We interviewed some local independent filmmakers to find out what drives them, what barriers they need to overcome, and what they think of the filmmaking buzz which is currently gripping Cork.
The Interview: Part 2
6. What advice would you have for anyone who wants to get into the movie making business?
Jason: Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons! There will be many lean years before hopefully you will be able to make a successful living from it. The only thing that will sustain you during these years will be passion and love for the craft and medium. You really have to love it. In fact, it’s more like a vocation than a career.
Damian: If you can’t attend a film school then go along to film appreciation classes. Watch as many different films as you can. Write everyday. Put work into coming up with original ideas. Shoot something and learn how to edit it. There are loads of free tutorials online. Just start making short films. The first 5 or 6 will be really bad so don’t worry too much about them. I have never seen anybody made a good first short film. You just have to look at what worked and what didn’t and learn from it. I would also never abandon a film even if you know half way through the edit that it’s terrible. People helped you make it so the least you can do is finish it to the best possible standard.
Dan: Do it. It’s a blast. But don’t expect anything back, only what you put in.
7. What was the biggest challenge regarding your most recent film?
Seán: With ‘Searching For Ten’ it was probably locations. I had particular locations in mind that had character that fitted the story. I looked at a lot of locations all over Cork andWaterford. Here’s where a locations manager would have been a big help! In the end though, lots of people came through for us. Vibes and Scribes were great, as were CIT and O’Keeffes grocery at St Lukes, along with John and AJ Finn. The people here are enthusiastic about supporting local films.
Dan: It was definitely the edit. It’s a fractured timeline, so the possibilities are almost endless, the biggest problem is you get so wrapped up in the edit that you forget the big picture, you loose your understanding of the film. In some ways it was great having so much freedom to throw shots around wherever you want, but you see the same shot over and over. How do you tell the story if the words lose their meaning.
Jason: I’ve just started DP’ing a feature for someone so this is a real challenge. It’s my first feature so it’s a big step-up from shorts, corporates and live events. Things have started well so hopefully it will continue in that manner. Good preparation is so important. Exciting times ahead!
Damian: I’m in the very early stages of my first feature film now so the script is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve written feature length scripts before but they were a mess. Mainly because I just launched into them with no real plan. I approached this script better though. I worked on plot for 6 months before even attempting to write a single page of the screenplay. I took a lot of dialogue notes too so when it came to the actual writing of the script it was easier. If you start writing a 90 page screenplay without a plan you’ll be lost by page 20. We have one short horror set-piece shot so far and I’m really happy with the footage, but this one scene has somehow resulted in more rewriting. I don’t mind so much as long as I’m replacing good ideas with better ideas, or making changes that are going to make the film more entertaining, but it would be nice to say ‘the script is finished’. Done. The story has always been the same it’s just how it’s being told changes. I think it was George Lucas said that ‘films are never finished they are abandoned’ – I’m starting to think this is also true of the script.
8. Would you recommend festivals or the internet for promoting short movies?
Mark: Festival screenings can be great. Some are quite prestigious and it’s always nice to be selected for a programme, especially in other countries. However these days I think having your film online is a far better option. The world is literally your audience and it has potential to be viewed by far more people than if it were screened at a dozen festivals.
Damian: Festivals first then the internet. Film festivals are great exposure. Good way of making contacts too. I usually wait until the films have played in a number of festivals before putting them up online as some festivals don’t want to screen something that’s available online. Once it’s played in a few places the internet is great for giving it a longer life. I’ve had festival programmers invite some of my films to screen at festivals having seen it online so having a film online doesn’t mean its festival run is over either.
Jason: Both. Festivals are a great way to sell yourself and meet other filmmakers. Once your film has done the festival circuit then it’s always a good idea to upload it to Youtube and/or Vimeo. Who knows who might get to see it!
Dan: I think both are good options. I tend to hold mine back from the internet in the hopes that one day I might actually send one out to a festival. Once it’s up online you kind of ruin your chances of getting into a lot of them, but then if you get your film online and get a million bejillion hits! Then that’s way cooler than getting into even the major festivals. If your film is any good then you want your film to be SEEN by as many people as possible, that’s the most important thing.
9. Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)?
Patrick: I take inspiration from lots of different areas of film. I do have my favourite film makers whose work I would seek out every time they release something new. For example, Pedro Almodovar, The Coen Brothers, Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino to name but a few and I would also constantly watch and re-watch old classics and in particular the films of Stanley Kubrick.
I also find inspiration in an actor’s performance, Michael Fassbinder in ‘Hunger’ for example or Colin Firth in ‘The King’s Speech’ or Imelda Staunton in ‘Vera Drake’.
More recently I was very inspired by ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’. It is such a well rounded, well made film. The writing, the directing, the beautiful camera work and production design and the amazing performances.
Jason: I have many favourite directors but it was especially the films of Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick that inspired me at a young age and opened up a whole new world of cinema to me.
Dan: That’s like putting a bowl of rice crispies in front of me and asking which one is the tastiest! I simply cannot say. Suffice it to say, that if I have seen their work in a cinema, on a DVD I bought or if I actively sought them out to watch online then they have achieved far more than I have yet and they are all inspiration to me.
Damian: I like actors and directors that take chances and do something different. Some of my favourite films are films that, when they’ve finished, you don’t really know what to make of it but there’s something about it that makes you want to watch it again. I think a lot of Stanley Kubrick’s films were like that for me. It took a second viewing to realize what he was doing and twenty views later you’re still discovering something new. I think he said ‘real is good interesting is better’. It sums up his films well, especially in the strange performances he gets from his actors.
