Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Get Out Of Your Box.

Here's an idea for you filmmakers looking to try something a little different.

Drop into a local community group; youth, disability, elderly, whatever it may be, talk to the person in charge and offer to make a film with the group over the next couple of months. Could be a short, could be a feature if you're ambitious and smart enough. If they're up for it, sit in with them once a week for a couple of hours, over two or three weeks. Get to know them. Talk about their interests, what's going on in their lives, what they like, don't like, what thrills them, angers them. Build a list of themes. Soon, a story will start to emerge. You'll recognise it when you see it, because you're the storyteller.

Your instinct might be to then just go off and write it, but resist it, instead remember that this should be their story, their film, you're just their to guide them. But like any good guide, you're not going to send them down a path that sees them walk off the edge of a cliff. But allow them to talk it out. Find what they want to tell. Make suggestions, pick up on the stronger themes. Guide them.

When there's a story there that everyone likes, that everyone seems excited by, then you can go off an put it into script form. At that point, you're just adding the structure, you're lending you technical ability and experience to their story so you have a structured screenplay to work from.

Set a date to film. Start moving toward it. Find out who wants to be in it. Who wants to be behind the came. Audition for the main parts. Let them get a taste of how every aspect of putting a film together works. Draft in some experienced actors, either people you know, or people from local Drama groups. Draft experienced crew. This will speed things up and give you a film that actually looks like a film. It be a huge learning opportunity for the group o see professionals at work.

Shoot it.

On the shoot, take your time. Set as easy and flexible a schedule as possible. Understand that these people are doing something they have no knowledge of. And again, you're their guide, so don't go wondering off ahead just because you know the path! Take it slow. Explain things. Suggest things. Listen to their suggestions. You'll be the director, but your job as director here is to stand back as much as possible. Set the scene, allow them to play it out. Trust them.

When it's shot. Have a wrap party. Go edit it. Keep it tight. Get it done. Grade it. Get some nice music. Hold a premiere on a big screen in the centre of their town. Get them to bring family and friends. Get it in the paper. See what happens.

Whatever happens, you will have a film at the end of it, a fulfilling experience you never would have had otherwise and you will most certainly have enjoyed yourself.

Just a thought. For a little something outside the box.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tempting Fate, Making Plans and Losing Control

Three weeks since my last blog post, and what a three weeks it's been! Holy crap!!! Sometimes life just goes into overdrive and it's in those moments you realise you have no real control over anything, you just have to hang on as best you can and hope you don't go spinning off into oblivion and beyond.

I had my trip to the US, which I didn't really talk about. It was a mixed bag. The people were great. Lovely lovely people who I can't speak highly enough of. The weather, job prospects and animals, less so! I got stranded on day one, ignored by the film festival I've screened 4 times, won an award and met my wife at on day two, stood up for a planned meeting, having taken a bus out of town, on day three, oh, and bitten by a dog over breakfast that same day! So the week kind of went that way.

Over all, I don't know, I haven't really been able to process the week given then ensuing weeks, which I will talk about next. Let's just say I didn't run home saying, "We have to move to Indiana tomorrow!!!" No offense Indiana! There are some truly lovely people there. But Indianapolis, I don't know that I could do it for long. It's got a nice, if not somewhat quite, downtown, nice cultural centres, great museums. But I guess I just didn't vibe with the place. But we'll see. I admit I went during an ice storm in february! Might have been a completely different story if I'd gone mid-July!

So I get home and everyone's sick. My wife and daughter both have colds, high temperatures, aches and pains and just feeling rotten. This lasts for a full week. I get it for three days but it passes quickly. Meantime my daughter has to take an antibiotic, the first of her young life. My wife develops a respiratory infection and everyone just seems to be getting sicker and sicker.

