Thursday, December 8, 2011
A number of acting people pulled out of a proposed web series after I postponed things for over three months in order to be accommodating for other projects they were on. It just became obvious after a few excuses that my time was being wasted. I try personally not to waste other people's time or tramp on their efforts, but like most arena's in life - the filmmaking world is not immune to it.
But all is not completely lost. Over the next few months I'll be concentrating on a documentary which is a genre that offers a lot more freedom to me as I'll be less reliant on other people. I'm writing a new script with minimal characters and locations - moving away from comedy and doing an absurd social drama piece.
My web series plans are now over. At least the original one. I spent months writing a 6-part series and like all writing material that sits gathering dust it can be a tough pill to swallow. I hate wasting time. However, i'll continue to work on the Don Booker character on Facebook and through my other blog and rely on the sometimes deluded state of thinking that everything will eventually fall into place. If anything all the disappointments during this little venture since 2008 has directed an improved some aspects of my writing - which isn't to bad.
A re-write is now almost complete on Thunder Alley and I have follow up plans for that starting in the new year. It's a better script than the original, a lot tighter. The main character got a name-change too. Too Japanese!
At the end of the day I managed to make three comedies in my home locality which have produced well over an hour of screen time. I think I learned from them all - but it's a tough environment. But it's time to concede that making films is a tough school top attend, especially in the non-paid ranks. Trying to get more professional people on board for projects might help attract some investment at some stage and that's the goal there moving forward.
Here's the final edit of The Lives of Larry. Enjoyed doing it and being able to turn it around quick enough. It's the first thing I have ever edited and like I mentioned before it was practically a two-person crew. Have to take the flaws with the good, but sure hopefully it might give few a laugh along the way.
Thanks to Ray Reilly and Meg Quinn for their help.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Over the coming 48 hours, through the power of Social Media, a Facebook group was set up and through that a gathering was arranged to protest to the local council at their monthly meeting. A large crowd assembled at the County Council offices to make their feelings known.
I attended the Council meeting where the local Cllr's overwhelmingly gave their support to the groups, promising to help them with alternative arrangements while a source of funding could be sought for the restoring of the Hall to a safe condition.
The problem I foresee is accessing that funding in these times, which will be more than difficult. The greatest tragedy of this is the fact that Ireland and Trim have gone through the greatest period of economic prosperity ever witnessed in the State and yet funds could not be found to maintain a building which all local residents, whether artists or not have very fond memories.
For those who don't know Trim well, it is a heritage town with a strong heritage dating back over a thousand years. There are no shortage of amenities in the town and there are activities for most people whether they be of a sporting nature or an artistic one. Most have been built on the sweat and tears of individuals who have given up decades in a volunteer capacity to put Trim firmly on the map. They are to be commended in the absolute.
I tried to form a group 12 months ago to give an added dimension to the town but there was little support after a positive start, but that's how things go. I also tried to engage with people of influence over bringing a film festival to the town, but after being left standing alone for arranged meetings and the promise of phone calls that never came, that too went by the wayside. With links to films such as the Oscar winning Braveheart, the cult classic Fatal Deviation and The Big Red One dating back almost 30 years now, one would think there was something there to be built upon and if I personally have anything to do with it, it will happen someday.
I entered filmmaking a few years back. The trials are documented here from Day 1. Apart from the support of John Kiely - a local publican - there hasn't been much to shout about. There's a TV Channel in Navan with a license to broadcast, yet it broadcasts very little. It's not like the means are not there if anyone was actually serious about getting something up and moving to build on the films already made around the town and county as a whole. Eventually when I finally get moving I hope to film in comedy/drama and documentaries. They are the genre's that interest me. But as I have well documented on my writing blog, all attempts to engage with bodies such as the Dept of Social Welfare, VEC, Meath Partnership to name but a few, leaves one who deems themselves pro-active in their unemployment scratching their head at times.
As someone who is interested in documentary filmmaking it makes me inquisitive by nature. For those who know Trim, the Town Hall is situated on Castle Street, which houses our biggest claim to fame, Trim Castle. When I was young we used to be able to play pitch and putt and roam the grounds freely. These days - with the exception of the odd day when it's free to enter the grounds as a Trim person - you have now to pay for the privilege.
The street in question has been subject to a visual and environmental assault - not my words - over the past ten years with the controversial building of apartments and a new hotel. I'll be honest, I'm all in favour of change and progress, but Trim has long labeled itself as a heritage town, which has been at times I feel not a great thing when it comes to a jobs supply. The building of the hotel sort of went against the grain of this claim.
This week I did a little digging based on the location of where the Town Hall is located. It's a prime piece of property and with the Hall in complete disrepair it is hard to see a future for it. The one thing that must never be allowed to happen in my opinion is another eye sore appearing there in its place whenever that times comes.
In 2004, the privately funded Centre for Public Inquiry did a report concerning the building of the hotel. The CPI was disbanded shortly thereafter after pressure from the serving Fianna Fáil government. Mary 'Cuticles' Harney said at the time, 'the idea of some group of citizens setting themselves up with absolutely no justification to the wider public is absolutely sinister and inappropriate.' Page 3 of this article.
It's a great article and from the angle it comes from had the CPI been allowed to continue, the corruption that was allowed to go on in Anglo that was to the detriment of every citizen of this country for the next generation might not have been as disastrous.
I looked to get my hands on the report this week but it seems to be now offline. I contacted An Taisce - Ireland's National Trust - three times this week asking for advice on how to get my hands on a copy of the report. The trust, as the link above will tell welcomed the report. But then in a PDF showing off aspects of our beautiful country that welcoming seems to have been abandoned with the inclusion of the hotel in it. All emails have remained unanswered at the time of writing. I've made further inquiries and to my joy it seems that there are still copies out there somewhere so hopefully I may get to see it sometime soon.
For me, and I speak for no-one else, to let the Town Hall go into the state it is in today was a disgrace. But if we are to move forward there seems little sense in playing the blame game. What happens from now on is what is important.
Whatever the future holds for it, I believe that the Arts and the groups facilitated at the Town Hall for the last 30 years should remain central in the town. The town center is the heart of the town and all artistic endeavor should be central to that, if for no other reason than to preserve the historical and cultural importance of the building and not let it be subjected to 'modernization' in the future years as we have seen happen over the past ten.
Time, like everything, will tell.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
There is great freedom in editing your own material. It's not that I wouldn't have respect for editors but in the non-paying arena where independence relies on huge favors it's the time it takes for a project to be completed that is always the most frustrating aspect.
Should directors sit in on edits? I guess there are varying opinions, for me it's necessary. If directors can edit their own material then all the better. If for nothing else but the ability to work on a few projects at a time and turn them around in a time frame that suits everyone else involved.
By the end of the week the remaining few scenes will be shot and hopefully at some stage late next week we may have something to show for our efforts. It's a little offbeat, set in rural Ireland (for now) and tells the story of Larry Kenny, who is riding out the recession in comfort after a little mid-life crisis. But is Larry all that he makes himself out to be?
Contact has begun to be made with actors with a view to getting a feature shot in the time between now and Christmas. It's not going to be entirely scripted and i hope to work with actors on an individual basis for over three-quarters of it. I seem to be meeting people who want to work at somethings right now because they love what they do. With the tiny size of the Industry here it's safe to say any future in the medium would surely be abroad. I always wanted my first feature to be one that came about through determination rather than because a budget committee said it could. It's a real pity a bigger emphasis wasn't put into film-making in the country especially at entry level and in the educational sector. No time like the present to start putting together greater access for filmmakers to equipment and crew from their chosen fields in my opinion and perhaps the rebranding of FAS might have some impact as well.
Time, like everything, will tell.
The Lives Of Larry - Teaser.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Days were then spent going through footage and logging it and then sound needed to be synced up as my own meager camera has no input for audio. When all that was done I threw together a very rough first cut and I think I can work with what we got.
Ray and I decided it was worth the effort as we both prepare a feature project in the early part of the Autumn. I really need the editing practice for the web series and feature thereafter. When it comes to those I hope to have a DOP and Sound person as essential parts of a larger crew. As a learning curve right now it made sense to fill the time gap between projects.
I would sincerely like to thank Jason Mehlhorn for his advice over the past number of months as well as use of some equipment and the facility to edit. Although it seems at times I'm going no-where and in double quick time, without his support over the past 12 months on things, I'd have given up by now for sure.
Then I watch around at filmmakers like Jason, Frank Kelly, Paddy O'Shea Padraig Conaty moving mountains to get their features made against the backdrop of difficulties and you see people doing it and that makes you want to do it yourself. There's no backing away from the impact these type of filmmakers might have in the future if Charlie Casanova is anything to go by. I admire these filmmakers the most, because they don't let tax-payer funding - or the lack of it - stand in their way of making films. I think Ireland needs that in filmmaking.
The Internet and technology provides an opportunity for filmmakers that did not exist ten years ago. Filmmakers starting out should use it for all it's worth. There's some great advice out there. If you're from the school of hard knocks and have a 'learn by doing' philosophy then it's the way to go. If only Ireland could be more enterprising in its approach to certain things, it could only have a positive effect on the country. It's the perfect medium that could suit a wide variety of people who collectively could achieve something if encouraged to do. Social media makes those collaborations a lot more practical these days so anything is possible. But will it ever happen? The state of play at the moment makes me think otherwise. I think the talent exists and sites like Crewger and the Underground Cinema are helping. If more dots were joined, then who knows...
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Brian has been cast in a feature film shooting in Italy in August and is under director instruction to keep that hair flowing pre-shoot. Those are the joys of life in the zero-budget arena, but it will be worth the wait as Brian has been the guy I have always wanted to step into the shoes of Don Booker.
In the meantime...
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Here is the pilot of The Arts Journal. Shot on location in Trim and Dublin, the pilot was written by Rita Marie Lawlor and directed by myself. We're leaving the pilot online for 24 hours for anyone who missed the midweek screenings. Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Originally I had intended on shooting the Booker's World web-series over three days. After talking to more experienced people than me, five now seems like a more realistic goal.
I've been working on breaking down the 50-page script and trying to gauge shooting dates around busy schedules and it now seems the latter part of June is a more realistic goal than the early part.
Producing is a necessary evil at the moment, but it makes me think more and more how it might be impacting on the directing end of things. Anyone who's ever produced anything in Ireland, be it a CD, a film or a theater production will know the days sometimes make their way into dreamland and switching off when involved in pre-production is nothing but a nice idea.
The main cast has a meeting last Sunday week and we read through the script. It's almost there. Everyone is anxious to get going with it. I hopefully will have remaining cast and crew lined up towards the end of the week and those shooting days sorted out.
