At the end of May the graduates of the BA Video and Film Degree course of Wolverhampton which is facilitated by Colaiste Dhulaigh College of Further Education, showcased their programme of short films in Light House Cinema. Having stumbled upon the screening with no expectations, I was really impressed at the quality of the work shown across the board.
Screen Producers Ireland sponsored the Overall Production Award, the winners of which received a placement on a professional production. The talented filmmakers to win the award this year were Kirsty Conway and Louise Dolan for Shed Men and Peter Melrose and Adam Stanley for Growing Strong.
The Screen Directors Guild of Ireland sponsored the directing award and this year’s winner was The Beach directed by Darren Kelly. Sponsored by the Writers Guild of Ireland, the screenplay award went to Dean Ahern for Growing Pains.
The awarding bodies stated that they are always impressed by the quality of the work from the course but this year it was harder than usual to pick the winners.
The course afforded these taleneted filmmakers an opportunity to be mentored by filmmaker LeticiaAgundo and director Frank Berry ( Michael Inside) throughout its duration, with Leticia tutoring for pre-production and production and Frank for post-production. Frank Berry also ran a master class on pitch trailers and using Michael Inside as case-study in pre-production.
A number of films stood out for me in particular and I would have high hopes for them on the upcoming film festival circuit.
Recovery (directed by Síofra Quinn Gates and written and produced by Síofra Quinn Gates and Renate Canga)
A documentary with dramatised scenes, this short film takes the form of a number of voice overs from women who have suffered the trauma of sexual abuse and rape. Although it doesn’t shy away from the pain and psychological torture that these women face, what resonates most by the end of the film is a feeling of hope as each of them describe how they have begun their journey of recovery. The change of tone in Recovery is achieved through subtle and sensitive cinematography and visual cues representing a new life for the women who are never depicted as “victims” in the film. An important film that will hopefully get reach a wide audience, Recovery is now raising funds for festival submissions. Donations can be made here on Go Fund Me.
The Beach ( written and directed by Darren Kelly)
With this short film, Kelly has demonstrated a clear filmmaking talent especially in the arthouse genre. The subject of the film is Rose, an old woman living alone with dementia who is plagued by “scratches in her brain” which she can’t decide are dreams or real memories. The film’s first shot is stunning, a painterly image of Rose, lying in bed in a dark room. The film progresses in the form of a poem in which Rose repeatedly muses about a trip to the beach. The scenes on the beach, populated in turn by a young child and then a woman, are bright and lucid and in clear contrast to the murky brown palette of the shots with Rose alone in her bedroom. Clíona Ruiséil( Writer’s Guild of Ireland) commented that it was a “beautifully written script with an intensely seductive sense of emotion and atmosphere”.
Shed Men ( directed by Kirsty Conway and produced by Louise Dolan)
The Mens Sheds (based on a concept which began in Australia) took off in Ireland around 2009 and encourages men to come together and socialise while taking part in productive activities like gardening and woodwork. This short documentary follows the story of a number of men who frequent the the East Wall Men’s Sheds as they discuss earnestly and bravely the circumstances which lead to their joining the Men’s shed and the positive influence it has had on their lives. Some had partners who were ill or were recovering from a serious illness themselves and others simply sought an outlet to get away from life pressures or lonliness. It’s a testament to the professional and sensitive filmmaking that each of the men featured spoke so openly and all seemed comfortable on camera. The Men’s Sheds have been documented on film before. However by giving a closer and more meaningful insight into how the men value their time at the sheds, the filmmakers are shining a light on men’s mental health.
A full list of the films are outlined below with comments from Clíona Ruiséil of the Writers Guild of Ireland.
Growing Strong ( directed by Peter Melrose and produced by Adam Stanley )
A striking documentary about Oakgrove Integrated Primary school in Derry, where students from both nationalist and unionist backgrounds are exposed to various faiths and are taught to embrace all cultures. It will screen at this years Guth Gafa documentary film festival 20-22nd July.
Pirates of the Airwaves ( directed by Paul Allen and Adrian O’Connell, produced by Paul Allen)
This short documentary transports the viewer back to the nineties dance music scene and pirate radio stations such as Power Fm and Sunset Fm. A lovely taste of nostalgia for those of us who liked to record our favourite dance tunes from the radio! Pirates of the Airways also screens at Guth Gafa this year.
For Pepper ( written and directed by Rebecca Singleton and produced by Nessa O’Callaghan)
A humorous and well written comedy short about a little girl (great performance from Sarah White) who has trouble dealing with the death of a cherished pet.
Very precise, crisp, visual script with excellent humour – this screenwriter was born to write.
Player 2 ( directed and co-written by Cian Ryan, produced and co-written by Aaron O’Dea)
Friendship, grief and death are the themes of this cleverly scripted and well acted short film.
Very well-crafted script – writer has a flair for building tension and creating credible, three-dimensional characters.
I’m Fine (written,directed and produced by Craig Strain & Sean Caslin)
A sensitive film, looking at the issue of mental health and the effects that exam pressure can have on teens.
Growing Pains (written, directed and produced by Dean Ahern and Patrick Powell)
Hard-hitting well written family drama with a great soundtrack.
This script had cracking, true-to-life dialogue and overall demonstrated the writer’s exceptional ability to create ‘real’ characters. The writer clearly cared deeply about the protagonist’s predicament and excelled in creating emotion in the reader – both tragedy and comedy were evident – and creating emotion in the reader, and later in the audience – is what all great screenwriters should be aiming for!