Thursday, September 27, 2012

Heads or Tails?

I've been wracking my brain the last while trying to decide on what project to do next. I had decided on one, one I'm writing at the moment, but I'm not so sure. I have another, medieval piece, but it's probably too big for me right now... although, my idea is to keep it contained, no real reason I couldn't do it I suppose, if I really wanted to. If I put my mind to it, I think I probably could.

I think the difference between the two projects is that one if medieval and one is contemporary. So the medieval one requires a lot of art direction, weapons, stunts, would be a tough shoot because would mostly be exterior and would involve battles. It would also need to be shot in Ireland, so if I'm moving, it means coming back to shoot it, which is fine, but an added pressure.

The contemporary one requires work too as it has certain "magical" elements (for want of a better word) so needs stunts, wire work and will have CGI and compositing elements, although I can/will go back the The Element for all that work, so there's that. But most likely, I'll be living in the states and will shoot it there, as it's contemporary, and can really be shot anywhere.

Of course, I could just wait to move and see what happens when I land - - But I think I know what's going to happen. I'm going to have to go straight to work and earn money, so films will have to go on hold. So it would be nice to have something simmering away in the background while I'm doing that.

I'm leaning toward the contemporary piece. But I need to write it and find a strong ending. BUT - every time I think of the medieval one I think "Oh, swords and clobbering people! That'd be fun!"

Torn I am!

Another thing about the medieval one is that I know there are other versions in development already, so I'd be competing again bigger and better financed versions. I'm not too worried about that. I know my take is different. And I have just spent a year trying get the rights to a book which was based on a well known and well told legend, which has several version in development, but not only that, several version out right now! But again, it was different enough that I knew it could stand apart.

What would you do? Contemporary or Medieval?

Anyway, I'm just rambling here, I wasn't going to put this up but this is an example of what my brain is doing in between projects. Also, sorry to be so vague, I wish I could tell you exactly what the projects are but I have found in the past that when I talk in too much detail about stuff, very similar stuff appears a little later down the road by better funded people than me. Coincidence? Maybe, but I'm not taking the chance.

I think the key is just to do something. We only have one life. Time is ticking. I could be dead tomorrow... and all that stuff. And you can't worry about what other people are doing. If you do that, you'll get nothing done.

Perhaps I should just decide. Pick one. Then do the other after. Seeing as there is two maybe I should flip a coin... ok, here we go - Heads: Contemporary, Tails: Medieval...

TAILS!!! Medieval it is... two out of three?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fairly Mad

We humans are such fickle creatures, aren't we? Well, I am.

Let me tell you about the amazing things that are happening in my life at the moment, the feature I've been working on for 3 years in finally finished and premiered. Not only did it premiere but it was the Closing Night Event at the festival and received and Honourable Mention on the night. So there's that. My short film is screening this week at two film festivals in the States, the Bend Film Festival and the Harlem International Film Festival and has festivals coming up for the rest of this year and into next year. And this blog has been nominated for an Award in the National Blog Awards... so what do I have to be complaining about?!?!

Nothing is the answer to that question.

But for some reason I'm feeling slightly empty. Somewhat bereft. I just lost a project tonight, one I've been going after for a year. I almost had it earlier this year, then it fell through, then there was another chance, but there fell through too, then I thought I could kickstart it, but that fell through too... that was the last ditch effort of a desperate man. So I finally had to say goodbye and passed on it. I was really hoping I'd get the chance to do it, but maybe it wasn't my time, maybe I'm not ready yet.

So there's a painful day coming, the day I see that film on the big screen and my name's not on it. But I'll be glad to see it shine.

I think with the end of Derelict, and the project I was hoping to move onto not happening now, I feel  adrift. In a fog. I'm not sure where I'm going. I'm hoping to hit land. But I don't know if it's going to be today, tomorrow, next month or next year. Or it feels like waiting for a train in an empty station with no dot matrix, no Tannoy and no timetable. I've got no idea when the next train is coming and every minute feels like ten.

