Survey Results

27th May 2020 by admin

We recently asked members to complete a survey in a bid to get a complete and up-to-date assessment of what you, our members, want from your Guild. Using this survey you told us what specific areas or activities you would like us to focus on. The results below will enable us to make decisions that will best serve your needs and provide you with the maximum benefit from your membership.

You can read the results of the survey here.

Scriptorium: Maura McHugh

27th May 2020 by admin

Maura McHugh lives in South Galway, and writes across media, including short fiction, comic books, novellas, plays, and screenplays. Her recent collection is The Boughs Withered (When I Told Them My Dreams), and the novella Psyche, which is set in the 2000 AD comic book universe.

Clíona Ruiséil: What are you working on at the moment and has your work been affected by Covid-19?

Maura McHugh: Currently I’m working on several prose projects and video game dialogue, which were contracted prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, and I’ve another comic book script to write soon. Later I’ve a screenplay to write.

Like most people my life has been spun around by the new regulations regarding COVID-19. In relation to work: all the festivals, conferences, and engagements I had lined up were cancelled. Since much of my social interactions with fellow writers happens at these events it was a series of sad blows. Yet, now I’m seeing festivals moving to virtual platforms. One of my cancelled gigs was a panel discussion at Cymera, Scotland’s Festival of Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, which has now become a public Zoom event. I also participated in a virtual ‘Poets’ Breakfast’ for the Kinvara Arts Festival, Fleadh na gCuach a couple of weeks back.

Despite all the disruptions, including having to care for elderly parents who are cocooning, my work has been continuing, although I had quite a dip in creativity for a period as we adjusted to the new regime. I’m working from home alongside my husband now which brings its own set of challenges! But I’m grateful for all my advantages, in particular that I have high-speed fibre broadband at home – we couldn’t manage without it.

CR: The added stress is something everyone could relate to I imagine, but are writers better prepared to deal with this kind of crisis as they are generally used to dealing with uncertainty and in a practical sense, working from home?

MM: Definitely understanding how to work from home as a freelancer helps, and we are more used to long spells of introverted work. Yet that also means our social outlets are vital. We’re all trying to find new ways to connect with colleagues, friends and family now, and that’s leading to interesting developments. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of being a writer during this crisis is having a well-developed imagination!

CR: Tell me about your radio play and the challenges involved in writing it compared to say, the video games or comic books you’ve written?

MM: The radio play started life as a two-act science fiction rom-com drama I wrote called The Love of Small Appliances, which was selected to be part of Waking the Feminists West New Play Reading at the Galway Theatre Festival. That process had been super useful, as my work was read by several dramaturges, and I sat in on the cast rehearsal of the play with the director. Witnessing it produced live with audience feedback was invaluable. I had the idea in my mind that it could make a good radio play, and when I saw a call for work for the NearFM audio drama series I sent the script, and was delighted it was accepted.

One of the things I enjoy doing is figuring out the core strengths and unique qualities of each medium I work in. With radio it’s all about the characters and their individual voices in a very pure sense. It’s eyes-closed drama, so the characters have to be vibrant and real immediately, and ideally it requires excellent voice acting. It’s also a medium that allows for the exploration of ideas and deep introspection. Lisa Tierney-Keogh was the script adviser and she gave me some useful pointers, and the producer, Paul Loughran, was supportive. Director Nicola Murphy was helpful, conscientious, and worked really well with the cast, who brought a wonderful humanity to the characters, including the non-human ones! Then you need good sound engineering and post-production, and Gavin Byrne worked tech magic.

The reason I’m going to pains to describe everyone involved is that a great team elevates every script. All the media I work in – even prose – requires a supportive team. Unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t pull together as well as you’d like. The more I write the more I’m grateful to everyone who collaborates with me to create the best possible story experience for the audience.

CR: Are there any particular themes, issues or character types that interest you?

