the bedroom, and fill it with books, and images, and scripts, and pencils, a notebooks and thing you can see and touch and go to. These things are time capsules, instant access memory folders, feeding you and reminding you. And part of that is constantly seeking to feed that hunger to create.

And of course there are many others things you can do to be a better filmmaker,  that don't involve the specific study of film. For one, read - read, read, read, anything and everything, not just books on filmmaking, in fact, read as few of those as possible, there are a couple of good ones, but mainly they're just other people's ideas of how to do it, what you want to do is find your own way of doing things. To that end, read, live and think. If you read, you will think, your imagination will be set alight, your mind expanded, you will be taken on a journey to places you did not expect, or could have gone on had you not opened that door.

Not only is it important to open the door and take the journey in you mind, but it is important to do that in real life too. Open the fucking door and take a walk. Get out of the house.  Get out of your head. We have these bodies so we don't have to stay in our heads, we can move around, spending too much time up there will drive you mad. Walk the town, the country road, the mountain pass, let nature blow the cob webs out, you will be refreshed and reinvigorated. Listen, listen to nature, to people, eaves drop on conversation, you don't know where they might lead.

Listen to music, see a concert, see live music, feel it. Go to a gallery, look at art, face to face, not on a fucking computer screen, stand nose to nose with a great work of a master and study the brushstrokes. Remember that Rembrandt stood where you're standing now with a brush in his hand and painted it. His breath were yours now filled the air, and touched the canvas. Living as you are and being present. Be present.

Get a job. Sorry, I know, t's not what an artist wants to hear and I'm not your Dad! But, the dole it's a drain on the soul. Believe me, I know, I was on it for years, thinking it was what I needed to have the time to make films. But you're being paid by the succubus that is the government to exist, and only that, endowed but indebted by them to jump through whatever jobs-bridge free-work scheme they can come up with to remind you that they own you for this measly pittance they put in your hand one minute, and take out the next. A job will give you more money, give you a sense that it is your money, give you a sense of pride and purpose and give you wealth of stories. Think about it.

I mean, aren't all your best stories the one's about the shitty job you worked, aren't all your best characters the ones you worked with on those shitty jobs. You won't be there forever, I promise, because you've got enough ambition and drive to get you there. Build your craft, in the morning before work, on your lunch break, in the evening,  read and write and shoot on the weekend. All the little pieces will eventually build your dream into a reality. Life, and what happens in it, will always be your biggest source of material and inspiration.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Bubbles

'10 Days in December' Character Bubbles

We all live in our own bubble, but we move in and out of other people's bubbles. It's important to remember that when building characters and writing a story that has an ensemble cast. So it's not just focused on the main plot, but has sub-plots and well rounded supporting characters.

Here's a little technique I just invented. A visual character relationship breakdown. Just for me to be able to stand back and quickly look at how characters interact. We have Will and Lucy, the main characters, in the centre, they interact with all the supporting characters, both individually and as a group. Some characters don't interact with other characters, others only interact with everyone... and so on.

For me, each overlap represent a scene, and a different dynamic in the relationships. You will also notice that outside the interaction is a space where there is no interaction, representing a whole other life that these characters are having beyond this story. While the film happens within the Red circle, it's a reminder that these characters have their own stories and they bring them with them when they enter our story, making them fully rounded characters.

There are also satellite characters, those who do not effect the plot, but create a more vivid and real world around our characters.

It's easy to get caught up in what the main protagonists are doing, and have that be the only thing that's going on. But it's important to remember the world they're in and the relationships they have, it all effects who they are and how they behave. And in this story in particular, my friends were very important to me and to Maryann, they represented me, my life and the world I lived in, and made it very attractive to Maryann. For her she saw a warm, friendly, welcoming place that she wanted to be a part of.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Waiting Place

My biggest stumbling block as a young writer, wannabe filmmaker, was my own lack of confidence, and need for validation. I had a need for someone to tell me I was doing a good job. If you wait around for that, you’ll get nothing done. Confidence and validation (if you need it) comes after the fact, so do the work first, then worry about it.