This week the Arts Journal has a series of screenings. Last night The Pint Bar on Eden Quay played host to a cast and crew screening. Slight glitch with the projection which didn't do justice to the visual work but it seemed to go down well.
Tonight we show in Kiely's Bar in Trim, a chance to thank John Kiely who supported the cast and crew throughout the three day shoot last year. And tomorrow The Underground Cinema play host to it on their monthly program.
I used to spend a lot of time on a Film-making forum over the years. I don't contribute much to it any longer as, if I'm honest, any would-be or wannabe filmmaker in Ireland would quickly run a mile given the level of hostility there at times. The critic and the filmmaker doing work without budgets were mainly scorned which I always felt was counter-productive to what the forum was set up to do. It may have changed since.
These days I take an interest in other filmmakers in Ireland, talented guys who struggle and struggle just to get lift off on anything while development money is given from the taxpayers purse for projects that never see the light of day.
Then, like an awakening moron it came to me that all that lark was just the same way Ireland is run. 100k for ten minute shorts? I'd love to know what filmmakers like Jason Mehlhorn, Terry McMahon or Frank Kelly would do with that sort of money. These are filmmakers I look up to because they do it outside that safety net of support available to all filmmakers, but only granted to a few.
I strongly believe film-making in Ireland needs a new approach, a more radical one where enterprise is forefront of it as a new funding model, where we take the tax-payer leg up out of the equation or use that to build a more inclusive film-making culture in the country.
Funding of the Arts is very important to any culture, but in lean times that money needs to go further and there has to be something to show for it. When the re-mit is make the country look good, then the work is false. Art in my own opinion should not be shackled by going against its own grain. Like the country itself, film-making needs a new fix. Many frown on the digital/Internet age, preferring to bask in the past. There's always room for sentimentality and an honouring of where we've been, but being the evolution beings we are, its maybe time to move on, play a little catch up, or heaven forbid, even show the way at times.
I think all involved in the web-series are happy to roll with this first one as a collaboration and hopefully play around with a few things that might swing a budget or two our way in the future. Without them or a new approach by the powers that be it's just going to be the same-old, same-old. Opportunity is nothing if missed. But it's even worse if it's not given to you at all.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
With over 50 pages of script to be shot it will be a tough ask, but if an extra day is needed we will find it from somewhere. I think it is manageable after blocking off the scenes earlier today. The series will be shot entirely in Trim and Kildalkey.
I have now cast most of the principal character and considering the budget is a big fat zero at the time of writing, I can only say I must be pretty damn lucky with who I have managed to secure the talents of so far.
I'm really hoping that this initial web series will be the launching pad required when it comes to securing budgets for future projects and turn this into a paying gig at long last. It seems like a long apprenticeship, but I guess they are that by their nature. Gaining experience can only be got by working with the best you can find, and on this one i think as a writer/director it's a great step up to take. You kind of feel with the state of the country at the moment, it's now or never. With so few opportunities about, maybe it's time to make a few for ourselves. Trying to get those ideas taken seriously is an altogether different story. I've had dealings lately with people and it seems the pursuit of artistic work in many fields is frowned upon outside artistic circles. With a country in crisis, that's the wrong way to be thinking. But we'll keep trying anyway.
The title role of Don Booker will be played by the multi-credited, Brian Fortune. I was supposed to work with Brian on I Wish some time back, so to be able to have him along on this is great.
Meath actor, Gerry Shanahan, another actor I was supposed to work with before has agreed to come on board as 'Flash' Simpson.
Johnny Elliott, who I worked with on The Arts Journal is having a run of success with Terry McMahon's Charlie Casanova at the moment. The Indie Irish flick, shot for under a grand, is whipping up a storm on the International film festival circuit at the moment despite having little or no support from our relevant film bodies. Johnny will play Sonny Strange.
Meath-based actor and Impersonator Ray Reilly has just finished shooting a TV pilot with Tobar Productions and is working on his new stand-up show. Ray will be playing the director from hell, Dan Donavan.
Also added to the cast in the past week are Vivienne Connelly, Liam Heffron, and Andrea McCaffrey.
I hope to add to the cast by the end of this week and source somewhat locally. This will be the third project I have shot in Trim over the past three years and some local people have helped along the way. It would be nice to shoot my first full length feature in my hometown. I guess time will tell.
Blog been a bit ignored this year as I finished off work on my first book. If you have more of an interest on the background of what's going on with these characters and books, I update my writing blog regularly here.
You will find links to character bio's and a link to a free download of Sonny Strange, who features with Don Booker as together with a little help from a few friends along the way strike out to make opportunity for themselves. More to follow soon...
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
You can view a brief teaser here.
We will then put together a press pack and author some DVD's for all the cast and crew who gave their time up to work on the pilot. Then it's off to production companies who may have a little more clout than us at this stage.
A special thanks to John King & Monica Tivda for their work on the edit and to Jason Mehlhorn for his time and effort in the sound department and also to Padraig Conaty for his great camerawork.
It's difficult putting things together on a shoe-string and we are very grateful to John Kiely for the shoe-string that allowed us to complete the pilot. Hopefully someone, somewhere, will see some potential and we can all get a pay-day from it sometime soon.
Screening dates will follow in a day or so.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Unfortunately, we are all used to working with little or no outside support, but we are confident of delivering a decent web series which may provide a launch pad to more funding routes for the proposed second series which will hopefully bring us closer to shooting feature films.
