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Jonathan Farrelly talks ‘Leap of Faith’ from ShortShots to the RTÉ/IMRO Scoring Programme & the Galway Film Fleadh
21 Jun 2017 : Katie McNeice
The short film directed by Mark Smyth comes from a script by David Thorpe, with the trio joining forces in the 2016 instalment of the Filmbase/RTÉ funding scheme, Short Shots.

Farrelly talks us through their experience of the scheme, and how they want on to have their film score composed by Darren Hendley from Oscar-nominated ‘Give Up Yer Aul Sins’, and recorded by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, as part of the prestigious RTÉ programme.

Further to this they are one of seventy short films in the hugely competitive Galway Film Fleadh, alongside the likes of ‘Wave’ (Ben Cleary), ‘An Béal Bocht’ (Tom Collins) and 'Open Road’ (Charlie Endean).

IFTN: Firstly tell me about the Filmbase Short Shots scheme where Leap of Faith started off

“Yeah, the short shots scheme is the new way that Filmbase commissions its shorts. It’s a fantastic process over several shortlisting stages where writers to come on board first with a script, then pitch to get a director, get shortlisted and then the two pitch to get a producer on board. Then they go in as a team of three and pitch to the esteemed panel.

”Dave Thorpe came on with the script. He and Mark Smyth had actually gone to college together and had entered separately but reignited their love and teamed up! When they pitched to the producers I was in. No matter how many of the other scripts I read (and they were all fantastic in their own way) something in me kept saying, ‘Leap of Faith’ is the one for you.

”The scheme is really special opportunity--a great way to meet other like-minded people and get stuff made, regardless of whether it gets funded or not. Par example, a good friend of mine, Dave Minogue, was a producer on a shortlisted project at the same time as us. They didn’t get it but they kept working on it for a few months and have now gotten funded through another scheme.

”So my advice being, go to these things and even if you aren’t shortlisted/chosen, something great can still come out of it. Just be positive and determined and keep moving forward! Alan Fitzpatrick and Lynn Larkin from Filmbase do an incredible job with it. In terms of giving opportunity and support to emerging filmmakers, they are the top of the pile. Their immense knowledge of film was really beneficial to us, as you can imagine, they’ve seen thousands of short films so they know the pitfalls that people can fall into and they steer you clear. We kept them in the loop quite early from the first assembly edit and their input was really instrumental in getting the film to where we wanted it to be.”

IFTN: How did coming together as a team in that way affect your approach to the script and pre-production process?

“‘Leap of Faith’ is an extraordinary script. I loved it for its scope and ambition, but the reality of making things on a low budget is you need to be 100% on being able to deliver on that ambition or it could turn out to be a big pile of rubbish! A producer has the responsibility of making sure it’s good and will be of benefit to everyone involved.

“Both Mark and Dave are accomplished editors aswell, so when it came to getting a taster tape for the pitch, they absolutely nailed it. Similar with the look book as they spent days crafting and refining it before we got it printed a high-end paper. For three it was over €100 but it was worth it and Alan actually complimented us on it and said it helped sell the package, so it does indeed take money to make money! In terms of script, you get notes from script editor Eilish Kent along the way, and they become invaluable.”

IFTN: What was your shooting and post production process like?

“Different stages of a film all have their heartache! For me, the pre-production was the toughest. The majority of ‘Leap of Faith’ takes place between two apartments, with balconies that face each other; it’s very New York, but not very Dublin or Ireland, so finding the location was a nightmare. In fact, I sent over six hundred emails, texts and calls to find the place.

“As the budget is small, we had to quadruple up on roles, so I was in essence the locations manager – I gave in after around five hundred emails/texts and rang a very experienced/renowned locations manager, who told me that I would never find the locations in Ireland and to just shelve or rewrite the project. I didn’t and we got Trinity Halls, just outside Rathmines. It was an amazing place and well worth the months of strain.

“For shooting, they were long days but everyone dug in and helped out. We had a very special cast, production unit and team. Each person came in and gave their all and were extremely generous with their time and patience with the process.

“In terms of post-production, we got our post done by the incredible people in Screenscene. They were generous, professional and really delivered. It was a unique experience as these are the people who do the post for ‘Game of Thrones’, the biggest show on the planet and they’re also doing the post for our little short! And they treated us no different, they did everything we asked and more and just always made us feel looked after, which was a bonus to the incredible work they did.”

IFTN: Well done on getting to the RTÉ Scoring for Film programme in association with IMRO as well. What was your submission process like for that and who will you be working with?

“The Scoring For Film programme actually happened just at the right time for us. We had just picture locked when we saw it advertised. I told the lads the admission date was a week before it actually was so as they would get me a rough cut to send in. Thing is, they sent it over on time and then I forgot about it! I was working in the BBC in Belfast at the time and at 4:55pm on the day of the deadline something inside told me to go to the IFTN website. I actually read it at least once a day cos it's the best source for finding opportunities like this, but I’d already scanned it that morning but something said, have another look! So I went on it and there was a piece reminding people that the deadline was at 5pm. So I literally sent in the stuff by 4:59pm and got an email back saying I’d cut it close–haha!

“It worked out in the end and we got the very talented Darren Hendley as a composer who has worked on lots of high-end stuff--he even went to the Oscars with ‘Give Up Yer Aul Sins’! There’s the beauty of this scheme again, getting paired with someone as talented and experienced as Darren. I’d recommend people keeping an eye out for the scheme next year; the value of what a full orchestral score can add to your film is immeasurable.”

IFTN: Also, and perhaps most importantly, tell us your thoughts on getting into the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh?

”Yeah, we got in! I’ve never been down so I’m excited to get there and see what’s what! It’s great to get in and it’ll be nice to go and celebrate but thereal work starts here. It’s all well and good having a nice short but you need to act on it to make sure that that little bit of heat you might get doesn’t escape out the chimney. My metaphors are terrible but you know what I mean–it’s nice to get the film done and into the festival but we need to be acting on it to make sure that it makes things happen and is beneficial to everyone involved. I have a few tricks up my sleeve about what we are doing next, so I’ll be down in Galway looking to do some business.”

IFTN: It seems from the schemes you've been successful with and the top class festival you've gotten into, the whole team is in tune with what's going on in the industry and what leaders in these organisations expect from filmmakers. Can you talk us through how you approach these schemes and what you think is most important when applying?

”I have a one in ten theory, that for every ten-schemes or funding awards that I enter, I’ll expect to get one. It usually works out in or around that way, so I think it's a mixture of quality and quantity. Pick out the opportunities you want to go for and absolutely smash the application. Do as many as you can, but treat them as seriously as the last one. Half-arsed applications and throwing stuff out there for the sake of it is grand as it’s at least productive, but you’ve less chance of actually getting something and then it makes you feel rejected.”

”I know what it feels like to be rejected but the laws of averages mean a win is coming along soon, and the trick is to not get too downbeat because then your work becomes an unsatisfying slog. Working in film and TV is a massive risk. It’s unstable and you often work for free and you can meet unsavoury characters that may completely take advantage of your time and talent. So be careful of whom you get involved with and make sure that you are looked after in terms of what you are offering and what you are getting.”

”With ‘Leap of Faith’, Myself, Mark and Dave didn’t get paid but we made sure that everyone else was paid and we’ve found a lot of them work on other projects as well. I just feel that on all productions, everyone should be treated with decency and looked after for what they are bringing to the table. As a final thought myself, Mark and Dave are very open and will always be willing to lend a helping hand to someone, so if there is anyone out there reading this that feels stuck or in need of a boost or a chat, reach out.”

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