MM: I think a lot about identity, how we form it, what is integral to us, and how that is challenged or transformed depending on circumstances. I pay attention to technology and the innovative ways we integrate it into our lives. I consider future uses and what that may mean to us as a species. I tend to write horror, science fiction or fantasy so most of these cultural and individual concerns, fears or joys are expressed through those genres.

CR: The screenplay you’re going to write – what can you tell me about it?

MM: It’s a science fiction psychological thriller with the working title of Ardent, which is set in the future when the Earth is on the verge of environmental collapse. We may be capable of escaping the planet, but can humanity escape the dark obsessions that have led us to disaster? I’m indebted to Galway County Council for giving me an award under the Artist Support Scheme 2020 to help me write the script. I conceived the story some years ago with Greg Day, and Canadian writer/director Danishka Esterhazy (Level 16, The Banana Splits Movie) is now attached as director.

CR: Why do you write?

MM: I’m constantly imagining new worlds, peculiar people and strange situations, so writing is a great way to experiment with the scenarios and exorcise them from my brain!

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Scriptorium means a place for writing – so this is a place for you to discuss your work, your views on writing on general, your thoughts on the industry and anything else you’d like to mention. you can focus on a script that you’ve written which was produced during the last year, or one you’re currently writing. We hope you enjoy this series and look forward to hearing what you think of it. We welcome in particular writers who may have an unusual or atypical experience of scriptwriting in Ireland in terms of their ethnicity, gender, age, physical ability, socio-economic background or other life experience.

Bheadh áthas orainn freisin a chloisteáil ó scríbhneoirí le Gaeilge gur mhaith leo an agallamh a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge.

If you’d like to participate simply email: info@script.ie

Scriptorium: Christian O’Reilly

13th May 2020 by admin

Credits – feature film: ‘Inside I’m Dancing’, ‘Sanctuary’; TV – ‘Doctors’, ‘Casualty’, ‘Holby City’, ‘Deception’, ‘Red Rock’; theatre  – ‘Chapatti’, ‘Here we are again still’, ‘Is this about Sex?’, ‘The Good Father’.

Clíona Ruiséil: What are you working on at the moment?

Christian O’Reilly: I’m juggling a few projects at present, including a stage play called ‘Unspeakable Conversations’, which is based on a New York Times magazine article by wheelchair-user Harriet Johnson. The article describes her clash with Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, who argued that it should be legally permissible to euthanise disabled infants. I initially tried writing the play as a piece of verbatim theatre, edited together from her article and her email correspondence with Peter Singer. In more recent months, following two workshops, I realised that the verbatim form wasn’t really working and have had to explore it as a more conventional play. I’ve got a great cast to work with – disabled actors Liz Carr and Mat Fraser – and I’ve also got funding to stage the play, but everything is now in limbo due to Covid 19. We had planned to stage it in September at the Mermaid theatre, followed by Dublin Fringe Festival and Belfast International Arts Festival, but those plans are now in doubt.

I’ve also just finished the first draft of a new screenplay.

CR: You have written both plays and films. How do you feel about the available supports or funding for playwrights versus screenwriters in this country? And in terms of the craft, do you prefer one or the other?

COR: I think screenwriting is quite well supported, thanks to Screen Ireland. The application requirements make sense because your application is assessed on the strength of your idea, its potential for cinema, your writing and the extent to which you can craft a story for the screen. They have recently changed their guidelines and seem to no longer want full-length scripts, which is interesting and presents a new challenge to someone like me who would always have submitted full-length first drafts in the past. But funding for screenplays is also extremely competitive and there is the sense that it’s increasingly competitive.

In terms of theatre, there are also supports and funding available to playwrights, through the Arts Council. But I find the Arts Council application process is generally more time-consuming and more complicated. Also, you can’t simply apply for funding to write a play. And if you submit a play for development or production funding, the play itself is not assessed. Instead, the Arts Council weighs up things like the quality of the idea presented in the application, artistic merit of the idea, feasibility in terms of a realistic budget, the level of support from other artists or from venues and councils. And when you apply for such funding, you are in the position of being the lead applicant, i.e. producer. This is an added responsibility and one that many playwrights don’t have the experience or skills for.