Final casting decisions will be made this week and hopefully can be announced toward the weeks end, followed by more announcements in the crew department.
In the meantime we are going to try a few routes to getting a more established production company to come aboard, but see no sense holding up the project unnecessarily. More to come...
Thursday, January 27, 2011
We've had a good response with regard the rest of the casting and we will be going everything within the next week and getting back to everyone then. We are probably looking at an early March shoot and the shoot will be extended to 4-5 days in total. I felt we would do it in three, but after a number of chats now, have decided to give ourselves the extra time and there is a lot to get right if we are to engage an audience. But so far, so good. The team we are assembling is far more than could be hoped for at this stage.
I wrote to locations I could access and hopefully will have more news on crew and cast late next week.
I met with the very talented Monica Tivda on Tuesday. Monica is putting the finishing touches to the Arts Journal edit and I'd expect it to be finished shortly and some screenings dates can be announced. I've seen most of it now, there is music to be added and a sound design done on it, but after nearly a year where everything seemed to go wrong, we are almost there. Then the hunt for production funding begins in earnest.
It's been a week of watching tutorials and figuring things out things Final Cut Pro. Like Ireland's recovery, it's been a swine of a time. But to try and advance things in some way this year, I've learned it's essential to make us as Independent as possible. There's a thriving Indie sector here in Ireland but it's not being exploited, if indeed that is the right word. It should be and in proper terms.
Ireland had a sole Oscar nominee this year in the short film category. The Crush, written and directed by first-timer , Michael Dreagh, didn't manage to make the nominations for our own national film awards, the IFTA's.
Sometime this country really confuses me.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Hi Jason. I guess the best way to start is to tell people a little bit about yourself, and I'm of the opinion that the best person to do that is your good self. So...
Hi Noel, thanks for having me. Regarding myself; I make films. I’m not sure if anything else is of interest to people, but if so, ask away.
You have a BSc. in Bioanalytical Science, correct?
How did the cross over from that to film-making come about. It doesn't seem like what one might term, 'a natural progression?'
People get the calling to make films while being involved in all kinds of other professions and fields. My case is far from unusual. I can’t remember the exact eureka moment unfortunately, but I got interested in film-watching at least towards the end of my degree I think, possibly through an interest in philosophy which I feel bridges the sciences and the arts. An interest in filmmaking would’ve come a number of years later when I realised people can actually make the things.
I've read somewhere that your award winning documentary, Ballybough Court, took 6 hours to shoot, but almost 3 years to complete. Can you talk about that a little?
Yes. I won’t go into the full story as it’s extremely convoluted and boring, but it started as a collaboration with effectively three co-directors. This system really slowed everything up. When I direct alone I can make creative decisions in seconds and move on, but with three people there needs to be meetings, discussions, arguments, compromises and more meetings for even the simplest decisions. The project was meant to be a feature film with lots of other sections, some of which were shot, but I took control of directing the 6 hour shoot at Ballybough Court where old women play bingo every Wednesday afternoon. Then during the long post-production period the two others left. I ultimately took control of the only bit that really interested me and finished it as a short. But between it's shooting and finishing, I made a feature film which was more important to me so the short took a back seat as I've difficulty dividing my focus. But having said all that, I'm notoriously fast when shooting films and notoriously slow in post-production. It is something that needs to change, I mean how many other filmmakers can claim to have contributors on their films literally die of old age before they’re completed.
[laughs] At some point you thought to yourself that a feature film was not only possible, but also a viable alternative to getting caught up in the competitive world of making short films and trying to break through that way. When did you reach that point?
Pretty much from the beginning of getting into filmmaking really, it was just a question of the right time. I researched how people become directors and in Ireland particularly I feel most people blindly keep making short films until someone, somehow, gives them the crack at a feature film. Yes, a very few succeed, but in my opinion it’s pointless after a certain point. Yes, directors can learn a lot from them in the early days, but it’s good to know when to move on and take control of your own destiny. Also, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve very little interest as a viewer or director in anything other than feature films, so that helped push the issue also.
Is that why Ulterior came about, it being feature length as opposed to a short?
Yes. I knew I knew nothing, so was very happy to work on as many low and no-budget projects to see how other people do things. I mainly do sound, which was an area I fell into, so I was always around the director, actors and cameraman and learnt a lot, if even how not to do things. Concurrent with that I started directing my own work, mostly documentary shorts, and after a time I felt I knew just enough to have a stab at a feature. So I had a look at my bank balance and had €5,000 or whatever spare, and then flicked through my writing notebooks to see what stories or ideas I had that could be made into a feature with that amount of money. I finally narrowed it down to a choice between Ulterior and another psychological thriller type film, and choose Ulterior. It interested me a bit more and I believe I had more of the story figured out.
I guess this is a good time to get you to talk about one of the many elements it takes to make a film,So... Jason Mehlhorn on Screenwriting...
What to say about it? I don’t engage in what I perceive as ‘script-worshiping’ where a director feels they've to realise as perfectly as possible what’s on a page. Obviously being the writer allows me to treat the script however I wish, but I would feel quite hyper-sensitive if someone else had written one for me as there’s an inherent obligation there I think. However, for the time being I try to use the script as quite a loose document, for something to almost fall back on if things can’t be bettered on the day. The exception is the dialogue, which once it’s locked down in rehearsals, I like it to stay the same. This is fueled by my belief that film should be a visual medium, so the dialogue should be as minimal as possible and this needs control. When actors improvise they tend to talk more. Also I’m rather particular about writing for the correct medium, there’s little I dislike more than a feature film script brick-walled with dialogue, set in one location and it unfolds in real time. To me that’s filming theatre which I see as totally pointless. There's also a lot of feature scripts that are more like sit-coms.
