On Film: FRAMED begins the festival journey…

I am delighted to announce that FRAMED has been selected to screen at two wonderful film festivals. The 9th Underground Cinema Film Festival and Spook Screen, both happening this September.

Dates and screening times to follow. Although I have written and produced short films, this is my directorial debut, so I am very excited that it will soon be seen on the big screen!

FRAMED tells a spooky tale about a gothic artist, Joe, who’s fantasy is to paint his beautiful wife into one of his rather grotesque works of art. Happenstance will give him his wish – though not in the way that he could ever have expected – when Cathy arranges for his debut exhibition of paintings to be held in a creepy old house… you can check out FRAMED Facebook Page HERE

The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Cinema: The Lodgers

What a beautiful gothic horror film. Directed by Brian O’Malley and written by David Turpin, The Lodgers is set in rural Ireland in 1920, and filmed on location in Loftus Hall, Wexford. In a crumbling mansion filled with secrets, twins Edward and Rachel keep to themselves, cursed by the nightly visitors who keep a tight reign on the brother and sister with a set of rules that have dire consequences upon breaking. Until that is, Rachel encounters a young man from the local village, a wounded war veteran, and she begins to see another life outside of her prison home. The production design on this film is stunning, the story highly original, and the ending, just perfect!

The Lodgers | 1 hr 32 mins | Tailored Films | 2017

The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Cinema: The Drummer and The Keeper

Gabriel is a drummer in a band. He is also bi-polar. To curb his erratic behaviour and tendencies towards arson, he is persuaded to join a football team. There he meets Christopher, the goalkeeper, a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. An uneasy friendship develops between the two as each learn to understand the foibles of the other. Written and directed by Nick Kelly, this is a subtle observation of mental health issues, of living outside of what society views as ‘normal’ and of finding friendship where you least expect to. Praise too for the performances from Dermot Murphy and Jacob McCarthy. A lovely film, The Drummer and The Keeper delivers poignancy with just the right amount of good humour.

 

ADAM Short Film: View it here…

Many years ago, I wrote a short story about a little boy struggling as he witnesses the violent arguments between his parents. A loner who does not smile, ADAM is 7 and deeply affected by the violence at home, the constant tension and the spoken and the unspoken messages he is too young to comprehend.

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He likes wearing his daddy’s motorcycle helmet. No-one can see him under there, in the secret world behind the black visor, his impenetrable armour. Inside there, he can be afraid and he can hide the shame he feels, though he’s not sure what he has done wrong. No-one can see him cry, and no-one can see him getting angry…


Fast forward to 2012, and from my adapted script, our short film came to be. Time to let ADAM out into in the world now (with a mindful warning for the faint-hearted of the violence and bad language therein).

 

Click on the VIMEO Link to view ADAM

https://vimeo.com/191958557

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I would also like to repeat my big thanks and respect to the following for the grunt work applied to get this film made on a tiny budget. The mighty talented, and big-hearted Denise Pattison, Director. Gar Daly, Cinematographer. John King, Editor, Brynmor Pattison, Sound. Amy O’Neill, Make-Up. And to our superb actors, Johnny Elliott, Sinead Monaghan, Aideen McLoughlin, and Eric McGuirk (ADAM). Also, big thanks to Errol Farrell for the saintly patience and support!

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Niall Queenan

Niall Queenan is a screenwriter from the North West who currently lives in Dublin and graduated from the National Film School at IADT in 2012 with a Masters in Screenwriting. He was recently awarded an emerging screenwriter talent development mentorship from the Irish Film Board, won the gold prize in the thriller/horror category of the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards for his feature thriller script NEXT OF KIN, and the bronze prize in the thriller/horror category of the World Series of Screenwriting Awards for his feature thriller script SHADOW OF THE BLACKBIRD. He was consequently signed by manager/producer Peter Katz of Story Driven in Los Angeles. His feature debut, THE HIT PRODUCER, an independent Irish crime thriller, screened and won awards at a number of international film festivals and recently had a limited cinema release in Dublin. He has worked with Irish director Cathal Black under his Nightingale Films Ltd production company in a script development capacity and also co-produced his recent short film BUTTERFLY. He has completed feature re-writes for Propaganda Italia in Rome, Bee Holder Productions in Los Angeles, and is currently developing a slate of spec genre thrillers.