In terms of the craft, sometimes I prefer writing plays and other times screenplays. It varies.

CR: What can you tell us about the new screenplay you’re currently working on?

COR: It’s a science fiction comedy set during the end of the world. The planet is dying due to climate change, there’s only enough food for five years and suddenly a deep voice booms from the sky. It’s God, decrying mankind for destroying the planet and announcing his retirement. From now on, it’s up to us to decide who gets into Heaven. The government drafts an Afterlife Access Act and the contract for Celestial Access is awarded to a corporation, which markets Heaven as a holiday destination for the rich, through a service called Transitional Assistance (assisted suicide). Pretty soon, everyone wants to leave this life for the next… all except one man, who believes life is for living.

It’s an idea I’ve been working on for a long time, but the Covid 19 situation has helped me to better imagine a future world in which climate collapse has also taken place. I’ve got another new screenplay on the go, but it’s not developed enough to pitch. I’m still at that point of having absolutely no idea if it’s any good or not.

CR: Which writer or writers do you admire and why?

COR: Right now I’m loving ‘Normal People’, which is based on Sally Rooney’s beautiful novel, and adapted for TV by her and Alice Birch and Mark O’Rowe. It has such emotional truth to it, the characters feel so real and it feels like it’s capturing something so authentic. It’s also a really great love story.

I recently loved watching ‘Fleabag’ by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and ‘Pure’ by Kirstie Swain. I loved the characters, who felt so flawed, so real, so funny and so vulnerable.

In the past I have loved the writing on shows like ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The Sopranos’, ‘The Crown’.

As a child, I loved ‘Peanuts’ by Schultz. Snoopy was my hero, but I identified more with Charlie Brown.

The first novel I fell in love with was ‘Catcher in the Rye’ by JD Salinger. I found it so sad and so funny.

I love ‘Whistle in the Dark’ by Tom Murphy, ‘Sive’ by John B Keane and ‘Translations’ by Brian Friel.

I love the writing in ‘Pure Mule’, ‘Bachelors Walk’, ‘The Young Offenders’, ‘Derry Girls’, ‘Love/Hate’.

I love to encounter great, driven characters who feel like real people.

I admire numerous writers, too many to list here!

CR: Apart from increase the available work and funding for writers, what can the industry do to better support writers?

COR: In an ideal world, we as Irish writers wouldn’t be so dependent on funding/income from Screen Ireland, the Arts Council and RTE. It would be great to work internationally, whether that be in TV, film or theatre. The UK is an obvious market for television work because so much TV is produced over there. So, if there was a way the industry here could help Irish writers connect with UK production companies and broadcasters, that could help – though, to be fair, there are no real barriers to entry when it comes to TV in the UK. Likewise, I think we need ways of accessing streaming services like Netflix as possible destinations for our projects.

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Scriptorium means a place for writing – so this is a place for you to discuss your work, your views on writing on general, your thoughts on the industry and anything else you’d like to mention. you can focus on a script that you’ve written which was produced during the last year, or one you’re currently writing. We hope you enjoy this series and look forward to hearing what you think of it. We welcome in particular writers who may have an unusual or atypical experience of scriptwriting in Ireland in terms of their ethnicity, gender, age, physical ability, socio-economic background or other life experience.

Bheadh áthas orainn freisin a chloisteáil ó scríbhneoirí le Gaeilge gur mhaith leo an agallamh a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge.

If you’d like to participate simply email: info@script.ie

Scriptorium: Oonagh Kearney

28th April 2020 by admin

Oonagh Kearney is a writer and director from Cork. She is currently working on two feature films and a TV series.
For more info, please visit: www.tyrellapictures.com

Clíona Ruiséil: Tell me about the script you’re currently writing, ‘Snow on Beara’?