So, the script is completed. What next?
Finding locations, actors and crew really. The crew was just 5 people with the same number of principle actors. And the locations are very few as you’ve seen - a house for about 70% of the film and some city scenes around Dublin mostly to stop the film being too indoor based and claustrophobic. The whole of pre-production was rather stressful, as I’ve never needed to produce a film as formally as this before and even taking into consideration how simple everything was it still took a toll, especially with my time.
I'm of the opinion that a writer/director sometimes has no choice, but to produce their own work. So yes, you've guessed it, Jason Mehlhorn on Producing...
Well yes, I produce solely out of necessity as I absolutely hate it. But if I don’t do it nobody else will, and for the time being my films don’t get made. In that sense it’s a necessary evil. At my level of film making [independent micro-budget films] finding good producers is very difficult, but I think there’s ways of easing the difficulty of it. I’ve done a number of one-day courses on the legal and technical tasks involved in producing properly.I’d recommend people do some, as it’s the kind of stuff that if you don’t know you can’t be made aware of it casually - you either know it because someone informed you or you don’t know it. Directing is something where there’s a personal learning curve involved, so it’s the opposite in a way, I don't believe it can be taught. Anyway, if someone is forced to direct and produce simultaneous. I’d recommend keeping the script and therefore task of producing as simple as possible because if things are too complex you’ll spend more time organising and the creative side will suffer.
It's obvious from your Workbook and by the films you view that your passion lies in European Cinema. Who, if anyone, influences your work?
Well, my top three favourite directors would probably be Tarkovsky, Bresson and Kieslowski, but there’s none of their style in my work I don’t think. On the other hand, I am very influenced by Jacques Tati, but he probably wouldn’t even be in my top fifteen favourite directors. But I think I am influenced by the way he utilises the composition of his shots, very simple editing, much visual storytelling, slow pacing and his use of sound in films. Although having said that my first short film which was made before I ever heard of Tati has some of these traits too, so I’m not sure.
Here's a question I want to have a little fun with over the series, so please forgive me. As i sit here I imagine many a chin being stroked, which kind of amuses me given the scale of the question being asked. Describe yourself in one word?
Backfire - [laugh] Talk to us about Directing? What, in your opinion, does that particular role involve, and when do you suggest is a good time to take the plunge? If there is such a time.
I think a good time to take the plunge is when you feel it’s the right time, although sometimes ignorance is bliss too. If I knew how difficult I’d find Ulterior I’m not sure I would’ve embarked when I did. But having done it I’ve learnt so much that now a second feature doesn’t scare me. Regarding the role - I see a director as a creative coordinator trying to get many different areas of filmmaking to gel.
You collaborated with Starofash/Heidi Solberg Tveitan, a Norwegian singer/musician on the music for Ulterior. It's a fantastic score which I found perfectly matched Ulterior? How did that come about?
Thanks. I was listening to an album she wrote for and I had just bought and when a certain song came on, the feel and mood was what the film needed so I emailed her record company. She was the first person onboard as I wasn’t looking for anybody at that point; I was still writing the script actually. Heidi is very versatile but still has a lot of authorship or style and this was important to me. I wanted music with a bit of character. I really didn’t want a very conventional thriller score that you’d find in most very low budget films, you know that horrible cheap sounding stuff with violin sections - just really generic and tacky sounding. Neither did I want source music I think it’s called, you know CD or library music crowbarred into scenes. I was actually planning to go with no music in the film if I hadn’t picked up that album.
So, here's another chance for us to pick your mind. Jason Mehlhorn on Music ( We appreciate a controversial approach, so don't feel you should hold back)
I’m not a musician and it was my first time working with a composer, so I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer such a question in some philosophical way. I would recommend having the emotional level of any music along the same levels as the emotions of the scenes, it sounds obvious but I see it quite rarely in low budget films. I think it happens because filmmakers think their characters are more likable than an audience finds them.
You're sitting at home with your first feature in the hard drive. Did you launch into post-production immediately, or do filmmakers tend to take breaks between the three principal areas of production?
Yes, I’d imagine they would take breaks but I didn’t, maybe a day off or something. There were breaks away from the film both planned and forced along the way. It was a two year process so doing that full time would have caused madness.
Take us through your post-production process? How do you approach it? Is there a standard path to follow or are all filmmakers different in how they approach this area?
I personally hate post-production so don’t eagerly or willingly talk to other filmmakers about what they do. However, I’d imagine the process would be fairly similar. Edit a visual rough cut, get it locked [i.e. into a state were it stops changing], work on all the sound and do colour grading. In theory it’s quite simple. For me the locked visual cut came last, and I done most sound and some colour grading as I went along. Sometimes these things informed the edits see.
Jason Mehlhorn on Editing...
I think if a director is also editing it’s a good idea to get feedback as you proceed. The last thing a director can do is look at their own film with any kind of objectivity.
Ok, let's get off films for a moment and refer back to an earlier remark about your interest in Philosophy. If you had to condense down your philosophy on life into 3 sentences based on where your current believes are, what would you write? It's ok if the last sentence has the words 'shoot Noel' in it.
