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

Women in Irish Film: Short Film Programme at MFFA

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

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 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