I decided not to continue with animation once I graduated in 2000. Instead chose to pursue my first, and one true love, film. I always wanted to write and direct. So, I wrote a feature script and set out to try and make it, with no clue how to. Remember, this was 16 years ago, right before the digital age, it was about to hit, but we were still well and truly in the film world. I started this blog then, "Celluloid Journey", that’ll tell you! I was confident I would be moving forward in film. To that end, it was much more difficult to get a film made, much more expensive, you had the cost of stock to worry about, which was not only the price of film cans, but also processing and telecine. Thousands to consider before you ever thought about putting pen to paper!

But I let that get in the way, plus I felt like I needed to be guided and told my stuff was good enough to warrant that kind of effort and expense. I never really got that. Admittedly I found a writing partner who I wrote with for years. We wrote a lot of really great stuff together, but only ever made one short film. We never could get passed that writing stage. I’m not sure why, a lack of time, money, opportunity or maybe just a lack of a “Just Do It” attitude. I often wonder how things might have been different if I hadn’t sought advice and just gone and made that first script. I can say one thing with certainty, it would have been terrible film, but it would have been a film, a feature film, made 4 years before I would eventually make my first short film. 

Funny thing is, when I finally got round to making my first feature film, 12 years later, it was very close to that original script. That one was call Blood/Dirt/Money, my feature was call Derelict, and both were came thriller. I think I would have learned a lot that first go round, as much as I learned 12 years on doing my first feature film. Of course, I learned a lot anyway, working with Thomas taught me a lot about writing, and attention to detail in the script. He’s great at pushing it, and questioning things, and not brushing things under the page. It has to work, and be unbreakable. You’ve got to be able to come at it from any angle and it still works. I also met my wife because of Emily’s Song, so I wouldn’t be married to her or have my two beautiful kids with out it. 

But I wish I’d had more of a “Just Do It” attitude all the way along. Whenever I’ve pushed it, or taken a chance, a risk, and gone for something, even though it’s been frightening, and fraught with struggle and some sacrifice, it’s paid off, and life has improved. So I would say to you, just go for it, Do IT! Don’t ever wait for acknowledgment, permission, validation, just concentrate on the work and only the work. If you’re inspired to tell a story in a certain way, then do it, write it, don’t tell anyone about it, keep it secret until it’s ready and then go out and make it. 

Gather your cast and crew. Pick up whatever equipment is available to you. If you can’t afford a Red, shoot it on your phone. Even if you feel it won’t be good enough, make it how you can, because it'll be done, it’ll be a film, it’ll be in the world. And you'll move onto the next one, and the next one and eventually you can afford the Red and things begin to look better and you now have the experience and you've learned all those lessons and perhaps you've built up a reputation and people want to get behind you now.

If you wait around for the big one, it’ll probably never come. Get on the road in whatever banger you have, you’ll pick up a better vehicle as you go, but go, go go go, now! Time is short and running out. The time is now. So go make your film. Start today. What are you waiting for? I can’t tell you exactly what you’re waiting for… You. No more excuses. Get It Done. Your audience is waiting.

Friday, January 01, 2016

So You Wanna Make a Film in 2016 - Here's How!

The 7 films I've made using this method.

This post is actually from 2012! 4 Years ago!!! Eek! I think I had just finish Derelict! Double Eek! Now I know I'm not a very active filmmaker, and I haven't made a film in a while (life happens), but I believe on the info still stands, and it comes from years of practical experience and getting small films made. 

This is for people starting out, young filmmakers making their first film, dipping their toe into the pond for the first time and might be finding it hard to find those simple, practical pieces of information to just get started. It's a daunting prospect, so here are some helpful hints that should help you take those first steps.

First, I should mention, I don't make money at it, and if you go down this road chances are you wont make money at it either. I make my own films without support or financial backing. I've never made any profit making films. I've sold a couple yes, and I have made some money, but I've only ever broken even once. In saying that, I don't do it for the money! And I'm sure you don't either, so, I'd be happy to share with you how I get my films made. 

Here’s a 10 point breakdown (I go into much more detail below):

1. Get the script right.
2. Get people you know and trust involved early on.
3. Get a good cast.
4. Makes Sure people are committed.
5. Raise some funds, but don't worry too much about it.
6. Schedule you film.
7. Set a Date! Move toward it.
8. Feed people.
9. Communicate with people.
10. When directing, be assertive, confident, sure and put yourself in the centre of the room. You're the leader. You're the reason everyone's here. Remember that. 

