Chilling with the ladies…and talking film!

Yesterday, on a day that was dedicated to features, short films, documentaries, workshops and panel discussions that showcased the work that women in the Irish film industry are involved in, I had the privilege of being invited as guest speaker for a panel discussion, Celebrating Women in Film, at Dublin’s 3rd annual Underground Cinema Film Festival.

The Festival is a unique concept that celebrates independent Irish film-making with an exciting mixture of work from some of the country’s best writers, directors and actors. Created by Underground Cinema, a well-established body recognised for presenting some unique, cutting edge, visionary works that Irish cinema has to offer, the organisation, led by Festival Director Dave Byrne, and Assistant Festival Director, Denise Pattison, takes pride in enthusiastically bringing attention to the Irish filmmaker.

The panel discussions, facilitated by writer/directors Fiona Ashe (Rapunzel) and Orla Murphy (Nollaig Shona), included guests such as the wonderful Olwen Fouere (This Must be the Place, The Other Side of Sleep) Kirsten Sheridan (August Rush, Dollhouse) Marian Quinn ( 32A), Birch Hamilton (Screen Directors Guild of Ireland) cinematographers, Eimear Ennis Graham (Charlie Cassanova) Kate McCullough (Snap) and producer Lesley McKimm (Stella Days, Happy Ever Afters)

Suffice it to say, there were a lot of rocking females hanging about the place!

The experience was enlightened further by the fact that the panel I was on, and the subsequent one, Making your first feature, turned into round-table discussions of sorts. This encouraged audience members to get as involved as the speakers on topics that ranged from looking at the statistics and the ratios of males/females working in the business, how women can support each other, dealing with the challenges of working in what is still seen as a male-dominated environment, conquering fear and confidence issues, successful models that could be emulated, better support and networking, internal misogyny (yes, unfortunately it exists, it seems!) and my favourite theme; just getting on with it, making it as good as it gets, and generating work that raises the game for all of us! 

On a personal level, I don’t want to write or make ‘women’s’ films. I just want to write and make ‘good’ films. Good films that screen in gender-neutral environments to be enjoyed by all.

Yes, I sometimes write about women who do bad things (Iris in Evanescence, Beth in Lady Beth, Ava in The Lupeni) but I make no apologies for also attempting to create a subtext that explores these character’s ’emotional’ (a dirty word, apparently!) dilemmas…the hidden side of their natures…where, in my opinion, the real story lurks.

As females, we are relational, therefore we feel and act out of that core place, be it filled with light, or heavy in the darkness. Out of doing the bad things, can come an internal crisis that is for me, much too compelling not to explore through my writing, so if it needs to be ’emotional’, then blessed be and fuck the critics!

And criticism, as was pointed out during the first discussion, is something that women should not be afraid of…neither the giving of, nor the receiving of!

I am also of the opinion that while the sisters absolutely should be supporting each other, the fact remains that talent is talent, and that through mentoring, shadowing and sharing good advice, we can all help each other out in what should be a collaborative process, whatever your gender.  And Viva la difference!

Check out the festival here: http://www.underground-cinema.com/

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