Friday 29 February 2008

McDonagh Interview

In today's Irish Times Donald Clarke interviews playwright, screenwriter, and director Martin McDonagh about his career, writing, and his new film In Bruges.

Spanish Films in March

The Campo Viejo Spanish Film Festival will be taking place in the IFI in Temple Bar, Dublin from 19-30 March, 2008.

This year's event sees new releases from actors-turned-directors Antonio Banderas (Summer Rain/El Camino de los Ingleses) and Gael García Bernal (Déficit), Icíar Bollaín (Mataharis), and much anticipated new work from directors Julio Medem and Jaime Rosales.

We are also fortunate with the timing of the festival to coincide with the cinema release of Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orpanage (El Orfanato), from the Pan's Labyrinth stable. It will be screening every day of the festival.

Newcomers that we'd like to recommend in particular to audiences in Ireland are Uraguay's Rodrigo Plá (The Zone), Argentinian Lucía Puenzo (XXY) and Mexicans duo Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán (Cochochi).

Thursday 28 February 2008

Arts & Culture Plan 2008

Last week the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Séamus Brennan T.D., announced the Arts and Culture Plan 2008.

It commits an additional €40m in funding for arts and culture infrastructure projects around Ireland, restores the Heritage Fund for the acquisition of works of artistic and cultural significance, extends and allows more flexible opening hours at national museums, cultural venues, galleries and libraries, and doubles the funding for national touring programmes to bring drama and cultural events to a wider audience.

Another initiative that will be the launched is a new National Cultural Day, which will begin in 2009, during which admission prices will be removed or reduced for events at publicly funded organisations.

The Department will also examine ways "to develop and expand the Irish film industry to be assessed as part of the renewal and enhancement of the Section 481 Tax Relief scheme, which in 2007 was worth €36 million in investment to the industry."

Minister Brennan said that investment of this scale of taxpayers money must have as a priority increasing access to arts, culture and creativity for many more of our people, regardless of age, background or nationality.

"The challenge for all of us is to build on the progress that has been made in this area and to identify new and imaginative routes that will open up more and more opportunities to involve those who, for whatever reason, may feel excluded", the Minister said.

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Strike Over

The Presidents of the WGA East and West have written to their members to declare the Screenwriters' Strike officially over.

Today, it is our pleasure to inform you that members of the Writers Guilds of America, East and West, have voted to ratify the MBA contract with 93.6% approval. With a total of 4,060 votes cast, the tally was 3,802 to 258. These numbers reaffirm the tremendous level of support and commitment our membership has continuously demonstrated over these last few crucial months.

NIS Supports Features

IFTN reports that Northern Ireland Screen is providing a cash injection to a slew of Irish film projects.

Supported by Invest NI and following the success and investment brought into Northern Ireland from last year's big budget Hollywood production 'City of Ember', NIS will support several low-budget films from newly launched production company Generator Entertainment. Set up by producers Simon Bosanquet (Ripley's Game, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) and Mark Huffam (Mickybo & Me, Mamma Mia), Generator plans to undertake five film projects, four of which would shoot in Northern Ireland in the first half of this year.

'Red Mist', directed by Paddy Breathnach (Shrooms, Man About Dog) and written by Northern Irish writer Spencer Wright, is the first film on the slate and will receive £247,737 in funding. Set in an American teaching hospital, filming began on location in Northern Ireland on February 4th the film, with Belfast-based Michael Kelly co-producing.

Next in line for a cash boost is 'Chatakwa Falls', written by Richard Crawford, which will begin filming at the end of April. The project will receive £192,623

Northern Ireland Screen will also give £250,000 to Green Park Films' 'Cherry Bomb'. Directed by Lisa Barros d'Sa and Glen Leyburn and written by Armagh man Daragh Caville (Middletown), the film follows a group of teenagers who embark on a wild weekend of drink, drugs, shop-lifting and stealing cars. 'Cherry Bomb' will shoot on location in Northern Ireland and is produced by Belfast's Michael Casey (Freeze Frame; Middletown; My Boy Jack).

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Short Shorts 2008

The Irish Film Board has issued its call for submissions for its Short Shorts scheme.

The new deadline for this scheme is Friday, April 18th 2008.

The successful scheme, which will fund up to seven, 3-5 minute films aims to encourage the making of ultra short films which are innovative, provocative or in some other way risky and rule-breaking.

In order to update this established scheme, it has been modified so that films now have to conform to a particular genre. This year the shorts, whether live-action or animated, should now 'tell a story' within the genre of musicals. This does not include, however, music videos. It is hoped that having the shorts packaged together under this specific genre will allow the IFB to market the Short Shorts more effectively.
Details about the application process are on the web site.