OK, so here we go!

In putting a film together it begins with the script, as you know, I think this is the most important and crucial stage. It's so easy to get excited and run in all guns blazing without a finished or ready script. What will happen is your film will being to fall apart, you might get it shot, but in the edit, everything you should have spent time on in the writing will be become all to apparent. It's worth spending time on the script, besides, that’s the only free part of the process! So take advantage!

Me writing the yet-to-be-produced "Ghoster"
When the script is ready and you want to start putting it together I would begin with a crew, people you know and trust. They don't have to be professionals, they don't have to be the best in the world, but so long as they know what they're doing and understand what you want. Try to find a DOP first, a good sound recordist is important (sound is KEY, especially at this level, you can get away with a lot visually, but if you have bad sound - your film is ruined!) - the rest of the crew will come as you move forward. 

I would suggest keeping it to a skeleton crew, 8 - 10 people. At this level, everyone's going to be pitching in and doing multiple jobs. But I would say some important jobs (aside from camera and sound) would be continuity, you really need to have someone paying attention, taking notes and pictures, because if you're shooting out of sequence it can very quickly get out of hand. An Assistant Director, 1st AD, someone to watch the clock, keep things moving and make sure everything and everyone are in the right place at the right time, someone who can take away the distractions and allow you to concentrate on directing and be creative.

Patrick O'Donnell and I in rehearsal on "Derelict" 2012
Then begin to cast. You may know some actors already? Do any suit the parts? Maybe friends or colleagues have worked with actors they like? Meet with them, tell them about your script, see if you like them and could work with them. Make sure you see their work too. A mistake you don’t want to make is getting someone just because they're interested. This goes for crew too. I've done this before and if they're bad it will damage your film and make it less believable. It will also be a nightmare to edit. You still need good people. You still need to do the best job you can, even if it is on a tiny budget and even if everyone has agreed to work for free and/or on deferral contracts (where you agree to pay them the daily minimum at least if and after the film goes into profit). They’re signing up to work, not hang around for a week. That being said, most people are eager to work, and if they've said yes it's because they want to work and believe in your project, and you.

Speaking of budget, if you want to shoot an independent short film, or even feature, you can do a lot with goodwill (people giving their time for free) - couple of things to remember, if people are working for free talk to them, let them know what's going on, let them know they are appreciated and thank them for their time. But don't let them get away with not working. If they are going to commit to helping then they need to help and not hinder! You can do this nicely and easily with a speech at the start of pre-production and again at the start of principal photography - something to the effect of "Thanks for coming, you're appreciated, but we have a tough week ahead and I need everyone to help me make a film we can all be proud of..." kind of thing. If someone is taking the piss and just getting in the way don't be afraid to ask them to leave.

Feed people!!!

Very important. In your budget make sure you have money to feed people, it's only fair! A well fed cast and crew are a happy cast and crew. A table with plenty of snacks, cookies, bars, plenty of fruit and sandwich making stuff, lots of water and tea and coffee. And one hot meal a day. Perhaps making soup available daily too. You can tell them there will be food, snacks and a hot meal, but perhaps suggest getting breakfast before they come and having dinner at home. Save yourself some cash.

Base Camp - Derelict
Schedule your days realistically. I would suggest starting with breaking your script up into locations, even if in a house - shoot in one place until you have all the shots are got and then move on to the next location. It's easier and less time consuming that way. (Unless of course you're going handheld and following people in and out of rooms, it doesn't apply then) 

Again, if people are working for free, try to keep the shoot short, a week, two weeks max. If people are giving up their time their probably making financial sacrifices or passing up other opportunities, be conscious of that - but don't let it distract you, again, if they're committing to you then they've made their choice. But it's only fair that you don't ask too much of people, you might lose some good will otherwise. Ways around this if you're running over is to pull people aside and let them know what's going on, keeping people informed helps more then you think it will, or paying them, even if it's a small amount.

OK, back to budget and how to raise it.

