British Short Berlin 2023
January 11, 2023
Ciaran and Michael meet one summer and become fast friends. But when Michael, a member of the Traveller community, arrives at Ciaran’s school for the new term, will they stay friends?
Hi Jamie, it’s great to get to talk with you, how has everything been going?
Thank you! And the same. I have read reviews, interviews and come across a lot of new music and art over the years through TNC so to chat with you guys is an honour. And everything is good, it’s really great to be back going to in-person film festivals. It was amazing that they could keep going online through the pandemic but it’s just not the same as sitting in a theatre and meeting up with everyone afterwards.
Congratulations on Scrap being at the British Shorts 2023, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of short films?
Cheers. Yeah, such a fantastic festival, we’re excited to be included. We were already planning to attend the EFM that week to pitch a feature so to be able to have a film screening around the same time is great.
What did it mean for you to be nominated for the IFTA Award?
A massive surprise to be honest. There are so many great short and feature films being made in Ireland now as the support available, be it funding or skills development, is increasing year on year and the talent pool of young Irish filmmakers at the moment is incredible.
How important are festivals like British Shorts in creating a platform for short films?
Crucial really. It’s extremely rare that someone is ready, or allowed, to jump off with a feature film or go straight into TV. So shorts, and the festivals that showcase them, are the breeding ground for new talent storytellers and showing potential. You get to make mistakes and pursue ambitious visual and story ideas with less of the pressure that might come with delivering a feature film funded by a few stakeholders who are relying on you to know what you’re doing in order to make a return. The support of film festivals like British Shorts means you might meet that one person you didn’t know you really wanted to work with or open you up to producers and distributors that might be a great fit for the films you want to make.
In February you also going to be premiering your new short film Calf at the Dublin International Film Festival, are there any nerves ahead of this screening?
Ha. Yeah, absolutely. This is my first funded film. To be allowed to make it, I’m really so thankful to our funders, Virgin Media Ireland and Screen Ireland, for supporting emerging filmmakers and giving us a chance. I guess with that comes the pressure of wanting to deliver something that shows you know how to tell a story but more than that, a story that resonates with someone somewhere. So there are nerves but I’m really happy with what we made and excited to show it.
"Those that go into filmmaking in the future are so far ahead of where we started from. It can only mean new ways of telling great stories."
Can you tell me how Scrap came about, did you know much about the Traveller and Settled communities before you started to write your film?
Just what I knew from my own experience. I grew up in an area where I had regular interactions with the community and it was always positive. There is what I see as a hand-me-down prejudice that many Irish people from the settled community hold about the Traveller community. My friend or Uncle said this or my Aunt or Grandfather had this experience. I think that second-hand, anecdotal prejudice is so latently dangerous and lazy. It, out-right prejudice, and the actions that stem from both, have resulted in the culture and traditions of a beautiful community being eroded over the years. It’s shameful really. Something many outside the country might not attribute to modern Ireland. It’s been such a longstanding social issue it’s pretty much ignored now by many, including some in the government.
Because of the subject matter did you have any apprehensions about making this film?
Yeah for sure. Representation is key really and you worry about portraying that authentically. Often in the media, representations of minority communities can be stereotypical and damaging. But we were lucky to discover some amazing new acting talent from the community who starred in the film and helped shape it. We also did a lot of script workshopping in pre-production with members of the community and I’m extremely thankful to have had people be really open to us coming in to chat. The best part of the experience for me was auditions. I got to visit a number of halting sites around the country to audition young lads from the community and it was such an enjoyable experience. I was made very welcome every time.
I know Scrap is self-funded which is a challenge in itself but were there any other challenges you faced making this short?
Ha yeah, COVID. We shot it just before and needed reshoots.We had to wait a year between lockdowns by which time our two leads, both brilliant boxers, had definitely grown an inch or two.
How much flexibility did you allow yourself and your actors once you started shooting?
Yeah we tore up the original opening and we definitely ad-libbed at times for many scenes. Both leads proffered up colloquialisms I wasn’t aware of, which always adds lovely texture to performances.
Looking back at the process of making Scrap what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you’ve taken from the experience?
I heard Niamh Fagan, Screen Ireland, talk recently at an event and she kind of summed up the mistake I had been making and many do. I was applying for funding with maybe good scripts but with nothing behind them. I had made nothing. The frustration of doing this for a few years made me scrabble together a budget from my own money just to get something going. After I made something and got it out there, I got funded a year or so later. She talked, and I’m paraphrasing here, about hearing people saying the exact things I had been complaining about e.g. “I’m getting nowhere with funding” or the “funding channels are a click not open to me” or whatever. As she said, the truth is that it is ultra competitive. If you can’t exhibit something that shows you have the ability to tell a story visually, or at least have something behind you that shows some potential, it’s very hard for anyone to decide to give you funding over someone who has shown this.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell?
I think anyone making anything should do it. I’m always amazed how quickly things progress. There are 12 year olds on TikTok telling compelling stories visually in 20 seconds. They have internalised rules of composition, story arcs, characters, etc all from a very young age. Those that go into filmmaking in the future are so far ahead of where we started from. It can only mean new ways of telling great stories. How we process things visually is speeding up. I don’t think, for example, you could put out a film like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” even 10 years ago. The speed, the references. There’s decades of the internet in that film and it’s glorious for it.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
No, I came to it later. Was in a job I didn’t like. I quit, went back and did a general media course and happened across a module in filmmaking. Got into editing through that and then it quickly took over.
For any emerging filmmakers, writers, directors what would your top three tips you would offer them?
Don’t wait. Make something. Cheap first and if you feel you can after that, save a few quid and put together a small cast and crew capable of making something that shows some cinematic potential and hopefully then you have enough to get to the next step.
And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Scrap?
I never know how to answer that question. I think prescribing that or imagining that something you make will engender a very specific thought in someone could be a very frustrating expectation to hope to achieve. If they felt like they watched a film where they believed the characters and the world, I’d be happy with that to be honest. I have found filmmaking a very difficult thing to do. But wholly enjoyable and increasingly addictive.