The Librarian’s Cellar: At The Cinema: Maudie

I have seen this film twice now, the second time when I was lucky enough to view it at a screening attended by director Aisling Walsh and actor Ethan Hawke. Based on a true story, the film is a compelling portrait of Canadian folk artist, Maud Lewis, played by the wonderful Sally Hawkins, and focuses on her relationship and subsequent forty-year marriage with Everett, a fisherman, living hand to mouth. A cinematic treat for the senses, Maudie reflects the 1930’s small town mentality, particularly through the prevalent attitudes to her free spirit and her disability, rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition that grew progressively worse as she aged. The film also charts her path to becoming an accomplished folk artist while never flinching from the hardships endured by Maudie as she shares her life with Everett in their tiny shack. No spoilers here, but there is also a particularly poignant element to Maudie’s story that I guarantee will bring on the tears! An Irish / Canadian co-production, Maudie is a study of the resilience and tenacity of a gifted artist in the face of adversity.

Maudie | 15A | 1 hour 55 mins | 2016

Journey of a Storyteller 2: Learning from the professionals, the mentors and the ‘doers’…

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