Three questions to… Ciarán Dooley, director of I’ve Been a Sweeper

Ciarán Dooley is the young screenwriter and director of I’ve Been a Sweeper, one of the short films selected for Irish Film Festa 2015 competition.

The film, which was produced through a crowdfunding campaign, follows the main character — «a surreal character» — through his final day, while he tells us how his job as a floor sweeper has impacted on his life from early childhood.

David Rawle, the kid who plays the young Sweeper in the first part of the short, also stars in the tv series Moone Boy and lends his voice to little Ben in Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea.


Why did you write the script as a first person narration in voice over?

I wrote the script as a first person narration because I wanted the audience to be given a window into the mind of the character. I wanted the narration and the visuals to combine, not be two separate stories, so that it gives the illusion that we can hear the Sweeper’s thoughts in real-time.


Dust and light are key visual elements in this story: how did you and your crew work on sound design and cinematography?

We spent around four weeks testing out different materials to create the dust. We tried real dust, feathers, fuller’s earth, flour, fire-ash, fibres from synthetic pillows and lint. What worked out the best in the end was the particles released from waving a sheet of Hemp in the air. Hemp is much thicker than dust to the normal eye, but on camera, it seemed to be the best visual representation of it.

As for sound design, we recorded a lot of the sound artificially. We wanted the sweeps to sound intimate and almost surreal, so we dubbed a lot of them over.

A lot of the pubs were situated beside busting Dublin streets, with traffic and a constant flow of people walking by the windows. That meant that almost all of the sound had to be recorded in post using different locations. The film had to be private and intimate, and I think this aspect of the sound design was crucial to it’s execution.


How did you cast Eamon Morrissey as the Sweeper?

I have always been a fan of Eamon, and once the script was green-lit for production, he was the first and only actor that we approached. We sent a letter to his agent, outlining why we would like to work with Eamon, and they very kindly forwarded it to him. Shortly after, I met with Eamon to discuss the role and he came on board. It was a great experience working with Eamon, he brought a lot of himself to the role, and really embodied the character. I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role!

Three questions to… Stuart Graham, director of The Good Word

The Good Word is one of the short films selected for the Irish Film Festa 2015 competition and it marks the directorial debut of actor Stuart Graham.

Stuart was at the festival last year attending the screening of Brian Deane’s Volkswagen Joe, which was awarded as best short film by our live action jury.

The Good Word stars Úna Kavanagh, Conleth Hill, and Paul Kennedy (the director of Made in Belfast, also presented at Irish Film Festa 2014 — Paul runs the KGB Screen company along with Stuart) as the misterious Ivan Cutler, who spreads the good word throughout the townlands of Ireland in the 1950s. The script is by the crime novelist Stuart Neville.

Stuart Graham spoke about his choices as a director and how The Good Word will soon develop into a feature film.


Even if we make sense of it just by the end, the dialogue between the three characters takes the most part of the film: how did you work on the script by Stuart Neville?

Two years ago, I made a list of Northern Irish writers that I was keen to work with. Stuart Neville was at the very top of that list. When we first met, it was primarily to talk about one of his novels, Ratlines, which is now in full development as a tv series.

The Good Word came into being very much as a by-product of that initial meeting, a very happy one. When Stuart first sent me the 18 pages, the richness of the dialogue was instantly recognisable to me as being from a part of the world that I know very well. It made me laugh, out loud, and I fell in love with the three characters. It was a no-brainer for me to keep the directorial style of the piece simple, almost old-fashioned, and allow that richness of dialogue to blossom in the hands of my three wonderful actors.

Since then, working with Stuart (on both projects) has been extremely enjoyable, rewarding, and, perhaps most importantly, easy. He has an instinctively filmic understanding of his own work which makes the development process a joy. So far, anyway! This is not the end for The Good Word. The story continues and we plan to develop it into a feature project. A little hint of which comes at the end of the credits.


Why did you feature the song Beautiful Isle of Somewhere in the soundtrack?

Beautiful Isle of Somewhere was written in the late nineteenth century but I first came across it in an arrangement done in the 1950’s. So, immediately, the timeframe seemed right. It is a hymn, which again felt right given our subject matter. I don’t want to say too much, but it is deliberately joyful and pure. Although the tone of the piece is very specifically set in the north-east of Ireland, thematically it could be set in any rural isolated “beautiful” community. Draw your own conclusions. Most importantly, I liked it! I want to say a big thank you to Andrew Simon McAllister who provided me with two fantastic arrangements of the song.


Where was The Good Word shot?

