Got back tonight from beautiful Galway, after spending 5 days at Ireland’s leading film festival.
This was our first Film Fleadh (seemingly pronounced ‘flarh’) and I doubt it’ll be our last. We went on the recommendation of David Wilkinson, who EVERYbody in the industry seems to know* and who we were introduced to by our great friend and fellow filmmaker Danny Lacey.
<*I’m tempted for our next doc to be “Who is David Wilkinson?” The man is fascinating, just the right side of mysterious – and above all, great fun to be around>
The trip was a great chance for us to scope out the latest independent releases, attend a few seminars and check that we’re on the right track with our own fledgling festival (isleofmanfestival.com), but we were primarily there under the steam of our production company, DAM Productions Isle of Man.
As DAM, we had booked ourselves into The Marketplace (industry meetings with distributors and sales agents) to discuss and introduce projects like The Watchmaker’s Apprentice, Ghostgirl and newly slated doc ‘To The Ends of the Earth’.
Zoe and Dave attended a dozen or so quickfire, 20minute meetings with everyone from Tribeca (DeNiro’s baby!) to Protagonist Pictures (distributors of ‘Searching for Sugarman’ and ‘The Imposter’), while I scoped out the festival itself, feasting on a brilliant mix of short films, documentaries, Q&A feature sessions and workshops. Sadly we missed all the masterclasses (Acting with Zachary Quinto, Screenwriting with Daniel Waters, Directing with Julian Fellowes – they don’t do these things by halves!), mainly because we couldn’t seem to find information about when and where they were on…But apart from that, the festival was superb.
Of course, the endless sunshine and soaring 30deg temperatures were a bonus, but Galway in itself is a great town – considerably busier and more vibrant than we’d anticipated, set beautifully by the River Corrib leading into the Atlantic. Some parts feel nostalgically small town Ireland, while other, newer areas are contemporary and cosmopolitan. If you’re willing to wander off the beaten track and investigate, the food to be found is fanTAStic… always a bonus for us three, who are complete foodies! *slips off into gastro-induced reverie*
But back to the festival. Screenings were split across four venues – two screens in the Galway IMC, one in the Town Hall Theatre and, rather brilliantly, one in the ‘Cinemobile’- essentially a pop up, 100 SEAT cinema, in a truck! Yes, we want one now.
The screening programme was extremely well put together across the 6 day event: a package of short films every day, dozens of features with a healthy mix of animation, documentary and world cinema, plenty of ‘Members of Cast/Crew in Attendance’ screenings, and several high profile introductions and Q&As.
Also, with it being the 25th Fleadh, there was a special event mid week – a ‘Surprise Screening’. None of the audience knew what they were going to watch but were told only that it was going to be something special… And special it was! Zachary Quinto came onstage and introduced the latest, brilliant feature from his new ‘Before The Door’ production company – the utterly compelling, intense one man drama ‘All Is Lost’ by JC Chandor and starring Robert Redford, which had only previously been shown at Cannes.
Zachary, who, just 15 years ago, worked in a cafe in Galway, was present over the course of the whole festival. He took part in a Star Trek Q&A screening the day we arrived, ran the Acting workshop and participated in another Q&A after the screening of the excellent ‘Margin Call’ – the first film he produced with ‘Before the Door’ and also JC Chandor’s writer/Director debut. This was one of our favourite films of the festival, and the Q&A was insightful, candid and inspiring – we were especially gobsmacked to learn the film went into production just a year after Zachary first read the script, was made for just $3m and was shot in 17 days, with Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons only coming on board two days before they were due on set… Astonishing achievement!
Other highlights of the fest for us were:
- Disney Pixar short films package, from ‘Luxor JNR’ all the way thru to this year’s ‘Blue Umbrella’ (Disney shorts are a masterclass in Story – not to mention being absolute works of art)
- ‘We Steal Secrets’ – the bizarre & compelling story of Wikileaks
- ‘Plot for Peace’ – a beautifully crafted and extremely important otherwise untold story about one of modern history’s most important ‘players’, the extra-ordinary, humbling Jean-Yves Ollivier (who was also present on the night) – whose determined and selfless actions led in part to the release of Nelson Mandela, amongst other things!
- The ACE Nightmare Scenario workshop, case study on the ‘The Invention of Love’ with Producer Herbert Schwering, who was forced to shut down production when his lead actress was found dead mid-shoot; he somehow managed, with his team, to “devise a way of turning the catastrophe into a new project, a new film built on both the original story and the story of the disaster itself.”
- Public Interview with Soairse Ronan, followed by screening of ‘Hanna’ in which she played lead role. Just 19years old and already a rising megastar, this gal is grounded, funny, intelligent and incredibly endearing. And Dave wants her for his next short film… ha! The interview was brilliant and it was fab to see ‘Hanna’ on the big screen again.
Special mention, too, to the brief but hilarious Q&A with Daniel Waters, following screening of cult 1980s black comedy and his first big feature ‘Heathers’.
All in all, a fab time had by all. We’re fired up and inspired for our own IOM minifest this year, bursting with ideas for next year’s considerably bigger IOM fest (for Island of Culture 2014) and, with our DAM hats on, are excited to progress our own projects and get them out to the industry. So, thanks Film Fleadh, hope to see you next year!