Women in Irish Film: Short Film Programme at MFFA

Women in Film short films

I was delighted to be asked to curate a short film programme for Maynooth Film for All [MFFA], a joint partnership between Kildare Library & Arts Service and the School of English, Theatre and Media Studies in Maynooth University. The film club is also affiliated with access>CINEMA.

Hosted by the University and generally held in the IONTAS Building on the first Tuesday of every month, the short film programme ran from October 2015 to April 2016. Each of the films I selected screened before the main feature. All were well received and attendance figures were consistently good.

I decided to theme the programme around Women in Irish Film, mainly to raise awareness and to showcase some of the fantastic talent that is out there, but also to take an opportunity to screen a wide variety of different themes and styles of filmmaking. I received far more films than I could actually screen, which is a pity as there are so many talented writers/directors out there. I’ve included links to the filmmakers and their works below for further reference.

 

Vanessa Gildea: The Abandoning

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Creates the memory of a house where past and present are not separate places

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Hannah Quinn: My Bonnie

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Two people at sea, trapped between a rock and a hard place, must face the distance

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Aoife Kelleher: Home

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A film about how our lives are shaped by the homes in which we grow up

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Helen Flanagan: Drive

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An unhappy mother struggles to connect with her infant daughter

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Lydia Ford, Olivia Flanagan, Gemma Stack: Parallel

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A coming-of-age drama follows a schoolboy as his day unfolds and he transforms from his typical popular persona to his true self

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Eimear O’Grady: The Climb

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For most people Kilimanjaro is their Mount Everest. The reason for climbing is personal

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Audrey O’Reilly: Wait

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When an important pigeon race and a rare visit home by his son Martin coincide, Charlie waits anxiously for a safe journey home

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I wish all of the talented women featured here, and indeed, all of those I couldn’t include in the final selection, the very best of everything with their future projects, and let’s all keep striving for that level playing field in the film industry!

 

 

Irish Women in Film Series: Lindsay Jane Sedgwick

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A former journalist, Lindsay Jane Sedgwick is a versatile and imaginative award-winning screenwriter with over six hours of credits for TV and film work. Her first original series, PUNKY, was launched on RTE in May 2011 to national and international acclaim. It has been sold in eight international territories and a second series is in production. She is currently in development with Monster Entertainment on a new original series, WULFIE. Previous to this, Lindsay has had drama and children’s material broadcast on TV for RTE, a romantic comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and four short films produced, most recently BARZAKH in February 2013. A feature, KRISTINA, filmed in the Philippines, won a Best Film award at Swansea on Sea International Film Festival. A pilot script for a new television series was recently read in New York and Dublin and Lindsay has also written numerous award-winning stage plays, with three productions lined up for 2013.

Lindsay is a screenwriting tutor, script consultant and reader for independent producers, a graduate of Moonstone, 2002 and a scholar at New York University ‘Gregory Peck Scriptwriting Course’, Dublin, graduating with AA distinction, 1993. She has an MA Screenwriting from Leeds Metropolitan University in 1999 and a BA in Communication Studies from Dublin City University. Prior to this, as a freelance journalist she wrote for a vast range of newspapers and magazines in Ireland, Australia, the US, the UK and Europe.

Welcome to the series, Lindsay! First off, tell us how and why you got started in the business?

I always wanted to write. There was nothing else I wanted to do. I worked as a freelance journalist for a decade because that was a way to make a living from writing. I loved that career, but I was writing stage plays and books on the side. I got into screenwriting through an open call for  the RTE’s Fair City writers in 1990 and used that gig to get work on a children’s programme, Scratch Saturday. The following year I did storylines for Fair City; the summer after, I rewrote the Series Bible. In 1994, I made the decision to try ‘creative writing’ fulltime, saved enough to survive for 18 months on casual jobs and dived in. I wrote two new stage plays that won awards, one of which was staged a second time in the Focus. But I knew it was impossible to earn a living through theatre so I turned my focus to screenwriting.

