Over the years, I’ve attended many filmmaker courses and masterclasses, always searching for the magic ingredients that will give me the template to forge ahead as a screenwriter and someday director. And yes, while I have gathered a wealth of invaluable knowledge and experiential anecdotes from listening to the creatives who have been there and done that…some have been a tad disappointing, unfocused, badly organised, or just not relevant to what it is I am seeking.
Each experience though, has taught me something, and what continually comes to the fore is this; that even the ‘doers’ in this business sometimes struggle, make mistakes, are let down or manage to turn something potentially beautiful into a balls-out mess! And, that while treading your path, you will always encounter your enablers, your mentors, the ones who are secure enough not to pull the ladder up behind them as they carve their own niche, there are also ten more who will shut that door on your unknown, unripened tenderfoot!
Making your way in this business is not easy and it can take a long, long time to see the benefits…nobody knows you while you struggle the lonely road towards developing your voice, coming up with the goods and making the grade…and nobody wants to know you until you do. Therefore, if, like me, you are going to launch yourself into the mire of this weird and wonderful world, it would be wise to seek and find those mentors, and to listen, really listen, to what they have learned…
Most recently, I encountered two such mentors, both at the top of their game, when I attended a Writer/Director Masterclass with Irish Director, Aisling Walsh (Song for a Raggy Boy, The Daisy Chain, Wallander). The all-day workshop was hosted during the inaugural Fingal Film Festival and there was a double treat for participants when we also got to spend the afternoon with actor Martin McCann (Swansong, Story of Occi Byrne, Killing Bono, Titanic: Blood and Steel). Martin is not just an amazingly talented actor, he is also a generous one, giving over an entire day to talk about his craft; to share the knowledge, and between the two of these amazing people, they managed to turn the day into an entertaining and insightful experience.
Here are the main points that I took away:
Build relationships: Writers can be shy, directors can be shy, actors can be shy…talk to people…make connections.
Make a short film. Nobody knows your story better than you do. Low budget, no budget, gather your team and just do it.
You don’t have to be technical: Work with the best crew and actors you can get; learn from them.
The energy will come from you: Be a good listener, see things others don’t see, be a decision maker, stay calm.
Three traits you need to have: Concentration. Communication. Stamina.
Learn about Actors. Find out about them, what it is that they do and how they do it. And listen to their instincts.
You can make your film three times: When you write it. When you make it. When you cut it.
Open the door and walk in! Are you going to just think about it? Or are you going to do it?
Right so! Armed now with bundles of notebooks, filled with theory, paradigms and checklists of how it all comes together, it is time…
Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power…
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe