Monday, July 01, 2013

Happy to go. Sad to leave.

I'm excited about going to America. But I'm sad about leaving Ireland. For many reasons, but seeing as this is my film blog, lets talk about the film side of things.

I had hoped, and indeed tried, to get another film made before I left. Wasn't to be. Another little boy arrived, my wife got sick and had a recovery ahead of her and of course, we're immigrating, which is coming up fast! I started packing up the house a month ago, my god I'm glad I did! SO much stuff it's ridiculous! So, with all that, the idea to make Ghoster, do one short or another and shoot a documentary, all fell by the wayside.

This was probably a good thing. Films are ALL consuming and will always, without fail, take more time, money and soul than you planned to give. But I am sad I wont be making another film here, at least not for a while. I have so many ideas, ready to go scripts and the hunger to do it. Plus there are so many great and talented people I wanted to work with and those who I have and wanted to work with again. Actors whose faces pop into my head when I think of an idea, "That's a good idea," I think, "With this actor playing it, it could be great!" I get excited and I start writing. But recently, I've had to stop myself.

On the set of DERELICT
with John Lawlor.
Today I sat in a cafe in town, Stockwell Artisan Foods, a lovely place run by lovely people. The kind place you can sit for an hour over the same cup, watch the world pass you by. Of course, Drogheda is the kind of town where I'm guaranteed to meet at least 10 people I know in the space of that hour (while I'm at it I have to thank the guys, especially Gwen, for showing there support for my films over the years. They've donated cash, spot prizes and always had a word of encouragement to give.) So I suppose it's fitting that while sitting there today I hashed out the idea for a new film, possible my next film, and began to think of it as an American film.

Me and Patrick O'Donnell
Late one night on DERELICT
Of course it was hard not to mentally put Patrick O'Donnell and Steve Gunn in the two roles of the first scene, getting annoyed with each other, pushing each other's buttons and delivering awesome performances. Followed by - "Well maybe, if I just..." but no, I can't (sorry lads) it's just not possible. I mean, it's July already! September is going to come around fast! I barely have time to pack!

I'll be very sad to leave behind the kind of talent I've gotten to know over the years here. The friends and associations I've made. It's been an interesting journey these last few years. I started out this naive dreamer, and somehow, I think I've managed to remain that! I've always been a dreamer, since day one, that wont change. Perhaps the naive part will, but it's still in there, getting me into trouble!

Rehearsal with Patrick O'Donnell for DERELICT
A brief run down of the last fews years, it start in 2000 with graduating animation college and then going to Australia. I wont go into too much detail, chances are your heard it before! It was on the flight to Australia, via LA, that I decided I would no longer pursue animation and instead go back to my first love, film. So coming back to Ireland I had a feature script I wanted to make. Never did make it, but it lead to a writing partnership with Thomas Kennedy, a partnership that taught me a lot, but more than anything, allowed me to write. Practice!

We had been writing for a couple years but hadn't made anything, didn't really know how. So I went off and made a short film called The Girl in the Window, it was terrible! It wasn't really a film, I never wrote a script, just storyboarded it. It was only ever meant to be an experiment. It was a ghost story, and I wanted to try and get some scares. So it was a mechanical piece, which is why it failed, lacked heart. But the scares worked! So a worthwhile experiment I thought. It was after doing that Thomas said, "Well, if you can do that, why can't we make a film?!" And Emily's Song was born.

Emily's Song has been my most successful film to date. Screening at nearly 30 International Film Festivals. Winning several awards and being sold to RTE and Channel 4. We shot that in 2005, finished in in 2006. 7 years on it still pops up on TV once in a while. We hit a wall after Emily's Song. Even though it was good, and doing well, we were still getting rejections on other projects and doors were not opening, as we naively thought they would.

I got bored of this so set out on my own. Still writing with Thomas all the while. But I made Bill, For Short, a personal documentary about my grandfather. It was never meant to do anything, it was just for me, but it really connected with people. Screened at 5 film festivals and was picked up a sales agent. Then came Slán agus Beannacht, that was a film that was close to my heart, but it didn't do too well. However, it eventually sold to RTE and was broadcast. Then came 140. A film that took over my life for a year or more.

140 was a fantastic project to work on. It was exciting. A great feeling to get such positive feedback and to see a little idea I had grow into something so big. I'm really proud of that one. It was an experiment, yes, but a successful one I think, that really taped into what people were thinking and feeling at the time. It started to do well, it was getting into festivals, had won the Bronze Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival, and people really seemed to dig it.

Then Ridley Scott announce Life in a Day! Basically the same idea, but with Ridley Scott. Kinda stole my thunder, and right after that all interest died.

Q&A at Droichead Arts Centre in Drogheda for DERELICT

Me writing Ghoster in Indianapolis
First draft wrote in one week.
I set out to make my first feature film. I started with Ghoster. But the interest wasn't there. So I moved on to Derelict. While I was getting Derelict up and running I made a film called Raise My Hands with Elliot Kotek and Scott McDermott. Hands went on to screen at 15 prestigious film festival around the world and is still going, a surprise project that did really well. So then Derelict came along, my first feature. And that almost brings us up to present day.