So at this stage, you opted for formal training with your writing?

Stage plays, self taught. I was brought by my mother to all the lunch time plays in the Abbey from when I was about six.

In Screenwriting, RTE had given us a weekend on three-act structure to ‘win’ the writing gig in Fair City but on that weekend, I heard about an MA in Screenwriting in Leeds. I applied for that in 1996. Ironically, I was already teaching screenwriting in UCD – a night class for 50 students – but I loved the idea of diving in with both feet. It was life-changing. By the time I returned two years later, I’d a short film made, I’d signed with an agent and my first feature had been optioned – a hammer horror piece for Chris Wicking (To The Devil A Daughter, Scream and Scream Again etc) – but I also had a huge pile of scripts and treatments ready to take on the world!

In animation, I started writing scripts and storylines and creating series after a course run by Screen Training Ireland in 2003. It was based over a number of weekends and we emerged with great knowledge and with a tried and tested sample script.

And what, or whom, have been your seminal influences?

My mother in terms of encouraging my love of writing and theatre. A teacher is fifth and sixth class called Mrs O’Brien who really, really encouraged and seemed to love the stories and poems I wrote. Theatre of the Absurd. Pinter, Mamet. Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. Bambi.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

I have pretty eclectic taste but offhand, I love and envy Enda Walsh’s work. I loved Grabbers, The Wire, Moone Boy, The Returned and Up. Actually most anything by Pixar before they went to Disney. I saw the documentary Coming Home at the Galway Fleadh this year, and it was pretty powerful!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene, Lindsay?

Writers do not get enough recognition financially or in terms of creative input.

And the highlight of your career so far?

In theatre, a stage production by Still Players in Cork Arts Theatre in 1996 or 97 of my play Fur Doesn’t Hurt. It was perfectly cast, brilliantly directed and when it ended, there were ten seconds of silence before this amazing standing ovation – and the electricity within the audience in the lobby afterwards was breath-taking. In film/ TV, the highlight is just around the corner!

In TV, the impact PUNKY had in Ireland and around the world was humbling.

Do you have an ultimate goal?

To be successful as a writer, to write amazing stuff that stays amazing when it’s put on the screen or stage, and to be recognised financially and in terms of creative input. So, simply, to write phenomenal pieces of work and create characters that last the test of time, that draw in audiences again and again and that actors love performing.

Fun question – fantasy dinner party guests? Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

George Clooney, Alan Bennett. Pete Doctor (Pixar), Granuaille, Anne Boleyn’s sister, Mary, and my maternal grandfather, John Crouchen.

Thanks, Lindsay, and finally, any other comments?

I’ve probably said too much already, but writers (especially those of us who are not directors, yet) do need to get greater recognition financially and in terms of their contribution to film and television. This is a major frustration and increasingly dispiriting. We also need to learn how to protect and exploit the Intellectual Properties that we create.

Irish Women in Film: Eleanor McSherry

Eleanor McSherry is currently the mid-west correspondent for Film Ireland Magazine online content and is a producer and scriptwriter with Sidhe Film and Theatre.  She also teaches a six-week short script course, script-doctor workshops, a play-writing course at the Limerick Writers Centre and gives guest lectures at Limerick Institute of Technology on Radio Advertising Scripts.

Eleanor has been shortlisted for the Galway Film Centre / RTE’s Short Script Award (in 2009 and in 2010) For Filmbase / RTE’s Short Script Award in 2010 and for the Waterford Film Festival’s Short Script Award 2012. She worked as co-producer on the short films Skew-whiff and Stamp, with Sidhe Film and was production assistant on the short film Captured with Fresh Film Festival’s Hothouse film. She did PR for Concy Ryan’s RTE’s 2011 Storyland entry, The Outlaw. 

