Irish Women in Film: Sarah Daly

Sarah Daly is a scriptwriter from Dungarvan, Co. Waterford currently working with New Age Film in Scotland. Two of Sarah’s feature films are in the latter stages of post-production; dystopian thriller White Out and a supernatural drama which will be announced later in the year. In the past two years, her work has been performed by Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum. Sarah is best known for being the writer of the Morgan M. Morgansen short films which featured at Sundance and South By Southwest in 2010.

Hi Sarah. Let’s start off by telling us how and why you got started in the business? 

I’ve always loved to write but didn’t consider writing as a career until I discovered scriptwriting while studying Media Arts at DIT. I completed my degree and worked various office jobs for a few years, all the while writing away in my spare time and sending my work out to whoever would read it. Slowly, I started to gain traction. I had a few short films produced in the US and bagged a freelance job as a script reader for Samson Films in Dublin. My biggest breaks came in 2010 when Scottish director Lawrie Brewster from New Age Film took an interest in my work and made an investment in me as a writer. That same year I’d also started submitting work to a website called HitRECord, run by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He came across a piece of writing of mine and produced it into a short film which eventually ended up at Sundance, and its sequel at South By Southwest. I’ve worked with him and HitRECord on several projects since.

Did you have any formal instruction (film school etc) or are you self-taught?

I studied Media Arts at DIT which was basically a bit of everything – TV, film, radio, documentary, but the only part that I really enjoyed was the writing, so I did a lot of my own study on the art and craft of screenwriting – read a lot of scripts and all the screenwriting books I could get my hands on as well as just writing a lot until I found my voice, and understood better what works and what doesn’t.

Where did your seminal influences come from?

I have to start with my family who are all very creative and were always supportive of my childhood artistic endeavours from drawing maps of imaginary lands to belting out compositions on my toy piano. As regards other writers, a lot of my writing is quite poetical and often absurd so writers like Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and James Joyce have been a big inspiration. I love writers who play with language and I adore fantasy, fairytale and science fiction so, basically, any artist who creates alternate universes is okay by me! I adore artists/people who go against the grain, who ask questions with their work and who stick their necks out creatively. My good friend Lexy Hulme, an actress and dancer who starred in the Morgan M. Morgansen films is a constant inspiration as well.

And your current influences?

I take inspiration from everywhere and anywhere – the news, science, sociology, history, folklore. Film-wise I always enjoy the work of Charlie Kaufman, Wes Anderson, Ken Russell and more recently Miranda July. I love filmmakers who can create whole new worlds on-screen and I have a particular soft spot for irreverent trailblazers. In literary terms I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction lately as research for a new script and have been inspired by the work of Philip K. Dick and Walter Tevis – I’m going through a serious dystopia phase at the moment!

Let’s say you’re having a fantasy dinner party.  Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around that dinner table!

Bill Hicks, Kate Bush, Noam Chomsky, Oscar Wilde, Frida Kahlo and Shakespeare. I’d just listen though – I’d be far too intimidated to join in!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I’ve been away from Ireland for the past three years, and practically all of my work has come from abroad for whatever reason, but, still it seems to me that Ireland is doing exceptionally well. We certainly punch above our weight for such a small country. The animation scene in particular is thriving and I think we should be very proud of the volume and quality of our output. Still, I think it’s vital that the supports in place are safeguarded so that the industry can continue to grow. It’s a tough business and these are tough times but hopefully the powers that be continue to recognise the crucial role of the arts in our economy and cultural landscape. Especially as I’d love to work more with Irish producers and directors in future!

Can you tell us what has been the highlight of your career so far?

Probably seeing Gary Oldman perform my poem The Man with a Turnip for a Head at the HitRECord Fall Formal event in LA last year. That was pretty surreal! At the same show, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway also performed a song I’d written. Definitely a night to remember. But, there’s also nothing like seeing your words brought to life on set. Shooting our latest feature was an incredible experience – that’s what makes writing for film so rewarding.

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

I just want to carry on doing what I love for a living, to make art that I’m proud of and that others enjoy (or are affected by)! Anything else is a bonus.

Do you have any advice to offer Newbies?

This is advice I hated receiving as a shy, retiring writer, but, it really is all about networking. Putting your work and yourself out there is absolutely the most important thing you can do. All it takes is one crucial connection for your career to take off, so make sure you put yourself in front of as many people as you can. There’s nothing like doing it in person, but the internet is also a valuable tool. Yes, it’s oversaturated but if your work is genuinely good, and if you’re persistent enough, then you will get notice and you will get work. Also, learn as much as you can about all aspects of the industry, not just writing. If you can think like a producer in terms of budget, genre and marketability when it comes to your scripts, then you stand a much better chance of getting produced.