10. Could you summarise how you recruit your primary cast and crew?
Dan: I held auditions for my last film as I was actively trying to find some new faces. A good friend of mine, Eoin hAnnracháin helped me a lot. He set up the auditions and found some great acting talent form all over the country. The crew, all of them, are great friends of mine. I help them out on their films, and they help me out on mine. The crew can change from film to film but that’s only because we are doing it for free and we have to work around peoples schedules. Sometimes people are not available and you have to work around that.
Damian: Enthusiasm over experience… within reason. I work with people I get along with. I read in some filmmaking book you shouldn’t make a film with anybody you wouldn’t go on holidays with. I wouldn’t go that far but maybe replace ‘going on holidays with’ for ‘a night in the pub’ and I think it’s sound advice. Making films are fun but the shoot can be tough and you need to have people there you trust and that you can ask for help if you get stuck. I know the director is supposed to know everything but it’s reassuring to know you can ask for a suggestion and then decide on what is best. The director gets all the credit at the end of the day anyway!
Jason: When I lived in New York, I would use Mandy.com, Craigslist and NYCastings to cast actors but since I returned to Cork I have relied mainly on Egomotion.net and FilmmakersNetwork.ie. Word-of-mouth is always important too of course.
11. What camera did you use to shoot your latest film, and why did you chose it?
Damian: I’ve made films on 8mm to 16mm to the 7D and I think it’s a balance of whatever suits the look of the film and with whatever your Cinematographer is most familiar with. It is important what you film on, but I think what you’re filming, as in, what is in front of the camera is more important. Is your location interesting? Is there texture on screen? Is the lighting right? Do you have unusual props? These are always more important to me than what piece of equipment we’re actually using. You could shoot some terrible unwatchable show like Fair City on the most beautiful grainy 35mm film stock in the world. Won’t make it any better.
Mark: We used a Canon 7D. The quality is superb and being able to change lenses really gives your film that professional cinematic look and takes it to the next level. I’ve shot my last three films on the 7D.
Dan: We shot using a canon 7D and a 5D mkII because they’re cheap-ish, we had access to them and they give great creative control over the image with nice large sensors and great availability of lenses.
Jason: The Canon 5D MarkII. It has its well-discussed limitations but if you’re aware of them, then you can work around them.
Patrick: We decided to shoot our debut feature film on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. There was a number of reasons for choosing this camera. It has a full frame sensor and a beautiful filmic image when used correctly. It is a relatively affordable piece of kit for the quality of image that is achievable. The 5D is also very small and light and we were able to achieve very high and long crane and jib shots with the camera strip down to its basic shape. Also, because of its small size we were able to move around in small sets and locations and fit it into and onto moving vehicles.
Some drawbacks of the camera include rolling shutter, moire and aliasing issues and a limited dynamic range, but if you do enough camera tests and play to this camera’s strengths the results can be stunning.
Finally, what do you think of the film industry talent in cork and cork as a location for film?
Patrick: I think it’s a very exciting time in Cork as regards film-making. As a film industry Cork is very much in its infancy and I think what is needed now is for some Cork based film makers to make a couple of properly funded feature films in Cork. We have seen a good number of features coming to Cork to shoot over the past few years but they bring the majority of their key cast and crew with them. What we now need is films that are locally produced and properly funded.
I think Cork is a fantastic location for film. Stunning locations are available all over the city and county and there is a still a great local and community spirit that film makers can tap into.
Seán: There is a large pool of talent here in Cork from every discipline of movie making. It’s a great place to make movies. Everything is right here on our doorstep. We have a good sized city, and beautiful countryside. And there is a buzz around film in Cork at the moment. Hopefully we can see that buzz grow into a self sustaining industry.
Dan: This is the most exciting question; it really gets me charged up when I think about it. There is so much talent coming out of Cork at the moment it’s scary! You see the same ten or twelve faces popping up every year with some great films- it’s like a wave of filmmaking. Everyone seems to be working in tandem and everyone is getting better and better with each passing film. Some are going on to work on their features some are hot on their heels, but its all growing nicely. The future for Cork filmmaking is gonna be a whopper! Some one is going to break through the barrier and once they do the gates are open for everyone else. A rising tide floats all boats! Any other analogies?
Cork as location is pretty impressive: Lots of locations, lots of fresh untapped talent, infrastructure is there – all we need now is a decent sound stage!
Jason: When I returned to Cork after being away for nine years, I was amazed at how vibrant the independent film community was and how many talented and passionate people there were here. I really had no idea that Cork had such a thriving film community. I didn’t even know Cork had its own film school (St Johns)!
Cork really is a fantastic location for film and TV productions. Whatever type of environment you need – rural, mountains, pastoral, coastline, forests, urban, Cork has it all. I’m surprised that much more film and TV productions aren’t shot here. The only downside I suppose is the lack of adequate soundstage facilities.
Damian: There’s something special happening with filmmaking in Cork at the moment. Everyone is working on something. There are groups and pockets of people all working on something different. There are a number of filmmakers that are having their work screened not just locally too but in film festivals abroad. There are definitely a few people around that have great careers ahead of them. People seem to be quiet supportive of each other too. It’s obviously a competitive industry to get into but there’s a nice vibe around the Cork Film scene. You can see the quality improving every year in the Made in Cork section at the Corona Cork Film Festival. I’ve come out of a few of those screenings thinking ‘I need to work harder’.