1. Community fundraiser:

Have a fundraiser where you live. Find a venue, put on a comedy, rock, table quiz night. Charge people a small amount at the door €5 or €10, and then sell raffle tickets while the entertainment is going on to win sponsored prizes (you'll have to have local businesses donate prizes, this is also easier then you think... you will get people who will rudely dismiss you, which is humiliating, but you'll get more people who'll gladly help) I made €1000 for a short by doing this.

2. Auction:

Do you have artist friends? Do you know prominent artist? Have them donate work, set a reserve, which they get (if sold) and agree that you get the profit of the whatever is sold (some may even give you all the money) Go to a local gallery, art centre, something like that and ask them if you could host the night there, put on some wine and a light buffet. 

note: You will have to spend some money to do this. The old Spend money to make money. You will also have to do a lot of leg work to get people in the doors. Advertise. Posters. Try and get on local radio. People are also pretty good about sponsoring this stuff, just ask, the worst they can do is say no.

3. Online Crowdfunding:

This is becoming increasingly popular. I've used it twice with great success, on two films, 140 and Derelict (my current film) Kickstarter is an American site and only available to American users, for now, but you should have a look at the pitch videos and other projects just to see how people put them together and how they pitch them. IndieGoGo is similar site you can sign up to from anywhere (Funit.ie in Ireland). And I believe there are others out there now. 

Again, you have to push it and put the leg work in, no one's just going to just show up out of the blue and give you cash, you have to shout about it, get on facebook, twitter - It doesn't matter if you hate those sites, you want people to get behind the project you have to let them know about it and social networking is the best way to do that. We’re in the age of digital media and social network, it’s only an advantage to the independent filmmaker, use it… again – It’s Free!!!

You will need some cash, for food, some equipment rental, travel expenses, insurance and things that will inevitable pop up during the shoot. But you can make a film for next to nothing if you're clever and tenacious enough. You can get a descent short for €2000 if you want to put a little cash in to be sure. Don’t be a afraid to ask for things, for sponsorship, for free stuff, water, food, equipment, you never know what you might get.

With regard to equipment, lights, cameras, all you may need - get in touch with a local rental house, tell them what you're doing and ask if there is a way they can help, either by giving you a discount or by lending stuff for free off season, often places will do this, if they're cool they'd rather help out a young filmmaker then see the stuff lying there. After all, you may be a very good future customer and you're going to go to the place that helped you out first!

But I would say, don't let money stop you from making a film. If you want to make a film, you should. If you believe in it and start it, the money will come. Often, when people put money into a project it's not because the believe in the project so much, it's that they believe in you, and like to see people doing something creative and positive. So go do it, start it and it will happen.

It's a tough road, no question about that, and at some point you will ask yourself why you started it, I still do! But it is also very rewarding, and once you've made this film you're just going to want to get onto the next one.

Here’s a 10 point breakdown:

1. Get the script right.
2. Get people you know and trust involved early on.
3. Get a good cast.
4. Makes Sure people are committed.
5. Raise some funds, but don't worry too much about it.
6. Schedule you film.
7. Set a Date! Move toward it.
8. Feed people.
9. Communicate with people.
10. When directing, be assertive, confident, sure and put yourself in the centre of the room. You're the leader. You're the reason everyone's here. Remember that. 

Two bonus points:
Be nice to people.
Put some money aside for the wrap party!!!

Hope that helps you somewhat! As I said at the start, everyone’s journey is different so you may find your own ways of doing things. Tap every resource you have, you’ll get there.

Couple of books you should read to: Digital Filmmaking by Mike Figgis and Producing With Passion: Making Films That Change The World by Dorothy Fadiman and Tony Levelle (which is about making documentaries but so much of how to get a film up and running applies). Two of the best books I’ve read on how to make a film, because they’re practical, simple, constructive and inspirational. 

Addition: Funding - When looking for funding go to you local Council, they usually have an arts fund, ask about it. Some other organisations you may not expect may also have arts or education funds, some charities do, ask around, you might be surprised what you find.

Addition II: Equipement - What do you need? Camera, sound recording devices, lights. If you have no money, shoot on your iPhone. Seriously, the iPhone 6s has 4k recording now. With a 64gb memory you can record up to 20 mins of 4k footage. That's more than enough. You may need a lens adaptor, and an app to strength your cameras capability, but it's possible. You also have the Movies app on you phone, so we're basically walking around with a HD movie studio in our pocket, use it! 