I shouldn't moan. I should enjoy the fact that I've nothing to do. While the things I've done are off doing things. But I would much rather be doing things too. Writing. Creating. Drawing. Casting... even, dare I say it, fundraising! Experiencing the thrill of a new project.

There are a couple of ideas, three in fact, none of them are fully developed, but they're ideas I like and would be happy to move onto. But things are in limbo at the moment too. You see I got me green card. So my wife and I are moving to the states in the next 6 to 8 months.

Maybe that's why I'm feeling a bit anxious. I feel like I can't start anything new, or if I do, I can't complete it here. I'll have to leave. Although I guess have-gun-will-travel. I can write and develop anywhere and if I absolutely have to shoot in Ireland I can always come back for a couple of months.

Though I do find that my environment tends to inform the films I make. I'm often inspired, or effected, by my physical surroundings. So maybe I'll get to the states and a new idea, something I never imagined, will land in my head, as has always happened, and that will be my next film.

So maybe I should hold off. Wait. Do nothing. See what comes.

I don't know though. I'm not happy unless I've got a project.

Anyway, I shouldn't write blogs this late at night. It's the mulling hour. I should either be lying in bed thinking about it, not sleeping, or jotting it down in a private journal. But as I've said in the past, it's all part of the journey.

I might announce a new film in the next week or so. It'll be another feature film and it'll be bigger than Derelict, I know that. How much bigger? I'm not sure yet. These three vary. Just comes down to how mad am I?

Fairly mad.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Morning After.

Sea View
I awoke, not with a sore head, thankfully, but with a view of the sea and a little stuffed toy beside my head (sent in my suitcase by my 2 and half year-old daughter, for luck). I think maybe it did bring me some luck, because the night before, last night, was a success.

We've been building toward this night for a long time, a year since we shot the film, two years since I first set out to make it, and three years since the idea first landed. So yeah, a long time coming.

I spent the day at the festival, arrived early, caught a few short films and sat in on the talk by writer Bernard MacLaverty (Lamb, Cal) which was very interesting and insightful. As a writer I always find it intriguing to get a peak into the process of others, find out what's similar to my own process, what's different. More often than not it is quite similar, and when coming from such a successful writer, encouraging.

I had a couple of hours before my own screening, enough time to allow the nerves to build sufficiently. Spoke to a few filmmakers in attendance. Which is always nice. As an indie filmmaker you're often off on your own island doing your own thing wondering if you not doing it all wrong anyway, so it's nice to hit the mainland and see that there are many others in the same boat, headed in the same direction.

People started to arrive from the film, some of the actors, the crew. It was good to see everyone again. It was something of a reunion, which was nice. Of course I was grabbing snippets of conversation where I could, before someone else would arrive and I'd be pulled off in another direction, which was fine by me, served as a distraction!

I poked my head into the Awards Ceremony, where we got a Honourable Mention, very nice! Thanks for that. Then it was time for the screening. Everyone was ushered into the hall. Dave Byrne, the director of the festival, gave an opening speech and then called me up. I rambled something... kinda forget what?! But an introduction nonetheless, and the screening began.

I was able to finally relax then. Once it was one screen it was at last out of my hands and into the audience's.

With Steve Gunn (Davey-boy), John Lawlor (DOP) and Elaine Reddy (Kate)
Afterwards, there was a positive reaction. Many of the audience members came up to congratulate me, said nice things. The cast were happy. So I was too! Always a worry that you wont have paid homage to the work that was put in, that somehow, in the translation and assembly, something will be lost - I don't think it was, I think everything that happened on set, the energy, the tension, the electricity, went into the lens and came out the other side intact.

So a good night in all. We're on the road now. I'm not sure exactly what is next. I held off on entering festival once the sound got delayed, so I'll start up on that again. Hopefully Derelict has some legs. It will be interesting to see where it goes next.

My thanks again to the cast and crew, first for the talent and work and secondly for their patience! My thanks again to the Underground Cinema Film Festival for holding out for the film, for accepting it, giving it the Closing Night slot and the cherry on the icing on the cake an Honourable Mention! Too kind!!!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I started this blog six years ago with a similar post, one about coming to the end of a long journey, and getting ready to go on another. I have finally come to the end of the making of Derelict. After three long years of struggling, to breathe life into it, I've done it with the help of a lot of people and this Sunday I will show the film to a room full of friends and strangers, colleagues and peers, for the first time and finally see if all the work has paid off!

