Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guiding Lights Don't Shine.

I don't enter that many film festivals. Though I've had a pretty good hit rate on the ones I have. I like festivals, don't get me wrong, it's just that I cant afford a lot of them and honestly, I'd rather get on to the next film! I'm a filmmaker, that's what I'm about. I know my films need to be seen, and festivals are a great boost to a film's reputation and advertising. But after five or six festivals I just want to be writing again, getting the next film up and running.

With Emily's Song I put an enormous amount of time and effort into entering festivals and both Thomas and I spent a huge amount of money doing so. We got into about 30 film festivals, couple of big ones and won a few awards along the way, which was nice. But so much time passed while we promoted that film, two years in fact. When I wrapped that film I wanted to be shooting 6 month later! I thought I would, I had the next script ready to go. It was 3 years before I stood in front of a camera again. And even then it was just a no-budget doc short with friends, something personal for something to do.

Elliot Kotek once said something to me that made a lot of sense, he said "You only allow your films to be a successful as you want them to be," which is true. I could have pushed my other short films more, but maybe 140 wouldn't have happened. I could be pushing 140 more, but maybe Derelict wouldn't be happening. Again, I just want to be making films, and while festivals are an essential part of being an independent filmmaker, once I've done four or five of them I just want to on to the next film.

However, this attitude seems to have backfired on me a bit. I recently came across the Guiding Lights Mentorship Programme for aspiring filmmakers. Filmmakers in my position who have a few films under their belt, who have made a mark, got into festivals and won some awards. But just need that extra boost to get to the next level. I got very excited, especially when I saw that the mentors included the likes of Danny Boyle, Sam Mendes and Stephen Frears. I thought - This is so for me! 

So I got applying, jumped the gun of course and started filling in the application form first! Then I got to a couple of awkward questions and requirements. One of which was about film festivals. It asked that the applicant, me, send in two sole directed films that have been selected by and screen at a film festival from an approved list of film festivals. A list of about 100 of the most prestigious festival around the world. Eek! It's kind of like arriving at the door of a nightclub with a smart dress policy and realising you're wearing trainers and hoody!

Now Emily's Song had been to two, maybe three of those festivals, even got a special mention at one (Oberhausen). But ES was co-directed, it's not a sole project. Bill, For Short has only been to a couple of film festivals. It was a personal film never meant for festival. It was just of the off chance I sent it to a couple of familiar festivals and they picked it up, Bonus! Slán suffered from bad promotion at the hands of 140 and never really got pushed at all, my own fault! I hold my hands up to that. And as for 140 - a few fests, none on the list and it certainly isn't a sole directing project!!!

So I'm screwed. It seemed like the mentoring programme was made for me from the questions in the email:

Are you a talented, ambitious filmmaker with a proven track record?


Have you reached a critical stage in your career where high quality industry support would help you reach the next level?


Would a mentor’s expert guidance enable you to achieve your full potential?

ABSOLUTELY... where do I sign?!

If so, Guiding Lights is for you.

Awesome, I'm in!

As it happened those questions were completely irrelevant. The single most important question was waiting inside - Have you got into any of these festivals? No? - sling your hook pal, you can't wear trainers and a hoody in this establishment!

I guess it's my own fault, as I said above, I'm about filmmaking. I love festivals, they have certainly helped me along the way. But again I just want to get on to the next project. And again - I just can't afford it. I'm an Unemployed Dad, as my friend Mark likes to say! I spend my days looking after my beautiful daughter and pushing her buggy around town, grabbing time to write when she sleeps and organise with my Wife or my Mam to babysit her if I want to do a reading or rehearsal or get some work done with a co-writer. All my spare money goes to her. All my time too. Festivals can take a back seat to that. 

So I don't qualify. I'm not considered worthy of mentorship by the greats! My achievements, such as they are, count of naught here. Fair enough. Not for me. But I still find it odd that I, and many other talented filmmakers with heaps of potential I'm sure, get excluded because they haven't entered the right festivals. Doesn't seem fair or right. Shouldn't it be based on the work rather than the accolades?

Maybe not! Or maybe I'm just being sore?! Anyway, good luck to those who do get through. I'm going off to make another film.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Things.

First, 140 just won a Bronze Palm Award from the Mexico International Film Festival! Woot! Thank you Mexico International, it's an honour! I'm thrilled.

Second, here's a little piece from the Drogheda Leader about the fundraiser.

That's it really. We're back working on Iscariot, I think I mentioned that earlier. Thomas and I were working on a beat sheet for a new draft today, it's looking good. Hopefully good enjoy to get us PAID for the next draft, wouldn't that be something?! And just need to find time now to work on the next draft of Derelict. OK, that's all, gotta fly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Onward and Upward.

The fundraiser has been and gone. I'm still recovering somewhat from the exertion involved, from the build up and all the running around, to the event itself. But it was worth it I think. The night was a success, we had a good crowd in, perhaps even a little more than I had expected and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. There was a good vibe in the room anyway.

