Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter's Bone

Written by: Debra Granik, Anne Rosselini
Directed by: Debra Granik
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt

Rating: 8/10

Winter's Bone tells a powerful story of Ree Dolly, a 17 year old girl who lives in the dangerous and hopelessly grim backwoods of Missouri. She is solely responsible for her much younger brother and sister and for taking care of her severely mentally ill mother. The local sheriff, solemnly played by the ever-wonderful Garret Dillahunt, informs her that her absent meth-cooking father has ditched bail and that his collateral was their small farm. If she doesn't find him they will be forced out of their home. What follows is Ree's trek around every grimy, drug infested hole in the county looking for any information she can get on her father.

Her frustration and desperation is palpable as she finds that her father was in so deep with the local drug-making "elite" that nobody will give her any information. She hits dead end after dead end and because everybody is generally unpleasant it is very difficult to tell friend from foe. As it starts to become likely that her father has in fact been murdered and his body "disposed of", Ree's situation looks utterly hopeless and the audiences cringes at this world that has sucked us into accepting a brutal murder of a father as "inconvenient". That is the shock of this story. Life is cheap, life is a chore we must get though until it is over and death is earned.

Winter's Bone is essentially a film noir set in the polar opposite of sultry LA. The structure of the story is almost like a video game where the protagonist goes from level to level unlocking prizes to get them to the next level. Here's the "prizes" are frustratingly small tidbits of information from unreliable sources. As onlookers on her journey, the audience can feel as angry and disgusted as she does. The risible junkies and dealers that she crosses paths with have learned to look out for number one and  the harsh, no-nonsense lives they lead have created a world in which "love thy neighbour" is laughably idealistic.

Her one ally (or is he?) is her father's brother Teardrop (deservedly Oscar-nominated John Hawkes)who is a hopeless junkie on his last legs who is reluctant to get involved in anything, but has a soft spot for his niece and her plight. Teardrop is really a wonderful character. He's scary, unpredictable, nasty but in this world, he is Ree's only hope.

As the story rolls towards its conclusion, Ree is faced with performing a most unimaginably grisly task to ensure the safety of her farm. This sequence is horrific to watch, truly heart-wrenching and it cements this characters status as the most badass teen ever committed to film. As good a performance as Ms. Lawrence turned in I found her looks to be distracting. Her angelic face and cherubic lips were far too typical Hollywood for my liking and that might seem like an unfair thing to say given the strength of her acting. But I do have to say that if I were casting the film I would have gone for someone a little more Sissy Spacek, a little less Charlize Theron. Otherwise, the rest of the cast is suitably decrepit and miserable-looking with a unified sense of malaise that it truly disturbing after a while.

This is a wonderful story, well told and the cast is wonderful. The backwoods meth aesthetic is an interesting one and I think it might be a new favourite sub-genre of mine (it's the reason I keep watching Showtime's Justified). However, while watching the film, I couldn't help feeling that it wasn't quite living up to its potential. It had all the elements of an incredible film but it just wasn't quite hitting the right notes for me. There was unfortunately something slightly TV-ish about the tone of the film and I kept thinking that in the hands of the right director (where are you Clint???) this would have been an instant classic. That's not to say this wasn't a remarkable film. It is certainly worth watching and deserving of it's accolades. Be warned, this is grim...I mean early Mike Leigh grim!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Congratulations to Irish short film The Crush for it's nomination! We're all rooting for you here!!

Black Swan
Best Picture
“Black Swan” 
“The Fighter” 
“The Kids Are All Right” 
 “The King's Speech” 
“127 Hours” 
“The Social Network” 
“Toy Story 3” 
“True Grit”
“Winter's Bone"

Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
The brilliant John Hawkes is nominated for "Winter's Bone
James Franco (127 Hours)

Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale (The Fighter)
John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)

Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
The luminous Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine"
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Michelle Williams in (Blue Valentine)

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Animated Feature Film
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“The Illusionist” 
“Toy Story 3”

Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland”
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
“The King's Speech”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
“True Grit”
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

The now-legendary revolving fight scene in "Inception"
“Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
“Inception” Wally Pfister
“The King's Speech” Danny Cohen
“The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
“True Grit” Roger Deakins

Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
“I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
“The King's Speech” Jenny Beavan
“The Tempest” Sandy Powell
“True Grit” Mary Zophres

“Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
“The Fighter” David O. Russell
“The King's Speech” Tom Hooper
“The Social Network” David Fincher
“True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Documentary (Feature)
“Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
“Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
“Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject)
“Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
Danny Boyle's daring true story racked up an unexpected 6 nominations
“Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
“Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
“Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
“The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing
“Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
“The Fighter” Pamela Martin
“The King's Speech” Tariq Anwar
“127 Hours” Jon Harris
“The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

"Dogtooth" - an edgy choice for Best Foreign Language film
Foreign Language Film
“Biutiful” Mexico
“Dogtooth” Greece
“In a Better World” Denmark
“Incendies” Canada
“Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria

“Barney's Version” Adrien Morot
“The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
“The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)
“How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
“Inception” Hans Zimmer
“The King's Speech” Alexandre Desplat
“127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
“The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)
“Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Short Film (Animated)
“Day & Night” Teddy Newton
“The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
“Let's Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
“The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Irish short film "The Crush" by Michael Creagh
Short Film (Live Action)
“The Confession” Tanel Toom
“The Crush” Michael Creagh
“God of Love” Luke Matheny
“Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
“Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing
“Inception” Richard King
“Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
“Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
“True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
“Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing
“Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
“The King's Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
“Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
“The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
“True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
“Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
“Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
“Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
A shoo-in for Best Adapted Screenplay.
“127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
“The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
“Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
“True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Winter's Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay)
“Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
“The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
“Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
“The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
“The King's Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

Friday, January 21, 2011

Black Swan

Written by: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel.

Rating: 10/10

Darren Aronofsky’s powerful new horror/thriller/melodrama is truly in a class of its own and proves yet again that he is one of the world’s most reliably imaginative, fearless and powerful film directors. After the admittedly underwhelming The Fountain, Aronofsky followed up with the stripped bare, no punches pulled The Wrestler which was a feat of restraint and nuance which triumphed as a touching tale of the lengths that performers will go to not to leave the prime of their career behind. In The Wrestler, Aronofsky deals with an ageing wrestler who refuses to give up despite his train-wreck of a body begging him to give it a break. In Black Swan he tackles a ballerina in the prime of her life, just reaching the pinnacle of her much-sought “perfection” which is taking its toll not only on her body but on her mental health also.

Nina is a ballerina, the daughter of an obsessed former ballerina, and she has worked her whole life to be “the best”. She is the perfect daughter, beautiful, polite, subservient and modest. She works hard and is insecure about her social skills but tries to get along with people as best she can. She dreams (literally) about playing The Swan Queen in Swan Lake, every ballerina’s dream no doubt and as it happens her ballet company’s former star, Beth (Ryder) retires and leaves a space for a new star to emerge. Thomas (Cassel), the leering genius choreographer, believes she is a perfect White Swan but doesn’t believe that she has the depth, darkness or sensuality to play the Black Swan, an evil seductress. Deep down she knows he’s right and what follows is Nina’s desperate foray into the dark side of her soul, one which has been so neglected that it has become dangerously repressed.

If David Cronenberg did women’s pictures he might just have given us Black Swan. Almost everything about this is classic David Cronenberg; the duality that becomes more and more trippy; the focus on the body as a fallible and often grotesque instrument of obsession; the endeavour for progress that ultimately brings about the downfall of the hero. This territory has been tread by Cronenberg in such films as The Fly, Videodrome and Dead Ringers. However, with Cronenbergs other notable penchant being masculinity, there’s no room for him in this film. Black Swan is in every way a film about being a woman; in the most volatile, dark, hideous form of femininity. Almost everything about the protagonist, Nina encapsulates the absolute worst aspects of womanhood. The insecurities, the pressure to control one’s own body, the thin line between Madonna and whore, the ugliness that comes with the pursuit of perfection. I’m not accusing this film of misogyny, but the grotesque darkness underpinning Nina’s journey is certainly an inherently female one.

