On Reflection 2011…

Last post of 2011, and like all seriously driven writers and artists should, time to reflect on work done and results of same that will hopefully lead to bigger and better for 2012.

Most of us can be rather critical of our offerings, and I am no exception, so this exercise is really about savouring the good stuff that has been generated this year, acknowledging the talent that I am collaborating with, and also those who have inspired and encouraged me to move forward, do better and most importantly, to keep the faith!

So, the year kicked off with a meeting with Irish/Italian Director, Vittoria Colonna, a powerhouse of talent, beauty and creative energy, and between us, our collaborative project The Captives, which is set in Florence, Italy, has emerged. The first draft was longlisted for the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum, Edinburgh 2011, and though there is still some way to go with it, we are getting there…

The Literary Journal, REVIVAL, published an extract from my as yet, unfinished novel, LADY BETH. This is also a screenplay that continues to be close to my heart, and one that I intend to keep pushing towards development. In July, IFTA, in collaboration with the Galway Film Festival, awarded the screenplay a one-to-one consultation with Gill Dennis, Master of the American Film Institute and screenwriter of Walk The Line, amongst others. He has mentored a new  generation of filmmakers, including Jonathan Levine (The Wackness), Jacob Estes (Mean Creek) and Goran Dukic (Wristcutters). A true professional and a gentleman, Gill was highly supportive of LADY BETH, and subsequently put me in touch with a very talented, emerging director, whom Gill has also mentored through the AFI. I am very grateful to Gill for his encouragement, and for making those connections with great people and their continuing work to bring the project forward…exciting stuff…

I have still to master the art of the pitch document, so when two of my projects, Arkyne and Lady Beth, were longlisted for the Fresh Voices Pitch Awards, I was pretty chuffed. Particularly with Arkyne, which was the first screenplay I wrote, and began as such an epic tale, I have decided to finally stop faffing around and complete the novel version, Vampire of Arkyne. I should have the draft ready sometime in 2012…

In August, you can just picture the happy gig when my family fantasy script, PIXER KNOWS!, was awarded the Altantis Prize at the Moondance International Film Festival. Another labour of love, it is a big-budget concept, but so far, despite the win, it has been difficult to get the attention of producers, but, I shall persevere…

Two of my screenplays, both of the horror genre, were placed in international competitions, The Lupii, a quarter-finalist in Write Movies Competition, and Evanescence, a second round qualifier of the PAGE International Screenplay awards. Both are early drafts, so I will be doing some work on them in 2012. For whatever reason, I get a real kick out of writing the horror stuff…for those who know me well, that ain’t no surprise at all…

My blog post on Irish Director Terry McMahon’s abrasively brilliant indie film, Charlie Casanova, went far and wide, mainly due to the fact that Terry posted it on his facebook page…great comments on the post, and indeed, the film, of which praise is certainly well deserved!

Also, I need to give a shout out to the members of my Screenwriting Group for their support and endurance of my meanderings, and to Dermot Tynan of Claddagh Films, for his positive actions, as opposed to just talking encouragement…much appreciated…

So, all and all, on the writing front, it has been a positively productive year, which generated work and new relationships that I hope, will carry on into 2012…and as I contemplate the beginnings of, as yet, undreamed worlds, I will end on the wisdom of Shakespeare…

To unpathed waters, undreamed shores.

The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Cinema: A fractured view of Charlie Casanova

Up to the point of me getting along to the Irish Film and Television Academy premiere of Charlie Casanova, the hype had been immense, much to the credit of Writer, Director and Producer, Terry McMahon, who kept pushing forward with his challenging, and yes, abrasive exploration of morality. Not just talking the talk of controversy for the sake if it, he has created a piece of independent, Irish cinema that we have not seen before, and will, I certainly believe, elevate to cult status for future generations to dissect, critique and quote from. And it seems, Terry’s incredible gift as a writer, as well as his tenacity, is paying off. To the right of him, there is the camp of fans that love the film with such enthusiasm, that collectively, they have become a major marketing tool in spreading the word. And to the left of him, the ones who hate the film; don’t get it, walk out on it, fear it, or simply can’t understand what the hell this character is on about. Whatever their feelings, they are still managing to generate just as much hype!

Terry describes his film as being a fractured narrative about a fractured man with a fractured mind. His description is very appropriate, and it got me wondering as to how many of his audience would go home with fractured thoughts of their own! As a film-goer, my quest, for ninety minutes or so, is to empathize, to live vicariously through another life, to walk in their shoes as I re-imagine through the writings of another. Why then, as I settled in to watch this movie, could I not shake an annoying discomfort? I did not like Charlie from the get go, but he’s a sociopath, so that’s a no brainer! And kudos to Emmet J Scanlon for his skill of transformation; from a well-heeled, over-educated, arrogant, yet strangely charismatic man, to a dangerous, viscerally ugly psychopath, and with such unrelenting realism that I truly believed the madness that was unfolding behind his eyes.

Leaving Charlie aside however, I could feel no empathy for any of the other characters. I did not like his wife, her responses to Charlie irritated me. Same for his friends, couples themselves in different forms of crisis. Why were they all so trusting of Charlie, so easily led by him? It irked me, a lot! So what the hell was I still sitting there for, in a cold, half-filled cinema, as the director said himself, for an hour and half of my life that I’ll never get back? What kept me hooked? Yes, I got it, the subtext and metaphor that Terry has spoken of many times, his reflection on society, and how, as a nation, we have allowed previous governments, without accountability, to kick the shite out of us, the immorality, and amorality of the continued criminalization of the poor, the very fabric of ‘family’ constantly under attack, and how we, as a society, continue to allow it, with no consequences and very few raised voices. So, in the thematic knowing of the piece, why was I feeling a tad troubled, yet compelled enough to stay on for the final gut-wrenching scene? (Even if it does end with the hauntingly beautiful and pure lament of Damien Dempsey!)

The answer? FEAR…the recognition of the trait that ironically, was the reason I so disliked the characters in Charlie’s life. So here’s my tuppence worth of fractured thought, brought to the fore by the menace to society that is Charlie Casanova. Terry made reference to the fact that the characters in the film needed to be in their thirties, because to be older, they would have experienced the Ireland of the eighties, and therefore, they would have known too much. Through the decades of the boom, a large proportion of the current middle classes (now the hidden poor, in many cases) have come from the working classes of that decade, as indeed, did Charlie’s people, so for me, the nail on the head has been truly hammered, and perhaps is where my own discomfort came from. In knowing too much from our past experiences, we can hardly bear to see it happening again. Even though it is happening. And if we cannot bear it, then we cannot face it, and so we bury the unease and carry on, minding our own and protecting what we have left with a societal and political lethargy that keeps that hammer raining down on us.  And of our future, and that of our children, we blindly trust the universe, and get up each morning to salvage what hope we have left. Yes, we are fractured, as is our nation, but even in fear, it is the man and woman who get back up every day, get the kids to school and get on with their crappy paid and taxed-to-the-hilt jobs, who will keep that hope alive; but in the doing of the active citizen, the fear of change, and of fear itself, will also continue to thrive…

Footnote: I was recently at a writer’s event, where Terry, in his unique delivery, and I paraphrase here, stated that some people would like his film and some wouldn’t, and if they didn’t, fuck them! I have to admit, the comment riled me up. If I didn’t like it, then it would be right back at him.

I DID like the film, very much, so fuck you anyway, Terry!

 

Charlie Casanova has been acquired by Optimum/Studio Canal, the distributors behind ‘The Hurt Locker’, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘The Wrestler’ in a deal that includes a 2012 UK and Irish cinema release:  http://www.charliecasanovathemovie.com/