Oonagh Kearney: Snow on Beara is a feature narrative script set in West Cork. It’s about three strangers, whose lives collide over a weekend as a snowstorm sets in. It’s about how their lives are transformed in small, subtle ways, and also in bigger ways, the impact of which stretches beyond the final page. It’s also a road movie, set on a tractor, but they don’t travel far, maybe ten kilometres. I remember reading somewhere that we can’t do road movies here because we don’t have the breathless expanse, say, of the States. Anyone who has driven in Ireland knows how untrue this is. Our land and seascapes are full of mystery and beauty and it’s so easy to get lost and found on the road. The screenplay is in phase two development with Screen Ireland, and I’m writing draft six as we speak. I probably find it hard to talk too deeply about the theme, as I’m not looking at it from the outside, I’m pretty immersed. My mouthy character Jo-Jo would probably say, “fuck theme, what’s that about? It’s about me, and you, and her, okay”. Yeah, she’s eighteen and a lot of fun. Somehow, given where we are with Covid, I hope the story will speak to the idea of what can happen when we come together, whilst also addressing some hidden pains women carry around with them. Tonally, it has a slightly surreal feel, because the action is quite heightened. I’m dedicated to realism in its actualisation, but I feel that within realism, things can get pretty surreal. And that space can become painfully funny, even absurdly funny at times, especially when people are cooped up together and their coping mechanisms are put on trial. With a central cast of three women, it is of course about women, and in particular, about how they relate to their roles as mothers and daughters, within the wider framework of how society views these roles. The whole story happens over a weekend, which is something I’ve always loved in other work – unity of time and place. It challenges me to find ways to unlock the extraordinary within the ordinary. Crucial here is the snow. Snow is rare in West Cork, and to me carries a feeling of wonder, a transient magic that melts quickly, but can still leave a mark.

CR: How do you approach writing a new script? Are there aspects you find particularly easy or difficult?

OK: That really depends. It’s a new relationship each time, and it reveals itself to me as I go along with it. Only this morning, I was texting a screenwriter friend about an old idea that is resurfacing because of lockdown. Ideas come and go, but do they ever really disappear? In that sense, were they ever really created? We are all constantly inspiring each other, like with the air we breathe… writing is inventing and borrowing, imagining and rearranging. When I commit to a script, it will have something really important to me in it – a feeling, or a conflict, or a question, something that will sustain me over many hours of thinking and writing. I can get a sharp rush of feeling a whole story at once, but when I break it down, it doesn’t work at all. So figuring out the architecture takes time. With this current draft, I’ve broken my action into sequences. It feels more manageable. I’ve discovered if stuff doesn’t work, it’s not always because it’s wrong in itself, it can be because it’s in the wrong place. In this regard, my early draft is usually my friend. It may be a chaotic mess, but it has something unfiltered that I like to go back to. Characters probably come easier to me than plot, but because of this, I tend to overcompensate, and become a bit plot-obsessed. I think it’s a fear of boring people. Quick, make something else happen. Throw in another obstacle. In reality, internal conflict, done well, is pure cinema. Recently Céline Sciamma gave a BAFTA talk about her screenplay Portrait Of A Lady On Fire. In it she challenges the principle of conflict as the basis of dramatic writing (you’ll find it online, well worth a watch). Yet when I remember her film (must see it again) and her exquisite screenplay, it is brimming with internal conflict simply because it’s a love story – fizzing with all the insecurity, fear, hope and wonder that goes with that territory. The point she makes is that by eschewing potential external conflict (ie generated by the fact that it’s two women in love in a certain period etc), she tells a story in which their love becomes possible and lived, and makes a compelling case for how this is enough to sustain a story.

I think I’ve gone off the point. Do I have rules for when I start? Sometimes an image becomes important, sometimes not. Usually it’s a feeling. I like to start with a conversation, ideally with a story editor or producer. Then l move to outline, and share. This wasn’t the case with Snow on Beara, which is unusual in that I approached SI with a draft after working with a script editor in London. I also didn’t get it into development on my first attempt. The lead-in to my second feature was different, with producers attached from the get-go. I usually go through titles like cups of coffee, maybe it’s my way of keeping things fresh? I find research pretty fascinating. But I do it later and later. I go with my gut more and if the research contradicts something, I’ll change the script after. I usually clean a lot before I start something new. Get grumpy. And then finally give into it.