Thanks, Sarah! And finally, any comments you would like to add?

I also make music, for film and otherwise under the name Metaphorest. I contributed to the soundtrack of my first feature White Out and have also written songs for webs series and short films. I released my debut album Metaphorest: Volume 1 last year. You can listen at http://metaphorest.bandcamp.com  and get all the latest news on my writing and music at www.facebook.com/metaphorest

SARAH’S LINKS:

Morgan M. Morgansen films:

http://vimeo.com/15649718

http://vimeo.com/15645613

Trailer for the feature film White Out:

http://www.whiteoutthemovie.co.uk/

Interview with Irish Filmmakers

An interview with Irish Filmmakers…http://www.irishfilmmakers.com/

IFM: First off Caroline, tell us a bit about yourself.

Born and bred in Dublin, but live inside my head! Constant scribbler, life-long learner, day and night dreamer!

IFM: How did you first get into writing, and how did that lead you into screenwriting?

From the age of learning to put pen to paper and making sense out of words, I have always written in some form or another. I hated school. Inside my head, I was little Wednesday Addams! I was out of there by my own volition, at 15, but that conversation is for another day! However, the one thing I did enjoy about primary school was that every Friday for homework, we would have to write an essay, and every Monday morning, I would have my work done. Wish I had kept them all! I entered my first writing competition at 19, and was placed runner-up for my synopsis of a novel – I never did write that book though! I was always a quiet kid, but for as long as I can remember, I was curious about people and situations I witnessed; a spectator. I would make up stories in my head, or embellish on real life events, and I often saw life in a serious of frames, scenes I suppose, playing them over in my head after the fact. About fifteen years ago, I sent the first three chapters of an early attempt at a novel to the legendary agent, Darley Anderson, and he replied personally to say that he liked my writing, but that it was rather ‘episodic’. At the time, I didn’t get that he was actually offering a helpful insight! I didn’t have any experience of screenwriting though until 2005, when I sat in on a Screenwriting course. As soon as the tutor broke down the format of the first script we read, The Crying Game, I was hooked. Though I had a long way to go in terms of learning about structure, it all made perfect sense! For me, it is all about Story: we story our own lives as we breathe each day, and we story the lives of others, real or imagined, through empathy, curiosity, imagination, analysis and connection. Each and every one of us is living the three-act structure…

IFM: Take us briefly through your process of writing a screenplay, including how many drafts do you go through, and when you know the work is ready to hand over.

I generally have a story percolating in my head for a long time before I write the first draft. Sometimes it can take a year or so before I’m ready to hammer it out onto the blank page. After that, it varies. I have scripts that I know will take me several drafts before I am comfortable enough with them to hand them over to anyone. With others, it is easy to let the first draft go out to the world, and I’ll happily receive whatever feedback is thrown at it. I try to write something every day.

IFM: What are some of the challenges you face when writing, and do you draw from any personal experiences?

My challenges would be the same for most writers, I think. Time is a huge issue for me. I work fulltime, and I have family and friends that, while understanding my need for solitary confinement, still like, for whatever reason, to have me around!

Do I draw from personal experiences? Hell, yes. And don’t believe any writer who tells you that they don’t! In one form or another, the essence of a writer is in their work. Sometimes obvious, mostly not, but however subtle, it is always there. It is what gives a writer his or her voice, and it is what makes them different from everyone else.

IFM: You’ve won a number of awards for your work. How does it feel to have your talent recognised?

Fantastic! It’s a wonderful affirmation when my work is recognised to a level of winning an award, and it really spurs me on to do more, to do better, and to raise the bar on my own expectations.

IFM: What are some of your favourite scripts and books that inspire you?

My favourite scripts are too many to mention, but a snapshot would be The Others by Alejandro Amenábar,Biutiful by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Red Road, by Andrea Arnold, The Secret in Their Eyes, by Eduardo Sacheri Juan José Campanella, and Angel Heart, written by Alan Parker. I’m also a big fan the Robert Riskin/Frank Capra collaborations…simply wonderful!

