Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A super, super-low budget gem, and Tiger goes to Cannes...

I thought I’d do an update on where we are with Tiger, the short film I wrote and produced last year. This film was made during February 2012 and had its first screening (albeit for family and friends) last summer at the Lighthouse cinema in Dublin. Since then it’s been screened in London, at the Underground Film Festival in Dun Laoghaire, at the Waterford Film Festival, and more recently as part of a shorts double bill in a cinema in Navan.

The costs for the film to date are nudging €3.5k, but that isn’t bad for a short (except in comparison to the movie below), and we still have some money left over to get it out to more festivals. It’s a little movie that was relatively non-stressful to make (the fundraising was the most onerous part tbh) and one that audiences really seem to respond to. Or at least, that’s what they tell me!

And there’s some really good news recently - Tiger’s been accepted into the Short Film Corner at Cannes, and as its co-producer, that gives me Cannes festival accreditation! So I’ll be going over next month for four days to take full advantage of the free pass and meet as many industry types as possible. Bring on the free stuff and the lovely people!

I submitted Tiger to a bunch of distributors and I’m also happy to say that one of the biggest distribution/licencing companies is interested. It’s early days, but things are looking promising! So if that works, out, Tiger will be seen by an even bigger audience, and me and the director/co-producer might even make our costs back some day. You never know.

Talking of super-low budget films, I found myself at an IFTA screening last week for Gerard Barrett’s Pilgrim Hill. Barrett is a young Kerry guy who wrote, directed and produced this feature film for less than €6k. You read that right. Actually, it might even be much less than that – he borrowed €4.5k from his local credit union and added “ a bit extra” to make it. If that wasn’t astonishing enough, the film was shot in seven days, with just three members of crew (Barrett, a cinematographer and a focus puller).

So the question you’re probably wondering is, is this frugal epic any good? And the answer would be, yes it is. Barrett’s clearly dealing with a subject close to his heart – the film’s hero, a lonely bachelor farmer in his forties, is based on the director’s own uncle. The performance he gets out of real-life farmer and sometime actor Joe Mullins is incredible – to the point where you feel uncomfortable watching it at times because it doesn’t feel like a performance at all.

Mullins’ character is a slave to the family farm and to his own demanding, disabled father. He’s long given up on escaping the isolated life he seems doomed to follow, but the events of the film force him to confront his past, his present and most definitely his future. There isn’t a huge cast – there’s probably only four main characters, but the quality of the script and the acting means that you barely notice this. The film looks amazing too, beautiful photography by Ian D. Murphy and a final scene that will wrench your heart out.

My only complaint – even bearing in mind the budget constraints – is that I would have liked a little more story. But this is a small problem with a film that’s already put Gerard Barrett on the map. He was there in person for an entertaining interview with Arena presenter Sean Rocks and talked about his next project – a family drama set in Dublin called Glassland. After seeing Pilgrim Hill, I’m really looking forward to it.

Seeing a film made for a budget as tiny as this can’t help but make you think of what can be done – even of what you could do yourself for a similar amount. I have a friend whose script was made last year for €18k, which seemed (and indeed, is) an incredibly small amount to make a feature. That being said, Pilgrim Hill has a lot going for it – the writer’s intense knowledge of the subject matter, a decent script, an excellent DoP and a real find in its lead actor. There are no stunts, no car chases and no explosions. Only a bare-bones cast and crew. This is DIY film-making at its best.

Still, if you have a great idea and don’t need a huge crew involved, maybe you don’t need to approach the Film Board or track down a producer. You could skip the usual fundraising route, raid the piggy bank and make the low-budget feature of your dreams…


joanniemitchell said...

First of all Well done!! that is amazing to get to Cannes!!! This could really be an excellent launching pad! But apart from that - to enjoy the moment and see what you have acheived so far!!

Re: Pilgrim Hill I cant wait to see it, It had made me look at my feature script and see what I can strip it down to and made me think of how I could make it on a shoestring.

Keep us updated on Cannes - we can live vicariously!!!

eilism said...

Many thanks Joan - I'll keep you posted! Yes, Pilgrim Hill is a v. inspiring story in itself, even the making of it.

Helen said...

Congrats on Cannes indeed and no better woman to network over there than you :-) Can't wait to hear more about it on your return. Loved Pilgrim Hill ... inspirational with what you can do on a shoestring!

eilism said...

Thanks a million Helen! We must have a bevvie soon - drop me a text!