Derelict was shot in a week. A tough week. I wont go into it because it's well covered in this blog. But it took a long time to finish and as I type I'm still trying to get it out into the world. Meantime, just when I thought I wouldn't get to make another film here, I got an offer to help a local group called Ablevision to make a short film. It turned out to be one of the most positive and rewarding experiences I've ever had making a film. That was Joe & Sarah and I was so lucky to be a part of it.

Me with the Charming and Talented
Philip Reeve
That's seven films in all. During all this time of course Thomas and I wrote several feature length scripts, a TV show we worked on with a production company for a while, and a feature film too. They all fell through and we eventually stopped. I myself have written countless short film scripts, a couple more features, even a novel or two! I've also had the chance to make bigger films with well known people. During that time I met some lovely people, and some not so lovely people, who then tried to make the lovely people not like me very much, but the lovely people stayed liking me, even though the chance to work with the lovely people went away. All that experience taught me was not to try and make other people's work, stick with your own! So, a decades work, 90% of which was rejected.

PUCA - Rejected Short Film

It's always been a struggle and it's a struggle to face so much rejection. But I feel very lucky to have been able to make the films I have. I guess it's part of the game and to survive and thrive in this business you have to role with it. I think could spend and equal amount of time bemoaning my station and attacking those that have turned their back on me or rejected me and my work, but I don't want to. I guess they don't deserve it and I don't want to be that person anymore.

I have let me frustration get the better of me in the past and maybe that has harmed my chances. I don't know. I certainly know my enthusiasm has harmed my chances! Jumping the gun from time to time. So, stands to reason it should work both ways! But I've always worn my heart on myself, and sometimes I forget that this forum, and others, are public and people do indeed read them, and perhaps some of those are the right, and indeed the wrong, people. I'd like to make a change if I can, and start afresh in the States by not doing that.

ANGELINA - short script I love that
hasn't happened (yet).
I will always wonder if I'd stayed would that chance have finally come in. Would I have got the chance to make a bigger budget film. The type that gets a theatrical release, that has the support and funding of a production company, and by the powers that be. Or a chance to direct some TV? Or just get to make some of my short films, or indeed, feature films. I don't know. I'll never know. After the last year or two, the answer has been a resounding NO, and it has been the fuel behind me leaving (as well as family). But I think - no, I know, if I was getting to make my films I probably wouldn't be going.

My dream has been a very pure and simple one, and it's been one I've had since I was 9 years-old. To make films. That's all. Let me make my films. I've found out that for every person wanting to make a film there's a committee of people trying to stop them. I don't know why that is. Is it the universes way of saying only it creates, not us? So it sends all it's force and might to stop us! But we push through anyway. We fight and sometimes we get it done. Sometimes we don't. Then of course you come up against the everyday and practical preventors. Bills. Rent. Life in general.
We have to eat.

As I've gotten older my dream has decreased in size. I once wanted to be the next Speilberg, Tarintino, Scorsese... those days pass quickly, like a train you were too late for, or perhaps never meant to catch. Instead, after a while, your biggest hope is that you just get to keep making films, whatever size they are, that they remain and they don't fade into memory or pass-time. That somehow, they pay the bills. And in end all you want to be able to do is pay the bills, so you can create your art, tell your stories and make your films. But again, the world in its wicked wisdom, conspires.

The Wolf of Nevermore
Potential for production in USA
That's my hope for the future. I haven't been able to make it work here. I hope I can in America, for it was America that gave me this dream. It was American films I grew up on. Back to the Future lit the spark that became the hearth of me. Tell me, is it a coincidence that my greatest acting hero was, and is, Jimmy Stewart and that my first film award for my first film was presented to me by his daughter? And at that same festival, I met my wife. And it's with my wife I'm now going back to America, with two beautiful children in tow. I don't know. Makes you wonder. Makes you hope.

So here's hoping. I know I wont be able to do it straight away. I'll need to pay the rent and look after my family. For those that don't understand the film thing, please know that my family always come first, no matter what. It's just that I have this thing that's made me Me since I was a child. It's so deeply a part of who I am, how I think, what I'm about, that it simply can't be taken away or stopped. It's in there. Like my bones are. Try and take my bones out, see how I operate - not that well I'd imagine. Think of it the same way.

It's been a great journey thus far. Ireland has proved to be a hard place to make films. I don't know that America will be any different. I just hope I've built something here and I'm able to leave a bit behind, and carry some with me too.

To end I would like to say Thank You to everyone who has helped me make my films here in Ireland. To all the Crew members, to the great Actors, to the people who have donated time, money, equipment, food and belief. To the town of Drogheda for letting me play in your streets. To the local press and media for always giving me coverage and making me out to be more interesting than I am! To the people who went above and beyond the call of duty based on some mad idea that sprang out of my head. I truly do hate to leave you. I truly do wish you could all come with me and we could keep making films together. I had so many films I wanted to make with you. Thank you all for putting up with me, thank you so very very much. I simple cannot repay you, except with eternal love and gratitude.

And most of all, thank you to my family, for always being there and for being my greatest supporters, no matter what, they've been through it all, since I was 9 and they had to sit through Back to the Future 500 times (I'm not joking either, FIVE HUNDRED TIMES).

Me writing on the porch of the Meade Hotel in Bannack Ghost Town in Montana, USA.