I used to be a sucker for the gothic novels, particularly as a teenager; Bronte, Stoker, Poe, etc. At that age, I would also devour Agatha Christie novels. I think she may well have been my first inspiration to write. Later, I discovered Anne Rice, Susan Hill and Alice Hoffman, as well as John Connolly, Joseph O’Connor, Patrick McCabe and Neil Jordan. My love of books in turn inspired my future career path, to be a librarian, though it took me a long time to get there [see previous comment on leaving school early!] At the moment, I am reading Audrey Niffenegger.

 

IFM: What advice would you offer to any screenwriters in the making?

Watch films, read scripts, learn format and just do it! Do it often! Make sure you present your work as good as it can be. Look for feedback and learn to take rewrites in your stride. Join a writer’s group. If you can’t find one, start one up yourself. And when you feel you have reached a standard that is good enough to compete, submit your work to producers, awards and funding opportunities, and enter competitions.

IFM: Tell us what you have planned for this year and what else are you working on?

My short script, ADAM, directed by Denise Pattison, which we have co-produced, is currently in post-production, and another, IN RIBBONS, is now in development, to be directed by Marie-Valerie Jeantelot. I am collaborating with director Vittoria Colonna on a feature screenplay, and am also doing my best to finish a novel. I have three more completed screenplays currently doing the rounds, and another with a director in the US,Ozzy Villazon. I am very lucky to be working with some very cool and inspiring people, so although I would say that my year so far has been pretty hectic …long may it last! I also blog regularly, and am at present featuring Irish women in film, which, I have to say has been a joy to do, and very inspiring.

Irish Women in Film Series: Shannon Moncrief

Shannon Moncrief is an American / Irish independent film maker based in Dublin. She established the film company Pandora Pictures and wrote, directed and produced the short film, “The Legend”, which is currently on the international film festival circuit and has been selected to screen at the 2012 Underground Film Festival, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, happening from the 13th-16th September. Her credits include directing the musical event “TrócaireLive” and “Basso Continuo”.  She also shot and directed a music video for Meteor’s Best Band Awardees Future Kings of Spain. She is currently in pre-production on a feature documentary about the Dublin Underground music scene over the past three decades called, “Kingdom of the Conscience” as well as in pre-production on a music video.

Hello Shannon! Can you start by telling us how and why you got started in the business? 

I came into the business from the writing side. I was working on a novel based on experiences I’d had working in conflict zones out of college and shared my draft manuscript with my brother who’s a cinematographer in LA. He thought the story would make a good film and asked if I’d considered turning it into a screenplay. I didn’t know how to write scripts at the time, but the very next day a pamphlet arrived in the post offering free screenwriting classes with Michael Kinirons at the local library! I was hooked and over time enrolled in a series of courses, including a workshop in London with Syd Field and a Pro-Series Screenwriting Intensive with Hollywood Producer, Hal Croasmun. One of my short film scripts was so tangible to me that I couldn’t imagine handing it to someone else to make. So, I set up a film company, drafted a story board, gathered a crew, produced and directed the film myself.

Did you have any formal instruction, like film school etc, or are you self-taught?

I studied film at the University of Paris so I built my foundation of directing from the French auteur New Wave model. In addition to the screenwriting classes, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to acquire film making skills from courses supported by Irish arts funding.  Through Filmbase, I took a directing class with Vinny Murphy and learned camera and lighting from Michael Lavelle, who recently won the World Cinematography Award at Sundance. I’ve also attended workshops at Screen Training Ireland on ‘How to Make Your First Feature’ with Graham Cantwell and Masterclasses with David Simon, the creator, producer and writer of “The Wire” and Mark Romanek, the award-winning music video director.  I’m continually studying, learning and growing as a film maker.

What and/or whom have been your seminal influences?

My mom was a tremendous influence on introducing me to film and nurturing that passion. When I was about four-years old, I remember her waking me up one night to see a movie on TV that she explained was by a brilliant Swedish Director named Ingmar Bergman and really wanted me to see.  As I sleepily watched “Wild Strawberries” in my nightgown, I can remember being riveted by the story imagery and subtle tension on-screen. That night had a profound effect on me and sparked a magical love for film within. Growing up, my mom would take me and my brother to the movies regularly and not just to the kids films either, but to foreign films, documentaries and adult themed even. My mom was an English teacher and encouraged us to talk about the films we saw and analyse the plot, characters and symbolism to better understand the story. I think by her introducing me to film at an early age as something to be comprehended visually and cogently, it enabled me to naturally combine the screenwriting with the directing.  I still enjoy discussing a film after I’ve seen it and consider it a part of the entire movie going experience.