Impressive work, Niall. So, when did you first begin to write for screen?

Six years ago. My initial forays were a total disaster. I wrote two scripts without knowing a thing about the craft, thought they were gold, and paid a professional screenwriter to critique them. To say he hated them would be putting it mildly. That said, he was very understanding and gave me some really solid advice. Three months later I still felt like it was something I wanted to do, so I started over, read pro screenplays and began to study the craft. The learning continues and I can’t imagine it ever ending.

Did anyone, famous or otherwise, inspire you?

Well, they’re famous in our house, but my father always made up stories when we were kids and it was time to shut us up for the night, and my mother got me hooked on mystery novels, so I imagine the seed was planted there. But it wasn’t until I saw ‘Catch Me If You Can’ that I knew I wanted to write screenplays. Something about that film really captured my imagination and in that case, for whatever reason, I quickly came to the conclusion that the magic had started on the page. From then on the desire has been to write something that will ultimately result in an audience being as engrossed and involved in a story as I had been that evening. So, I suppose you could credit Jeff Nathanson, and also – shocker – Steven Spielberg.

Do you write every day?

When I’m working on something new I write every day. I believe that it’s important to keep your head in the same space while plotting and writing the first draft. If I’m between things or planning to re-write I’ll leave it alone, or work on something else, and let the subconscious mull over whatever it needs to, which I find productive in the long run… plot holes, inconsistencies and bad dialogue always seem to spring to mind during down time. I don’t have a specific daily structure, but I tend to write a lot at night and into the small hours.

Do you have a preferred genre?

I usually write thrillers, be they crime, conspiracy, supernatural etc. I just love being in that headspace, where there’s a sense of mystery, danger or intrigue, and working out how to assemble the pieces of the story into a compelling read.

How long does it take you to complete a script?

Usually somewhere between three and four months to outline it and get a solid first draft down.

And on your first production break? How involved in the process were you?

I’ve had just one film produced, an indie crime thriller called ‘The Hit Producer’, which had a very limited Irish release a few weeks ago. I met the director at a pitching event set up by the writers’ and directors’ guilds, and after swapping scripts/ideas he sent me his treatment for it. We unsuccessfully pitched it as a Storyland project, but by then had come up with enough material for a feature so I wrote the script. The budget (€18,000) came from a lot of blood, sweat and tears on the crowdfunding campaign, which I was heavily involved in, and after that I was on set as and when bodies were needed to chip in during the shoot. I sat in on the edit for a time during post-production and once that was done so was I. So, very much a DIY break, but it has led to other opportunities and was absolutely worth the effort. Big thanks again to all who backed the campaign and in fact gave us that break!

Do you have an agent, or think one is necessary?

I don’t have an agent, but as of very recently I have a manager! I think when you’re an unknown you have to prove yourself, which means writing strong spec scripts, completing assignments and getting your name out there. I expect that once work generates positive word of mouth, and assuming there’s a demand for the writer, an agent gets involved. I think if a writer was in serious demand an agent would absolutely be necessary. The contractual/negotiation side of things alone is a headache that I’m sure few writers want to spend their time dealing with, but want to make sure their best interests are served, so an informed manager/agent is likely vital in ensuring things get done right.

Thoughts on social media and marketing for filmmakers?

It’s absolutely necessary where you’ve made an independent film or you’re looking for backers for your crowdfunding project, nobody else is going to talk you up, but with hashtags and viral marketing tactics it’s possible to build buzz. That aside, when writing, or developing ideas etc., the less time spent on social media the better… it’s a total time suck unless you’re incorporating social media into the progress of your project in order to engage.

And do you contribute to the marketing of your own work?

I use a few social media platforms like Stage32, Twitter and LinkedIn, and post updates if I feel like something is worth sharing, but outside of that I don’t really “market” myself. To be honest, I’d rather be writing, but if there’s a project I’m involved in out there then I’ll absolutely help the team get the word out.

What’s your opinion of the current world of film? National? International? Indie Film?

Where indie film is concerned, I expect that there are tonnes of gems going undiscovered that word of mouth and cult status in their respective countries will eventually bring to a wider audience. Indie film in the US seems to be defaulting toward a Sundance style formula but there’s still plenty of really interesting stuff being made. In the mainstream, I’m a bit tired of the superhero films because they all play out in the same way – more or less – and few risks are taken. Similarly, everything these days seems to be based on book franchises, or is inspired by true events, and it feels like spec scripts are for writing sample purposes only, which is borderline a crime. Where Ireland is concerned, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2020’s prove to be our golden age. A widespread confidence in craft is emerging on all levels, which is very exciting, and will hopefully result in greater funding for the respective bodies and lead to more opportunities for Irish writers and filmmakers.

Having just won a PAGE Award – and mighty congratulations on that – what is your opinion on the importance of screenplay competitions?

I think they’re a useful way to judge where your writing is at, and if you win, or place, or make the finals, it definitely justifies contacting producers/managers/agents – or will see them contact you. That said, I think a lot of aspiring screenwriters make the same mistakes I made before and submit scripts that just aren’t ready, in hope of magically hitting the jackpot. Even if you’re confident that the basics of the story work, I would suggest taking additional time to be brutal with your dialogue, and to work the hell out of the descriptive passages. There are tonnes of ways to describe a room, but maybe only a couple that fit the tone of your story, so print it out, red pen it, grab a dictionary and don’t just settle for the easy option before you shell out your hard-earned cash.

And since you have been heavily involved in crowdfunding – what has that experience been like?

I’ve worked on two crowdfunding campaigns, the first was for ‘The Hit Producer’, and the second was for a short film called ‘Butterfly’ – both were hosted by Fund It and, fortunately, both were successful. Crowdfunding is tough, though, and while my experiences of it were ultimately worthwhile, they were extremely time-consuming and exhausting. Engaging your audience on a personal level and putting in the time to talk about their projects is just as important as promoting your own, and it’ll pay dividends when you’re looking for likes/shares/re-tweets. What’s even more key is beginning the process of building your audience a long time in advance of the campaign launch. Trying to get people to notice you when the clock is already ticking is a stress you don’t need, so my advice to anyone considering it down the road is to set up your Twitter/Facebook pages now and start communicating. Talk about the development process, ask opinions, basically involve people so that they’re invested in its progress. I’ve a lot of admiration and respect for those who stick their necks out and decide to crowdfund, and even more respect for those who pledge and green light aspiring creatives. It’s a huge leap of faith and the hope for those who get to move forward is that your backers will ultimately be proud of the work.

Any advice for aspiring film writers, Niall?

Well, I’m still one of them, but from my limited experience I think writers should write the ideas that they personally connect with and can’t stop thinking about, as opposed to writing what people tell them is more suitable for the market/funding bodies. Getting to the end of a script is hard enough, but if you’re not engaged in it, or just doing it for the sake of it, then that’s what will come across on the page. Also, trust your instincts. If something’s bothering you in the script and you just can’t shake it, then cut it or re-write it. For me, re-writing is the best part of writing screenplays… it’s like being given back a test paper and getting to change the answers to something “correct” or at least closer to it, with the benefit of perspective and hindsight.

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

There are hundreds. ‘Taxi Driver’ by Paul Schrader, ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’ by Sergio Leone & Sergio Donati, ‘The Usual Suspects’ by Chris McQuarrie, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ by Jeff Nathanson … those are the first that come to mind.

Can you share with us what you are working on now?

I’ve written a very rough first draft of a psychological thriller which I’ve been working on with the assistance of script editor appointed by the Irish Film Board as part of their emerging screenwriter talent development initiative. I’m also developing a high-concept single location thriller that I’m very excited about, and a handful of other genre ideas.

Would you consider directing your own work?

Yes, at some point, but I think before trying I’d like to shadow someone else just to get a better idea of what to expect, and maybe make a really cheap short or two, just so it’s not all new. Even at that, I’d definitely be dependent on the crew’s technical expertise, but I love the idea of working collaboratively with a creative team to achieve a particular vision with a view to ending up with something unique that holds up over time.

And just for fun…six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

For the sake of seeing just how crazy things would get… Charles Bukowski, Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson, Richard Pryor, Elizabeth Taylor and Chris Farley – all while at the height of their infamy.

 

You can find Niall on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Stage32

 

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Sean Ryan

Sean Ryan, from Waterford, has written numerous short and feature-length scripts. He has also worked as a writer-for-hire on adaptations and as a script doctor on feature screenplays. His films Revenge (Action/Western) and The Lunch Break (Black comedy) screened at the opening day in Cannes Le Marché du Film festival 2013, and along with Choices (Drama/Thriller) have won awards at The Cinerockom International Film Festival, 2013. Choices also won best narrative short at the Cannes Artisan Festival and the platinum award at the 2012 Oregon Film Festival. Change (Drama) won Best Short Film at both the Jersey Shore Film Festival and the Ocean County Library Film Festival and Audience Choice Awards at both the Texas Black Film Festival and the Jersey Shore Film Festival. His script Fading Numbers (Drama/War) was placed in several national and international contests, including the KAOS BSSC, and with his family, Sean travelled to Canada in 2011 to meet the two Auschwitz and Tluste survivors that inspired the script. Tears In The Rain (War/Drama) was also a finalist in the BSSC contest in 2013. In the same year, he worked closely with the Department of Theatre, University of Alabama and their advanced film making students who produced his script, G.P.S. (Thriller) as their final year project. The University plan to use more of Sean’s screenplays for future projects. He has worked as a producer on Choices and Speed Dial (Comedy) and completed his directorial début on Connection(Drama), which screened in festivals in 2013/2014. Now concentrating on feature scripts, his final short film was Failing Hope (Drama) which starred Rowan Blanchard, Scottie Thompson and Elizabeth Regen.

Sean has several features due for release in 2015 and 2016. Decommissioned (2015 – Action/Thriller) starring Johnny Messner, Vinnie Jones, Estella Warren, James Remar and Michael Paré; 4GOT10 (2015 – Thriller/Western) stars Johnny Messner, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Michael Paré and Vivica A. Fox; SWAP (2016 – Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller) starring Johnny Messner, Tom Sizemore, Mickey Rourke, Jon Foo, Taylor Cole and Michael Paré. Currently in production is Fragmented (Thriller), starring Tony Todd, and Darkness (survival horror) and Awakenings (Horror/thriller) are presently in preproduction stages. Sean featured on RTE Radio’s ARENA program about his attendance at the premiere of his produced featurette screenplay, Too Good To Be True  (Comedy/Drama) in New York.

Impressive list of credits, Sean, so when did your writing for film career begin?

About 12 years or so ago. The first short film I wrote I sold for a few bucks and it has yet to be made. My first feature film was this year (2015).

And how did that first production break come about?

For short films was because of hustling and hard work. I kept writing as much and as often as possible. Pitching every short script anywhere and where I could find indie producers looking for material. Until I landed a production.

Did you have an agent to help you along?

I have had a couple in the past, before I had any feature films produced. This was to help either sell a spec script or land a write for hire assignment. Neither happened, so I have been pitching my own work and writing specs that I think could/would make good films. I think a great active agent or manager would make a massive difference in getting work out there, onto the right desks. But it’s not enough to just have an agent, you need the right one, who works as hard as you do.

So you contribute to the marketing / PR of your work?

If I get the chance yes. But more often than not you don’t get the opportunity – which is a pity.

And social media?

It’s an important tool. Social media is like someone organised the Internet and for most, social media is the internet. So having a presence and a voice on it, is important. It’s free advertisement space (mostly). So why not use it?