Thankfully my daughter gets better, but my wife doesn't. She gets very sick. And two Wednesday's ago we end up in hospital. After a day of agony the doctors finally diagnose her with acute pancreatitis, a condition so rare in pregnant women that no one in the hospital has experience with it. After a great deal of consultation from various departments it's decided that the best course of action in the induce labour and deliver our baby early, 5 weeks early. We are completely unprepared for this. In fact, two night before my wife was worried that she would be sick for her labour and that the house wouldn't be ready, I laughingly said "Of course we will! It's five weeks away, you'll be better next week and we'll have loads of time..." we were in the hospital the next day. What is it they say about tempting fate!? Holy shit lads!

This happened on Wednesday, we get the decision on Thursday at 9 am, at 11am I have to be in the local Arts Centre to audition actors for the film I'm making with Ablevision TOMORROW. I've already blown a day off from sickness, so I feel like I can't blow this off. Auditioning actors and films are the furthest things from my mind at this moment. But I go down. See the actors. Make a decision and I'm back in the hospital in an hour and half.

My wife is induced on Friday morning. It goes off without a hitch. Best case scenario in a dreaded situation and our son is born on Friday afternoon. It's a happy occasion, the happiest, in the midst of a truly nightmarish week where everything we hoped would not happen, sickness in labour, induce labour, premature birth, happened, we're are overjoyed. But he's quickly taken off to special care, where he spends the next 9 days and meantime my wife is still recovering from the pancreatitis, as well as the birth now... oh and the respiratory infection which is still hanging around.

And again, I still have to think about the Ablevision first rehearsal on Thursday, while worrying for the entire week about getting my little man home. We get told on Wednesday night that we can take him home on the Thursday! Of course! Talk about timing. I go to the rehearsal. Goes well. I get out of there and on the steps of the building I get a call to say that actually he's not coming home today!

So we're back out in the unknown, and the shoot starts on Monday, tomorrow! And of course, par for the course, he arrives home today! Which is absolutely wonderful! I couldn't be happier! But I do kind of wish I didn't have to leave my wife alone with our 3 year-old and a new born the day after he arrives home from the hospital! I had planned to have the film shot and edited with 2 weeks to spare before he arrived! But you know what they say about making plans!

I'm not worried about the shoot at all. I think we're well prepared, we've spend a good while on the story and I have it visualised in my head. The schedule gives us plenty of time, so I'm looking forward to it. But the timing is just ridiculous! I'm looking forward to getting to the other side of it. I'm going to take a week off, relax, look after my family and then get down to editing. Phones off. Sign on the door reading: F&$@ OFF!!!

Meantime I'm looking into other projects. I Am Ireland is still a goer. Obviously I haven't had any time to push it. But I will. I'm thinking I might set up a booth locally so people can drop in off the street for a chat. I'm also looking at a couple of exciting projects for the summer, if I can find the time. There a short I'd like to do, a fan film I'd love to do and a feature that keeps popping into my head and nudging me in that direction! Like an old friend calling for a pint. It's tempting, but I know how the night's going to end! Plastered drunk and throwing up in a back alley on the way home! We'll see. I'll get this week over with a see how I feel. What's realistic!

I'm also looking at putting together an initiative to help local filmmakers. A community based filmmaker mentorship programme. Something to give young filmmakers in the town a bit of direction, advice and inspiration. So I've been talking to the local Arts Officer about that and there seems to be some interest. So I'll be working on that too over the next couple of weeks, putting it down on paper and then pushing it out. It's the kind of thing that could be rolled out anywhere.

So it's all go go go. Well, the ideas are! Life is getting in the way of the action part! But I'm sure it'll settle down... actually, I take that back, after the last four weeks I'm not sure of anything anymore! I'm hopeful, let's say!!!

I need to get back on Derelict too. I fear it's been set adrift and it feels somewhat dead in the water, I'm sorry to say. There just hasn't been any interest. Not from festival or distribution companies. Which is very disappointing and disheartening. I still think it's good and deserves the interest. But I just don't have the finances to push it! I'll have to find another way to get it out there. Otherwise it's just a waste of 3 years, €10,000 and the work of 20 good and talented people! Not to mention a crying bloody shame!!! If only there was some kind of national body set up to support filmmakers and help them get their films finished, marketed and seen... Oh well.