Who are your current favourite and/or influential people?

I continue to be enamoured by the French New Wave directors, most notably Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and screenwriter Marguerite Duras. To me, their films still exude a freshness. I also love the stimulating vision of Asian Directors Akira Kurosawa, Wong Kar Wai and Ang Lee. My favourite directors of the moment that stand out above all others are Sophia Coppola and Spike Jonze. They make great music videos as well as features. I like the screenwriting styles of Charles Kaufman and Alan Ball and would be honoured to work with Cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

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

David Bowie because he’s fascinating and ground breaking; Jesus for the insight; Albert Einstein who could offer a different perspective to the conversation; Andy Warhol who would turn the party into a happening; Francois Truffaut for the stories; and Anais Nin for the poetic input and to get us all dancing.

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

When considering the state of the Irish film scene, I think you first need to check the pulse of the Irish Film Industry. I see the two as inextricably linked. The reality as we know it is that we’ve faced an overall economic downturn and budget cuts were made across all sectors, including the Irish Film Board. Although, even with the coffers down by 14.9% for 2012, we should stay heartened that they still have a pot of funds available to support film making schemes and training. What has changed is that the IFB is going to have to become more focused on return for investment and we Irish film makers are going to need to adopt this approach as well. Film can be an expression of art, but the bottom line is it’s a business. There’s an old Hollywood expression that ‘film is time and money’ and I think the Irish film scene is now facing the truth of this idiom. The funding is there, but the competition is stronger. Current films proposed for funding are going to need to be made with a view towards distribution and profit, not just telling a nice story.

The Film scene itself seems to have recently gone through an identity crisis, but on the surface appears to be prospering with Irish film makers recently taking top awards at A-list international film festivals Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, and Toronto and nominated for five Academy Awards. In this time of slashed budget cuts, continued support of the industry confirms that it’s an integral part of Ireland’s job and tourism creation with 20% of all tourists identifying television and film images as their reason for visiting.

I’d like to see Film Producers filling in the financial gaps by identifying complementary and additional sources of support apart from the Irish film industry. Kickstarter is an example of alternative ways of raising film funds.  It’s great that the film industry provides assistance in releasing films into local theatres and I hope this continues to grow. Irish films can generate ticket sales at the box office locally and internationally as proven by the recent successes of “The Guard” and “His and Hers”. I would also like to see national cinemas getting more behind Irish film making and running Irish shorts before their feature presentations.

Can you pinpoint the highlight of your career so far?

Interviewing Vedran Smailovic, “The Cellist of Sarajevo” and filming his absorbing performance. It was so inspiring to talk with him about his past iconic gesture against war when he played his cello publicly outside in the rubble while the city of Sarajevo was under siege. When I asked him if he ever went back to Sarajevo, he replied, “I don’t go back, I go forward!” You can’t help but be changed after a conversation with someone like him. To me, getting his moving story out to others is part of what the beauty and purpose of film is about.

What would you say is your ultimate goal?

To win the pinnacle of achievement in this profession – the Oscar – twice. One for Best Director and one for Best Screenplay. They would make nice book ends.

Do you have any advice to offer ‘newbies’ coming into the business?

If someone is interested in film making, my advice is to get active. Start crewing on films, any films. In the beginning, I first crewed on a documentary and music video and even ended up making a cameo appearance in it! The aim is to gain experience. There are constantly people looking for crew members.  Film Ireland’s notice board is one place where jobs are posted. Once on set, do the best job you can. Be reliable, thorough, professional and learn the ropes. If more education is needed, there are some great programmes sponsored by Filmbase, Screen Training Ireland, local Arts Councils and libraries. If someone wants to write for film, then start writing. Attend film events, get to know the film scene and your craft. If someone wants to make their own film, funding schemes are still available, but it’s no longer a perquisite. Filmbase rents equipment at a fair price and video cameras aren’t that expensive to purchase. I’ve even seen an amazing film shot entirely from an iphone video camera app. Making a film today doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You can download software to make your own edits and upload the films electronically to submit to film festivals all over the world. In this modern age of technology the film industry is a much more open field.

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

Joseph Conrad once said that to be happy in life you should find your bliss and follow it. Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing your passion whatever it is. If it’s film making, then start making films. If it’s writing, then write!