Eleanor works on the committee for the PRO for LIT Film Festival 2012 and is the International Short Films co-ordinator for the Fresh Film Festival.  She also works at PR for Dóchas: Hope for People with Autism, the Mid West Special Needs Parents Association and co-ordinates the World Autism Day campaign in Limerick.

Great bio, Eleanor, and welcome to the series! Let’s begin by telling us how and why you got started in the film business.

As a child I used to watch all the 1950’s musicals and films on RTE on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  I love film and wanted to write my own.  At night, I used to tell my sister, when we were very young, the plots of sequels of my favourite films.

At this stage my script-writing is not full-time, as I am finishing my masters is philosophy.  I didn’t go straight into college after school.  I went out and worked.  I got married and had three kids.  So I didn’t start writing until later.  When I hit thirty I went back to college and got my degree.  The first short script I entered into a competition for funding got me shortlisted with the Galway Film Centre.  I haven’t looked back since.

So, in terms of your script-writing skills, are you self-taught?

I have a couple of script courses under my belt and I have a 2nd class honours in Media and Communications and Philosophy.  It didn’t incentivise me to write…I think no matter what qualifications you have, if you haven’t got talent, how it looks won’t make a jot of difference.

What and/or whom have been your seminal influences?

My seminal influences have been Martin Scorsese, Richard Harris, Ken Loach and Maureen O’Hara.  All are independent thinkers and go-getters who are not afraid to make the films that they want.  They also all have made me feel something when I either watch their films or see them act.  This is talent pure and simple.

Living or dead, name six people you would love to have as guests around your fantasy dinner table.

All of the above four people, Steven Spielberg and Michel Foucault (Philosopher).

 What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I think it is very vibrant and full of talent.  It is still very much who you know, not what you know and that is a great pity.  Funding is hard to come by and even then when you get it, there are too much strings attached. This is why a lot of our talent is leaving and going elsewhere.

And the highlight of your career so far?

My highlight so far is getting my first script shortlisted, ‘twas cool.  I’m not finished yet and there will be plenty more to come!

So have you decided what your ultimate goal is yet?

Just to make films that evoke emotion in my audience.  I love when you come out of a good film or watch one on TV and you feel fantastic or sad or disturbed or like you can take on the world.  I want to do that!  I want people to come out of my films and be moved.

Any advice to offer newbies coming into the business?

Don’t worry about money, just make films.  Then hopefully if you’re any good the money will come later!  Be realistic about what you can do.  No one gets that Hollywood blockbuster first go. And remember when writing a short film, that shorts win Oscars!

Irish Women in Film Series: Mary Duffin

Mary Duffin achieved first class honours in her Master’s in Screenwriting from IADT and received the 2009 National Film School/ Irish Playwright’s & Screenwriter’s Guild Award for Screenwriting. She worked as company manager of Crooked House Theatre Company for seven years, and currently, her work includes drama facilitation, stage and event management, theatre directing, acting and writing. She is in development with Fantastic Films on her feature thesis screenplay with Aisling Walsh (Song for a Raggy Boy) on board to direct. Her script received funding from both the Irish Film Board and Media Europe. She was also a Storyland 3 finalist and was shortlisted by the Filmbase/ TG4 Lasair Irish language shorts scheme. Her main interests lie in the nature and application of Story in all its forms.

Mary, begin by telling us how and why you got started in the business? 

I was blown away by film from the first time I went to the cinema as a young child. I saw Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. I didn’t have a clue what it was, how it was made or how I could be part of it, but I was hooked from that very first moment and I still am, although my tastes are a little different today. I loved everything about it, the acting, directing, costumes, lighting,  the emotional investment and of course the stories. There were no film schools or even courses when I left school and even if there were I wasn’t aware that it could have been a choice for me. Through years of cinema going, movie watching on TV, copying videos all the way to DVD’s, and streaming, I felt that standards were slipping in movie making and finally gave up going to cinema altogether as I was sick of being disappointed and having to pay for the privilege. I decided (in my head) that I could do better and that’s when I decided to take a screenwriting course. I had over the years become an actor, director, drama teacher and facilitator and I had no idea when I started writing that all of that experience was invaluable to any screenwriter. So from my first VEC funded weekend course with the wonderful Michael Kinirons (to whom I owe a lot) in 2004 up to completing the MA in Screenwriting in 2009, I finally got started when Brendan McCarthy & John McDonnell of Fantastic Films approached me to option my thesis screenplay. The icing on the cake was definitely when I received the National Film School/ Irish Playwright’s & Screenwriter’s Guild Award for Screenwriting. That was the first time I felt like a screenwriter and not just a wannabe.