On inspiration – did anyone influence you to write?

Stephen King. After leaving school I had no real interest in books until my sister suggested I should try King’s IT. I read nearly everything he wrote after that. Even read some of them twice.

Do you write every day?

I try to write around five pages a day and try to make them five good pages. But I have learned over time that it is very important to plan everything in your head first. Break down scenes; work out what makes those characters interesting before you touch a keyboard. But if I can manage a couple of hours a day and make five good pages, I’m happy. Any more is a bonus. I try every genre and don’t limit to one. I also try to write films I want to see. That could be comedy or science fiction. The characters are at the heart of every great story. The genre is just one element.

And how long does it take you to complete a script?

It depends. A first draft I can lay down in a month but the rewrites could take as long if not longer. But from a blank page to about 100 pages of a script, takes about four weeks.

What are you currently working on?

I’m adapting a write-for-hire script and rewriting a spec of mine called “Redacted”. I’m finding it hard to make the final act all that it can be, but I think I finally have it in my head, just need to get it down on paper.

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?

My last film was about drug lords, agents and corrupt lawmen, so do I know any of that in real life? No. I think writing what you know can help you to connect with the material, but I think the key is just to write every day and treat it like exercise. The more you do, the better you will get.

Judging from your bio, you obviously place some importance on film competitions and awards…

They can really open doors but I can’t help but feel they are like playing the lotto with a really, really expensive ticket. The odds of placing are fantastic and most aren’t going to open any doors for you. It might help with your personal sense of achievement, which is healthy. Just don’t depend on writing that script that will win that competition and land you a million dollar deal. Write for enjoyment. Write from the heart. If success comes, it comes. If awards comes then great, but write for yourself.

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

Schindler’s List or Jaws. Either or both. If I could have written them I think then I could say I’m a screenwriter.

Any advice for aspiring writers?
Three things: Don’t limit yourself/don’t keep you eggs in one basket. Don’t be afraid to write and rewrite and finally never, ever give up.

Thoughts on film in general?

Film wise there are way too many remakes, reboots and superhero movies. Not that most are not solid films, it just seems to be a case of “I’ve seen it all before” and I find myself too rarely getting excited about seeing something. I think the issue with all the reboots and remakes is that the studios think it is minimising the risk. If it worked well once, it will work again, but as we’ve seen this is more often not the case.

And Indie Film? 

Indie film is the future in my opinion. It’s the heart of cinema that will continue to beat long after the big movies and massive budgets will become too risky. There is a massive demand for content these days with streaming and alike. Indie film can deliver small, low risk, big heart films that studios won’t produce because financial return is all that interests them (being in a business). A lot of indie films remind me of the first films that some of cinema’s greats made when they were starting out, like Godfather, Terminator and alike. Films when they were hungry to prove themselves and taking risks.

Would you consider crowdsourcing to fund your own work?

I would consider it but it kind of conflicts with me as I’ve supported a lot of crowd funded films yet never received any perks. Which just hints it’s a little bit of take your money and run. Also you are asking people to give you money so you can potentially make money from their money. I think the only fair model is that everyone that invests is treated like an investor. Not perks, but they should get a return on their investment and should 100% not have to pay to see they film they help get made.

If you’ve ever had any: How to you handle negative reviews?

Film is subjective so you won’t make something everyone will like. Which is fair enough but you will meet people that love to hate and will be very vocal of that fact. But I always remember a quote from the great Paul Newman who told Tom Cruise that negativity is like white noise, just ignore it. Listen to every review and remark, just don’t live by them.

And finally, Sean, is there anyone, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

I would like to go for a pint or two with my Mum and Dad, so we could talk about life. What they have missed out since they passed away, in terms of their grandkids and children and to just experience once again what once we took for granted, time together.