Monday 25 February 2008

Writers Guild Awards 2008

Announced with little fanfare a couple of weeks ago while the WGA strike was ongoing, the list of winners of the Writers Guild Awards 2008 is worth reading through.

It honours dramatic writing across a comprehensive range of categories such as film, television, documentaries, radio, video games, and even promotional writing. It's voted upon by WGA members, and thus is a strong indication of the type of writing that writers admire.

Irish Theatre Awards 2008

Theatre Forum Ireland posted a complete list of the winners from the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2008. Of interest is:

Best new play
Seán McLoughlin for Noah and the Tower Flower, produced by Fishamble.

Highlights of last night's ceremony will be screened on RTÉ 1 tonight at 11.20pm.

Spirit Awards 2008

Award season breaks into a gallop towards the end. Last night the Film Independent Spirit Awards were handed out. I've cherry-picked the winners of most interest to our members:

Best First Screenplay
Diablo Cody for Juno

Best Foreign Film
Director/Writer: John Carney for Once

Best Screenplay
Tamara Jenkins for The Savages

Theatregoers Choice 2008

The British Theatregoers Choice Awards were announced at the weekend. Guild members will be interested in the following award:

All About My Mother by Samuel Adamson – at the Old Vic

The other nominees in the category:

A Disappearing Number
by Complicite – at the Barbican
Joe Guy by Roy Williams – at Soho Theatre
Landscape with Weapon by Joe Penhall – at the NT Cottesloe
That Face by Polly Stenham – at the Royal Court Upstairs
War Horse by Nick Stafford – at the NT Olivier

Irish actress Fiona Shaw also picked up the Best Solo Performance Award for Happy Days at the NT Lyttelton.

Oscars 2008

The BBC has the full list of winners from this year's Oscar ceremonies. Two categories are of particular interest:

Best original screenplay
Winner - Juno, written by Diablo Cody.

Best adapted screenplay
Winner - No Country For Old Men written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, from the novel by Cormac McCarthy .

RTÉ also reports on the win by Dubliner Glen Hansard and Czech singer Markéta Irglová for the Best Music (Song) Oscar: "Falling Slowly" from the Irish film Once.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Breaking In

The L.A. Times has a feature on screenwriter Barry Levy, and how he broke through to become one of the hot newcomers to the industry.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Blu-ray is Standard

The BBC reports that Toshiba has dropped out of the high definition DVD market, and will stop production of its HD DVD players and recorders. This leaves Sony's Blu-ray as the dominant market standard for high definition DVDs.

Toshiba said the tipping point came last month when Warner Bros' followed a number of other film studios in deciding to release its movies only in the Blu-ray format.

"It shows what a highly competitive market it is. When it comes to video, it is the person with the most content that wins," Gartner analyst Paul O'Donovan said.

Warner Bros' decision means an estimated three quarters of new film releases will be available on Blu-ray discs. Other major studios backing Blu-ray include 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney and MGM.

Last week, Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, announced it would sell high-definition discs only in the Blu-ray format at its 4,000 US stores.
It's not good news for anyone who bought a Toshiba HD DVD player or recorder, however.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Two Playwrights

The New York Times has an interesting article that examines the obsessions in the work of two eminent playwrights: Edward Albee and Tom Stoppard.

Monday 18 February 2008

'08 Bears

The BBC has a round-up of the winners at this year's Berlin Film Festival.

The Silver Bear for Best Script 2008 went to Wang Xiaoshuai for Zuo You (In Love We Trust).

O'Halloran Wins Twice

The Irish Examiner reports on last night's IFTA winners.

Irish screenwriter Mark O'Halloran won best script for a feature film (Garage) and for a TV series (Prosperity).

The television period drama The Tudors scooped awards in a record seven categories. Garage also won the Best Film category, Best Director for Lenny Abrahamson, and Best Actor in a Lead Role Film for Pat Shortt.

Friday 15 February 2008

Stars at the DIFF

The Irish Times reports that Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and director Martin McDonagh will be present at tonight's opening film at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival: In Bruges.

Other actors, writers, and directors will be attending various films throughout the 10-day festival. Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend will attend tomorrow's screening of Battle in Seattle, which Townsend wrote and directed. Daniel Day-Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson will appear at tomorrow evening's screening of There Will Be Blood.

Swoon director Tom Kalin will attend Monday's screening of his new movie, Savage Grace. On Tuesday, Marianne Faithfull will be at Irina Palm, in which she stars, and US writer-director John Sayles will be at Honeydripper .

On Thursday, director Mike Leigh will be accompanied by actors Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan at the screening of Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky.