Apart from the MA,  I took every screenwriting class I could, attended every seminar, conference and social gathering in order to immerse myself in that world so I could understand it and hopefully carve out a niche for me. I’m not an avid fiction reader but I have a collection of books about screenwriting, drama, film and the industry which I relish the way some relish Fifty Shades of Grey. I think I most enjoyed listening to Oscar and award-winning writers speak about how they did what they did. That to me was always the source of the most practical & helpful information and wildly inspiring too.

What have been your seminal influences?

I can honestly say I have taken something from every film I have ever watched, the good and the bad, one learns so much from the bad ones, but I always did adore hard-hitting dramas. Back when Oscars were actually given to the best films,  I judged them on whether or not I wished I had written them,  The Deer Hunter, Kramer Vs Kramer, Terms Of Endearment, Ordinary People, and of course One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, to name but a few. Once I discovered Coppola & Scorsese, a love for truth on-screen was born. I was blown away by the bravery of not shying away from violence and not-so-nice characters. Pulp Fiction was a religious experience as I knew it was a game-changer in the writing world at least and I am an avid Tarantino fan to this day. Oddly, I have a thing for the big scale musicals of yesteryear, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly will always be my dance partners in the movie in my head.  Grease made me realise that you could tell Romeo & Juliet in any way you liked, that blew my mind. The good vs bad themes of all the great old westerns generated in me a love for the, sometimes too simplistic, good guy, bad guy stories.  And finally…or I could go on all day… Film Noir was the sexiest, most exciting and dangerous thing I had ever come across in my young teenage life and I suspect it’s that influence that helped forge in my mind images of strong independent women, something that I had felt missing in cinema and in my life experience. I think that’s changing still.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

Carrie Khouri’s  Thelma & Louise changed my view of what were turning out to be the chick flicks. It was, she said, inspired by anger and frustration at the blatant sexism she & many other women experienced almost daily. That she could take that feeling and turn it into such an amazing screenplay inspired me to write my first real screenplay. Ideas are born from the oddest places. Diablo Cody’s Juno reminded me of the different world we live in as teenagers and how film can be a window into that world. I’ve watched a lot of European cinema in the past few years and I prefer their no-holds-barred adult approach, so unlike the saccharin WASP propaganda-driven drivel that passes for mainstream American cinema.

So, you’re having a fantasy dinner party!  Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

Oooh, my favourite question! I’ll have to invite seven though as I wouldn’t like an odd number for dinner.

Albert Einstein – For many reasons but mainly so I can hear the theory of relativity from the horse’s mouth!

Oprah Winfrey – She has spoken to so many amazing people over the years it’d be like inviting them all!

Leonardo Da Vinci – So he can explain all the drawings we haven’t managed to decipher yet and tell me why the Mona Lisa looks so smug.

Harper Lee – Just for writing To Kill A Mocking bird

Adolf Hitler – I think we’d all like to have a word with him.

Marie Curie – If she could thrive in her then man’s field in the then man’s world I’d like to have a chat about her experiences.

Mary Phelps Jacobs – So I can slap her for inventing the bra!

I’d cook Scallops on Clonakilty Black Pudding with a Poached Egg; Whole Spit Roast Pig with all the trimmings and Key Lime Pie. I wouldn’t give Hitler any dessert.

What’s your opinion of the current Irish film scene, Mary?