Check out Filmic Pro to expand your phones capability.
Check out Moondog Labs for lens adaptors.

You use what you can. However you can get it made, that's how you do it, the most important thing that the script is good, tight and concisely telling the story you want to tell.

By all means ask around, if you know someone who's willing to loan you a RED, sure go for it. But be prepared to post it too. Do you have the capabilities to edit 4K? Think about that too, if 1080i will do, and you can cut it on your home computer yourself, then that might be the way to go, instead of painting yourself into a 4k corner that you may never get out of!

You may not chose to shot with lights, using available light, it is possible of course, just be clever about it. Can you write the script around available light, set scenes in the day instead of the night? Close to a window? If you make these decision early on in the script writing stage you can incorporate them into the design of the film and indeed the story. It will also save you a lot of time trying to block on the day.

I'm not an expert on sound, except to say it's vital. I tend to hire a good recordist and have them hire the equipment they need. Before the shoot we discuss the script, and ideas for each scene. See if you can find a good recordist, or go to a rental house and ask advice. You can find out a ton of info online, but I'm old school, I like getting out and talking to people, the people who do this everyday.

Addition III: Post-Production - This is a big one. Something I missed out on back in 2012 because I had just started on post-production for Derelict and quite honestly, I wasn't prepared for it and it harmed the release of the film. So, lesson learned, and lesson shared.

Make sure you are prepared for post-production at the very beginning, it is as important, if not more important, as the shoot. This is where you will finish the film, and realise the vision you set out to make. You will edit it, color it, composed the score, export it to however many formats you need to and then market it, put it out into the world, get it to festivals, get it distributed, or sold, or streaming somewhere. You are after all making this film to share with an audience, the trick now is to get it to the audience.

So part of your budget needs to be set aside for all that. Don't forget it just so you can get the film shot, if you don't have it, then you're not ready. Trust me, there is nothing worse than getting lost in post for a year or more. You need to keep the momentum of your film going all the way to it's release.

If you are thinking about crowdfunding, take a look at Seed & Spark, it is a newer crowdfunding platform that is solely for film, but not only can you raise your funds, but they offer a distribution platform too. So as you build your audience while you're raising funding, you hang onto them, and present the film to them when it's complete.

Entering Festivals:

I would recommend getting it to festivals, don't just put it up online, I know you're excited to share it, but there are often rules, which include not publicly broadcasting your film before sale. If you do, you may rule yourself out of festivals and sales. 

Getting it into festival can give your film some prestige, making it more commercial and sellable, and a more attractive prospect for other festival. Aim for the big ones first, a big premiere at a prestigious festival can really help your film. And awards don't hurt either. I know we're not in this for awards, but whatever gets your film in front of an audience. 

Once your film is ready, get yourself over to Filmfreeway and start entering, Film freeway is great, very user friendly, and a useful sliding scale so you can set it to your budget, even if your budget is $0, it shows free festivals. You can also look at Short Film Depot, it's an older site, but I've used it since making Emily's Song over 10 years ago.

So go on, go make a film in 2016, send it to me when you’re done! And don’t forget to enjoy yourself! You’re living your dream after all.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy New Screenplay!

93 Pages In

Merry Christmas everyone, and a Happy new year!!! And what a year it's been. Completely hectic. Apart from everything else that was going on we had a few months full of getting 'One Day in December' ready. We were in full pre-production, so it was full on for a while. And had we raised the funding I'd be flying out tomorrow to start shooting, but it wasn't to be. But as I mentioned before, all is not lost and we are looking forward to a really exciting year, with the potential of shooting a feature film at the end of it. So this week I will be writing on "10 Days in December", our new feature film, which tells the full story of One Day. I am already 93 pages into the first draft and hopefully I will have a draft ready other people's eyes by March or April! So onwards! Here's to 2016 and getting 10 Days off the ground. 
Thank you again and again for your support this year, it was incredible and appreciated. A very Happy New year to you all.
Much Love
Frank & Maryann

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck

70 Backers. Over $6,000 raised. A huge responce on Facebook and Twitter. Nothing but positivity, well wishes, good vibes, support and belief in this project from start to finish. Unfortunately, financially, it wasn't enough, and we did not meet our goal. So, I'm sad to say, One Day in December will not be happening. But, as the Dali Lama said, "Remember that sometimes not getting what you want can be a wonderful stroke of luck."

And I'm seeing it as that, luck, and a chance to seize the opportunity, the time, the energy, momentum, the support system we've built and everything I've learned about these characters and this story, and go for the big one - 10 Days in December! Our feature film. 
10 Days in December - Starts Now!
The plan always was to go for the feature, and I had started writing it, but we decided, giving our schedule and time frame right now, that a short proof-of-concept would be more manageable, and aid us in the long run. But it wasn't to be. Now, we could try again in the new year. I've had the experience before, with Derelict, where coming up to Christmas people are just more careful with their money, and I relaunched in March and the campaign was successful the second time round. But I don't want to put anymore time and energy into a short, when the real goal is, and always has been, the feature film.

That's not to say the short would have been, or was, a waste of time. I learned a great deal about the story by doing this. I learned how to write it, which I was struggling with in the original draft. I also gathered a fantastic central cast, which I will now grow, there are many more characters in the feature that did not appear in this version. I'm looking forward to casting the Mother and the Brother, I already have some ideas of who I would like to cast. 

We've also built a community around the film, the 70 bakers, all the people on Facebook and Twitter who liked, shared and retweeted, there was a hugely positive reaction. Now with an army of supporters, we can move forward on solid ground, with an audience and community already growing around the film! And I can't wait for you guys to see this film, One Day was special, for sure, but 10 Days is 10 times more special! There's so much more the story, the characters and indeed Ireland. More musical moments too. And much more family and friends, which are such a large part of the story.


We're starting now, there isn't going to be a break. I'm not taking time off till the new year, because there simply isn't time. I want to shoot this film, and shoot it as soon as possible. Today is Day One on 10 Days in December, and I'm hoping everyone who has been with us so far will stick with us for the big one. It's going to be a much larger undertaking, it will require a bigger cast, crew, budget and more time. Which means, we'll all be coming back to Ireland for a month or more at some point in the not too distant future.

I may not crowdfund this time, I don't know yet, I'll need a lot more money than we asked for on the short, and it takes so much time and effort that I find it actually takes away from the time needed for the film itself. I had hoped to do more script work, storyboarding and pre-production on One Day than I got to do because I was so preoccupied with the Kickstarter campaign. I don't want that to happen again. So even if I do a campaign, it will be much further away from the shoot than this was.

Meantime, please stick with us for 10 Days in December. Things will be quiet for a while, but I'll ticking away in the background working on the script. I might do some work on I Am Ireland in the meantime, which hasn't gone away, just needs a new approach I think. But for now, the main project and goal in 10 Days in December, and I'll be working on that from here on out. I'm excited about it, this is the one we've been waiting for, it's going to be great!

So again, thank you to everyone who got behind One Day in December, for you financial support and for you moral support, it was extremely encouraging, especially having been away from making films for so long. I wondered if there was a point in going back, if anyone would care, but you've shown me you do and you care about this story. I can't wait to show it to you.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Once Upon a Day

We’re coming to the end of our Kickstarter campaign, and we still have a long way to go. It’s a bit like realising you have to get to the peak of the mountain today, when you thought you had a month. Let me tell you a bit about this project. Let me go back to the start for a second - I’ve wanted to make films since I was a small child, I always credit Back to the Future with making me want to make films, and I think it was, it was the first time I expressed the desire to “Do that!” whatever “That” was, because I wasn’t sure at age 9. But I had a love of movies well before that. I was already watching movies daily, I would wake up at 6am every Saturday and watch whatever movie my parents had rented the night before, before my brother and sister woke, because they were too young to watch whatever it was. Honestly, I was too young, but I got it, and I think my parents saw that, so they let me watch a lot of stuff most parents wouldn’t. I saw Robocop when it came out, I would have been 10, I saw American Werewolf in London at age 11, I saw every Arnie and Van Damme movie that came out (my brother Noel and I loved kickboxing movies!)