We shot the film in County Antrim, near the town of Ballyclare. In the home of the Todd Family, who very kindly allowed us in. A big thank you to them. In fact, I would like to thank everyone who worked on the film. We set out to do a lot, with limited resources and time, and we could not have achieved it without the dedication, hard work and talent of everyone involved.

Three questions to… Aidan McAteer, director of Deadly

Deadly is one of the five animated short films selected for the Irish Film Festa 2015 competition. Written and directed by Aidan McAteer, the short tells the story of working stiff Boney and spirited old lady Bridie: a beautiful story about life and death.

Deadly was produced by Kavaleer Studio under the Irish Film Board’s Frameworks scheme, which is specifically dedicated to animated short films.

Aidan explains how he developed the script and gives us a unique insight in the animation process.


How did you come up with the idea for this beautiful story?

The original idea came out of a screenwriting class I was doing a few years ago. It started out as an idea about the character of death losing his job. I thought we could then hilariously show him trying other jobs, but this ended up being essentially one joke and not that original. Gradually the story became less broad and when I thought of him more as someone trapped in a dead end job (pun inevitable) and paired him up with Bridie, I felt like we might be onto something. I came up with the final image of the film and had a beginning, then with the help from everyone at the studio (especially my producer Shannon George) we finally got a second act that felt right!


Can you give us a brief description of the animation process, from the character design to the integration with the backgrounds?

Like live-action films everything starts with the script, as I was working on this I was constantly doodling, trying to find the characters. I nailed down the design of Boney early on, but Bridie took a lot longer. It can be tricky designing for a more adult audience as my day job usually involves a very young audience. Everyone pitched in and I finally settled on the current design. Our lead animator, Jean Maxime Beaupuy, really helped nailed down the final look of the characters.

Once you have some concept designs and a script you can start storyboarding — making quick, pencil drawings of the main action and what every shot will look like. We then edit these together with temporary voices and music into an animatic and then we can essentially watch a version of the film. In animation you have to do all your editing before hand — it’s too expensive and frankly heart-breaking to cut finished animation — so it’s important to get the animatic right. Myself and my editor, John Peavoy, cut and recut that damn animatic — I think there’s about 30 versions on a back hard drive somewhere!

Up to this point there’s lots of pencils and paper involved, then (for this film) we went digital. It was important to me to make sure that the film looked organic and hand made. Sometimes the computer can make things look very slick and even sterile, so our production designer, Graham Corcoran, and his team worked hard to make the backgrounds look like they were hand-painted and full of texture, even if they were created using Photoshop.

We did the animation in a software called Flash — which again can look sometimes make the animation look a a bit mechanical and overly fluid, so we got one of our artists, Siobhan Twomey, to draw over every frame to keep an organic line moving and alive. The voices are already recorded so the animators work with vocals to create the performance you see on screen. Our compositing lead Amber Hennigan then put the lines, animation and backgrounds together and added more texture and lots of wonderful special effects.


Brenda Fricker and Peter Coonan lend their voices to Bridey and Boney: how did you choose them?

I had seen Peter Coonan in a few short films and on a really popular Irish tv show, Love/Hate. We needed someone with a Dublin accent, but more than that Peter has a very distinctive tone to his voice that really grounded Boney — this was very important, not only because the grim reaper is a mythical character, but because our grim reaper is very much a working class guy going through the motions of his daily routine.

For Brenda Fricker, I did the thing they tell you not to do: I wrote the part with Brenda in mind. I was struggling to find Bridie’s voice and when I thought of Brenda, it informed the character a huge amount (even down to her character design). It took a bit of convincing, but I was delighted when she accepted the role. Brenda is such a phenomenal actress and brought a genuine warmth, sensitivity and humanity to Bridie. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with those two wonderful talents.


Three questions to… Lee Cronin, director of Ghost Train

Ghost Train
Lee Cronin is the director of Ghost Train, one of the ten short films selected for Irish Film Festa 2015 competition.

Ghost Train is a horror story in which two brothers, Michael and Peter, make their annual pilgrimage to the old fairground where their friend Sam went missing when they were kids.

Cronin’s short film has been awarded at San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival, Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival, Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival. One of his previous works, Billy & Chuck, was screened at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2011.


Tell us something about the script: how did you get the first idea to tell this story?

I had always been intrigued by how scared I was of the Ghost Train ride in the local fairground near where I grew up as a kid. With these thoughts of childhood, it got my thinking about my old friends, the ones who you are so close to at maybe age 9 or 10, but as life progresses you lose all contact. I thought about some of the troubles and scrapes we got into, and how on some occasions we were lucky to not blow ourselves up, or fall to our doom. It’s regular everyday kid stuff, but grown up you can look back and think ‘damn, that could have been dangerous!

All of these thoughts fed back to the Ghost Train idea and I decided I wanted to make a film about the decisions we make as children, and how it has the potential to shape our adult lives. As heavy as the thematic idea is, I like to tell stories through a fantastical lens, so it quickly became a horror movie.


The landscape plays a big part in Ghost Train: where was it shot? And did you apply particular visual effects to bring that old fairground to life?

The film was primarily shot on location in Kildare, Ireland. We had huge trouble finding the right location, until the producer mentioned that I thought what I was looking for was a place we had been before. It turned out he was right as we ended up shooting the film in an old yard which had been the unit base for our previous short film Billy & Chuck. Despite the epic feeling to the film, it is essentially all set in one location. Even the shots of the older brothers in the car was shot in the same yard against green screen.

We used a lot of simple, and some not so simple visual effects to achieve the overall look of the old fairground. I prefer not to say what is real and not, because we worked hard to bring it all together in one look! The challenge is to figure out what is real and what is digital!


How did you cast the three kids who play young Michael, Peter and Sam?

The casting of the three kids in the film came through a long process with casting agent Nick McGinley in Dublin. We saw in total around 60/70 boys over about two days. We put them through their paces, especially those auditioning for Sam, as he had a very particular challenge ahead. We quickly whittled the people we saw down to six, two for each role and then you have to breath in and make the call. What is the right combination from these six? I hope we got it right. I think we did.


Irish Film Festa 2015 jury announced

The list of jurors who will award the best short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2015 has been announced:

EMANUELA MARTINI, Torino Film Festival director
EMILIANO LIUZZI, journalist (Il Fatto Quotidiano)
ÁINE O’HEALY, professor at Loyola Marymount University, LA

THOMAS MARTINELLI, journalist and DOCartoon director
KAY McCARTHY, musician

The 8th edition of Irish Film Festa will take place from March 26th to 29th at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

Follow us also on twitter @IrishFilmFesta and on our facebook page: you’ll find daily news about Irish cinema as well as all the updates about the festival.

Mauro Gervasini (IFF 2014 Jury) and Susanna Pellis

Three questions to… Ian Lawton, director of Coma

Do we live to work or work to live? Coma is one of the short film selected for the 8th edition of Irish Film Festa and it was shot by director Ian Lawton using an iPhone 4s.

The main character, played by Chris Aylmer, is stuck in a job that leaves him no time for proper living and being happy with his family. What will he choose to do?

Ian Lawton explains how he came up with the idea for the script and what does it mean to make a 4-minute short film with just a smartphone.


The short shows the effects work can have on people’s lives: why did you choose this theme?

It was based upon my own personal experience. I was commuting to a job that was a great distance from my home. I would have to leave early while my family was still asleep and despite my best efforts would not make it home in time to see my kid before bedtime. One evening I observed, upon returning home to a sleeping child yet again, that it was like he was in a coma, as I only saw him while he was sleeping.

This sewed the seed of inspiration for the film. It’s full of metaphor, repetition, life going down the drain, etc. Do we live to work or work to live?
The response from people has been very emotional. Occasionally tears. A lot of people relate to the story, but it is of course open to individual interpretation.

Ultimately, it’s a love letter to my son.


Has filming the short on an iPhone affected your choices as a director, in terms of frame composition and cinematography?

It was very freeing, actually. I could come up with shots that I could never achieve with a larger conventional camera. Since the phone was so lightweight I could mount it practically anywhere, using very little equipment. I shot this film by myself with no crew and this allowed me to move very quickly and make decisions on the fly without having to consult anybody. It was just myself and actor Chris Aylmer for the most part on set. Working with an iPhone has its limitations, but as long as you embrace them, be aware of what you can and cannot achieve beforehand, then simply use that to your advantage and make it part of the style of the film.


What about the music by Nils Frahm?

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Nils is a neo-classical composer from Germany and For is an improvisational piece he composed on the Juno keyboard. I knew music would dominate the soundtrack of the film so I had to be very careful with my choice. Initially, I thought the film would have an original score, but as soon as I heard that piece by Nils, I knew instantly it was right for the film. In fact, I sought permission to use the music long before I even began production on the film.


Three questions to… Denis Fitzpatrick and Ken Williams, directors of The Break

The Break-interview
Denis Fitzpatrick and Ken Williams are the directors of The Break, one of the short films selected for the Irish Film Festa 2015 competition.