Alright. Better go check on my Son - My Son.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


I AM IRELAND is a new collaborative film project that will look at what it means to be Irish today. 

I want to make a simple documentary about the people of Ireland. One that captures the mood in the country and among the Irish people right now. It's not politically geared, I just want an honest film. It's about you, your family and your country.

So I'm asking Irish people, the country over, and indeed, the world over, to join the project. Where ever you may be, I want you to get involved. You don't have to do much, just record yourself answering 5 questions and send the footage to me. That's all. It'll take you 30 mins, tops!

If you would like to get involved, drop me a line, either comment below, or email me (find the Email me button on the right) I will send you the 5 questions. I will cut all the footage together into a film that will hopefully be an insightful, honest and personal piece about Ireland today. And as the Irish are natural storytellers I imagine it will be funny, sad and poignant too. 

I don't have a figure in mind for participants, maybe between 60 and 100 to keep it manageable, and ideally people representing every county, all 32. The deadline for delivery is June 30th. Anything delivered after that wont be put in. Sorry! I want to cut in July and August and have the film up by the end of the Summer. In the past I was too flexible on the deadline for 140, people were sending me stuff 6 months after the deadline, which delayed the project considerably. So I'm going to be strict this time.

The quality needs to be good. HD. I'm afraid dodgy mobile phone or internet camera footage wont do! DSLRs are fine. Sound needs to be clear as well though, bad sound wont make it in, so if you're shooting on a DSLR for example, you may need to record the sound separately. And it must be emailed to me (I'll send you a link to dropbox to dump the footage). I'm not going through the whole 140 digitising thing again!!! No sir!!! If you're not a filmmaker you may need some help from a filmmaker friend! But I will provide as much information as I can to help make it easy.

Let the camera run and think about your answers. I'm not worried about long pauses, or if your drift off on a tangent, or want to tell a particular story, or even stare blankly or get annoyed with yourself. Keep the camera running. I'll worry about editing it. Film yourself in what ever environment you want. But the camera should be steady or fixed, you should be seated, head and shoulders in frame and look into the camera.

When the film is complete it's going straight online. I'm not messing around with festivals. Can't afford it and just eats up too much time. I'm also not going to be looking for any money, I'm doing it for free. And I don't want it to cost anything. Hence the email thing. You film it, email it, I cut it and it goes online the same day as I'm finished for everyone to see. End of.

I think by the end of this we'll have an interesting and insightful look into the heart of our country - You.

So, You in?

Monday, March 04, 2013

US Premiere of Derelict!

Tomorrow night my film Derelict has it's US Premiere at the Chicago Irish Film Festival. I wish I could be there, but alas, I can't. I was in Indianapolis last week however, or the week before I should say, it's  a bit of a blur, everyone in my house has been sick with flu since I got home, so my welcome home has been a bit of a disaster! Anyway - I was able to stop of in Chicago on the way through and say hello to Jude Blackburn, who runs the event. A lovely lady indeed! We couldn't be in the better hands. I'm thrilled to be part of the festival!

I'd get into detail about my trip, but right now, I'm exhausted! It's late and I've had a hell of a week! I will mention before I go to bed however, that the work on 'Joe & Sarah' continues, the short I'm working on with Ablevision Ireland. As mentioned, I was sick last week, so missed the auditions, but managed to see taped footage. All very could! I have a tough decision to make. I'm also going to hold an open casting for local actor to play the other roles.

That'll be next week, this week I decide who's going to play the lead characters, then we rehearse and then we shoot. There be a film in the can in four weeks time. Looking forward to it.

OK, bed, sorry for the crap blog post! Especially to mark the US premiere of my first feature! But I need sleep Zzzzz zzzz z