Hmmm, well it changed drastically this year. I happen to think that Terry McMahon’s Charlie Casanova is one of the best Irish films I’ve seen and to see that the industry didn’t recognise that properly was painful. I think we need to get rid of the quaintness and tourist board advertisement view of our country that seems to pervade our film industry. I think we need to show the world more than just inner city drug dealers and country bumpkins, there’s a lot more to the Irish than that. I have yet to see me, my life, that of my family and friends or acquaintances on-screen in an Irish film. Charlie Casanova came close to addressing some of this but it’s not enough. I know there are great scripts out there and many brilliant short films and features being made by disillusioned yet impassioned filmmakers, but frankly, they need more help and support than they currently receive. I am aware of the lack of funding and that times are tough but I feel that what is being funded doesn’t reflect the true picture of the variety, creativity and talent that I have read, seen and am privileged to know.

Highlight of your career so far?

Definitely my first meeting with my producers John & Brendan and our director Aisling Walsh. Sitting talking about my script and the story, hearing how Aisling saw it and how they all wanted to make it was a pretty good feeling.

And your ultimate goal?

As cocky as it sounds I really do intend to get an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Do you have any advice to offer Newbies coming into the business?

Read lots and lots of screenplays; watch lots of films both good and bad; write short scripts using each one to work on a different element as a learning tool; talk to other writers; join the guild; FINISH your screenplay; get people whose opinion you trust to read it; don’t take it personally; writing IS rewriting just as acting IS reacting; know your genre; don’t write what you wouldn’t go see (and pay for!) and always remember what the great Goldman said ‘Nobody knows anything’.

Thanks, Mary! Any final comments?

Despite what I think of the current Irish film scene, I am aware that it is young yet and like all young things, lessons need to be learned in order to flourish and grow. I suspect the Irish film industry will choose to be a hard-way learner as most teenagers are wont to be. I just hope I’m still around for the glory days that are yet to come. Keep the faith!

Chilling with the ladies…and talking film!

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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/

Irish Women in Film Series: Marie Caffrey

Following very successful careers in PR and working with her family’s interior landscaping business, film producer, Marie Caffrey, worked on various freelancing projects such as Charlie Casanova and Portrait of a Zombie before joining Zanzibar Films in 2010. Marie’s short film Sylvia, funded by the Irish Film Board, recently premiered at the Galway film festival. She also produced a four-episode web series titled Cuckoo for RTE Storyland, alongside The Cause of Progress, a feature documentary directed by Chris Kelly – both productions for Zanzibar films.

Hey Marie, begin by telling us how and why you got started in the business.

I came into the Film Industry by chance in September 2009. I was, and still am, an interior landscaper. I applied as a volunteer to the Darklight Festival, and they took me on as a Production Manager for a film-making project called Hotel Darklight. Over the next couple of weeks the team brought together over one hundred people in the Industry to participate in filming ten short films in six days. Hotel Darklight will be showing as part of the Ranelagh Arts Festival this year on Wed 19th Sept at 8pm in the Ranelagh Arts Centre.

So I guess you are self-taught as opposed to having any formal film school education? 

Self taught. I was lucky to get involved with Zanzibar Films and being on set is the best education ever. However I would like to participate in EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) the professional training, project development and networking organization for audiovisual producers.

Can you share with us what your seminal influences have been? 

I began acting classes from age 10. I’ve always been into drama. But as I get older I’ve become a worse actor and a better producer. It really kicked off when I went to the Cannes film Festival in 2007 with a director friend and I liked the buzz and decided to give it a shot.

And what are your current influences? 

I saw Shadow Dancer a few days back and really enjoyed it. My taste is varied and ever-changing. I admire a good CV, attached with a better script, and exciting Directors whom I have had the pleasure to work with. Also, film boards and funding bodies, and the people who support me.

Fantasy dinner party guests? Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table. 