As ugly as it is beautiful, Darren Aronofsky has sculpted a story here that is so profoundly horrific that it amazed me that it hasn’t been told before. The less said about the plot, the better as the “plot” is fairly thin. There’s not much by way of story, it is more a beautiful exercise in atmosphere and a dark fairytale about obsession and repression. Natalie Portman puts on the performance of a lifetime here and earns the Oscar nomination (and probably win) she will inevitably receive. She is in turns transcendently beautiful, frighteningly ugly, off-puttingly child-like and darkly sexy, depending on the scene. Her body is put through the mill to impossible lengths and she is so skinny she starts to look skeletal in parts. This is a flawless performance and it can’t be overstated how important the central performance is for this film to work. Kudos must also go to the supporting cast who plays their small roles with gusto. Vincent Cassel is a wonderfully believable menace and Winona Ryder’s fading star is wicked and soulful and Mila Kunis is a giddy, sexual delight in a role in which charisma is so important. Barbara Hershey is truly upsetting as Nina’s nightmarish stage mother. It is easy to feel the intense mix of love and fear in their household and the genuine tenderness mixed with regimental bullying.

This is a perfect production on every level. The music, Clint Mansell's aural raping of Tchaikovsky is deeply unsettling, ugly enough to complement the film's darkness and beautiful enough to evoke real emotion in the audience. The visuals are simply stunning and the energy with which the film is shot ensures that you will spend most of the film beside yourself in the grip of terror and just general unease.

Black Swan is a stunner of a film. Frightening, tender and eloquent; it is a visual poem of epic proportions about one girl’s meltdown told from a stunningly intimate viewpoint. A story told from the inside out, and one which manages successfully to keep you on board in the most devastating fashion until long after the credits rolled.

 - Charlene Lydon

Thursday, January 20, 2011

We Love...The Town from Film Ireland

Ben Affleck’s second film as a director The Town allayed the doubts of any sceptics. Gone Baby Gone (2007) was an ambitious, impressive debut which pulled some brilliant performances from its cast and told a complex story deftly. This time Affleck upped the ante by not only directing The Town but also starring in the film. The Town is a pleasant surprise as it is not only a perfect showcase for Affleck’s powerful filmmaking skills but the role proves he is much more than chiselled features and a cheeky grin. Due to some poor choices in the past, Ben Affleck is rarely given much credit for his acting skills but here he provides a mix of likeability and classic Hollywood charisma. He has proven withThe Townthat he is certainly next in line to Eastwood’s throne as the King of the Actor/Directors, not that Eastwood shows any signs of hanging up his crown just yet.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, The Town is a classic heist setup. Doug (Affleck) is a nice guy born on the wrong side of the tracks into an area of Boston where bank robbers seem to be bred from generation to generation. He is convinced to do one last job but things get complicated when they take Claire, a smart, sexy bank manager (Rebecca Hall) as a hostage. Doug is sent to seduce her in the hope that he might find out what she is telling the FBI but he soon becomes enamoured of her, jeopardising the relationships between the gang.
This is a pretty generic story but what makes this film special is that it does not revel in the lifestyle of these people. The world that is built in the film is not the cocaine-fuelled high-life of gangsters á la Goodfellas;these are blue collar, working-class men who were raised in this lifestyle and rob banks like expert scamps, giddy on the adrenaline and unaffected by the presence of the law. ‘The Law’ in this case is represented by FBI agents Frawley (Jon Hamm), a prejudiced and jaded bureaucrat and Ciampa (Titus Welliver), a former resident of Charlestown, now sympathetic turncoat. The complex dynamic of cop and robber is brilliantly evolved due to the delicate balance of where our sympathies lie.
As the story progresses and the relationship between Doug and Claire deepens the tension mounts as Doug becomes more and more tangled in the web of family and neighbourhood ties he is stuck in.
There are three major action sequences in the films, the first being Claire’s bank which is thrilling, and frightening in its brutality (undoubtedly influenced by Nolan’s opening scene inThe Dark Knight). The second action sequence is a post-robbery car chase through Boston’s winding, hilly, North End. I’m not usual one for car chases but I cherished this one as a one-of-a-kind action sequence that got every element perfect for cinematic thrills. The blue-collar nature of The Town ensures a creeping sense that life is cheap and happy endings are not guaranteed, giving this film an added layer of turmoil.
The final action set piece is a brazen robbery of Fenway Park. A brilliant sequence, the story of this one robbery in all its intricacy is like a film all to itself. It also leads to the film’s final showdown and thrilling climax which is so packed with energy and cinematic tension that it became clear that this is the year’s best thriller by a mile (take that, Lisabeth Salander!).
In a film that plays with notions of heroes and villains, kudos must go to the recently deceased Pete Postlethwaite for his slimy portrayal of the only clear evil bastard of the film, Fergie the florist; a wonderfully memorable monster whose villainous ways are delightfully menacing and gut-wrenchingly hateful. Never has rose-stem snipping been more terrifying. A fitting end to a great career!
I’ve never found myself a lover of gangster films or heist films. In fact, I usually find it difficult to connect with them at all. The Town is, for some reason or another, a welcome exception. Perhaps it was the fact that I could buy into the lifestyle as a bread-and-butter means to an end rather than a hedonistic pursuit of money and cocaine or perhaps it’s the community of characters that is so deftly woven together or maybe it’s just the sum of all its parts; acting, writing, directing, pacing adding up to a superior cinematic experience. In a year full of extremes of good and bad films, The Town proudly stands with the best of them as an example of how classy a genre film can be with the right talent involved.

 - Charlene Lydon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Film Ireland Article: GET INTO FILM

From the Summer issue of Film Ireland, this article investigates the merits of studying film and embarking upon a career in the notoriously difficult industry.

Get Into Film

So you’ve decided your future lies in film. But where to begin? Film Ireland’s Charlene Lydon advises on how to choose the course that’s right for you and talks to some up-and-coming Irish talent about where they went to college and what they learned there…

There are many schools of thought on the pros and cons of studying film. Some of the greatest filmmakers of our time, such as David Fincher, Peter Jackson and Steven Soderbergh never went to film school. Many are of the opinion that you can’t teach art – you either have it or you don’t. Modern technology has become so compact and so cheap that the ‘learn by doing’ philosophy is more feasible than ever before. Anybody can pick up a camera and shoot some footage, anyone can use a simple editing programme on their laptop and anybody can upload a video to YouTube.

In the past, many people went to film school simply because there was no other way to access equipment. With that no longer being the case, what are the benefits of going to film school? If nothing else, an education in film will help you decide where your strengths lie. Without actually trying it, it can be hard to know if you’re actually suited to directing. Or what about producing? Or screenwriting? You get to try out a variety of roles, gaining insight into how a crew fits together, the importance of each crew member’s role and, most importantly, the job that best suits your skills.

And apart from finding out which way you incline, if you’re interested in certain filmmaking skills like editing or cinematography you can absolutely reap benefits from formal training. You might be full of interesting ideas but without the knowledge of your tools, there are no guarantees you’ll ever reach your full potential. Training in a college gives you the chance to get familiar with the industry’s rapidly changing technologies.

A wise lecturer once said that you can learn as much from watching a bad film as you can from watching a good one. Studying film is all about watching films, giving you the skills to learn more every time you go to the cinema. There is an old myth that the study of film will impede your ability to enjoy films. Not true. It improves your ability to enjoy films by adding depth to the experience. The language of film is deeply embedded in all of us whether we know it or not, but an understanding of this language, how it works, and why it exists is fundamental to your filmmaking.

And now, the other benefit of studying film in a structured way. One of the secrets to succeeding in film is getting to know people. Word of mouth is an essential part of getting jobs in film and building a reputation is hugely important. Film courses are a great place to meet the future filmmakers of Ireland and start a New Wave together. Students often find themselves forming production companies together after college or working on each other’s films. It’s always good to have a pool of talented, dependable crewmembers for future projects and college is a very, very handy way to do this.

How to Choose the Right Course for You

There is a vast array of courses on offer in Ireland, both technical and academic. Technical courses are best suited to those interested in working as crew or in directing their own films. The focus is on practical work and while there will usually be some written work, a large part of your mark will be for project work. The academic study of film will suit you if you’re interested in becoming a film lecturer, a cinema programmer or a film critic. These courses focus on the history and theory of cinema. If you enjoy watching and discussing films, but are not so keen on making them, then this is the direction you should take.

Some courses contain elements of both technical and academic studies. These combination courses are quite broad and will allow you find the areas that suit you. If you know you love film but you’re not sure what you want to focus on then this is the option for you.

Film education comes in all shapes and sizes. Most degree courses are available as either full-time or part-time and postgraduate courses are often research-based, meaning you are not required to attend many lectures. If time is of the essence, evening courses are offered in various aspects of film. Many organisations also offer weekend or day-long workshops that are designed to cover just a specific area of filmmaking.

Filmbase is one place to find this kind of film training. The film and video training courses are for new and emerging filmmakers as well as practising film professionals. Course lengths vary from one-day to five-day, weekend courses and evening courses ranging from 6 to 10 weeks. This means they’re open to those in full-time work who want to explore a particular area or to film professionals who want to update their qualifications without having to take too much time off. It’s also an opportunity to find out where your strengths lie before you commit to a degree or a diploma or before embarking on a career in filmmaking. Filmbase is an Apple Authorized Training Centre, and all tutors who teach Filmbase courses are film professionals themselves, which brings an authenticity and practicality to the courses. For a full list of the training available at Filmbase, visit

If you want to try film but are afraid of taking the plunge with college fees, why not check with your local VEC. They offer a range of lower cost certificate and diploma courses around the country that can lead to further education and will, at the very least, provide you with a substantial portfolio of work.

So, whether you on the post-Leaving Cert precipice, you feel like a career change, or you just fancy a new hobby, there is something there for you.

Ballyfermot College Of Further Education
Nicky Phelan – director, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (short animation, 2008).

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying film?
I studied animation in Ballyfermot, where we did a lot of life-drawing and sketching out on location. It taught me the importance of observation – seeing what gives an expression or gesture its meaning, what elements of someone’s physicality tell you about their personality in terms of movement and presentation. All the details that go into making a set feel real and relevant to the world you are trying to create – observation and attention to detail, I suppose, two important lessons.

What was your first project and how did it go?
The first film as such I made in college was a group project, made on paper with pastel illustrations. We were happy with how it turned out, but I haven’t seen it in a long time!

What have you learned that college couldn’t teach you?
Lots of things. Experience is the best place to learn. I think something that comes with time is realising that to make something feel really emotional, it helps to bring your own personal experience to it. It’s sort of intuitive anyway, but it is an important question to ask yourself in terms of relating to your characters and world. You have to look at your story, characters and the world you are creating, and bring your own memories or experiences to them in some way. It all translates to an audience. I also did an amazing course through Screen Training Ireland with Bruce Block on visual storytelling, which was incredibly helpful and is something that I still refer to.

If you could tell students one thing, what would it be?
That while it’s a tough industry to get into, if it’s what you want to do, keep at it. Make films on your computer at home, do whatever, and keep at it. The more you put into the work, the more you’ll get out of it. If it starts to feel too much like hard work, you should probably do something else.

What would you change about film education in Ireland?
It might have changed by now, but in Ballyfermot I think we could have benefitted from a mentoring system – some way in which those working in the industry mentor students. I think having access to people with the technical know-how and experience would help the students improve production values and increase their chances of reaching wider audiences.

Do you think academic film study can inform technical ability?
Yes, to a certain degree, but there’s nothing like experience to inform technical ability.

Dublin City University
Eimear O’Kane – producer, Satellites & Meteorites (feature, 2008), Corduroy (short, 2009).

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying film?
I think the most useful thing I learned during my time studying was essay writing and the work I put into researching and writing my thesis. Learning to put forward a convincing and well-written argument has served me well in writing applications, synopses, etc.

What do you wish they had never told you?
That there weren’t many jobs out there – I found it to be untrue. You just need to be patient and keep working at it.

What was your first project and how did it go?
My first job was accounts trainee on Lassie. It was terrifying, as I had no experience in accounts and the dogs kept dribbling on my petty cash forms.

What have you learned that college couldn’t teach you?
Just the little things that you learn over time from working on set on a daily basis. It took me a long time to figure out what everyone’s job title really meant and how everyone fit together to form a cohesive and efficient crew.

If you could tell students one thing, what would it be?
There are jobs there if you are committed and willing to work hard. You may need to work for free for a time but if you are good at what you do you will eventually get noticed and start getting offered paid work.

What would you change about film education in Ireland?
I would include more work experience both on set and in production offices.

Do you think academic film study can inform technical ability?
Yes, I think it’s great to have the time to explore why things are done and to discuss what options are available. By watching and analysing films from directors/producers/designers/DOPs, etc., you can understand how a look or style is achieved and learn how to replicate and improve on it.

John Huston Film School, Galway
Will Collins – writer, My Brothers (feature, 2010)

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying film?
A thick skin. In the Huston the feedback process was always present. It was strange at first, especially for me since I had rarely ever shown my work to anyone. As a working writer, you have to get used to the notes process and the sooner you get used to it, the sooner the feedback will be constructive to your work.