The Dublin festival's international guest line-up also includes maverick US film-maker Jonas Mekas (the subject of a festival retrospective); Hungarian directors Csaba Bollok (Iska's Journey) and Kristzina Goda (Children of Glory); Polish actress Danuka Stenka (Katyn); German actor Sebastian Urzendowsky (Ping Pong); French director Philippe Aractingi (Under the Bombs); and British directors Joanne Hogg (Unrelated) and Marc Evans (In Prison My Whole Life).

IFB Survey Industry

The Irish Film Board is planning on producing a new strategic plan for the audio visual content production industry, which will include an independent census of the entire range of the business, and a consultation process with all aspects of the trade.

We want you to be part of this census.

You are... Writers, Producers, Directors, Screen Talent, Crew, Animators, Film and TV Production Companies and studios, Commercial and Corporate Video Production Companies, Post Production Companies Audio Studios, Service Providers, Digital Media Production Companies.

You are each and every person working within the whole Audio Visual Content Production industry.

To ensure the independence and full confidentiality of the census, we have commissioned PriceWaterhouseCoopers(PwC) to help us. You will shortly receive a census questionnaire and we urge you to take the time to fill this in and return to PwC.

Any information you supply will be completely confidential, will not be disclosed to the Irish Film Board and will only be used by PwC to complete this research. Their report will be published and sent to all those who participated in the census.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Back to Work

The New York Times has an article today about the good and difficult experiences of American screenwriters who returned to their jobs yesterday for the first time in three months.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Pickets Down

United Hollywood carries the good news that the WGA membership has voted to end the strike.

On Tuesday, members of the Writers Guilds East and West voted by a 92.5% margin to lift the restraining order that was invoked on November 5th. The strike is over.

Writing can resume immediately. If you were employed when the strike began, you should plan to report to work on Wednesday. If you're not employed at an office or other work site, call or e-mail your employer that you are resuming work. If you have been told not to report to work or resume your services, we recommend that you still notify your employer in writing of your availability to do so. Questions concerning return-to-work issues should be directed to the WGAW legal department at 323.782.4521 or the WGAE’s assistant executive director Ann Toback at 212-767-7823.

The decision to begin this strike was not taken lightly and was only made after no other reasonable alternative was possible. We are profoundly aware of the economic loss these fourteen weeks have created not only for our members but so many other colleagues who work in the television and motion picture industries. Nonetheless, with the establishment of the WGA jurisdiction over new media and residual formulas based on distributor’s gross revenue (among other gains) we are confident that the results are a significant achievement not only for ourselves but the entire creative community, now and in the future.

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Belfast Festival Sponsored

The Stage reports that the Belfast Festival has been saved following a £1 million sponsorship deal.

The money will foster a three-year partnership between the annual celebration of international performing arts and the Ulster Bank and follows the announcement of a £300,000 injection in December for the troubled event by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Faced with closure in late 2006, the festival was only saved by a £150,000 stability grant in February last year.

The new investment by the Ulster Bank cements the company's position as a leading supporter of the performing arts in Ireland and follows last year's announcement of a €1 million sponsorship of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

Monday 11 February 2008

WGA Recommends Contract

According to United Hollywood, the WGA now has a contract that it feels it can recommend to its members for ratification.Patric M. Verrone, the President of the WGAW wrote to his membership and said:

I am pleased to inform you that this morning the WGA Negotiating Committee unanimously and unconditionally recommended the terms of the proposed 2008 MBA to the WGAW Board and WGAE Council. The Board and Council then voted unanimously to recommend the contract, and to submit it to the joint membership of WGAW and WGAE for ratification. The ratification vote will take place over the next few weeks by mail ballot and at a special membership meeting. You will receive ballot materials and a notice of informational meetings during the next week.
The process will take a couple of weeks, and in the meantime the WGA is asking its members to decide if they should continue to picket while members are voting on whether to accept the new contract or not. A vote will take place on Tuesday, February 12, 2008, and picketing will be suspended until the members of the WGA decide what action they would like to take.


This year's BAFTAs have been announced. Of interest are:

Winner of Best Original Screenplay: Juno, written by Diablo Cody
Winner of Best Adapted Screenplay: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, adpated by Ronald Harwood from the novel by Jean-Dominique Bauby.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Irish Swede

The Irish Film Board has announced a fun competition that takes its inspiration from the new Michel Gondry comedy Be Kind Rewind.

Using an Irish or Irish-themed film as inspiration, the competition involves making a short 'sweded' movie that's no more than two minutes long. A 'sweded' movie is a re-imagining of a film, trailer or scene made using anything that is to hand.