You can check out Shannon’s website at www.shannonmoncrief.com

Her facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/?ref=hp#!/pages/Shannon-Moncrief/436681913039167

Irish Women in Film Series: Vittoria Colonna

Vittoria Colonna is an Irish/Italian filmmaker. She studied fine art in Rome’s L’Accademia di Belle Arti, trained as an actor in The Gaiety school of Acting, Dublin and Opera singing in Tuscany. Her visual flair and energy gave Vittoria the opportunity to direct several music videos for, among others, Julie Feeney, Dirty Epics, Preachers Son and The Coronas; winning her the Best-Styled Music Video at the Irish Music Television Awards (IMTV) in 2009, Best Music Video at The Los Angeles Film & Script Festival 2012, Golden Ace Award Winner at The Las Vegas Film Festival 2012 and a Golden Palm Award at The Mexico International Film Festival in San Diego 2012. Most impressively has been the touring success of her feature documentary, Identities, and My Identity which was awarded The Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) Human Rights Film Award. The performance art pieces from the film were selected as part of the Worldwide Italian Pavilion & 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2011. Vittoria is also a member of the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland (SDGI).

Welcome Vittoria! Tell us how and why did you get started in the business? 

My journey began with a drive to find out: Why am I here? Who I was and what did I want to achieve from life and when would I have the answers, if ever? Creativity and expression were my strongest tools growing up. I was good at many artistic endeavours but found it hard to master one expertise and so I became a Jacqueline of all trades, so to speak! I painted, sculpted, acted, even trained in Bel Canto, but then found myself falling in love with film. Here I could multitask through the most powerful medium known. The painter in me loved the solitude, the music helped me escape and my inner actor craved for love and catharsis… moving images and stories helped me marry all these desires into directing, writing and producing.

What has been your educational journey in film? Formal or self-taught?

Film is not a pure art form, it’s a mish-mash of creatives, business and so many points of views. You learn to follow your instinct and inner voice. I am mostly self-taught. I had learnt that some teachers should ‘do’ and not teach. I suppose I wanted to make my own path in film and didn’t want to be told how to think and work. Past experiences taught me this lesson. I always had hope that when I was ready the right teacher would come along. Unfortunately I never found him or her, BUT I did discover other filmmakers like myself and formed friendships and joined groups. Film is about relationships and I watched and learnt from others successes and mistakes. I’m still always learning something new from every project.

And your seminal influences?

I have always been influenced by outsiders, survivors, art, artists and story tellers. Even you the reader fascinate me! If you have something to say and with conviction I will listen. I want to connect, to feel excited about a subject and sometimes that can manifest in the strangest places. Of course I have been greatly influenced by amazing directors such as Fellini, Bertolucci, Kubrick, Godard etc… as well as YouTube links by the passionate amateurs. I think I’m constantly switched on to the muse, you never know when she will strike?! Never stop seeking…

So who are your current favourites / influences?

Well this week… Hmmm….I just finished a music video so I have to mention these guys: Romain Gavras (M.I.A -Born Free,  Bad Girls) and Vincent Haycock (Calvin Harris– Jump) for their great work! Also I can’t get enough of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu films….hugely inspiring!!

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

Only six?! That is tough! Ok an intimate dinner so let’s have the girls over: Actress, Bette Davis could cook. Painter Tamara de Lempicka could serve the guests. My great Grandmother Andrea Torrigiani seated on my right. The artist Frida Kahlo on my left and I would be face to face with the 16th century poet and my ancestor, Vittoria Colonna!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene? 

Ireland produces some very high quality indie films, and I love that for such a small country, we really push production values. Our stories are strong in identity but I would love to see more international stories come through here, expanding beyond our cultural cocoon. I want to be surprised and I’m always excited to see bolder, braver choices being made and that includes roles for women. More alternative female characters and stories please!

Can you tell us what has been the highlight of your career so far?

The latest project is always the highlight but I guess I may be known more for some of my music videos and the feature documentary ‘Identities’ which focuses on five transgender stories. I have just finished two projects this month; a music video for The CoronasDreaming Again’ and a short film for TG4/Filmbase ‘4 Queens’ that will be airing in September.

Ultimate goal?

To tell stories that speak to others and myself… Ultimately I want to direct feature films, moving documentaries and internationally high-end music videos.

Thanks, Vittoria. Any final comments you would like to add?