My only philosophy on life is not to have a philosophy on life. Yes, another cop-out answer I’m afraid - I really don’t like talking about myself!
What has been the most difficult area thus far for you in film production? You've taken something from an idea to a physical state of being, if there was one thing you'd like to avoid next time around, what would it be?
I would like to avoid funding the next film myself! But that mightn’t be possible. More seriously, I guess needing to produce the film, as I said earlier it takes a toll on the creative side of things. I will look into trying to find someone though. Regarding the most difficult, I’d probably still say post-production.
Ballybough Court, your short documentary premiered at the Underground Cinema before picking up the award in the best documentary category in September. That must have been a proud moment to get acknowledged by others working in areas of filmmaking in Ireland?
It was the first award I’ve won so yes, it was quite thrilling. Although I think the award was more to do with the subjects in the film than anything I necessarily done as a filmmaker. It’s directing was simply a case of pointing the camera in the right direction really. I did see most of the other films in that category [best documentary] and was quite surprised as they were all very good and at least two were funded.On Ireland for a moment.
How do you think the current economic shambles here will impact on filmmaking in this country over the coming years?
Well on the one hand there’s less spare money floating around, so this makes filmmaking harder, but on the other everything is cheaper and more people are free to work on them! It’s a double-edged sword, but I think for any filmmaker making stuff on an extremely low budget it’s a good thing. I suspect the people who’ll suffer the most are filmmakers higher up the chain, you know the ones used to the many luxuries on their healthier budgets. To my eyes there seems to be more independent features being made in the last two years than I’ve ever noticed before that.
I was lucky enough to have seen Ulterior a few weeks back. It was only after a few viewings I could truly appreciate the effort involved, but not only that, what you achieved with the budget you had. Has this type of filmmaking, meaning micro-budget, a broader place in filmmaking practice than what it has currently in Ireland?
Well to be honest I find low-budget independent features far better and at least more interesting than the funded ones from the Irish Film Board. I think by and large lower budgets force filmmakers to think more creatively to tell a story and I also sense more passion about them. I’ve seen some amazing low-budget independent films in the last year from Ivan Kavanagh, Colin Downey, Donnacha Coffey, Rouzbeh Rashidi and Michael Higgins to name just a few.
What now for Ulterior? Are copies of Ulterior available to the general public yet?
I’ll be entering it into film festivals for about a year and we’ll see what happens. I’m still in talks, but outside of film festivals I’m hoping there’ll be at least two public screenings in Dublin in 2011. After the year I may either approach distributors to see what they make of it or I’ll distribute the film myself on some cottage-industry style if not bigger. So regardless of what happens people will be able to see it in 12 months if they don’t catch it anywhere else.
I know you've done work in this area Jason, both on shoots and in post production and it's an area you yourself pay particular attention to. Would you expand a little on the area of sound...
As I think I said earlier it was something I kinda fell into and will be moving away from to concentrate on writing and directing as it’s mostly served it’s purpose. However, I’ll continue doing it on my own projects and I’ll always have a particular interest in the possibilities of sound in film. I also prioritise the sound recording with the same level of importance and consideration as the camerawork, which is almost unheard of. Usually the sound department needs to work around everyone else and are sometimes treated quite disrespectfully, but I place it on a much higher level. It’s great for creating subtly and emotionally affecting the audience in ways that I don’t think can be achieved with a camera.
What's up next project wise?
The only definite thing is writing the feature script for the other thriller which would’ve been selected had I not choose to go with Ulterior. It’s just a writing exercise mostly, but if something really grabs me during the process I may wish to make it myself. Other than that I’ve two ideas for two features that I can make for a very low budget, a thousand euros or so. Both are quite experimental but they’re really exciting me at present. I’d work with a much looser script than with Ulterior and go with the flow more, however it won’t be some improvisational or haphazard thing. After I finished Ulterior I noticed that many of my favourite things in the film were happy accidents or incidents, or ideas that came from others. I’d like to see if I can set up an environment to utilise these things more.
Finally Jason, I've seen in the UK that Film Study enters the curriculum at an early stage. It's seeping into the system slowly here in Ireland. Do you have any advice for filmmakers who would be considering shooting shorts, or indeed, crazy enough to attempt a feature?
I think to always follow your instincts, it’s one of the only tools a director has in my opinion.
Sound advice. Jason, it's been a pleasure. I hope the coming year provides both Ballybough Court and Ulterior with the attention they deserve.
Well, many thanks Noel and thanks for taking the time to interview me.
Keep updated with all the current information on Jason's work and some exclusive content here.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
When it was pulled, it left my naivety exposed and the result of that was months spent wondering if indeed a pursuit in filmmaking in Ireland was indeed worth it all.
Some people offered advice, those more experienced in the film industry said these things were commonplace, and I shouldn't take it too personally. Unfortunately, I did as over forty people had placed a certain trust in us to deliver for them, the same way they wanted to deliver for us. Despite efforts to resurrect, it it wasn't to be. I made the decision to never again work for others unless some form of contract was in place and work on that naivety
Last year I got back up on the bike and co-produced and directed the Arts Journal which will be finished shortly.
I decided 2011 would be a year I would dedicate to trying to get some JaSE Films work off the ground. I was lucky I had registered the script and it's sole copyright with the WGA.