The prizes which are sponsored by the IFB, Filmbase, Darklight Festival and Channel 6 include two tickets to an Irish movie premiere, a walk-on-part in an Irish Production, a year's free membership to Filmbase and a screening of the winning short on Channel 6 and at the Darklight Festival in June.
For further details about the competition and the movie please to

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Sayles Masterclass

FÁS Screen Training Ireland are running a screenwriting masterclass with John Sayles on Tuesday, the 19th of February in the IFI, as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The masterclass will provide a key element of the Irish filmmaking sector with the opportunity to interrogate and evaluate the work of one of the world's most sought after screenwriters in modern times. Sayles' movies have helped define the 'other' that exists beyond Hollywood and his class will provide examples and advice for emerging screenwriters, as well as support and encouragement for those more established within the form. The masterclass can be viewed as an ideal opportunity for filmmakers to witness at first-hand the workings and methods of this master of the art form.

The Masterclass will start with a screening of Honeydripper on Tuesday 19th February at 10.30am.

The second part of the event will focus on this film from preproduction to distribution, while also making reference to John Sayles' career as a whole. Using clips from many of his films for illustration, the workshop will start with a Q+A session and then open up the discussion to the participants.

The session will be chaired by Ted Sheehy.
The deadline for applications is 12th February 2008, and applicants should be industry professionals who have been established within the sector for 3 years and produced at least 1-2 film projects.

Carney Wins a BFA

RTÉ reports that John Carney, the writer and director of the film Once, won the prize for Most Promising Newcomer at the British Film Awards last weekend.

Monday 4 February 2008

1st Red Planet Prize

The Stage reports that the first winner of the inaugural screenwriting competition, the Red Planet Prize, is forty-year-old Joanna Leigh, a lexicographer from Wales. HolbyBlue creator Tony Jordan established the Red Planet prize to discover new screenwriting talent.

Leigh, who studied screenwriting at the London College of Printing, wrote a script called Sam J, which is about the writer Samuel Johnson and how he came to produce his dictionary masterpiece.

Her script was chosen by a panel including Jordan, BBC Wales head of drama Julie Gardner, actor and writer Mark Gatiss and Stephen Fry.

Gatiss described Leigh's script as a "terrific page turner", while Gardner said it was a "bold and inventive dramatisation of a critical moment in the history of English literature".

Jordan said: "Joanna's script had everything the competition was trying to find - a unique voice, great characters and a remarkable story well told."

Leigh, who beat off competition from more than 2,000 entrants to win the prize, said she was "thrilled" to win.

Going Independent

Hollywood screenwriter and prolific blogger, John August (Go, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Nines), has announced that the screenwriters' strike in the USA has inspired him to go the independent route with his next project.

The project is financed outside the studio system, with some of that much-fabled internet money. It has actors you recognize, and it probably could be a TV show -- but it won't. There's near-consensus that in the next year or two, one of the web shows will really take off and change the game. I can almost guarantee you it won't be ours. We may never see the light of day. But it's the right time to be experimenting: with tone, with format, with economic model.
Expect to see similar fallout from the strike in the coming year.

Strike Breakthrough

Rumours indicate that informal talks between the WGA and representatives from the AMPTP have wrought a breakthrough in the screenwriters strike in the USA.

Formal talks collapsed in December when the AMPTP walked out. Informal talks began about two weeks ago, but this time with Peter Chernin of Fox, Disney president Robert Iger, and News Corp. COO Peter Chernin on the producers' side. Rumours started on Thursday that there was an imminent breakthrough, and while neither side is commenting, it is understood that the skeleton of a deal was put in place on Friday when the producers addressed some key points. The WGA now believes that it has enough to take to its Board - which might happen next Friday - once the lawyers have turned the agreement into 'contract language'.

Of course it's early days yet, but it looks as if, on the key issue of compensation and jurisdiction online, real progress has been made by the WGA.

Friday 1 February 2008

Arts Funding '08

The Arts Council announced that it will offer funding to 143 organisations and 34 local authorities for 2008, totalling almost €20 million.

Ms Olive Braiden, Chair of the Arts Council, said 2007 has been a significant year for the Arts Council in terms of reforming its funding programmes to make them more relevant to the needs of arts organisations and artists. 'Of the suite of new funding programmes, the Annual Funding programme is the final to be rolled out', she said.

The decisions follow the announcement that along with the €82.1 million allocation for 2008, the Council has received €3 million extra in funding from the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Seamus Brennan, TD, in its 2007 allocation.

Mary Cloake, Arts Council Director said: 'In addition to completing the roll-out of our funding programmes, these new funds give us the opportunity to fund initiatives which help to take the arts to a wider public across the country. In 2008 we will now be able to support additional touring and a new community music scheme.'
Details about the Arts Council's funding decisions can be viewed on their web site.