Females:  Lorraine Bracco, Kim Cattrall and Dolly Parton. Males: Aidan Gillen, Prince Harry and Dominic Cooper.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

With or without funding, I really enjoy the range of Irish features and shorts that are hitting the screens. I appreciate film schools and classes looking more at the script-writing process. There is certainly a great relationship among film folk and a commitment to doing the best of one’s ability and to getting out there and making films.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

Receiving funding from the IFB (Irish Film Board) and RTE…the competition is tight…so being picked is so special!

Do you have an ultimate goal? 

One by one, to bring together the perfect working team so that each project I embark on will have a committed and fun team to tackle any project, big or small.

Thanks Marie, any final comments you would like to add? 

I love meeting new people who have an interesting idea, so please do get in touch!

For more information on Marie Caffrey: www.delsolarfilms.com. 

Irish Women in Film Series: Audrey O’Reilly

A graduate of the National Film School in 1998, Audrey O’Reilly has been working as a writer and director with increasing success. That year her co-written script ‘Honor Bright’ was announced as the winner of the Miramax Script Writing Award, and she went on to be awarded an R.T.E / Irish Film Board Short Cuts Award, a short film grant for emerging film-makers. The resulting film ‘In Loving Memory’ was a hit on the festival circuit and won a number of awards including the Prix du Public at the prestigious Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival. Audrey then wrote and directed ‘Clare sa Speir’ one of the 2001 Oscailt short film series which has been included on the Irish Leaving Certificate syllabus.  In addition a ‘Short Short’  she wrote entitled ‘Chicken’ was selected for official competition in the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. She has also worked as a writer for the RTE soap opera ‘Fair City’ as well as the popular television series ‘On Home Ground’. ‘Teenage Cics’ a six part television drama series which she herself co-wrote and directed for TG4, was nominated for the 2006 Smart Telecom Best Drama Award. She has also branched into theatre writing and her play ‘Skin & Blisters’ toured with Team Education Theatre. She adapted Kate Thompson’s award winning children’s novel ‘The New Policeman’ for producer Hawk Koch and Penny Vincenzi’s ‘Windfall’ for Pivotal Pictures. She is also developing two feature scripts ‘It Takes Three to Tango’ and ‘The Winter Truce’ as well as a television series for TG4. Audrey served for five years as chairwoman of the ‘Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild’. She now divides her time between Paris and Ireland. She is represented by Mark Casarotto of Casarotto Ramsey & Associates.

 Audrey,  how and why did you get started in the business? 

Well I had always adored film, but, having grown up in Cork in the 80’s, it didn’t even occur to me that it was a career possibility. I was working in an Irish pub in Bologna, having graduated with a very mediocre BA, and was at a complete loss at what to do next, when my Aunt Kathleen sent me a prospectus for Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design. She thought I might be interested in doing a weekend course in mending ceramic but instead I saw a week-long portfolio preparation course for it’s diploma course in Film & Television and BAM! Light bulb moment! I knew what I wanted to do with my life and haven’t done much else since then.

Did you partake in any formal training or are you self-taught?

As soon as I realized that this was what I wanted to do, I started to read and watch everything about film making I could get my hands on. I studied for a year in Ballyfermot before transferring over to the Film and Television diploma course in DLCAD, now the National Film School. I am also eternally grateful for the stunning courses in writing and directing I’ve done with Screen Training Ireland over the years. If I ever win an Oscar, they’ll be getting a thank you. Then of course I’m a voracious Film and TV addict and get anxious if I haven’t been to the cinema at least once a week. Add what my friends have called “an overdeveloped interest in the human condition”…. or ‘gossip and other people’s business’, and you pretty much have a mind primed for story telling.

What and / or whom have been your seminal influences?