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Scriptorium means a place for writing – so this is a place for you to discuss your work, your views on writing on general, your thoughts on the industry and anything else you’d like to mention. you can focus on a script that you’ve written which was produced during the last year, or one you’re currently writing. We hope you enjoy this series and look forward to hearing what you think of it. We welcome in particular writers who may have an unusual or atypical experience of scriptwriting in Ireland in terms of their ethnicity, gender, age, physical ability, socio-economic background or other life experience.

Bheadh áthas orainn freisin a chloisteáil ó scríbhneoirí le Gaeilge gur mhaith leo an agallamh a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge.

If you’d like to participate simply email: info@script.ie

ONLY CONNECT

27th April 2020 by admin

ONLY CONNECT

By Hugh Farley

Screen Skills Ireland Webinar – Friday 17 April 2020

Last night, my family went out again on our doorstep to join our street and I guess the whole country, to applaud the frontline health workers who are working so bravely to keep us safe.

There has been so much community spirit on display – rosters of people delivering essential supplies to the old and vulnerable for example, and a huge desire to connect and re-connect with family and friends virtually.

All of which got me thinking about how this crisis could and must be a catalyst of change in the film/tv sector. You noticed that I didn’t say business because that implies that you can make a living from it.

For many of us in the sector, even in the best of times, full-time employment is a bit of a pipe dream. Last year’s European survey of writers’/directors’ incomes revealed two interesting facts. Firstly, the median income of writers and directors is 25K per annum and of that only 19K comes from their audio-visual work

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The second fact is that as writers and directors gain more experience, the importance of a secondary source of income becomes more important not less.

That, of course, is a survey across Europe. What is the situation in Ireland.? Last week we surveyed our members of the Writers Guild and this is what we learnt: Only less than a third wholly earn their living from writing. For the other 70 per cent, a secondary source of income is vital.

Now lest you think this special pleading, let’s acknowledge that many technicians, performers, directors, and even producers are in the same boat – and that was before the coronavirus crisis.

If we’re serious about becoming an industry, we have to take a long hard look at ourselves. What is clear is that we will have to grow capacity, competence and capital and frankly a sense of artistic and commercial daring. We are competing with bigger economies, with a tradition of excellence in filmmaking and a well-developed talent development eco-system.

Let’s take a look at our next door neighbour, the UK, for example. In 2016 – before the streaming production boom really took off – Film and TV content generated £15bn. Foreign sales accounted for £4.7 bn. Its audiovisual sector is 20% larger than its nearest European rival, Germany, whose population is 20% bigger than the UK.  Since then Netflix and Amazon have booked out studio space spending £280 million in 2018. In Shepperton Studios alone, they are using all 14 soundstages.

The UK is a magnet for US film and TV capital because of its studio infrastructure, extensive talent base in front of and behind the cameras and growing number of UK production companies like Left Bank Pictures who have developed and produced highly successful intellectual property like ‘The Crown’.

So today, while everything is at a standstill and we’re scratching our heads about how we get things going again, we need to take the opportunity to re-consider how we can improve our market position to deliver great TV and Film content at higher volumes.

Yesterday, Screen Ireland launched a major series of initiatives to pump capital into our screen industries to help alleviate the hardship caused by covid-19. I think they are brave and practical measures and represent a welcome nimbleness and vision. But for me, what marks these initiatives out is that they are the product of extensive consultation with representative organizations like ourselves, and we believe that this is an essential template for the future.

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Desirée Finnegan the CEO of Screen Ireland and her colleagues have done their best to listen to industry needs and design targeted supports that deserve commendation.

So our screen industries are about to make a massive investment in development. Now the question is: develop what.?