My Mother introduced me to classics, like Casablanca, It’s A Wonderful Life, Harvey, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and so much more, from a young age. My Dad would let me stay up late to watch the likes of Jaws, Dirty Harry, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and this was all before I was a teenager. It instilled a love for movies and great storytelling in me. It became an obsession and a passion and began to feel like a vocation. I became a filmmaker and a writer, even before I made a film or wrote a script. It was in me, part of me, soaked through every fibre and became what I was made of. I love movies and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

I’ve been lucky enough to have made some independent films, through the help and goodwill of family, friends and indeed kind strangers, who perhaps share my passion. I’ve never broken through, become commercially successful or been able to make a living from it, but the passion for it has never wained. And although the dream has narrowed in scope over the years, when I was 9 I wanted to be the next Speilberg, now with a family and responsibilities, chasing the dream is not a full-time pursuit anymore, when I left Ireland I left that behind. But I’m happy with being able to write when I can and if I’m lucky, make a small indie film every couple of years. So I’m probably not going to make that many films in my life, which means the ones I do make have to mean something, they have to be important to me. One Day in December is the first film I will make in this new mindset, and this story means more to me than any other story I’ve ever written.

I’ve told the story many times over the last few week, but this is the story of my own life, albeit one day in my life, but a very important day, the day I knew I was in love with my wife. Life was never the same after that. My world got turned upside down. All the rules got thrown out the window and it became about being together. Once we figured that out, our adventure truly began and hasn’t stop since. Everyday is something new. So, I’ve always felt it was a story worth telling, and I’ve been thinking about making it as a film for a long time. The full story is of course that entire vacation, which will be told in 10 Days in December later one, but for now, we want to tell the story of this one day. 



We have a fantastic cast, I’m so excited to be working with all of these guys. Lead by Grace Fitzgerald and Graeme Coughlan, who, by the way, have been a delight to work with already, they’ve been so involved and behind this project it’s really incredible, they are so devoted and passionate about a project. I think they have a real chemistry together and having met with them (online) I think that chemistry is really going to translate to the screen, and I can’t wait for you to see it. 

The film falls in the same vein as Linklater's Before trilogy, it’s a day with a couple as they walk around, get to know each other and fall in love. The difference being, that this is a true story, and that it’s going to be told by me, in my own unique style. It has a very Irish flavour to it, it is grounded in Irish culture, and small town Ireland. I like to get characters talking, I like the small things in everyday life, random moments aside from the plot, I like my characters to meander, wander off topic, discover and encounter things. I think it reveals a lot about them as people, plus it adds depth to their surroundings. For me environment is as much a part of the story as the characters themselves, in informs so much. 

I want to create something special, something beautiful, I don’t want to rush it or cut corners, it’s too important for that. It should be the best film I’ve ever done or there’s no point making it. I’ve gathered a great cast, I’m gathering a great crew. I’m taking my time with it. But we need support to get it made. The Kickstarter campaign is entering it’s final week, and we still have the majority of the budget to get. Is it possible to raise over $30,000 in one week?! I believe so. It’s just a matter of get the word out, finding people who believe me when I say I believe in this film and I’m going to make it great.

It also begs the question, what happens if we don’t reach out goal? Will the project die? - No. Is the simple answer to that. There is a plan-b. And if we don’t reach our goal I’ll announce plan-b. We won’t let the film go away, we’ve been thinking about it and planning it for too long. There are always road blokes in the making of any film, and there are always ways round. This is just the beginning of the journey. We have a long way to go, and we’re prepared for the journey.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Meet the Cast

I'm very excited to make some casting announcements for One Day in December today. I saw hundreds of submissions and it really was encouraging to see so much talent back in Ireland... makes me sorry I left! The crappy part was I had to say no to a lot of that amazing talent! There were only so many roles available and really wanted to find the people who were just right for the characters, so it took a little longer than expected. There are still two parts available, those of Dan (25) and Kieran (32). In the meantime however, here are most of the awesome cast of One Day in December:

Grace Kelley Fitzgerald as Lucy
Graeme Anthony Coughlan as Will
Clare Monnelly as Fi
John Morton as John
Diane Jennings as Wendy
Ross Mac Mahon as Keiran
Meg Healy as Lorraine
Tadhg Murphy as Tadhg
Patrick O'Donnell as The Chipper
Lorna Larkin as The Chipper's Wife
Gerry Wade as The Barman


I'm very excited to have all these guys on board. They were all exceptionally strong and I felt really fit the characters. A couple of people I've worked with before, a couple I've wanted to work with for a while and a few surprises too.