I have recently been questioning the role of women within the film industry. In Cannes this year there was an uproar to the gender imbalance that no female directors were in competition. I’m sure the films were chosen on their merit of which, all directors/creators happened to be men, but in a shocking manifesto entitled “The Cannes Film Festival 2012: a Man is a Man is a Man!,” La Barbe facetiously congratulated the festival’s president Gilles Jacob and the rest of its jurors for failing to include a single female-directed film among its 22 nominees for the 2012 Palme d’Or. The letter was published in the French newspaper Le Monde, “never let the girls think they can someday have the presumptuousness of making movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps except when attached to the arm of a Prince Charming.”

Now however ridiculous this sounds, this argument does raise questions: Do some of us ladies still feel hindered to become directors? If so, is it because we halt careers due to family restraints? Maybe because we think the director’s job is still predominately a man’s role? Or do we feel limited to a stereotype role of only producing ‘sensitive or ‘empathic’ stories, hindering our creative voices? (Kathryn Bigelow certainly breaks this cliché!) I don’t have the answers but I have my opinions, for sure. I know breaking into this industry is no easy task and takes contacts, time and sacrifice, regardless of your gender, but at least the results are worthwhile!

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Irish Women in Film Series: Lisa McNamee

Lisa McNamee is a Dublin based film and theatre producer. She is currently Head of Production for Planet Korda Pictures, a production company which specializes in broadcast documentaries. Her current projects are See You at the Pictures! a documentary on cinema-going in Ireland for RTÉ and No Party for Billy Burns, a beautiful fiction feature about fantasy, loneliness and cowboys… She is also developing a new play about Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka to be staged in 2013 in cooperation with Fire & Ice Theatre Company and graphic artist Stephen Kane.

Lisa, tell us how and why did you get started in the business? 

I’ve always loved being able to lose myself in a great story. To me that’s one of the best things about working as a producer. When you find a script that’s really wonderful, that completely draws you into its world, that’s a brilliant feeling. That’s what attracted me to film in the first place. That and the ridiculousness of it. When you are working incredibly hard to bring fictional worlds, characters and relationships to life, it often feels as though what you’re doing is very strange. Before I started working in film, I watched loads of behind-the-scenes videos of complex set builds and fictional worlds and fell in love with that process. It’s that fantasist element of film that’s always appealed to me.

I started in film the same way most people do, working for free on friends’ projects, building up a portfolio of films and gradually moving on to better financed projects.

Did you have any formal instruction, or are you self-taught?

I did a semester in the New York Film Academy, but my primary degree is unrelated to film (Classical Civilization & French). Other than that it’s just been on the job, and lots of research.

What and/or whom have been your seminal influences?

I grew up on westerns, sci-fi and period drama and I’ve never fallen out of love with those genres. The one bone I would pick with the Irish industry is that there is rarely the budget available to really take a risk in these kind of genres. I think that’s a shame.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

I loved Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. It was so beautiful. Weirdly, I’ve never seen any of his other films so I think it’ll be a few weeks of trawling through his back catalogue of delicious oddities.

I’m really looking forward to watching Lauren Greenfield’s doc The Queen of Versailles about the collapse of the artificially mega rich in the U.S.and I was just given the animated film Max & Mary on DVD (after many dropped hints) so will be hoping for another favourite animation there.

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

Erika Hníková – Czech director of an amazing (and funny) documentary film called ‘The Match-Making Mayor‘ about the attempts of a mayor in a rural town to get the townsfolk to marry and have children. He has a megaphone. It’s brilliant.

Richard Pryor (Comedian)

Bill Bailey (Comedian)

Shaapi Khorsandi (Comedian)

Sarah Millican (Comedian)

Four comedians at dinner = constant one-up-manship

My boyfriend (We live together and I’m sure he’d be quite pissed off if I told him I was inviting a bunch of really entertaining people over and he wasn’t invited!)

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I’m just back from the Fleadh (Galway Film Festival) and I’m so delighted to see so many wonderful Irish films on the festival circuit at the moment. I think that the quality and variety of films on offer from Irish production companies at the moment has never been higher. As I said before, I’d love to see Irish crews working on types of films that we don’t really get to make here. Although, with Vikings and Game of Thrones shooting here at the moment, as well as Ripper Street and similar programmes, hopefully it’s only a matter of time before we start attracting period/fantasy film projects on the same budget scale as in other countries.

Can you pick out the highlight of your career so far?