You can check out Sean’s links here: IMDb  FACEBOOK   TWITTER  and BLOG

 

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland: Shane McCabe

Shane McCabe was born in Dublin and graduated with an honours degree in economics from Trinity College.  He is also a graduate of the Gaiety School of Acting, and has been involved in the industry for a number of years. His short film LUCKY ESCAPE screened at numerous Academy Award® accredited festivals worldwide and sold to NBC Universal, (Italy), HBO, (Central and Eastern Europe), top comedy website Atom.com, UK Broadcaster Channel 4, NBC Pan Asia, Shorts TV in the United States, and all of Latin America and the Caribbean via the Latin American Discovery Channel.  Lucky Escape has over 2.3 million views on YouTube and Shane has just signed a deal which will see both Lucky Escape and his most recent short THE PRESCRIPTION hosted on Amazon, Amazon Prime and Hulu. The Prescription, his three minute comedy, set in Dublin, had its World Premiere at the 2014 Edmonton International Film Festival and recently sold to HBO and his feature, KOPKILLER, a supernatural thriller, won Best Crime/Mystery category at the 6th Annual GSIFF Screenplay Competition 2012.  Shane’s Latino-themed thriller, NEXT OF KIN, was a Quarter Finalist at the 2014 AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, and has recently attracted the attention of Colombian actress Sofia Vergara. His latest script, MONEY TALKS, has just received development funding from the Irish Film Board.

 

How long have you been writing, Shane, and when did you get your first break into film?

In and around 2000/2001 and the first breakthrough came in 2005 when the Irish Film Board produced my short film, Never judge a book under their Short Cuts Scheme.

Do you write everyday?

No. But I will try to sometime. I don’t structure my day when writing. I write when I feel the time is right.

Is there a genre that you prefer to work in?

I write in many genres, from comedy to dark thriller, but I do tend to favour supernatural thrillers.

And how long does it take you to finish a script?

It depends on the project. I wrote my last script in eight days, but I did have a well fleshed out treatment to work off. I am currently working on a project I started three years ago. The lead-in time is always different. But the average time from Fade in to Fade out is three to four weeks.

On negative reviews – ever had any?

Luckily I haven’t been too often in that position. My short film Lucky Escape has over two million views on YouTube and there are negative and positive comments so I just take the rough with the smooth.

Do you have an agent, Shane – or think it necessary to have one?

No and Yeah, I am currently talking to various reps in the US and UK.

Do you engage in your own PR?

One hundred per cent yes. I do all my own marketing and spend as much time as possible on it. Social media is a good tool if it is used wisely.

Did anyone, famous or not, inspire you to write?

Yes. Quentin Tarantino. I loved his structure in Pulp Fiction and in Reservoir Dogs.

What’s your opinion of the film industry right now?

It seems all the good writing is gravitating to television now. Film is more and more about the franchise or super hero/comic book genre.

And on competitions and awards?

I rate competitions highly. The reason is twofold. Winning or being placed is a great shot in the arm and winning or placing in the big ones opens doors to getting your script read and/or representation. I was an Austin FF finalist in 2010 and a Nicholl Awards quarter finalist for the last two years.

What about Indie Film and publishing?

Indie is tough. You need a knockout hook and/or a name to get the finance. Also, I have considered crowdsourcing for film and I have self-published one of my scripts, Breakthrough, as a book.

Any advice you can offer to emerging talent, Shane?

Never give up. Write, then rewrite, then write again. Personally I like to have two projects going at once. Time spent away from a script is as valuable as time spent writing it.

Write what you know – agree or disagree?

Yes and No. Write what you’d love to see on the screen.

Is there a script by another writer that you would have liked to have written?

Yes, LA Confidential. This is beautifully structured, plotted, and executed.

Want to share what you are working on now?

Yes. It is a film called Money Talks a thriller with some very dark humour.

And finally, Shane, anyone, famous or not, you would like to share your favourite beverage with?

Only one name comes to mind: Nelson Mandela. He is one of the greatest leaders of all time. His ability to leave his twenty-seven years of captivity behind him and embrace those who imprisoned him is a lesson for all human beings.

Check in with Shane on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shane.mccabe.75