Let’s take a look at the big picture…

Many markets have seen a drop in cinema attendances (strangely enough Eastern European audiences are bucking the trend). That in tandem with the collapse of DVD sales has meant the profitability of feature films – always precarious – got a lot riskier.  In fact, European produced films account for only one quarter of films exhibited in Europe.

Younger audiences make up the majority of revenue but they will only turn out for big-budget superhero movies which has resulted in US studios hoovering up high concept IP that centres around comic book franchises and world-building novels. Unfortunately, that is not the kind of film we make.

Getting that 35-plus audience to the cinema is harder than ever. Factor in a babysitter, transport costs, parking, tickets and popcorn and you’re looking at €70 euro for a movie. Assuming that – as we unwind the lockdown – it is possible for 100 people to sit in the same room for two hours…

Many are more than happy to see award-winning movies like ‘Roma’ and critically acclaimed movies like ‘The Irishman’, ‘Uncut Gems’ and ‘Marriage Story’ in the comfort of their own homes in 4k surround sound while the kids watch gaming play-throughs on YouTube in their bedrooms.

Which all means that we cannot take for granted there will be a platform or network of platforms on which independent cinema will be shown.

That is a problem for the Irish Film industry especially because this country makes arthouse or  niche genre films – which begs the question what happens to those movies in a post-Covid 19 crisis environment where cinema admissions may be limited per screen and art-house screens around the globe pull the shutters down.

Back in 2010’s, the Irish Film Board’s world view was essentially this. It was in the feature film business and its relationship with TV was as an ancillary market that screened the work it produced in precisely designed sequence (or recoupment corridor) after DVD and pay TV. Cinema was an art form and TV was…well….Not.

Things are very different today. The IFB became Screen Ireland and began investing a small proportion of its annual budget in developing high-value international TV projects. The value of TV and streamed content is at least five times that of feature films – those numbers are from 2018 but with entry of Disney Plus and Apple into the market you can extrapolate they are much higher now. Netflix alone has invested $4bn in production and similar numbers are spent by the big players.

So in the context of all of that the question is…What is Irish Film?

Because to punch through of all of that you have to have a brand.

Like the Danes in the 90’s with Dogma 95 or more recently South Korea with Horror movies and viscerally violent thrillers. They worked hard to build their brand and look what happened this year: multiple Oscars for ‘Parasite’.

I’m going to read this from a online film journal called Vox:

“A victory like Parasite has long been in development for South Korea. Michelle Cho, professor of East Asian studies at the University of Toronto, told me that the media and entertainment industries in South Korea have been heavily pushed to globalize in the past 20 years. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, increased investment by the government and corporations in high-tech internet infrastructure and  top-notch research and development, production, and design all contributed to building up cutting-edge entertainment products.”

They had a plan and they executed it.

Can we do that? Let’s look at what we would have to do…

  1. Build Consensus.

  2. Learn from mistakes and share them. Those who do not learn from failures in the past are destined to repeat them.

  3. Support Talent not projects.

  4. Build a talent Ecosystem.

  5. Invest in more development in development than production. And experiment constantly with how we do what we do.

  6. Sort out Public Service Broadcasting. Irish culture has value – It defines who we are – but frankly during the Covid 19 crisis, it is keeping us and are kids sane. We have relied on RTE and TG4 as independent and trusted news sources as well as entertainment. We let them go to the wall at our peril. These programmes are made by Irish women and men and they will not continue to exist without reform of publicly funded broadcasting.

For those of you who think and hope that things will go back to the ways things were pre Covid -9, it is time to think again. All’s changed, changed utterly…You can complete the next sentence yourselves.

When Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes landed his men on the Mexican coast in the 16th century, he had the ships that took them there scuttled. As his horrified men watched the ships sink forever beneath the waves, Cortez turned to them and said: ‘There is no going back now. Only forwards.”

Covid 19 is our Cortes.

We need to start talking about our collective cultural future. We can do that if we…

Only Connect.

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Screen Talks Hugh Farley from Screen Talks on Vimeo.