It might sound twee, but I would have to say my mother. I used to be in and out of hospital as a kid and, in an attempt to take the sting out of some of the trips, she used to take me to the cinema as a treat. A  published writer herself, she used also make up long episodic stories especially for me. It’s hardly any wonder film and storytelling assumed a huge importance in my life. Also, from a very young age, I adored old Hollywood movies. ‘Singing in the Rain’ is still an all time favourite. Earlier this year I sat in an auditorium at a Q&A with director Stanley Donen,  watching Gene Kelly twirling around a lamp, and I wept. Donen spoke of how when he was child he was inspired by the “joy” and sense of transportation he got from films and wanted to be involved in that world. Well he, and many like him, Hawks, Capra etc, have had the same effect on me.

On the writing front I will never forget the moment I heard the immortal line ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ in Billy Wilder’s & I.A.L Diamond’s ‘Some like it Hot’. The utter perfection of it blew me away and Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond have set a high bar to aspire to since. I now know that last line was popped in there until they could come up with something better, but somehow that happy accident makes it even more inspiring.

And can you list your current inspirational influences?

Right now, I find myself being more inspired by what’s going on in television. The David Simons, the David Chases, the Shonda Rhimes etc etc etc. My current TV crush is Lena Dunham.  I love that she’s taking up where ‘Sex in the City’ left off and is creating a series which speaks viscerally and truthfully to an under represented female audience.

So, imagine that you are having a  fantasy dinner party. Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around your dinner table.

I am trying desperately to think of some people from outside the arts but, damn it, if we’re going to be gossiping about show biz all night, they’d only be bored.  Orson Welles, his old pal and my rather curious teenage obsession, Michael MacLiammoir. Nora Ephron, famed conversationalist and director. Josephine Baker and Bette Davis, two cool ladies, and Stellan Skarsgard. I recently watched an interview where he was so blisteringly indiscreet and candid I immediately added him to my fantasy dinner party guest list.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I am constantly humbled by my peers who manage to continue to work and produce films despite plummeting budgets and great obstacles. To my shame I haven’t seen as many of the recent films as I’ve been living abroad and very few seem to receive an international release. On that subject, while I’m impressed by the very personal art house films being produced, I feel there’s a need for more mainstream fare that would have a shot at a decent life in the Cineplexes and switch a wider Irish audience on to Irish film. I find the new wave of home-grown horror very inspiring but how about a decent Irish rom-com? I have a script if any one is interested.

Can you pinpoint any highlights of your career so far?

Well obviously the various prizes have been nice. Standing on the red carpet at Cannes for the closing ceremony as writer for ‘Chicken’ was a huge buzz, until they separated the producers and writers from the directors and herded us up the back stairs of the auditorium. Hanging out with Robert Evans in his bedroom in Hollywood was also fun. I shall leave that story to your imaginations.

Yet it’s the moments it all came together work-wise which I’ll remember on my death-bed.  On set, Britta Smith’s performance making me cry while directing ‘In Loving Memory’. Looking through a lens at Alison Franklin or Oisin O Murachu in ‘Teenage Cics’ and realising they had the elusive ‘it’ factor….sooo many moments with the many kids I’ve worked with over the years.

I vividly remember one wet and rainy November night standing on the Shankill Road in Belfast. I was directing ‘The Day We Skipped the Bus’, with ten shivering school girls who had never acted a day in their lives. My lead had been whisked off by social services, the production manager was trying to negotiate with paramilitaries to shoot in the Johnny Adare Estate, which, by that time, had become our safe haven. I was sick as a dog, cold wet and exhausted. Yet at that moment I realised there was nothing in the world I would rather be doing. That was a highlight!

What would you consider to be your ultimate goal, right now?

To direct feature films which gives an audience even a fraction of the joy that films like ‘Singing In the Rain’ , ‘My Life As a Dog’,  and ‘Some Like It Hot ‘ have given me.

Thanks Audrey, and finally, any advice for Newbies entering the world of filmmaking?

Keep the faith, keep learning and develop inexpensive tastes in the meantime.

Check out Audrey’s work…

In Loving Memory: http://vimeo.com/18363263

Chicken: http://www.vimeo.com/18346463

Photograph by Conor Horgan