It's a three-pronged attack this year, each which should advance JaSE Films goal of making films over the coming years.
I came across Amazon Studio's late last year. I did a bit of background on it, and eventually came to a decision to participate over there for a time this year. One segment of the site is dedicated to scripts. I have four here at the moment gathering dust. One of them was the script for the film that broke down.
I Wish is a dark drama which explores the dark side of luck. Set in Ireland during the resession, a family with problems have an unexpected stroke of luck, but with devastating consequences. Be careful what you wish for...
Yesterday I posted it to Amazon Studio's.
OK, the deal is not a writers dream. In return for posting it, it is entered into competition, guaranteed a professional read and it can be reviewed by readers who may offer suggestions for re-writes that may make it a little better.
Amazon now have an option to buy the script over the next 18 months and will pay the writer if they want to extend the option for a further 18 months. With I Wish, I had no problem with that deal. Every time I looked at the script it was a reminder of a failure, and I'm tired of seeing it that way. I'm not saying it's better than anything else out there, but it's relevant to the times and how people change and it was once enough to pull a production together, if not having seen it through.
So although I know this blog won't have many readers in it's infancy, JaSE Films this year will attempt to start seeing things a little further afield than just here in Ireland and try get working with other Indie production companies in other countries who feel like ripping things up a little bit and are pro-active in coming up with ways to achieve that.
Some will like our approach, some will not. But it's ours and we are comfortable with the way we want to do things. We want to form collaborations with people with a professional approach, and are equally consumed in the pursuit of bringing films to completion.
JaSE Films would be grateful if you wish to read the script and leave a review on Amazon for consideration should further re-writes be necessary. You can download the script here and leave a review after. If you like it and think others may read it then we would be equally grateful if you direct them to it so they to can download it. Let's see if it has anything that can be built on instead of consigning it further to that dusty drawer.
I Wish and possibly a second feature script, will be the first prong, the web series and it's eventual goal will be the second prong, and so as not to be putting eggs in one basket, JaSE hopes to be in a position toward the end of this year to produce it's own first micro-budget feature so our growth can be measured in some real terms.
Wish us luck...
Camera's and lighting set-ups are now affordable to everyone and with a school of filmmaking now available for free right across the Internet, any new filmmaker now has the opportunity to delve into the possibilities should they so choose.
As with writing books and making music, filmmaking is gathering momentum when it comes to those with an Independent spirit, with artists utilising the many ways they can begin their careers by action, instead of waiting around for the approval of others. That certainly was not the case twenty and perhaps even ten years ago.
I've talked on my writing blog before about the Age Of The Independent. That is not inclusive of filmmakers, but can carry across many arenas in life, be it self-employment, a musician, an artist and hopefully in politics too. I've come to the conclusion in life that the only thing that holds anybody back is themselves. Dealing with contrary opinions eats up the time we all have, and to no effect. People who want a freedom and Independence in what they choose to do, generally come back to the same conclusion. If I don't do it myself, well then nobody is going to do it for me. From what I've learned, that's true.
Creative people generally don't take to kindly to criticism. I've been guilty of it myself. It made me think at every point along the way, is the pursuit of something that's always called to you a waste of time. You would be surprised how many people will think the same of you. That it's a crazy pursuit. I'm sure many have even given up. I nearly did myself a few times.
After taking time out I hope to get back into the swing of things this year. Continue practicing, try get scripts out there and work toward my first feature. Through trial and error I've learned an awful lot. I've found people I can work with who have similar ways of doing things I do. Some give up great time guiding and advising. Funny enough, they are actually people motoring along themselves and bringing out some quality material, knowledgeable of every pit fall along the way, but head down and focused on what it is they want to do. Make films.
Like everything, it takes time. Like life, filmmaking and other endeavor in the visual medium is a tough teacher. It is for everyone that practices it. I've had great times doing stuff, other times not so great. But learning all the while.
My own ambition in filmmaking is from a writing and directing point of view. I will produce my own stuff out of necessity if I have to. The queue for funding is long. Why wait?
In between times I try to learn what those around me can do. How a camera works, how light adds to a scene and a possible tone, how hugely important sound is. The art of editing. I don't want to do all those things as i think filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and I think it's good to respect what others around you are doing so something can be produced at the end of post production that all involved can be proud of. I don't see much point doing it otherwise.
I personally don't feel the structure of the Irish film Industry is designed around the development of filmmaking at a young level. Strives are being made, but it's slow. Looking around though their is undeniable talent there and the crazy thing is some of that talent have to sweat blood and tears practically to get anything off the ground. Some would be more deserving of support than others, but even that is not the difference.
Courses seem to be at Celtic Tiger price levels, opportunities to get experience are rare and mostly unpaid. Hopefully over time I can build up a variety of links for any filmmaker to look over. All geared toward getting started and learning about the many elements that need to come together to make a film. Be warned though, Ireland's filmmaking circuit can be a tough and sometimes brutal environment. The best advice i could give to anyone starting out or thinking of giving up is go with the gut feeling you may have. If you think you have something to offer, don't be put off by the detractors. You might be getting some of their work someday. Read, watch and get experience anywhere you can. Listen closely to those who talk about the work and the art and run from those who may be a little chatty about themselves. It won't take long for you to find your feet. Remain thick-skinned at all times, chances are somewhere along the line you'll need it.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It's 2011 and time for me to kick JaSE Films back into gear again and in doing so start a new blog.