I can’t pick one highlight I’m afraid. I get two really great days that I always remember on every film. The first time that I sit down with a director to discuss the project and the film’s first screening. They’re both usually really memorable. That first meeting is where every mad idea and possibility for the project is thrown on the table, realistic or not, and forms the basis of months of schemes and planning. The first screening is always such stress, and such relief. It’s always a blur, but the excitement of the experience stays with you. Those are my two highlights of each project…unless there is a big set build, in which case the highlights expand to include seeing first drawings and final stages of the build itself.

What is your ultimate career goal?

My ultimate goal…Hmm…at the moment I have two. Firstly, to get a great distributor for No Party for Billy Burns and secondly, to get a personal project I’ve been developing made next year.

Thanks, Lisa. Final comments? 

If you’ve got a cinema-going story you’d like to share, get in touch at www.seeyouatthepictures.com. If you watched John Wayne and co. as a kid and thought ‘Awesome!’, check out www.facebook.com/billyburnsmovie for some real cowboys.

Irish Women in Film Series: Rita-Marie Lawlor

Rita-Marie Lawlor is an independent filmmaker from Dublin. She set up her independent film company RML Films in 2005 and made several TV pilots, short films and features, including A Scare, Less Ordinary and Remember Me? Rita-Marie’s documentary, Gloves and Glory, is currently in production, and focuses on female boxing in Ireland. She is also prepping a new feature script while getting ready to take on a Masters Degree in screenwriting at IADT in Dun Laoghaire this coming October.

First question, Rita-Marie, how and why did you get started in the business? 

I wanted to be involved with film since childhood. I began writing at 11 years old in 1989 and by the time I was a teenager I was sending my works off to production companies. It was later in life (24) when I went to film school for two years and it was a great move. I learned a lot more on how to format scripts and break them down for directing scenes and how to work with actors too. Pretty much for most of my life it has been my desire, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Which film school did you attend? 

I studied full-time in Colaiste Dhulaigh and graduated with a B TEC HND in film production. I was awarded a distinction in directing and producing along with a Best Film Award.

Seminal influences?

I’m a big fan of Shane Meadows, Martin Scorsese and Jim Sheridan. I love the way Mike Leigh develops his ideas with the actors.  In TV writing it would be Jimmy McGovern, Kay Mellor, John Sullivan and Amy Jenkins.

If you were to imagine a fantasy dinner party,  name six people, living or dead, that you would love to have around your dinner table.

Jimi Hendrix for the guitar, Janis Joplin for the singing – followed by a chat over a whiskey. Martin Scorsese, Samuel Beckett, Emma Restall Orr and Daniel Day-Lewis. A diverse bunch with lots of stories – would definitely be an inspiration for a great film script!

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I am happy to see that there are lots of independent filmmakers in Ireland who are out there making films regardless if they are getting proper funding or not. Years ago it was more difficult, filmmakers really needed a lot of money, but now you can hire great equipment or invest in it and make films. I would like to see more Irish drama though, a lot of films lately are a bit the same to be honest. Lots of zombie films, gangster/action films and others in that genre – not that there is anything wrong with making those type of films but personally I love a great story with lots of reversals and clever writing with brilliant actors. There’s nothing like watching a good old-fashioned quality drama unfold, something that you’d still be talking about months after you’ve seen it and to be inspired by it. I think Charlie Casanova is the only Irish film within the last few years that has had an impact, nothing like it was ever made before – certainly not in Ireland anyway. I think filmmakers need to tap into this style of filmmaking more, be daring but be clever about it too.  I think certain Irish film festivals should be more supportive of the unfunded films, some of them seem to only screen films that are Film Board/Filmbase funded which doesn’t seem fair. I know of a few really great films that didn’t get into the Galway Fleadh this year, which is a shame.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?  

Having the privilege of working with great actors. Having my films screened at festivals is always a highlight for me and having them screened on TV too.  I’ve had one of my films screened on English, Australian and New Zealand TV channels, so I’m hoping the same will happen for my other ones.

And your ultimate goal?

To keep making films and to make my singular voice heard rather than doing it for the money. Plain and simple really, just to be successful in what I do and for people to like what I write and what I create. I wouldn’t mind a cinema release for one of my films in the future – now that would be pretty nice!

What advice would you offer to Newbies?

To remember why you wanted to be a filmmaker in the first place. Be original and be inspired – but don’t copy.  Make your own creative voice heard, regardless of what everyone else thinks. Stick to your own ideas and write what you know, embrace good actors when directing and watch what unfolds – it will be more rewarding than a big cheque.  Watch over rushes as soon as you can get them, rather than waiting until the film’s wrapped – learn to spot disasters before they happen and don’t leave everything to be fixed in the edit – fix it on set and have a good AD!  Treat the cast and crew with respect, especially if there is no money involved.  Make sure there’s plenty of food and taxi/train fare, and treat them well.  You have to remember that they are working long hard hours and giving up their time for YOUR film – so always remember that, and of course give them a copy of the finished piece.

