Irish Women in Film Series: Rita-Marie Lawlor

Rita-Marie Lawlor is an independent filmmaker from Dublin. She set up her independent film company RML Films in 2005 and made several TV pilots, short films and features, including A Scare, Less Ordinary and Remember Me? Rita-Marie’s documentary, Gloves and Glory, is currently in production, and focuses on female boxing in Ireland. She is also prepping a new feature script while getting ready to take on a Masters Degree in screenwriting at IADT in Dun Laoghaire this coming October.

First question, Rita-Marie, how and why did you get started in the business? 

I wanted to be involved with film since childhood. I began writing at 11 years old in 1989 and by the time I was a teenager I was sending my works off to production companies. It was later in life (24) when I went to film school for two years and it was a great move. I learned a lot more on how to format scripts and break them down for directing scenes and how to work with actors too. Pretty much for most of my life it has been my desire, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Which film school did you attend? 

I studied full-time in Colaiste Dhulaigh and graduated with a B TEC HND in film production. I was awarded a distinction in directing and producing along with a Best Film Award.

Seminal influences?

I’m a big fan of Shane Meadows, Martin Scorsese and Jim Sheridan. I love the way Mike Leigh develops his ideas with the actors.  In TV writing it would be Jimmy McGovern, Kay Mellor, John Sullivan and Amy Jenkins.

If you were to imagine a fantasy dinner party,  name six people, living or dead, that you would love to have around your dinner table.

Jimi Hendrix for the guitar, Janis Joplin for the singing – followed by a chat over a whiskey. Martin Scorsese, Samuel Beckett, Emma Restall Orr and Daniel Day-Lewis. A diverse bunch with lots of stories – would definitely be an inspiration for a great film script!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I am happy to see that there are lots of independent filmmakers in Ireland who are out there making films regardless if they are getting proper funding or not. Years ago it was more difficult, filmmakers really needed a lot of money, but now you can hire great equipment or invest in it and make films. I would like to see more Irish drama though, a lot of films lately are a bit the same to be honest. Lots of zombie films, gangster/action films and others in that genre – not that there is anything wrong with making those type of films but personally I love a great story with lots of reversals and clever writing with brilliant actors. There’s nothing like watching a good old-fashioned quality drama unfold, something that you’d still be talking about months after you’ve seen it and to be inspired by it. I think Charlie Casanova is the only Irish film within the last few years that has had an impact, nothing like it was ever made before – certainly not in Ireland anyway. I think filmmakers need to tap into this style of filmmaking more, be daring but be clever about it too.  I think certain Irish film festivals should be more supportive of the unfunded films, some of them seem to only screen films that are Film Board/Filmbase funded which doesn’t seem fair. I know of a few really great films that didn’t get into the Galway Fleadh this year, which is a shame.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?  

Having the privilege of working with great actors. Having my films screened at festivals is always a highlight for me and having them screened on TV too.  I’ve had one of my films screened on English, Australian and New Zealand TV channels, so I’m hoping the same will happen for my other ones.

And your ultimate goal?

To keep making films and to make my singular voice heard rather than doing it for the money. Plain and simple really, just to be successful in what I do and for people to like what I write and what I create. I wouldn’t mind a cinema release for one of my films in the future – now that would be pretty nice!

What advice would you offer to Newbies?

To remember why you wanted to be a filmmaker in the first place. Be original and be inspired – but don’t copy.  Make your own creative voice heard, regardless of what everyone else thinks. Stick to your own ideas and write what you know, embrace good actors when directing and watch what unfolds – it will be more rewarding than a big cheque.  Watch over rushes as soon as you can get them, rather than waiting until the film’s wrapped – learn to spot disasters before they happen and don’t leave everything to be fixed in the edit – fix it on set and have a good AD!  Treat the cast and crew with respect, especially if there is no money involved.  Make sure there’s plenty of food and taxi/train fare, and treat them well.  You have to remember that they are working long hard hours and giving up their time for YOUR film – so always remember that, and of course give them a copy of the finished piece.

Thanks, Rita-Marie! Any final comments you would like to add?

It’s tough going, long days and long nights. But you have to enjoy it and when you see your idea going from talking about it – to script – to shooting – to editing – and then to a cinema screen – nothing can explain how special and rewarding that feels.

You can check out Rita-Marie’s Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RML-Films/147668425244609

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