Director's Blog: Dreaming of Peggy Lee
Tuesday - 29/10/15
Director Jame Everett shares his experience of screening the fantastic Dreaming of Peggy Lee to audiences in Chicago. This film went on to win the Children's Jury Prize—Live-action Short Film at Chicago International Children's Film Festival!
This morning we travelled over to Chicago’s Music Box Theatre. I have never seen a cinema like it. We all felt like we had stepped back in time with its early 20th century décor and proscenium arch replete with a humongous velvet curtain draped in front of the screen. It all seemed very appropriate for our film Dreaming of Peggy Lee, which sees its two main characters step back in time to a 1940’s jazz club.
The screening was attended by nearly 250 school children. Before the shorts programme even began this audience were showing loud appreciation for just the festival’s animation promo. Lots of clapping, cheering and laughing. This is not the kind of reaction you get from a British audience. The jet lag suddenly cleared and we were all a lot more aware we were in the USA.
High Hopes was the name of this shorts programme, and judging by this audience response this category lived up to its title. Moreover it seems that an audience of children are completely uninhibited to vocalise their reactions to the films, whatever the emotion may be.
When Dreaming of Peggy Lee played the children were rooting for our heroes right from the start. All the oohs and ahs and cheers were expressed so much the teachers had to shush the children down three or four times.
This was a unique experience for me as the director but also our star cast Will Palmer (co-lead) and Charlotte Jo Hanbury (Peggy Lee Singer) who witnessed first hand just the kind of effect their screen time could have on an audience.
Later the same afternoon, we were all invited to Nettlehorst Elementary School to attend another screening as part of the festival’s ‘Director in School’ section.
This was to be something that would put us all on the spot… we could’ve spent the whole day talking to these children. There was never less than half a dozen hands in the air at any one time with kids eager to ask questions or to make their comments.
The questions came thick and fast, some of them so astute that no adult audience member has yet been as perceptive in their response to this film. Filmmakers who want to test their film for narrative coherence and clarity should get a class load of kids to feedback to them. I think I passed the test, but thankfully we were well rehearsed from the earlier Q&A at the Music Box Theatre.
The kids asked Charlotte to sing for them there and then, and Will had a barrage of questions about his experience making the film. Will spoke about his life as a Deaf child and it was humbling for us all to see how maturely the children considered the implications of what is normal, and the concept of different over disabled.
To have the themes of your film up for discussion in a school exercise such as this was a truly one-off experience and utterly unique.
At the end of the session as the kids filed out, Will and Charlotte were mobbed for autographs and hand shakes. One of these 90 children walked past Charlotte, choosing not to shake her hand or ask for her autograph, but instead informed her, ‘no not you. Just Will.’ I consoled Charlotte by reminding her that about 50% of the children weren’t interested in meeting me but just filed past as though I wasn’t there.
You cannot beat a child audience for honesty and truthfulness. However it must also be noted, that neither can you beat a child audience for appreciation and applause.
Roll on the next screening!
Wednesday - 30/10/15
The shorts programme High Hopes screened again today, this time at the Facets movie theatre. The cinema was at capacity with some of the students having to sit or stand to watch the films.
Once again Dreaming of Peggy Lee was a real hit with the audience and Charlotte and I received a very warm welcome from everyone as we came to the front.
This bunch of students were 8th graders and they had all sorts of intricate and specific questions behind the filmmaking process. The Q&A turned into something of a workshop at one stage when I was explaining about how and why you may choose to shoot your film a certain way. These kids were more like a film school class. I never would’ve had anything like their film savvy questions and knowledge at the age of 13 or 14.
Later I learned that the school they came from was attended by the writer of Grease and was the model for Rydell High in the film. Film is definitely something much more under the skin of youngsters in Chicago.
Thursday - 31/10/15
The full Dreaming of Peggy Lee team was now in town. Aryana Engineer had joined us today along with both her father and publicist. With eight of us in toe we were the biggest party representing any film at CICFF. Whilst there was a very tempting line up of films programmed for Halloween night we decided it would be rude not to hit the streets of Chicago on this particular occasion…
If you didn’t already know, Halloween is taken a little more seriously in the U.S. We got a hot tip from the festival to head to a street called Burling to go trick or treating. It was like a giant street party of scary looking children and parents. Queues of kids were politely formed at each house, all of which bearing this annual duty with tremendous pride and spirit. The haunted house of horror look got to seem pretty normal in this street. Furthermore, the elaborate decorative lengths gone to were only matched by the generosity of these householders. Dishing out enough chocolates and sweets to satisfy hundreds upon hundreds of candy hungry kids is going to be costly. I think the feeling was that these neighbours were rich so who cares? Needless to say, our two child-stars walked away with carrier bags filled with delights.
The night carried on as good as it started with a Mexican meal out and then hitting a party in down town Chicago thrown by one of the festival directors. This was yet another display of incredible warmth and generosity. There was even an impromptu screening of Dreaming of Peggy Lee, which everybody loved. The kids were made a real fuss of by the other guests; they got to feel like rock n’ roll movie stars for the night. Because they were.
Friday - 01/11/15
The last day of the festival. We were all shattered from the previous night’s hell raising and chocolate looting but had a screening to attend that afternoon. This was Aryana’s first Q&A with an audience (ever) and she was very nervous. She did great, although she got away away lightly. This was the first show we attended in the festival that wasn’t sold out. It was a gorgeous Autumnal day in Chicago and I guess some people couldn’t resist being out in the sunny climes over the darkened indoor screening room.
However when it came to the awards ceremony held in the same movie theatre that evening, it was full to the brim. The master of ceremonies was the representative of the children’s jury, who had all our hearts as soon as he stumbled on his first word – and this was way before he got to the filmmaker’s names from the Czech Republic or Japan. He did a wonderful job and it seemed appropriate that the Children’s Jury section was hosted by one of them.
To our delight the Children’s Jury voted Dreaming of Peggy Lee 1st Prize Winner of Best Live Action Short. I got up on stage and made a garbled speech about what an utterly unique and one-off experience this whole festival had been for all of us. It’s true for so many different reasons. We all felt quite emotional and very proud – especially the parents of Aryana and Will. To be honoured with this award was the perfect end to such special few days being reunited together in a city that gave us all so much pleasure.
Or perhaps the real final end was the wonderful Italian meal the festival treated us to after after the show, along with the other award winners present. This last supper summed up what our overall impression was of Chicago and this festival in general - a place of such warm hospitality and fun.
Tuesday - 06/10/15
Derry and Sadhbh have started their MIPCOM campaign today! Plenty of meetings and networking already (including the excellent Northern Ireland on Screen lunch today!) Please email (email@example.com) or call us to arrange a meeting down here between now and Thursday.
The Martian - Review
Tuesday - 29/09/15
In recent years we’ve seen a number of big-budget films make a claim to the space-science crown. Gravity had audiences reeling in their seats as they watched Sandra Bullock cartwheel from wreck to wreck roller-coaster-style high above the planet Earth, while Interstellar had us racking our brains over the time-bending consequences of relativity. In both instances the science took more and more of a backseat in the name of drama; which leaves you feeling a little cheated given that both films’ scientific accuracy had been sung loud and clear before release.
It’s the fact that The Martian needs to make no such compromises to drive the action that makes it so impressive. It leaves an audience feeling like they are in good hands when a film doesn’t need magical technologies or impossible physics appearing from nowhere to bail the characters out of danger.
Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars due to entirely plausible circumstances, and the dangers he faces are just what you would expect: starvation, thirst, storms, suffocation, unreliable technology, and the crushing burden of being forgotten and alone. There are no aliens, no lasers, and precious few explosions; this is a story about physics and ingenuity – a fresh take on man vs nature.
This technological ingenuity takes such centre stage that The Martian could be called MacGyver-in-space, and you can’t help but be in awe of Watney’s sure-handed approach and implacable problem-solving. In this way the film is ever so slightly too aware of itself: “I’m going to have to science the s**t out of this,” Watney declares while considering how to feed himself on the red planet, but the film’s enthusiasm for its subject matter is so genuine it’s hard to hold moments like this against it.
The ever-likeable Matt Damon’s delivery is typically understated, with emotional cracks only appearing under the most severe duress – otherwise Watney is played with a certain grand-standing cockiness; a bravado that one can’t help suspect might be at least partially to shield him from despair. At 44 Damon looks to be in the best shape of his life, which only lends credibility to scenes of his character single-handedly dragging industrial equipment around the red desert.
The 141 minute runtime definitely leaves you feeling like the ending is a little drawn out, especially with an entirely unnecessary epilogue that seems to be included as much because Scott couldn’t settle on how to end the film as much as anything else. The pacing is otherwise spot on, with threats and solutions appearing in unexpected ways throughout.
The Martian is polished, confident, spectacular, and entirely in love with space and science – and if you like either of those things even a little bit you’re going to love it too.
- Gary White
THE VIOLET TEAM AT TIFF 2015
Mark Hodkinson, the writer and co-producer of the wonderful animated short Violet, kindly agreed to keep a diary of his experience at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is on right now! Violet is the only Irish short screened in competition at TIFF this year. It is narrated by Aidan Gillen. It has already qualified for Oscar 2016 consideration, after winning the James Horgan Award for Best Animation at the Galway Film Fleadh 2015.
We had our first screening in Toronto last night and it was great to meet TIFF's Laura Good and Danis Goulet who were there to greet us with our tickets and wish us luck. 'Violet' got a really good reception which we were delighted with as it was right in the middle of a really strong programme of shorts.
Laura also set us up with tickets for an after party where Nuria and Maurice showed Canada some new moves while I held the coats. It was a late one and we're all feeling a little 'weird' today but that could be just hunger on my part. I didn't get a meal on the plane. I'm pretty sure one of the others ate it while I was sleeping. You think you know people and then something like that happens...
We hope to hear more from Mark soon!
The TIFF staff have been brilliant all week and, along with the great films on offer, there are really well organised events arranged for each day. Yesterday we attended the Shortcuts Connections Round-tables sessions where you had the opportunity to talk with an impressive line-up of distributors, sales agents and festival programmers - all very helpful and interesting. After that there was a TIFF cocktail party for all the Shortcut directors and producers which was a lot of fun.
In fact, it was so much fun we're on our way back to the hotel now to see if anyone handed in Maurice's trousers...
MORE THAN GOD - DIRECTOR'S BLOG
Kev Cahill, our prospective new client and an intrepid Writer/Director, kindly agreed to our request to keep a diary of his recent attendance at the Rhode Island Film Festival. His debut short film, More Than God, had been selected in competition and was being premiered along with seven other films, at the Opening Night Gala Screening. Here is his initial account of his “Road to Rhode Island”. We knew it would be fun! Let us know what you think of it.
I set off for Rhode Island from London on Monday morning August 3rd.
We just finished a job I was on in Shepperton Studios and I needed to bring all my stuff back to Dublin before heading for the states. I stuffed the car to the gills and hit the road. The car in question goes by the name of Annie LeBouef. A 1987 Mercedes. Admirers say "fine car in it's day" implying that that day has passed. Nowadays it refuses to start without expelling a large plume of black smoke. I pretend to be fine with this when the mechanic says things like "she's grand, just showin signs of her age" The more signs of age you show the quicker you gravitate toward no signs at all in particular the vital ones.
We got to Colwyn Bay in Wales before we started hearing strange noises above the already very loud engine. It was a beautifully hot sunny day in wales. We popped the bonnet and pretending to know what I was doing I threw about 4 litres of water at the engine. The noises stopped and we made the ferry. Phew.
I spent the night in Dublin and got up early to get the flight to Philadelphia and then on to Boston. The plan was to get a train from Boston to Providence. I was due to land in Boston at 16:34 from there I had to get the train to Providence. I worked out that getting out of the airport and getting to Providence would take me around 2 hours at least. Our film was chosen to be shown on the opening night with a screening at 19:00. Basically I was cutting it fine. I bought a bottle of whiskey and large bag of mini crunchies in duty free and set off. Dublin - Philadelphia went off without a hitch. I had 45 minutes to get through the airport in Philadelphia and get on the flight to Boston. I was a hot sweaty mess as I ran toward the gate with shouts of last call ringing through the tannoy. We boarded the plane. The plane was packed so I had to put my bag in an overhead locker about 7 seats behind me. I was already thinking about how this could effect the quick exit off the plane in Boston but what could I do. The motors started. We taxied (I think that's the correct verb) to the edge of the runway. Here we go. I looked out the little window and thought I'm very lucky, this has gone so well, I'm going to make it on time, this is meant to be, unbelievable, without a hitch, Rhode Island here we come... The engines stopped. The pilot informed us that there was a "delay on the ground at Boston" we would be delayed 15 minutes...
After the first 15 minutes he told us it would be another 30 minutes. I didn't eat much on the first flight in the hope I would find something good when I landed. I was ravenous. I saw the air hostesses bringing some cereal bars and pretzels and the like through the aisles. They stopped after first class. I've never thought of cereal bars as a first class bonne bouche but jesus god above they never looked so good. Our hosts of the air eventually got around to us plebs at the back. I asked for a pastrami sandwich which was on the menu. She laughed at me for being so ridiculous they don't serve food on such a short flight. This is fine in practice but at this stage we'd already been sitting on the runway for as long as we were meant to be in the air. Bringing me back to the other major stress. I was already cutting it fine for time if we arrived on time in Boston but we were already over an hour late. It was now impossible for me to make it to Rhode Island by 7pm no matter what happened. By train it would be after 8pm by the time I got there. Step in Mick and Emily to the rescue. My cousin Emily lives in Boston. She saw a hapless attention seeking comment of mine on facebook and immediately sent me a message "Sure we'll take you for the craic" the beauty of that message - I was soaring. We all know there is nothing better than arriving into a strange town and to have someone waiting for you at the airport. Someone who knows what they're doing and is just going to sort it all out and tell you where to go or take you where you need to go. It allows you to turn off all that stress of having to find the right train and get off at the correct station so you can make the transfer at the ideal time on the perfect platform. Switch it all off and give yourself over to a local. And then also to have that local say they're coming to get you purely "for the craic" not for the glory or because it's their job or because they feel obliged but just free and easy lemon feckin squeezy for the craic. Poetry in motion.
I got excited by a low dull rumbling. It must be the engines starting up again, I thought. Unfortunately it was my stomach. Gorta mor agam mo chairde. Then I remembered the crunchies. DELIRA DOLITTLE. YOU CAN STUFF YOU'RE FECKIN CEREAL BARS. I walked the 7 seats back reached up and took out the bag of Crunchies. I caught the eye of a boy and his mother as I took them down. I could tell they were family by their identical drool. YES PLEASE they shouted before I'd barely even lent the bag towards them. I looked down the plane it was like meerkat manor on a quest for that Friday Feeling. I was already 7 seats away from my own seat so there was no escaping it. I shoved 2 in my pocket for myself and we loaved and fished the hell out of it. No sooner had I got to the end of my rounds the engines started up and the air hostess seething with jealousy of my superior candy told me to "please" take my seat. We were on our way.