In attendance: Kevin McAlister and Aoife Ruane.
All Photos © Eric O'Niell @ Drogheda Daily
Held in the Highlanes Gallery, in downtown Drogheda the event kicked off with a wine and food reception just after 7pm. People relaxed, sat and talked until 8pm when we moved downstairs to the main gallery. I gave a little speech, of course with all the preparation and running around I never actually prepared anything to say! So hopefully I didn't ramble too much, I don't think I did!

I spoke briefly about my experiences with trying to get films off the ground without any backing. From Emily's Song, where we managed to get something of a budget (back when people had money - including me!) and a full cast and crew, to Bill, For Short, which had no money and was shot in a weekend by 3 people, to Slán agus Beannacht, which was somewhere in the middle. I touch on 140, where crowd-source online funding came in to play. 

Gerry Shanahan, Me, Ian Watters.
In each case I was reliant on the belief and generosity of my friends, family and community, both in the arts and the general public! People who came to my parties and events and gave. I always like to give something in return of course, by throwing a party or putting on a show at a good price - but of course, people can choose to spend their money wherever and however they please, I'm encouraged and grateful that they chose to support my cause!

After the talk I screened my three short films, Emily's Song, Bill, For Shot and Slán agus Beannacht, all of which got a good reaction. A lot of the crowd hadn't seen them before, so that was good, nice to get a fresh reaction and know they're still working!

Declan Kelly & Els Boghart
After that I went into a bit more detail about Derelict and screened 6 minutes of rehearsal footage, just as a taster and a reminder of what the night was about. Straight after that was the raffle, which was fun, and then the auction, which was somewhat tense, but also fun and much to my surprise and delight a great success, we sold all but three pieces.
Sarah Bradley & Paul Hayes

Once initial outlays and expenses are settled I will have raised a few-hundred euro (final figure to be tallied). In this climate I'm very happy with that. And it will go a long way in helping to getting the film made, either by going toward insurance, catering, location, equipment... it will be well spent!  

So my thanks to everyone who came and supported and to everyone who helped and took part. 

To our main sponsors:

To our raffle sponsors: 

To the Artists who donated their work: Richard Moore, Robert Ardill, Willie Dillon, Noel Kelly, Cara Konig-Brock and Brendan McHugh. To Justin Stubbs, auctioneer on the night. Especially to Mark Kearns whose idea the whole thing was and who was the driving force behind it. And of course my wife, Maryann, who is my biggest supporter and source of encouragement.

Still a lot of work to do. A script to be finished. Rehearsals to take place. Dates to be finalised and more money to be found! But this is an encouraging start to it all. Onward and upward. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Nothing Quite Like It.

Sometimes things just work out for the best. 

Last Monday I thought I had a venue booked, at least, I didn't think it would be an issue. Then I got an email from said venue to say my email had been found in their junk mail folder and they hadn't actually seen my request. So they booked the room out to someone else. So the reading it had taken me weeks to coordinated around everyone's busy schedules looked as if it was about to slip through me fingers once again. AARRRGH!!! Read the subject line of my email to the cast. No, I'm not a pirate, but I was frustrated! 

Luckily the cast know Dublin, and the spaces available, a lot better than I do. So Wednesday the problem was solved, thanks to Keith Ward (below), who made The Complex available to us. A great space and perfectly suited to Derelict, itself an empty warehouse. So we all met there at 12:30pm yesterday for a couple of hour and the second reading of Derelict.
Above: Michael Bates as J and Keith Ward as Tone have words, during rehearsal.
There seemed to be a good vibe in the room. I enjoyed myself anyway. It's always interesting to see what's working and what's not working when you hear your words read back to you. The mistakes become glaringly obvious. As it stands at the moment the script still needs a lot of work. Too much exposition, something I hate to see in a script anyway. But it's still at 'mind-dump' stage, where everything in my head is getting put on the page, without too much editing.

Michael Bates as J tells Elaine Reddy
as Kate what he thinks of her

It's early stages though, and I've purposely brought the actors in at this early stage because I really wanted them to be involved in the creation of their characters and their backstory. I felt, as the audience are dropped into an hour and half in the lives of these characters, without knowing who they are, where they're from or even what the situation is, we really need a strong sense of who these people are without it being rammed down our throats. At the moment it's still being a little bit rammed!

I know we'll get there though. The tone is there. The characters are there. The structure is there. The backbone of the piece is intact, we need to start layering the organs, the muscles, the fat, the flesh.
Steve Gunn as Davey-boy gives Rory Mullen
(Standing in as J) a piece of his mind.

After the reading we went through a couple of scenes to camera. More as something of a preview at the fundraiser this Thursday, give everyone a taste of what they are supporting. But it was great fun. I love getting behind the camera, and while there wasn't much in the way of direction, or delving the recesses of the characters minds and motivation, it was still fun to be holding a camera and have actors in front of it saying my words and see them come to life... there's no buzz quite like it! I Love it!!!

So everything is on track and ticking along nicely. I'll have a busy week ahead in the run up to the fundraiser and hopefully that will be a success! At least bring in some much needed funds. Id I can cover the cost of the location, or the insurance, or the food, I'll be happy. But in the meantime things are looking up.