Again, you can see that there are two characters still available. I am still considering a couple of submissions, so hopefully I can fill those soon. And before the end of the month I will start fundraising for the project, to I can pay these lovely people and rent some useful things, like cameras, might come in handy.

Getting exciting!!!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

How We Failed a Child. How We Are Losing Humanity.

I felt compelled to write something about this tragic event. For me, this is the tipping point, and I hope it's the tipping point for many, for the world. We've all grown up with war, we see it on the news, in some far away country, somebody elses problem and we get on with our lives, as we have to, we have jobs to go to, rent and bills must be paid, Facebook must be updated and those reality TV shows don't watch themselves. But sometimes we have to stop, and look. As much as we don't want to, we have to look.


This image stopped me in my tracks yesterday morning and shock me to the core. I was having an OK morning, sitting at my desk to start my day, drinking coffee and scrolling through Facebook before I got stuck in. Down the news feed, silly cat videos, memes of one kind or another, people having a rant, lots of pictures of first day at school and then this. A small boy in a red shirt, navy shorts and little brown velcro strap shoes. Lying so peacefully and still, like little toddlers do when they sleep. But he wasn't on any soft bed. He was face down in the sand, the surf washing over his face, unmoving, lifeless, drowned.

I've seen dead bodies before. I've seen images of terrible things and indeed dead children before. While they have caused me sadness, none have shock me like this one. And I think it's because he looks like me own little boy. I have a two and half year old. A little chap so full of life, and fun , and smiles, and laughter and with so much in front of him. Everyday when I come home from work he is so excited to see me, he runs to me shouting "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" and throws his little arms around me. I pick him up and hug him and kiss him. I'm sure it was the same for this little boy and his Daddy.

Aylan's Father leaving the hospital after identifying his sons body
And like his Daddy, I want nothing but the best for my son, both my kids, which is why I left Ireland and came to America. I had that choice. I was able to choose to leave one Free country and enter another Free country to live a Free life. These countries are not without their problems of course, and life can be difficult, but there are two key words - Freedom and Life. I can live here, I can thrive here, I can go about my business and earn a living and have fun and provide a decent life for my boy, unhindered. I don't have war at my door, forcing me to get into a small boat in desperation to flee, unknowing what is waiting for me.

I can't help but admire the composure and respect this officer shows.
And it seems, there is nothing waiting. Europe has close it's gates to these people. And we are standing and watching them die because they don't have a passport, or a document saying they have the right to enter, a fucking piece of paper with a rubber stamp on it. This little boy died, drowned, cold, wet, terrified in the dark screaming for his Daddy while his lungs filled with water, because of a piece of paper.

I would ask the question, but I already know the answer, the answer is Never, the question? When will governments see us as human beings, as equal, as one? If you saw someone being attacked outside you house, and you knew being opening to the door and letting them in you could save their life, would you? Our governments are chosing not to. They are choosing to keep the door closed, and instead watch as many they could have saved, die. And not only that, but they are treating them like less than human, hearding them, fencing them, beating them, treating them like the criminals. Because they are trying to flee war torn countries, because they are trying to save themselves and their children, and the people they are running to are saying "No, we don't want to save you, we don't want you here." And leaving them with only one choice, to die.

The world is at war, and you are either on one side or the other - You're doing the killing, or you're doing the saving. Right now Europe, the world, governments, you're doing the killing too. There is no hope.

Aylan with his father and older brother
(who also died) ready for a big adventure.
Look at this little boy, his name is Aylan. The morning of his death his woke up like any other morning. He got dressed, strapped on hi shoes, put on his favorite red t-shirt, the one with the spaceship on it, ran around excited because his Daddy told him "We're going on a boat today" and he thought this was going to be the best day ever! And then he died. Drowning, in agony and terror, just wanting his Daddy to help him and take him home, so he could play. He's father didn't fail him, we did, those of us you live in the free world and look on doing nothing. Shame on all of us.





Goodnight little man, rest well, I'm sorry we failed you.



Addition: My boy, at the beach, how it should be for all kids. Not what's above.