Irish playwright and screenwriter Ciaran Creagh rose to attention in the film industry last year when his screenplay ‘Parked’ was made into a cinema-released feature film starring Colm Meaney (The Snapper) and directed by Darragh Byrne. Picking up numerous awards internationally, ‘Parked’ came after Creagh had three of his plays publicly performed.
Next week the Dubliner will embark on the next stage in his career as he takes the reigns as director for the first time in his forthcoming short film ‘The Note’, which boasts a particularly strong Irish cast including Ruth McCabe and Aidan Gillen. Ahead of that shoot, IFTN spent Five Minutes With… Ciaran Creagh.
Hi Ciaran, so you begin shooting your debut short next week?
Yeah, I’m just doing some rehearsals for it at the moment. We have some kids involved in the film so we’re starting with them this afternoon just to get them used to things. The shoot begins on July 7 and we’re shooting for five days in total.
Can you tell us what it’s about?
Well, it’s called ‘The Note’ and it’s about a guy, played by Aidan Gillen, who has lost his way through alcoholism and is now trying to reconnect with life through his eight-year-old son, who he doesn’t really know. So he spends time kind of watching him and hanging around the school and that. He lives with his mother in this dilapidated old house and, although he’s stripped the house bare, she supports him in the hope that he’ll get his life back on track.
Did you write ‘The Note’ quite recently?
Yeah, it’s kind of a long history with this. I started ‘The Note’ a long time ago as a play and I lost it. I wrote about a quarter of the play and it disappeared off my computer. It was gone for good. So then I re-wrote it as a full-length screenplay and never did anything with it. After that, I thought that this would be great as a short. So I did that. I kind of summarised the whole screenplay into a 10-page short story and it just really came together very well.
It must be a writer’s nightmare, the original work being erased from your computer?
Yeah, I suppose it was but then again I suppose I wouldn’t be where I am now with it. When it was being worked on as a play, it was kind of loose stuff. Through that whole process, it’s been re-drafted in so many different writing forms that it’s really holding to something good and coherent. It probably wouldn’t have got there if it hadn’t have gone through the other bits and pieces.
You’ve got a fantastic cast and crew attached to it.
Yeah, Aidan is such a fantastic actor. Who wouldn’t be happy to have him? When I approached him, he came on board very quickly, which was great. That was the same with Ruth (McCabe) and the director of photography Owen McPolin. They’re giving their time for this production. They’re doing it because of the script. They really feel that it’s a good tight script and that it could do quite well at festivals, if we can all pull it off in the filming and the post.
As a first-time director, how do you prepare for shooting with hugely experienced actors and crew?
Well, I think that the key thing is to surround yourself with people who are really good at what they do. I’ve been lucky to get some really fantastic people attached to this because that leaves me the space to direct the actors. I’ll be very much directing the actors rather than necessarily getting involved in all the nitty-gritty technical details of it. I much prefer to work with the actors and try and get the best performances I can from them. I have done a small amount in theatre correcting, but not a huge amount. I feel my strength is dealing with actors. Once you get a good DoP behind you, you’re sorted and thankfully I got one.
Is this the next step for you, to direct more of your own work?
Yeah, I had the film (Parked) and after that I just thought ‘why not give it a go?’ You know, you’ll know pretty quickly whether or not you can do this. I’ve always been one to take challenges and risks and it was always worth it just to see. Obviously it’s much better to be a writer-director than just a writer, because then you have got full control over it. You know that your vision will more or less be the end vision. Obviously, when another director comes on-board, that can change and understandably so. If somebody becomes involved with a project, they’re going to put their stamp on it. So my thinking has been that I should just give it a go to see if I can do it, and if I can then happy days! Time will tell…or other people will tell!
Were you learning for things on the set of ‘Parked’ and trying to pick up some tips?
Well, my first visit to a film set was on ‘Parked’. I’d never been on a film set before in my life so I spent a lot of time looking and watching and seeing what people did and how the whole process works. It was a great learning experience to see all of that but you know yourself, you can read as many text books as you want but until you actually get stuck in deep down and dirty you just won’t learn. You’ve got to go in, make your mistakes and then learn from them and move on. I’m the kind of person who’ll just go for it and if I run into problems, I’ll just try and find a solution. There’s always a solution. There’s no mind in panicking. None of us are perfect so you just got to go do the best you can.
You must have been delighted with the success of ‘Parked’?
Yeah, who wouldn’t be! It did so well and won a good few awards at various festivals around the world and it’s opened up a lot of doors for me. It helps as well that when you’ve a screenplay behind you that’s been made, it makes it easier to attach people to a project. Obviously I’m a risk, because I could be crap. Who knows? So the cast and crew are taking that leap because of how ‘Parked’ worked out. It’s been a great calling card for me and hopefully the next one will be just as good.
So what is the next step after ‘The Note’?
Well I’ve bought the rights to a book about a plane crash in Canada called ‘Atlins Anguish: Bush Pilot Theresa Bond and the Crash of Taku Air Flight 2653’, which I’m working on at the moment. I’ve just done a treatment and put out the feelers for it to get some people attached to it. I also have a play written, which I also hope to put on in 2013 in Carrick-on-Shannon. The town is 400 years old so its part of their celebrations. The play is set in a workhouse during the famine and it’s actually going to be put on in an original workhouse that still exists in Carrick. I still love the plays too.
Tell us some more about ‘Atlins Anguish’?
It’s a great story. It’s about an English woman whose father was Irish. She immigrated to Canada and became a bush pilot and was in a crash. Five people died, but she survived. She was living in a town in British Columbia and she stayed in the town for the inquest and all that. She was suicidal and went through a horrid time, as you can expect. But she got her life back again and a couple of years later she was flying over the same lake and crashed, and she was killed. So as a story, it’s got a really strong female lead and there are not that many of them around. I think that will be a key selling point for it.
Finally Ciaran, if you were to give some advice to those hoping to become screenwriters what would it be?
The advice I’d give anybody is to get very used to people saying ‘no’ to you. No matter what you’ve done in getting a film in the cinema or whatever, people still say ‘no’ to you all the time. You’ve just got to keep trying because if you keep going and going and going, eventually you will succeed. Don’t lose heart. It’s the same with anything. If you keep going you’ll get some sort of success. You might not be Martin Scorsese, but you’ll get to a point where you’re happy with what you’ve achieved and it’s better to get to there than to have never have tried in the first place.