What do you wish they had never told you?
How difficult it is to actually get anything produced. The odds are always stacked against the writer. However, they always told us a good script will always shine through.

What was your first project and how did it go?
For the Masters in Screenwriting we had to write a feature-length screenplay as our thesis. From the first week we had to start working on the ideas and I set about writing this Irish gothic black comedy set around the moving-statue craze in the eighties. It was a mad script with too many characters and I now describe it as a plot monster. While writing this script I knew I wanted to write something really simple and character-driven, something that was from the gut and felt ‘real.’ That was when My Brothers was born.

What have you learned that college couldn’t teach you?
You have to find your own voice. You can know everything about the three-act structure and film analysis but at the end of the day it’s only your voice as a writer that will make a script come alive. You have to go into yourself and find stories there and not try to stick successful film ‘A’ with successful film ‘B’ and hope a story forms. I’m sure they told us this in the Huston but I had to figure it out for myself.

If you could tell students one thing, what would it be?
Write one page every day. Just you, a pen and a piece of paper. Write something completely for yourself. This exercise has saved me on so many occasions. I might be stuck figuring out a plot or writing a scene but every morning I start with the ‘One Page’ idea. I force myself to create something new on that page, it’s usually rubbish but I always walk away feeling better, feeling ‘I made something.’ I don’t feel so bogged down with whatever I’m stuck on. Plus, sometimes these pages become the seeds for future stories.

What would you change about film education in Ireland?
It’s already changed a lot even from when I was in secondary school. Recently, I was giving a talk to a group of transition year students and I was delighted to learn that they were doing a film program where they actually made their own short films. In my day, films were something you wasted your time on at the weekends. I think film education needs to happen in the community as youth projects. I look at Kilkenny where they have a group called The Young Irish Filmmakers. From what I know, this was an after-school group. A number of the kids involved went on to form Cartoon Saloon, who were nominated for an Oscar® this year with the The Secret of Kells. The learning is in the doing.

Do you think academic film study can inform technical ability?
Definitely. At the Huston I was exposed to so many different pockets of film movements that it blew my mind. It was liberating. Through analysis you obtain a clearer understanding of how and why great films are great. Also, learning basic screenwriting tools is vital – like the three-act structure – and will save hopeful writers weeks or months of trying to figure out how to write a script for themselves (which I’ve done in the past). But then, as a writer, you have to let that analytical side go and allow yourself to be creative and instinctive. It’s a bit of a balancing act – it isn’t easy.

National Film School, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
Narayan Van Maele – director/DOP, Aunt (short film, 2009).

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying film?
As I was pretty new to the film world I found it great to be given the time to find out what you’re most interested in and where your strengths lie. During the first two years you’d do sound on one project, and then produce, direct, edit or do camera on others. Maybe the most important thing for me was being able to shoot on 16 mm. Being in film school allows you to experiment, make mistakes and to develop your own style without the pressure that you have in the ‘real world’, as lecturers used to call working in the industry.

What was your last project and how did it go?
With my film Aunt, I wanted to limit myself to the power of images and rely as little as possible on dialogue to convey the story. Aunt is set in the 1970s in the West of Ireland. It is about a family that hides the fact that their youngest daughter had a baby out of wedlock by giving the baby to the older sister who is already married and has a child.

My producer David Lester Mooney and I are both pleased with the film and are developing a follow-up project together.

What have you learned that college couldn’t teach you?
There’s a lot that film school can’t teach you. College is a playground where you meet people who have the same interests as you do. It’s up to you how much you put into it and how many working relationships you build up.

If you could tell students one thing what would it be?
If you haven’t already, take up photography. It’s surprising how few film students take photographs. For me film and photography are very similar. Not only do you get a feel for composition and the technicalities of exposing a proper image, but it also makes you a better storyteller.

What would you change about film education in Ireland.
I’d introduce intense workshops with industry professionals, not just with directors but also lighting/camera, sound and editing workshops. I’d also give the students more opportunities to work with a wider range of equipment that is used in the industry, such as 35 mm cameras, bigger lighting units, etc. Most importantly, I’d get all the different departments (set design, make-up, animation, etc.) to work together on projects. The importance of set design is something that we had to realise ourselves.

Do you think academic film study can inform technical ability?
People work in different ways. I’ve always been more comfortable with the practical approach. Reading books on photography and technical books on cinematography certainly helped me a lot, but ultimately I am the kind of person who learns by doing and trying things. Sometimes you fail, but what’s most important is the ‘doing’ bit.

Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT)
Denise Fogarty – second assistant director, Agoraphobia (short, 2008).

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying film?
I think the most important thing I learned was how important it is to organise and plan ahead, no matter how big or small your production. If you organise everything that you can during pre-production, then your production will run so much smoother.

What do you wish they had never told you?
That you’re only as good as your last job… It haunts me!!!

What was your first project and how did it go?
God, I can’t remember my first college project. I think it was shooting a one-minute linear piece on the theme of freedom. There were four of us in the group and I remember that we had to keep going from location to location as we were shooting linearly and couldn’t edit the footage. I suppose it was a good exercise, though, as it taught us about shooting ratio and not to do the same shot over and over when there was no need.

What have you learned that college couldn’t teach you?
I don’t think it is really a case of what college couldn’t teach me but you definitely can’t beat real experience – meeting new colleagues and seeing firsthand the different ways people work and how everyone’s roles combine in a successful production.

If you could tell students one thing, what would it be?
To get as much work experience as you can while you are at college and to make use of the equipment and facilities. Make projects on the side that you can add to your showreel.

What would you change about film education in Ireland?
I think I would have courses with more practical, hands-on elements. During the 4th year of the course I did in DkIT there was a six-week work experience placement. I found it extremely beneficial, so I would definitely suggest more work placements. They’re a great opportunity for students to get an insight into the industry and also to make themselves known to possible future employers.

Do you think academic film study can inform technical ability?
Yes, I think that academic study gives you the basis that you need to understand the technical side of film. During the BA in video and film course in DkIT we had a mixed learning experience with academic and practical study and this actually gave me a better understanding when I began working in a technical area.

Dublin Institute of Technology
Matthew Kirrane – camera assistant, ‘The Clinic’ (TV series, 2009), DOP, Arriving at Departures
(short, 2010).

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying film?
To be always willing to learn and to always keep your mind open to new ways of thinking and doing things. Even after picking up the paperwork that proved I could do that, it’s a way of thinking that’s as important to me today as it was then.

What was your first project and how did it go?
The first professional project I worked on was a satirical four-part series called ‘The State of Us’ shot for RTÉ back in April 2007. I joined the crew as camera trainee and was delighted because I had always focused my attention on shooting the college productions. I spent my time during this project learning how to fulfil my position in a way that could help those around me as opposed to getting in the way and being a hindrance. I also made sure I didn’t drop the camera.

What have you learned that college couldn’t teach you?
How to make a great coffee.

If you could tell students one thing, what would it be?
All that stands between the student and the top of the ladder is the ladder.

What would you change about film education in Ireland?
I think film courses need to forge stronger relationships with working professional productions and crew members throughout the country. It would help if there were direct points of contact with the industry as well as a competent level of work experience in various professional environments. With the emergence of so many easily accessible formats for displaying work and the development of affordably priced ‘high-end’ technology, I think there is a real opportunity to develop these links.

Do you think academic film study can inform technical ability?
Definitely. I always feel there are two streams of thought processes that steer decision-making in filmmaking. First off, you need to have a high level of technical ability. Since graduating, my education in the technical aspects of camera and lighting continues on a daily basis. However, what turns this knowledge into a powerful story-making tool is your academic background in film studies. It’s as vital to your thinking as the technical knowledge and helps steer the production of a story down new avenues.

University Of Ulster
Jolene Mairs – craft service: second unit, A Shine of Rainbows (feature, 2009), studying for a PhD by practice.

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying film?
There are no rules about filmmaking, only what works for your story.

What was your first project and how did it go?
My first project was a five-minute documentary about a toilet attendant in my town centre. I was terrified at the prospect of completing a project on my own, but it went better than expected and I managed to produce a decent little film that wasn’t too bad for a first effort.

What have you learned that college couldn’t teach you?
I’m technically still in college! I’m now working on a PhD by Practice so I have not yet had the opportunity to learn outside of a college environment.

If you could tell students one thing, what would it be?
The best way to learn about filmmaking is to make a film.

Do you think academic film study can inform technical ability?
Definitely. Studying and thinking critically about films is a great way to get to know what kind of films you want to make.

Click here for the complete guide to Film Courses with links directly to the the college websites and the courses provided.