Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2001: A Filmmaker's Odyssey

2001 really was the year that changed my life forever. For lots of personal reasons, but also for film.

I graduated college in 2000 having studied Animation for 4 years at Ballyfermot College of Further Education. I started out top of my class, an extremely enthusiastic student, but I didn't stay that way. I probably graduated bottom of my class, if I'm entirely honest. For lots of reasons, and not to play the blame game, but it was the kind of college where you were pretty much left to your own devises, they weren't so big on the guidance thing, and left to my own devises I'm easily distracted.

One such distraction was screenwriting. I became obsessed with it. I've always been a film fan and I've wanted to make films for as long as I can remember. And I've always been a keen writer. But again, never really guided. Sounds odd, but I discovered screenwriting quite late. When I did, I knew this was my way in. College took a backseat from then on.

I went to LA straight after graduation. Spent several weeks looking for work in some of the top studios in the world with a half-assed portfolio and the worst reel you'd ever seen. Not surprisingly I didn't find work, so I came home early. My girlfriend at the time had already decided she was going to spend a year in Australia, backpacking. I could come, or not, but whatever I decided she was going. So I guess that meant I was going.

She went ahead by several months. I stayed behind working on a factory production line trying to safe enough money to join her. I was lucky though. I was sat alone in the far corner of a large factory on a near empty floor on a self-running test machine that I only had to load every 30 minutes. It gave me months to write. I actually loved it. I wrote three short scripts and two feature scripts. They were terrible. I knew even then. But I was writing. And more to the point I discovered that I enjoyed it more than Animation. I loved making up stories.

I finished working there in January of 2001 and by that time I had made the decision not to pursue Animation any further and instead follow my first love, no, not the girlfriend in Australia, but Film.

When I landed in Australia I was of course thrilled to see the girlfriend, and her me... for about 12 hours! The next day I dropped the bombshell "I'm not doing Animation anymore, I want to make films." The look on her face should have told me that was the end, but I've always been a little naive that way. It took several more months for the penny to drop.

During the following oblivious months I wrote, like never before. I poured over screenwriting books, I bought notebooks and took endless notes and I even bought myself an old type-writer from SVP (SVP would play a hand in my career again of course!) and I set to writing the screenplay I was going to direct when I got back to Ireland. It was a kidnap thriller called Blood . Dirt . Money even had the full-stops like that and everything!

A huge influence on the script, and me, was the film Memento by Christopher Nolan. It truly inspired me and informed me. It changed how I looked at films. I realised this was the kind of film I wanted to make. Something contained, taught, dark, something that kept the audience guessing and enthralled. That first draft of B.D.M probably lifted a lot from Memento, in fact, I know it did, as well as a lot of other films. Looking back it was something of a patchwork of borrowed scenes! But I managed to finish the screenplay before we left Sydney. Little didn't I know that when I typed 'The End' it meant more than just the end of the script.

I came back to Ireland early. The girlfriend stayed behind to spend some time with her sister, or so I thought. I had suspicions something else had been going on for a while. She would cry for no reason. Disappear to meet friends, who would then show up completely unaware of any such meeting, strange misplaced apologies. When she eventually did get back I popped around to see her and was sitting at the table flicking through a magazine when I came across her named, written across a L'Oreal advertisement, but with a different second name, and not mine!

I remember her telling me years ago that it was something all girls did, write their name with the second name of a potential husband to see if it looked good, sounded good (she always thought my second name sounded funny with hers!) I never forgot the name, and it was only years later when I heard the name of her now husband that it was all confirmed. We broke up that week.

But none of that matters now. She's married. I'm married. Everyone's grown up and happy. It's just relevant to the year that changed my life. 2001. My odyssey!

After that I decided I would focus on writing. I got in touch with Thomas Kennedy. Told him I wanted to make this script I had and if could advise me. He read it. Never mentioned it again. But asked if I wanted to write something else with him. From that first meeting came Emily's Song, our award winning short film. Ten years on the writing partnership continues, that although we've been interrupted by marriages and kids and careers and soon immigration, it is still going strong - I'm meeting him tomorrow in fact, we're still working on Iscariot!

So that was the year that changed my life. Had I not made that decision I would have the films I've made, the friends, the collaboration the measure of success I've had. Had the girlfriend not made her decision I would not be happily married to a wonderful, supportive, strong woman with whom I have the most beautiful daughter.

And ten years on I finally get to make my kidnap thriller. Except this time is called Derelict and hopefully the script is a bit better!


Anonymous said...

Love you, and will always be your biggest fan. M

P.S. My name sounds great with Kelly at the end of it...

HeatherLowry said...

As any good screenwriter should know there are two sides to every story. If it's all in the past why write about it all especially 'the girlfriend' bit in such detail on a blog 10 years later for all the world to read..........

Frank Kelly said...

You're right, there are always two side and this is just My side. I can't tell any other.

Why write about it? Well, it's not because I want to 'Dig up' the past, it's because the past is so relevant, especially in this instance. I'm coming full circle on something that was set into motion 10 years ago and is happening now, so I thought it was worth connecting the dots and retelling the story from the beginning... which is where all good stories start!

I don't have any animosity toward 'the girlfriend', quite the opposite in fact. I wish her well, which is why I kept her name out of it. I respect her privacy.

But she did play a large part in my life for a long time, so when talking about how I arrived at where I am, she may crop up from time to time (but again, I'll always keep her name out of it)

Wasn't meant to offend at all. I harbor no ill feelings. It's just part of my history and how I saw things.

I hope 'the girlfriend' is happy and well and I wish the best to her and her family!