The co-production with RML Films for the pilot of the Arts Journal will have a result in the next few weeks, as Monica Tivda finishes the edit and we expect to announce screenings in Dublin and Trim very shortly. Then it's down to the funding Gods.
After the breakdown of the feature film I Wish so close to the shoot in the Summer of 2009, I personally pondered whether pursuing anything in filmmaking terms in Ireland was really worth it at all.
With so very little support available to new filmmakers I have watched as fellow filmmakers struggle to get projects off the ground, decent filmmakers who I believe in any other country that embraces filmmaking on a significant level, would be in gainful employment doing what they love. With this country in a state of f*ck I personally see an opportunity for filmmaking to become a more enterprising endeavour as opposed to the grind of trying to source funding from national bodies with no guarantee of success. I believe many filmmakers over the years have given up in the pursuit or have left for foreign shores to continue what they love doing. That's another of Ireland's shames.
Still though, I look around and see many filmmakers digging their heels in and continuing the pursuit anyway. They are to be applauded and with bodies like the Underground Cinema supporting them, in time I do hope the 'Industry' becomes more of a level playing field and more inclusive.
So in saying that I'm about to embark on something a little crazy and maybe challenge a few issues in an attempt to realize my own goals in the time ahead. Since the breakdown of I Wish I have been doing a lot of writing and have completed a short novella Sonny Strange and a novel, Booker's World. I created Don Booker and Sonny Strange, two men caught up in recessionary Ireland in different ways.
Over the past few weeks I have cast both characters and I am delighted to say that Brian Fortune and Johnny Elliott, two extremely talented and experienced actors will play the roles of Don and Sonny in a the Booker's World web series, which picks up on the characters where both books leave off. I am also pleased to say that Philip Deane who recently starred as 'Fat' Freddie Thompson in TV3's Cocaine Wars will play the role of Mitch Booker.
So today I kick off pre-production. The scripts are at an advanced draft stage now and I am pretty happy with them. I would expect minor changes over the coming weeks as I begin to workshop them with cast members. It is to early at this stage to announce a shoot date, but given other commitments people have, It will more than likely be at the end of February and if that proves impossible, then it will be the middle of March.
I will shoot the 6x6 minute episodes in block over 3 days, a Friday through to the Sunday.
Once completed the episodes will be first placed on a dedicated web site before being released virally across the web in an attempt to build an audience. The second series will be more focused on gaining an international audience. The first episode will go live within 3 weeks of the wrap and the rest at fortnightly intervals thereafter.
At this stage I am still looking for some backing for the first series, but i feel if i have to wait then nothing will be done, so on we go. At the time of writing all that is on offer is your expenses will be met and you won't go hungry. You will be made aware of any changes in funding as we roll.
The one thing I do ask is that anyone wishing to be considered for any part will have to be open to do a second web series as the longer term goal of the project rests on the second series. I would expect to shoot the second series in mid-April.
I will discuss all plans and future direction with all cast and crew pre-shoot. Confidentiality is important and a must at this stage. I would also ask cast and crew to be open to ruffling a few feathers along the way, especially when it comes to elements reflective of the shambles Ireland finds itself in at this time.
Here are the parts that I am currently seeking actors for.
'Mum' Booker - 60-65 Alzheimer's sufferer.
Amanda Strange - 29-32. Amanda is Sonny's wife. Sonny and Amanda are giving their marriage another go. Amanda would be a strong woman with a flirty eye.
Denise Doyle - 35-40. Denise is Don Booker's on-off girlfriend. A very talented painter and sculptress, Denise is a single mum.
'Pops' Strange - 55-60. Sonny's old man. Doesn't hold back on any issues or any of life's pleasures.
Bamber Doyle - 38-40. Gay entrepreneur with the common touch. Bamber rarely gets ruffled, is well connected and a smile and love for life are evident in all his waking hours.He is also Denise's brother.
Dan Donavan - Eccentric, mad, depressive, artistic. You name it, Dan Donavan is it. A filmmaker with an eye on the macabre. Willing to do anything or go anywhere with his direction to get what he wants.
Mattie Johnson - 50. Quite Mayo man. Recovering alcoholic.
One-word Willie Donnelly - 38-40 Marketing guru. Childhood friend of Don's. Part of 'the team' going to take the project forward. This part is small but will be greater in series two.
Frankie Bronson - I need an actor who is small in stature, would like to wear a goatee and is able to play in the 21-25 age range. Frankie's a bit of a devious sort whom Don has taken under his wing.
Screenwriter - The actor doesn't have to be a screenwriter, but the name of the character will be the actors own name. Preferably a confident, ego-driven cocky character who has his eye on one thing and one thing only. Hollywood, USA. Someone who feels they can thrive in a high powered arena.
There are also a few minor non-recurring roles.
If you are interested please send on a CV or links to some of your work that may be able to be viewed online to jasefilms [at] yahoo.com
There will be no audition process for these parts. Casting will be dependent on what I can see online and telephone conversations relating to the characters.
So that 20 months of hard work doesn't go down the drain, all participating actors will have to sign a contract for two series as well as a confidentiality agreement. Some might say this is OTT, but having had some bad experiences in the past, I want to ensure for everyone's sake that they don't happen again.
Anyone wanting to know a little background to Sonny's character can read the novella for free at this link http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/32413
and a background to Booker's World can be read here
All emails will be replied to. I look forward to hearing from you.