Thanks, Rita-Marie! Any final comments you would like to add?

It’s tough going, long days and long nights. But you have to enjoy it and when you see your idea going from talking about it – to script – to shooting – to editing – and then to a cinema screen – nothing can explain how special and rewarding that feels.

You can check out Rita-Marie’s Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RML-Films/147668425244609

Irish Women in Film Series: Eilis Mernagh

The first lady to be featured in this series is prolific screenwriter and producer, Eilis Mernagh. Eilis is the writer and co-producer of TIGER [2012], a short thriller directed by Cathal Nally.  She also produced the short film, PRODIGAL SON [2010], written and directed by Colin Scuffins. Her short film, REGARDS TO THE CHEF [2009], directed by Kian and Ewen Pettit, was featured in the Darklight feature production, Hotel Darklight. ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, a feature script, has been optioned to a TV Production Company in the U.S, and Eilis was also an Altantis Award recipient at the Moondance Film Festival, 2011.

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

I’ve always written stuff but for some reason never screenplays. Then I did this two-day course with Laurence Henson at the IFI (Irish Film Institute) back in 2007 and got completely hooked. It’s been a happy obsession/major hobby-turned new career ever since.

Did you have any formal instruction (film school etc) or are you self-taught?

Self-taught – I read other screenplays, go to seminars and talks and try and write as much as possible.

What have been your seminal influences?

Loads of things – I grew up spending a lot of time with my mom’s parents and my granddad was obsessed with Westerns and old gangster movies, so I must have seen hundreds of them. His favourite comedian was Bob Hope and my script The Heartstoppers was really a modern-day, (less racist!) version of Hope’s comedy The Ghostbreakers. Then my aunt who used to have to babysit me would take a load of kids to Eighties films like E.T., The Goonies, Short Circuit, etc. etc. I’ve probably watched two films a week since I was a kid. I’m a film whore – I find I learn as much from watching bad movies as I do from the good ones. I like a good story, well told, with great characters in most genres but I prefer comedies, adventure films and thrillers.

Who are your current favourites / influences?

I like the fact that female comedy is really getting somewhere – finally. I hope we look back on Bridesmaids and see it as the start of a new wave of comedy rather than the high point of a phase. Joss Whedon is a genius – would give my right arm to work with him – as is J.J. Abrams. After seeing Winter’s Bone, I’d love to work with Debra Granik.

Okay, so you’re having a fantasy dinner party!  Living or dead, name six people you would love to have around that fantasy dinner table?

Jack Lemmon (to see if he was as awesome in person), Kathryn Bigelow (another lady I’d love to write a script for), Joe Ezsterhas (for the crazy), Maureen O’Hara (for the Hollywood stories ), Garson Kanin (even more Hollywood gossip) and Ian Fleming (for the spy stories).

What is your opinion of the current Irish film scene?

I think it’s unfortunate that there is no money. Not that there ever has been any, but I think what’s badly needed are some real huckster producers, people who can raise money somehow, by whatever means, so we can make some bloody films. I’m thinking of someone like Lloyd Kaufman or Roger Corman, real characters who make things happen. The producers we have tend to be nice, well-meaning middle-class people who have two ways of raising money: the Film Board and European co-productions. What about thinking a bit more creatively on this? Once the money’s there, we need to ask ourselves the question: what do people want to watch? Not “how am I going to show the depths of despair of the Irish psyche”, but what do people want to see on Saturday night at the cinema? And once we’ve all been honest about this (let’s face it, the answer is, they want entertaining films that have great stories and compelling characters), we need to write those scripts. If it’s a question of budget limitations, look at Attack the Block. Great film, great characters, very little money spent.

Highlight of your career so far?

Winning a screenplay award at the 2011 Moondance Film Award.

What would be your ultimate career goal?

Winning an Oscar – I want one of those little gold men for the mantelpiece.

Thanks Eilis…any final comment you would like to add?

Yes – there’s loads of talent out there, everyone just needs to believe in themselves, ignore the staggering amount of negativity, and keep truckin’…

You can check in with Eilis through her blog: http://dublintohollywood.com/