Tim (Ronan Leahy) lives in a tent on the beach with his two young sons (Barry Keoghan and Jacob Lea), as a consequence of the economic crash: they really love each other but everyday life is not easy.

The Break is the fourth short film by Denis Fitzpatrick and Ken Williams, after Car Film with Jack Reynor, The Daisy Chain with Fiona Shaw as the Narrator (which was in competition at Irish Film Festa in 2014) and The Last Dart with Fionn Walton.

Denis and Ken spoke to us about the story of The Break and its amazing group of actors.


How and when did you get the idea to tell this story?

K. Williams: Denis and I both liked the idea of doing something with a tent and the script grew from there, really. We did worry we were just doing another ‘recession’ piece but we felt it was an interesting take on it.

D. Fitzpatrick: Ken wrote a really powerful script. A father at the end of his tether, who deals with the economic collapse in his own simple way – that’s actually not so simple. It’s also about outsiders and how they’re treated.


Where was the short film shot?

K. Williams: The short was shot over four days, Friday to Monday last April in Wicklow, which proved to be perfect for what we needed as we were able to find all our locations within a few miles of each other. We used Brittas Bay in Wicklow for our beach scenes. The beach has proved to be a popular location in recent years, and has featured in films such as What Richard Did and the Penny Dreadful tv series. We also used a small shop and a pub in nearby Redcross.

D. Fitzpatrick: The location was very important and we couldn’t have asked for better. We were haunted with the weather too!


What about the casting?

D. Fitzpatrick: Ronan Leahy was always our first choice to play Tim. I had seen him on the stage in Drum Belly at the Abbey Theatre, so he’d been on my radar for a while, and when myself and Ken went to see him in The Colleen Bawn, we knew that we had our man.

We cast Barry Keoghan on the advice of Maureen Hughes, who is one of the biggest casting directors in the Country. His star has been rising over the past two years, and we were delighted to get him on board while he was still available!

Jacob Lea is another one for the future, and has already amassed a good number of credits for such a young age.

Emmet Kirwan starred in a previous short film that I’d directed, so I was delighted to get him for this one. His two man play Dublin Oldschool was one of the highlights of last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival.

Ken has worked on a number of projects with Aoibhéann McCann and she was very involved in all in the pre-production too.

I had only previously seen Jon Kenny in his various comedy guises. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with him on his scene with Ronan, and to watch the drama unfold.

K. Williams: I’m delighted with the cast and crew we worked with. Ronan was a total pro and gives a terrific performance, and I’m expecting big things from Barry, he’s a proper actor. Russell, our DOP, and his team really made the film look beautiful. We’ve been very lucky. That’s the best thing about making films – the amazing people you get to work with.


Three questions to… Damien O’Connor, director of Anya

Anya is one of the five animated short films selected for the Irish Film Festa 2015 competition: it is directed by Damien O’Connor and produced by Brown Bag Films, the two Oscar nominated studio founded in 1994 by Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O’Connell. Damien has already taken part in our festival last year, with his short After You.

Anya tells the story of a little Russian orphan and was commissioned by Irish charity To Russia With Love: founded by Debbie Deegan in 1998, this charity provides programmes of care to abandoned and orphaned Russian children.

We spoke to Damien O’Connor who gave us an interesting insight into the development of this special project.


Why did you at Brown Bag Films decide to produce a short to support To Russia With Love?

Debbie Deegan, who runs To Russia With Love, phoned me in work one day out of the blue to ask if I would like to make them a 30 second advert. I didn’t know Debbie or her charity so I explained that it would just be too much work and politely declined.

However, Debbie never takes no for an answer so I ended up being 45 minutes in the phone explaining every reason why I couldn’t do it. I again told her no, hung up and returned to my desk. There was an email waiting for me from Debbie Deegan: she wanted to know when we would start.

I was amused enough to look up the To Russia With Love website, once I read about the kids in her care, I knew I had to help. I phoned her back and told I would help, but only if we could make a short film as it would get more exposure than an advert. She happily agreed so we pitched it to the studio looking for volunteers. Fortunately loads of people wanted to help out, so that’s how it all began.


How did you choose this particular story to tell?

I originally wrote it as a ‘once upon a time’ bedtime story, the twist being that the woman telling the story is the orphan we have just seen growing up in the orphanage.

I then travelled to the Hortolova orphanage in Bryansk, Russia, and met the children. I heard about their stories and quickly learnt they all had something the story was missing – hope. This was also the trip where I filmed the kids running about acting out the film, Sascha (the blond girl on the credits) became our Anya.