When I started this journey and set out to make Derelict it was supposed to be a small project to do quickly before the birth of my first daughter. My wife was pregnant at the time and I wanted to shoot something quickly, get it out of the way, and just tick along editing it while we welcomed the new addition to our family. Evelyn will be 3 soon.

Things never work out quite as you plan. If I've come to realise one thing in life is that you should always double your estimate and add 100%, and you'll be closer to reality! But perhaps it the naivete and the wishful thinking that allows to make those first foolhardy steps, the ones that there are no turning back from!

I enjoyed (most of) the journey, (most of) the work. There will always be stress, always be moments where you wish you could be anywhere else, wish you'd never started it, but the pain fades, and even if the scars remain, they become badges of honour, that say 'You Survived'.

So I just wanted to say a huge Thank You to everyone involved, all along the way, all the Cast and Crew, for tirelessly giving their passion, talent and energy to the film. To all the donors and funders who gave their hard earned cash to a promise, a hope and a story. To my family, who have always supported me and never told me to "get a real job" and to my Wife, who has suffered along side me every step of the way, made sacrifices along side my, worried for me, prayed for me, stood back and pushed me forward, I couldn't have done it without her, without any of these people.

Now, I better go before I start getting all misty eyed! But I'll say this, whatever happens with the film, if it's success or not, loved or hated, I'm glad I did it, and I'm glad I had the chance to work with and meet all these people because of it. Here's to many more!

Much Love x

Friday, September 07, 2012


Just a quick one before bed. This old blog of mine has been Shortlisted for the Arts & Culutre Award in the Blog Awards Ireland! Which I'm very excited and honoured by!!!

A nice end to a very nice day, spent in Dun Laoghaire at the Mountain to Sea Book Festival, hanging out with Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, which was nice.

With Philip Reeve
(Photo by Sarah McIntyre)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

There Is A Film At The End Of This

I promise, there is a film at the end of all this.

I got an email from Michael Bates, who plays J in Derelict, the other day, just to confirm he was coming to the premiere. I realised I hadn't been in touch with Michael very much over the past few months, and since Derelict was shot he's been off doing a bunch of other stuff - several plays, a couple of other films, as have all the cast in fact and I've been here, sitting where I am now, for a year, millimeter by millimeter, crawling my way to the end of this film... and I'm still not there yet!

Right now, we're looking at the sound again. Starting from scratch really, one week from the Premiere! You'd think I liked stress! Rocci Barrett is on board to put a basic mix together for the screening. I think I mentioned this before, unfortunately it wont be where I want it, especially for the world premiere, but dem's the breaks! It'll be good, and had I not mentioned it I don't think anyone would notice. But we will have to open the film up again and go back in to build the sound scape I was after, which of course means more time, and more money.

When you set out on these things, no matter how many times you've been through it, it's always a surprise how long it takes, especially when you're working on low, and no, budget with no real financial support. I'm sure when there's money there, and you can pay professionals to do the job right and get it done when they say they're going to get it done, it doesn't take years. Which this has, three years!

So I've been banging on about this film for three years now. I'm sure everyone is fed up of hearing about it. It's probably gotten to the stage were people are are thinking, "I don't even want to see it anymore!" (hopefully not though!) Believe me, I'd rather be finished. I'd rather it was out and I was onto the next project. But it has to be finished, and it has to be finished right, to honour the work everyone has put in and to honour the film itself.

If you're a first time filmmaker and you're reading this, getting ready to set out on your first film, I would suggest you ignore what I've just said, erase it from your mind. Because if you think that the film you want to shoot next week and have out in three months is actually going to take you three or four years, you may change you mind and not make it. But you have to make it. You have to go on this journey. Because you will learn so much.

It wont just be about the film, but the journey you will take. For a while, it will define you, and shape your life. But that's what life is all about, the unexpectedness of it all! Enjoy it. Take every ounce with an open mind and a passionate heart and be true to the vision you had in the beginning. If it's enough to see you through many years more than you thought it would, then maybe it's strong enough to see you through many more to come, maybe it's strong enough to succeed. And even if this one doesn't, now you know you have the stamina it takes to endure. Because the bigger things get, the more you will have to endure, and you need to know you can handle it.

At least, after all I've had to do and put up with, I know that much.

September 16th, Dun Loaghaire, Royal Marine Hotel, 9pm, come and see what I've been banging on about for 3 years! It's a little film called Derelict, made for not much money over a long period of time and I'm quite proud of it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Magic Number

This week I've been trying to shrink 30 pages of script to 15 pages, without losing anything and ending on the very same moment, having conveyed ever plot point, character introduction and moment of emotion that I had in the 30 page version. It was a little tricky.

I entered a screenwriting contest, where contestants were asked to write the first 15 pages of a script based on a logline, which was written by famed Hollywood writer Susanah Grant (Erin Brockovich, In Her Shoes, The Soloist). The logline read: "A New England Matriarch with a week left to live pledges her entire fortune to whoever in her small town fulfills her dying wish."

So that was the first challenge, find a story I wanted to tell based on that logline. It came pretty quick and ran with the first idea I had. I wanted to do a Christmas Carol / It's a Wonderful Life / The Bishops Wife type of story (strangely though, mine's not set at Christmas... and now that I think of it, there's a play mentioned in my script which is also set at Christmas... maybe i need to rethink that?!)

My character Ethel is a rich old recluse who doesn't like her family very much. She finds out she has a week left to live, but has yet to complete her will and doesn't know who to leave her fortune to. A stranger arrives on a bus to help her make up her mind.

The 15 pages I wrote ended up being 30 pages long. I wanted to end on a moment, the moment where she herself realises what she's going to do (we the reader don't know yet, but that'd OK, by page 15 the idea is that we want to find out) Within those 30 page were also all the main characters, the town, the family and lots of little moments I didn't want to lose, little plot points and character development.

So, the editing begins. I start the usual way, trimming the fat. Anything floral, overly descriptive, indulgent. Scripts should only ever be sight and sound, what you see and hear on screen. It's tempting to get into the prose, but pointless. So that pulled it down a couple of pages. Then I restructured a couple of scenes. Trimmed a couple more. That brought it down another 2 pages. But we're still at 26 with 11 more to go... no idea how I'm going to do this.

I stepped away from it for about a week and then came back with the intension of only keeping what was absolutely necessary to the story. By doing that I was able to drop a lot of small scenes, and a lot of dialogue. Show don't tell is another phrase that popped into my mind, and the idea that this is a movie, not television, so it should be more about tone, movement, less dialogue driven scenes, less exposition. By doing that I was able to imagine what was on the screen, not what was coming out of people's mouths, and I realised I could communicate a lot more much more efficiently.

I also discovered I was repeating myself a lot. I had several scenes I liked, interplay between characters, but I realised both scenes were communicating the same message, I had already said this. I decided which scene didn't need to be there, doing that required some restructuring again, but it began to flow at better.

Then I decided to hold off on some revelations, that gave it dramatic impact. So I didn't need the scene of the old woman finding out she was dying, I was able to let the audience find out the same time her family does. So I'm not repeating the same piece of information, and you get the double impact of finding out she's dying and seeing the family reaction. The emotions are concentrated and so more powerful.

I brushed through it again for bad dialogue, more exposition and clichés, of which there were many. I also looked at the page structure, how the words sat on the page, and asked myself if I could end each page on a moment that made the reader want to turn? Could I end the page where a scene ended? More often than not this was possible, it makes for a more enjoyable read and it tightens the screenplay.

So, once all that was done the magic number appeared at the bottom of my screen, 15. And when I looked I found the page ended right at the bottom of 15. I had done it! Nice feeling!

So I'll send it off, no idea how well I'll do, but if you're not in you can't win. And even if I don't place, I've learned a bit and I've kept the cogs oiled, and that's never a bad thing.