Mick and Emily picked me up from the airport and we hit the road for Providence. According to the sat nav we were going to get there by 7:30. Possibly missing the first half hour of programming but I think we would still get to see More Than God. Mick had some food which he got from a food truck before they picked me up. As he gracefully put it himself "I'll leave ya the arse on it" let me tell ya an arse has never tasted so good. We arrived at the Providence Performing Arts Centre at 7:30. Thankfully the screening was running on a Irish type schedule and they were still getting through the welcoming speeches. They showed our film and it got a great reaction. Alongside it there were an amazing selection of short films, animation, documentary and live action. It was amazing to be in playing along side these other hugely successful films in this prestigious stunning theatre.
What a great start to the week.
GALWAY - THE BEST FROM THE WEST!
Friday - 17/07/15
Derry, Sadhbh and Aoife were excited to attend the Galway Film Fleadh last week for shorts, features and a spot of socialising! It's always great to meet new industry folk and catch up with our filmmakers, producers and international festival friends. For the third consecutive year, we were the sponsor of the Tiernan McBride award for Best Short Drama. This went to the short NORTH directed by Phil Sheerin.
Both this award and the James Horgan Award for Best Animation Short are Academy Award qualifying.
We were very sorry to have missed Simon Fitzmaurice's feature debut My Name is Emily, which was the opening film. We were very happy to see it won the Cinematography and New Talent awards for cinematographer Seamus Deasy and producer Kathryn Kennedy respectively.
We're delighted to have identified some brand new shorts which premiered at Galway, as suitable for our catalogue. These include the very touching Death of a Projectionist directed by Jonathan Beer (and produced by Brian J Falconer, of Boogaloo and Graham fame!) and More than God, the hilarious comedy produced and directed by Kev Cahill. We look forward to representing them internationally, along with hopefully several other new Irish shorts.
Other screenings which stood out for us were Nancy Corrigan, the TG4 documentary by Gillian Marsh, which screened in the Town Hall on Friday, and A Shot of Whiskey, a US music documentary directed by Steve Graham. Other highlights of the weekend included an amazing seafood dinner at McSwiggans restaurant and meeting John C. Reilly at the Rowing Club (even if he denied Sadhbh a photo!)
Derry was particularly delighted and privileged to receive a ticket for the the sold out world premiere of The Survivalist, from first time Northern Irish director Stephen Fingleton. It is a tough, uncompromising but engrossing film with terrific performances from Martin McCann, Mia Goth and Olwen Fouéré. It is going to take the international film festival scene by storm, Derry is convinced!
It's Finally Here!
Monday - 08/06/15
It's finally here!
Network Ireland Television is proud to announce the launch of our brand new website! We welcome you to the home of our latest multi-award winning shorts, documentaries, TV series and features from both Ireland and around the world. Feel free to browse through it for our current catalogue. All screeners available online or on DVD! Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org
Derry has returned from the Cannes Film Festival's Short Film Corner, after meeting many producers, filmmakers, international festival programmers (Palm Springs, SXSW, Chicago Children's Film Festival), our French broadcast buyers, and film funding agencies like the New Zealand Film Commission and Rankin Productions U.K.
It wasn't all business though, as you can see from this picture! Taken at the Indieflix Black Tie Yacht Party, looking dapper alongside Shorts International's Chris Tidman.
Derry was also in attendance at the Creative Scotland Beach Party during the Festival, which ran from the 13th to the 24th of May (See the winners here: http://www.festival-cannes.fr/en/archives/awardCompetition.html)
Network Ireland Television will once again be in attendance at the Galway Film Fleadh 2015! We will be hoping to add a number of quality Irish shorts to our expanding catalogue, after attending the shorts screenings at the weekend (9th-12th July).
NITV is a proud sponsor of the Tiernan McBride Award for the best short drama for the third consecutive year. Our commitment to quality short films for over 20 years, has meant that we have represented 14 Oscar nominated shorts over this period, including two Oscar winners, The Shore (2012) and The Phone Call (2015).
Finally, Network Ireland Television is delighted to have recently added three very strong new short films to our catalogue: Oscar Wilde's The Nightgale and the Rose, The Swing, and Dreaming of Peggy Lee. See "Newest Shorts" above for details!