The line ‘Dream Big Little One’ was a line that an Irish volunteer used to whisper to the children. So I rewrote the story to make it more optimistic and designed the character around Sascha.

Then we kept working on the animatic trying to get the story to come together, the final shot with the train in the background was the last piece of the puzzle, once I put that in I was happy I had a story that worked, but also a story that would let the kids know there is always hope for their futures.


Despite its tough theme, the short conveys a light atmosphere: how did you work on the colour scheme? And what about the soundtrack?

I was the art director on the film so I knew we had to go from cold blues to warm gold and red so we planned that very early on. I was also very lucky to have three great lighters working on the film – they really worked hard to give it a rich look and they were all also very keen to have the details be 100% accurate, so they worked on the lace curtains, the peeling paint and the overall textures to make sure it all work. They did an amazing job.

The soundtrack is by Darren Hendley, who I have worked with before. I used a temp track to time the animatic, originally it was all sad cellos and violins, but it was not working, so I swapped it for a more upbeat tempo. Darren then came up with the idea of the music ‘catching’ – it is almost like the score tries to play three times, failing the first two times until Anya gets up from bed and goes exploring.

Part of the temp music I had used early on was the Gravity soundtrack which features the amazing Lisa Hannigan. I got in touch to ask is she could record vocals, she was very responsive and agreeable and it is her singing on the Anya story. We kept tweaking the edit and the music throughout production until it all gelled and I am delighted with the results: everyone loves the music!


Short films selection 2015

Fifteen short films have been selected for the 2015 Irish Film Festa competition.

This year we received about one hundred submissions and we would like to thank all the Irish filmmakers for their participation.

Ten shorts will compete in the live action category and five shorts will compete in the animation one. Our 2015 competition is organized in collaboration with Irish Design 2015.

Here’s the list of the selected short films:

The Break Ken Williams, Denis Fitzpatrick
Coma Ian Lawton
Ghost Train Lee Cronin
The Good Word Stuart Graham
I’ve Been a Sweeper Ciarán Dooley
Keeping Time Steve Woods
The Measure of a Man Ruth Meehan
Novena Anna Rodgers
Rúbaí Louise Ní Fhiannachta
The Weather Report Paul Murphy

Anya Damien O’Connor
Deadly Aidan McAteer
The Duel Alex Sherwood, Ben Harper, Sean Mullen
The Ledge End of Phil Paul Ó Muiris
Somewhere Down The Line Julien Regnard

The 8th edition of Irish Film Festa will take place from March 26th to 29th at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

Follow us also on twitter @IrishFilmFesta and on our facebook page: you’ll find daily news about Irish cinema as well as all the updates about the festival.

Ciarán McMenamin all'Irish Film Festa 2014
Ciarán McMenamin at Irish Film Festa 2014

Irish Film Festa 2015, short films submissions now closed

Short films submissions for the competitive section of the 8th Irish Film Festa closed yesterday. The festival will take place from March 20th to 29th, 2015, at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

This year we received about one hundred submissions and we would like to thank all the Irish filmmakers for their participation.

We are now working on the final selection and the titles of the shorts chosen for the competition will be announced by mid January.

In the next few weeks we are also going to present the new graphic concept for Irish Film Festa 2015.

Follow us also on twitte@IrishFilmFesta and on our facebook page: you’ll find daily news about Irish cinema as well as all the updates about the festival.

Stuart Graham accepting the Irish Film Festa 2014 Award for Brian Deane’s “Volkswagen Joe”


Irish Film Festa 2015, March 26th – 29th

The 8th edition of Irish Film Festa will take place from March 26th to 29th 2015, as always at the Casa del Cinema in Rome.

Submissions for the short films competition are still open and will close on December 15th (informations here).

Follow us also on twitter @IrishFilmFesta and on our facebook page: you’ll find daily news about Irish cinema as well as all the updates about the festival.

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Irish Film Festa Visual Contest 2015: submissions open until October 31st

The Secret of Kells

Irish Film Festa is inviting artists, graphic designers and photographers to submit an original graphic concept for the 8th edition of the Festival which will take place in March 2015.

Entries must be submitted before October 31st, 2014.

The graphic concept should reflect the identity of Irish Film Festa and highlight the link between cinema and Ireland.

All techniques are accepted.

The author of the winning project will receive €200.00 (two hundred euros) in Amazon vouchers. Furthermore, his/her name will appear in the catalogue, on the site and on all the festival’s other media and supports.

Download the regulation and the application form.

Write for info: