Barry’s Bespoke Bakery available on the RTÉ Player

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Short Short I produced Barry’s Bespoke Bakery is available to watch on the RTÉ Player for a little while. If you live in Ireland and haven’t seen it yet, this is the only way to see it online. I’m afraid that it is not available to watch if you are outside of Ireland.

This is so it doesn’t affect out international festival run. If you are abroad and would like to see the film, keep an eye on our screenings page, where we post details of all upcoming screenings.
This version on the RTÉ Player will expire on Wednesday the 17th of July, 2013. Please do watch it before then if you can and tell me what you think!

 

Shortlisted!

[dropcap]U[/dropcap]niquely Dublin have most wonderfully seen their way to selecting Horse in The Hole for their shortlist. We are exhibiting in the Little Museum of Dublin for the next few weeks until the 26th of April. The exhibition is open and free to the public. Please do stick your head in and have a look at our entry and the other works if you’re in the vicinity.

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The competition’s being run by The Little Museum of Dublin with the support of Dublin City Council and we’re delighted to have been shortlisted – given the quality of the other nominees, we’re in esteemed company. The grand prize of this competition is decided by public vote; you can vote here:

[button link=”http://www.uniquelydublin.ie/” target=”_blank” color=”green”]Cast Your Vote Here![/button]

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Horse in The Hole

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]yself and Denis produced this for entry to the Uniquely Dublin competition last week. The illustrations were created by Alan Lambert and were animated by me! I also created the soundtrack. Denis wrote and directed the piece. The excellent cast were Damien Devaney as Charlie Pigeon and Kian Murphy as the boy. Many thanks to Nick McGinley and Vincent Lambe for all of the help putting together the cast.

I’ve worked a little in animation before, but this is the most involved I’ve been in the process. Even though it’s a very short piece (we always wanted it to be under a minute), we put an awful lot of work into it, and I found that process very rewarding. I’m proud of the piece, cheesy and quick though it may be, but I’m especially glad for the experience.

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[one-half][dropcap]T[/dropcap]he first thing we did was record the audio. As soon as we started thinking about how to cast the roles, we wanted Damien for the reporter. We had auditioned him for a project a couple of years ago and really liked his presence and timing. The piece was originally going to be live-action, and we also liked Damien’s look, but in the end we just required a vocal performance from him.[/one-half]

[one-half last]We recorded the audio at my parents’ house, and layered in sound effects, mostly sourced online or from libraries. Then we tried out a couple of actors to play the young boy, finally finding Kian’s voice and gladly settling on his performance for the final edit. Once we had the edit locked, which is to say, the timings were final, if not the mix and sound effects, we sent it to Alan to illustrate.[/one-half]

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[one-half][dropcap]A[/dropcap]lan got right to work and put together a number of rough panels. Denis gave some notes on them, and we bounced them back and forth once or twice more before signing off on the look. Alan’s work is always excellent, but continuous communication is important to make sure the vision for the piece is consistent.[/one-half]

[one-half last]As we were going through the panels, we discussed the edit and the style of animation, and as well as providing backdrops and tableaux, Alan created elements for me to animate, like the snorts of the horse, the shotgun, the boy and the reporter.[/one-half]

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[tab title=”Animation”]

[one-half][dropcap]F[/dropcap]inally, once I’d received the illustrations from Alan, I scanned them up at a reasonable resoluation (300dpi) in full colour and pulled each one into Photoshop. Because they were on such large canvases, many of them wouldn’t fit on the scanner bed, so I had to scan them in sections and use the photomerge function in Photoshop to stitch them together.[/one-half]

[one-half last]I pulled the PSD files into After Effects, masked/clipped the elements and started creating scenes according to the outline that Denis and I had hammered out. I then added these compositions to Premiere so that I could time them to the audio. This may sound awkward, but the dynamic linking gave me an awful lot of control for tweaking.[/one-half]

 

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5 Second Film: The Box

A film parody, like the Voiceover Arist videos we made, this was a quick way to play with the running time of 5 seconds without having to pick up a camera.

Things I Learned From Joss Whedon

[intro]I went to see Joss Whedon’s new film Much Ado About Nothing today, followed by a talk from the man himself. I came away feeling inspired, below are a few of the things Nathalie and I spoke about, that were rattling around in my head on the way home.[/intro]

[dropcap]1.[/dropcap] Character always comes first. Whether it’s a douchebag in Much Ado About Nothing, or Hawkeye in The Avengers. I’m reminded of a great quote I heard from Denis: [cite]What does he want, and why can’t he?[/cite] Motivation is everything.

[dropcap]2.[/dropcap] Collaborate carefully. Joss made a point of saying that he worked with his friends, and that he picked those friends up as he went from project to project. He clearly worked hard to get them and to keep them, and he credits them with bringing a lot of ideas and energy to their projects.

[dropcap]3.[/dropcap] Make what you write. As he pointed out, these days there’s no excuse for not constantly producing and writing your own material. I’ve been feeling quite itchy (no, not down there) lately to get out there and get making things again. I get this point completely.

[dropcap]4.[/dropcap] Don’t be afraid to stay small. This crossed over with something Gabe Newell said on a podcast recently. Being small means you can be nimble and quick, and can leapfrog the competition. You don’t need to be part of the machine, you can build and drive your own business around your own content.

[dropcap]5.[/dropcap] Be humble but confident. Joss was humble, eager to acknowledge the work of others and to make light of his efforts, but he wasn’t falsely modest, or insincere. It’s important to always stay real and connected to the reality of your successes and failures.

The Festivals Thing

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[intro]What are film festivals for, anyway?[/intro]

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’ve been a filmmaker for around ten years. I was always aware of film festivals growing up, but it wasn’t until I became a professional that I really got my head around their nature and significance.

If you’re familiar with the business end of festivals, don’t worry, I’ll keep my explanations brief.

On my current project I’ve been lucky enough to receive quite a bit of traction – the laurels in the slider are all for Barry’s Bespoke Bakery (as of February 2013). It’ll be nine strong by the end of this month, and getting so involved with the work whilst feeling on top of it, I found myself examining my relationship with festivals over the years and thought I’d share a little.

When I was making my first film I had no idea what I was doing, and was so focused on getting the thing done and trying to figure all of that out, that I didn’t really think about what came next. When the day did come and I’d finished it, I realised that I hadn’t looked at film festivals and didn’t really know what sales and distribution were. That stuff had seemed so far away at the start I had forgotten all about them.

That changed when I began working at a production company in 2007 and submission to and attendance at film festivals became part of my duties, which is how I started to learn about their value. Up until that time the only film festival I’d been to was the JDIFF, a fine festival and a lot of fun, but it’s aimed primarily at an audience, rather than filmmakers.

I still remember my first submission. It was right against the deadline for a major Irish festival. I gave myself about an hour to get it done and ended up panicking, typing up a few things and printing out a form with a DVD, throwing it in the post. I never heard anything back, unsurprisingly. It wasn’t until I attended my first festival only a few months later that I realised that I’d never really been to the kind of festival that I, an aspiring filmmaker, could enter. It suddenly seemed so silly that I’d blindly stabbed at trying to gain entry to a world I had no experience of.

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Barry's Bespoke Bakery - Michael Bates as Barry adjusting a cake

It helps to think of it as less like a festival, and more like a conference.

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Michael D. Higgins at JDIFF

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[headsubline subline=”The business end of planning for film festivals as a filmmaker”]What needs to be done, when, and why.[/headsubline]

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[one-half][dropcap]S[/dropcap]ure, festivals don’t seem important now. You’re “too busy” trying to rent goats for half price and figure out how to make the dude’s head explode in the second act, but this is the only time you’ll have the TIME to think about them. This is where you need to make decisions that’ll impact your applying to festivals down the road. One of the few luxuries you have at the start is time, so you should spend that time preparing.[/one-half]

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  • Booking a great stills photographer. Good images will matter.
  • Making a list of all the stuff you need to send to festivals so they can evaluate and screen your film, those NTSC DVD transfers and DCPs don’t make or pay for themselves.
  • Researching any niches your film may qualify for.
  • Making a list of festivals with submission dates you should be aiming for.

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[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ice. The real work. The real heavy-lifting. If you are into macho things, this might be a manly time for you, a time for yelling at people in the rain, for laughing at would-be muggers before you counter their knife with a 4KG camera to the head. If you are more genteel, this could be a time for meaningful reflection. Long walks. Conversations about subtext and meaning. Either way, this is where the magic happens, and as far as festivals are concerned, it’s important the magic happens on time.

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If you aren’t under any other restrictions, festivals can act as a useful deadline. Sometimes you need to push back post-production because you’re sticking to your guns creatively, and that’s ok, but I like to make an informed decision and know what festival opportunities it will cost me. If you take the time in pre-production to work out which viable festivals will be closing their submissions around the time of delivery (completion), you won’t have to add to the stress of triage that usually goes with a last-minute schedule change.

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hether you’re lounging on couches in a full-bore post-production facility, or sleeping on your own couch so your homeless digital genius friend can experience a bed in exchange for posting your film, you will need to prepare for the technical and logistical aspects of submitting and delivering to film festivals. If you have been funded, the good news is that a lot of this you’ll be doing anyway for delivery to your financier. To whit, you’ll need to generate:

  • PAL DVD
  • NTSC DVD
  • 1080p or 720p h.264 [abbr title=”Quicktime”]QT[/abbr]

Those are what you will need to submit to a festival, but what’s the point in submitting if you won’t be able to screen if selected? To screen, you’ll need some or all of the following:

  • DCP
  • 35mm Print
  • 1080p ProRes [abbr title=”Quicktime”]QT[/abbr]
  • 1080p h.264 [abbr title=”Quicktime”]QT[/abbr]
  • Beta SP
  • DigiBeta
  • HDCam

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Then there’s the paperwork. This is not to be underestimated or ignored. You will have to do this at some point if you’re serious about putting your film out there and it’s better to get it out of the way at the start. It’s the whole “doing your homework on the Friday” business all over again. It sucks.

  • Timecoded dialogue list
  • Official synopsis
  • Official logline
  • Full credits
  • Director’s Bio
  • Producer’s Bio
  • Writer’s Bio
  • Biographies for the cast
  • Images from production
  • A poster
  • An [abbr title=”Electronic Press Kit – usually a PDF going behind the scenes”]EPK[/abbr]
  • Tech Specs
  • Director’s Statement
  • Billing Block Credits

 

 

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]ime for a cocktail, you’re done. Kinda. If you’ve laid the groundwork, you’re kinda set, you just send your film off the festivals with the standard materials you’ve put together, and hopefully getting into a few. The ideal scenario is that your film’ll catch fire (not literally) and start getting (literally) invited to other festivals. This is great because it’s cheaper, it feels nice and it improves your prospects of getting distribution hugely.

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That first working trip I took to a festival was to the Galway Film Fleadh in 2007, and I learned an awful lot about why so many filmmakers attend. It helps to think of it as less like a festival, and more like a conference, like an insurance brokers’ conference, or a medical professionals’ conference. They’re far more similar than they may sound.[/one-half]

[one-half last]You’re there because everyone else is there, there’s free booze to be had, new interesting work to see and talk about, and at some festivals, there are deals to be done. Galway, Cannes, Toronto and many other festivals around the world feature markets – for buying and selling films for distribution, and some form of matchmaking – setting up creatives with money and logistics people.[/one-half]

Sunset at Galway Film Fleadh

I could write a lot about attending festivals, but it’s an area I don’t consider myself an expert in, for all of my hours logged. Instead, I’d like to talk a little about what it’s like getting your film in.

Preparation

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Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 01.40.03[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he process of thinking about which festivals you’re going to go for should start while you’re in pre-production. Once your film is finished many months later, hopefully on time, you put together your package. Just about every festival asks for exactly the same things, so you collate them all into a .zip file which you host on a website or, more often, the Public folder in your Dropbox account. If you’re curious about what’s involved, take a look at our one for Barry’s Bespoke Bakery.[/one-half]

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Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 01.40.03You put this together once and keep it in one spot so that you don’t have far to look when you’re filling out an application for a festival. The next thing you do is go to withoutabox.com, sign up and enter in ALL of that information. Withoutabox is a platform used by most American and many European film festivals. You just enter all of the relevant details once, and then when you want to enter a festival, you login, select the project, pay the fee and you’re done – it’s great! That does bring me, however, to the next point.[/one-half]

Dosh

[one-half][dropcap]T[/dropcap]he fees for film festivals tend to stack up quite quickly. It’s a little cheaper these days since you don’t have to post off quite as much stuff as you used to, more and more festivals are accepting password-protected Vimeo links and Withoutabox online screeners, but almost all festivals charge to submit your film, and there are still plenty of fests around that require a printed submission form and DVD screener.[/one-half]

[one-half last]Some of the bigger festivals are free, or very cheap, but it’s the mid-tier festivals that will have you spending a lot of money. For our current project, on three festivals, we spent €50, £40 and $50. Three or four of those a month along with some smaller ones and it quickly adds up – especially when it’s a total gamble! Those aren’t fees to get your film shown, they’re fees to get your film in with a chance of being shown. Filmmaking, like most media, is very speculative, and this process is no different.[/one-half]

Bummer

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he sad reality of course is that, no matter how good your film is, you’re not going to please everybody all of the time, and so you have to make peace with the fact that you will get rejected from time to time. Sometimes those rejections make sense. Sometimes they don’t. The rejections that make sense are the ones where all of the films that do get selected are so brilliant, you have to take it on the chin. The rejections that don’t make sense are the ones where you see who gets selected and cannot figure out what they failed to see in your film, or what they found in the films they did select, but even then you have to let it go as a subjective decision, a matter of taste. These things just happen.

The practical reason for pushing so hard is that most festivals have a twelve-month window for selecting films in competition, meaning that if your film screened more than twelve months before their festival is going to start, you’re probably not going to qualify for selection at all. This gives you a finite amount of time to make an impression. You will still see films doing the rounds after that window has passed; there are flexible festivals, and a lot of fests will have an “Out-Of-Competition” programme for films which they like, but because of their internal rules, cannot consider for a jury or audience prize.

Barry's Bespoke Bakery - Beautiful Cake

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[one-half last]There are a few reasons one strives for prizes. First of all, it feels good for the hard work you put into your film to be recognised as significant and having value. Secondly, many festivals offer money or otherwise valuable prizes, and thirdly, you get to change your laurels from this:

Barry's-Bespoke-Bakery---Laurels---OS

into this:

Barry's-Bespoke-Bakery---Laurels---BF
Which will add a certain something to your posters, artwork, website etc. In a competitive business about relationships, improving your first impression is a valuable endeavour. You also become an “award-winning filmmaker”. Looks good on any CV.[/one-half]

 

W00t!

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Barry's Bespoke Bakery - Beautiful Pastries

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[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ongratulations! You got your film into a festival! Once all of the champagne corks have been swept up, you get to work. If it’s a big festival overseas you can apply to Culture Ireland for a travel grant to cover some of your travel expenses. If you’re not going to be attending, you’ll still need to be aware of a few dates:

A possible press embargo

We were embargoed for the BFI London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival for a few weeks, though it’s not terribly common.

The deadline for your images and copy

They’ll be going to press with their programme a month or so before the festival so they can have a proper launch with a band and bubbly and all the rest, and your images and copy are going to have to be in it! That’s usually the first thing a festival will start shouting for once you’ve been accepted, and it’s a serious pain in the ass for them if you’re late with it.

When they want the print

There’ll be someone on the staff called the Print Traffic Co-Ordinator, or sometimes just the Print Co-Ordinator. Their job is to ship in all of the screening copies and ship them all back, or on to other festivals. As you can imagine, it’s a very stressful job that only really suits very meticulous people. They can be understandably inflexible, but in my experience can also be great allies if treated with the proper respect.

When the screening is

The festival will publicise the event and a couple of headline events, but they probably won’t publicise your film past putting it in the catalogue, so having the date as far in advance as possible is a great help as it allows you to start advertising your screening everywhere you possibly can.

When they can give your print back

If you’re on a roll, you’ll want them to send that print on to another festival, if not, you’ll just want them to send it home, but it’s important not to lose sight of this date. It very rarely happens, but sometimes the print manager isn’t as meticulous as you’d expect, and the print just…hangs around at the festival until someone remembers and gets it shipped back.

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The Sweet Smell of Success

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]uccess changes everything. If you get a couple of notable wins, your film “catches”. Instead of you pushing it, the market changes its attitude to you and begins to pull. You get invitations to festivals, offers to fly you over, and even screening fees, where THEY pay YOU to show the film. Like a fine balancing act, the judgement, restraint, patience and persistence that you try to show in pushing the film to festivals, suddenly needs to gracefully switch directions. You can’t accept every offer, you can’t fly to every festival (though you can have a lot of fun trying), you still need to stick to a strategy. You’ll find that you don’t have enough DCPs or HDCAM tapes to go around, that you can’t sift through the correspondence from people who have seen your film or just heard about it fast enough to tell the shysters and charlatans from the genuine attempts to communicate.

Wrap it up

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’d like to write a lot more about it – if there’s anything you’d like me to expand on, please sound off on the comments or shoot me a mail – ben@ben.ie

Belfast Film Festival

Barry's-Bespoke-Bakery---Laurels---Belfast-Film-Festival[dropcap]A[/dropcap]nd the hits just keep coming. I can also announce this week that our film Barry’s Bespoke Bakery has been accepted to the Belfast Film Festival. Details of the screening will be available here.

…please do come along and say hello…

I haven’t been to Belfast since I was under the age of ten, so I’m looking forward to heading up with Nathalie and Denis and spending some time at the festival. Are you going to be there? I hope you get to catch the film, and please do come along and say hello. I’d also love to hear any feedback you have on the film, so don’t be shy!

BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

Barry's-Bespoke-Bakery---Laurels---BFI-London-Lesbian-&-Gay-Film-Festival[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o, the little film that could, Barry’s Bespoke Bakery has been accepted to another film festival! This begins its run in the LGBT film circuit, as there’s a gay element to the story.

We’re delighted to be screening at such a prestigious festival, and I hope anybody I know in London gets a chance to see it. Details of the screening are be available over on the official website, and if you haven’t seen it already, please check out the trailer above.

 

5-Second Film: Hardback

Yes, yes, I know – it’s not a hardback book, but it is a way to work in an erection joke, an eternally welcome opportunity over at Half a Giraffe. This was another experiment, along with Paranormal Activity, that we did to explore the running time. This has quite a few edits of course, and we shot an angle in there that we didn’t end up using.

Chicago Irish Film Festival

Barry's-Bespoke-Bakery---Laurels---Chicago-Irish-Film-Festival[dropcap]I[/dropcap] produced a film last Spring called Barry’s Bespoke Bakery. This has been a good week for having our work recognised; we’ve been accepted to the Chicago Irish Film Festival! Happy to announce that we’ll be screening on the 6th of March 2013. I keep details of all upcoming screenings here.

Also happy to say that we have a few more bits of good news yet to come this week.

5-Second Film: Normal Activity

Part of Half a Giraffe’s 5 second films series, this one kicked it off. Gemma came up with the idea and we shot it while Ciaran was over from Canada.

Along with our Hardback sketch, this was an early experiment with the running time of 5 seconds. It turns out that writing for 5 seconds is tough, but not as tough as you’d think. I reckon the last few years of sketch-making have been good to us.

Actors

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] do get to know quite a few actors in my line of work. I’ve never taken official headshots, but I often can’t help myself when I’m around an actor, I do tend to take their photo’s. Here are a couple of great guys I’ve worked with over the years.

Tim is a wonderful actor, great fun and a tremendous voice-over artist.

Tim Dillard

This was taken on the set of a piece we were working on together in 2006. Cathal’s a really talented artist and has a great flair for improvisation. He brought a lot to the projects we worked on, can’t recommend him highly enough.

Cathal Sheahan

The Agency

I came across these this morning and thought they’d be worth a look. This was a TV series created by Emmett Scanlan that he approached me to direct a few years ago for Storyland.

First, we made a thirty second pitch (above). We were fortunate enough to be selected for an interview, so we shot a few character scenes to clarify the style of the comedy and delivery since Emmett would be in the US shooting MTV series The Phone when we were scheduled to interview and we figured his presence would be missed.

Though the clip is deliberately short, we shot about half an hour of material, which was a lot of fun. Emmett and I worked together first on a feature film I directed in fits and spurts between 2004 and 2007 and The Agency was going to be made in that style; with a carefully developed script, heavily embellished with improvisation.

Sadly, we didn’t get selected (though another series I pitched did), but Emmett came on board for the first Half a Giraffe sketch a couple of years later.

The Dizzy Olympics

If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, Google Plus or even just around in real life, I’m sure you will have already been exposed to my pimping this:

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the effects. This was actually quite a simple job. First, I tracked a couple of seconds either side of the explosion. Then I grabbed a still frame from when she’s left the frame, lined it up with one where she’s still in it and then linked it to the tracking data. Once I’d done that, I created an alpha matte that I animated over her head and arms. Then I added the blood, which are from Video Co-Pilot Action Movie Essentials and isolated her arms and head and animated them flying off at high speed. It was important to add motion blur to everything of course so it blended in. The last stage was creating a camera wiggle with the explosion to make it feel like there was a shock wave. All told, it took me about three hours to put it together. I’d recommend checking out Video Co-Pilot if you haven’t already.

Exit Poll

Half a Giraffe - Harry Peterson

As part of Half a Giraffe, we use my camera more often than not to shoot the sketches and ideas we come up with. I snapped this through the lens as the director walked our cast through the scene in a rehearsal for our sketch Exit Poll.

Half a Giraffe - Harry Peterson

Film

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These old shots are from the VERY brief period in which I shot on film.

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A couple of shots taken at my local park.

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A few shots from a very atmospheric shoot in the basement of Kilmainham Gaol for a film that was called Possession at the time. It was later retitled Christian Blake. I was there with some friends for a cameo performance, but I haven’t seen the finished piece and so don’t know if I made the cut.

Posession Shhot 008

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Posession Prison

These last two shots are from my film The Rise of The Bricks.

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In every set of film stills there's the clapper board...