The story of getting a film made ........again!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

Came across an interesting piece from the Tokyo International Film Festival over the weekend, you can check it out here. It offers an insight into the business of filmmaking from the vantage point of an Oscar winning Irish screenwriter and director Neil Jordan, and it’s not a comforting one. I’ve long since felt that change is now such a constant feature of how people consume their entertainment that finding calm waters is a bit like setting your course for a safe harbour in the middle of a storm with no compass, rudder or sail. Where ever we’re going, few can predict with any accuracy and the driving force behind all this flux is as Neil Jordan stated, the internet but not I believe exclusively.

Other factors at play are gaming and quality TV drama on our 50 inch LCD screens with surround sound (not to mention the endless hours of brainless gunk). The multiplex has now been staked out as the preserve of the “studios” who have the deep pockets to drive marketing campaigns that sometimes cost as much as the visual extravaganza they herald. It’s not that difficult to get a film into the cinema chain, especially now with the arrival of digital projection. What is enormously difficult is to get an audience into that film and if you fail to do that, it’s pulled.

Take a look at Entertainment.ie and you’ll find a list of 42 films now showing nationwide in Ireland. Filter that list to find films which are relatively low budget, non-star sfx driven, independent films and according to my count that amounts to maybe 4, non of which will make their way to my local 4 screen cineplex here in Kilkenny. When the cinema going demographic arrive in the multiplex lobby, the last thing they want to see is the quiet, contemplative drama made on a shoestring. Yet we shouldn’t lose heart, in recent years films like “Juno”, “Sideways” and “Little Miss Sunshine” have all done well at the box office. And what about the success of “His & Hers” and “Once”, both made for less than €150k.

The glory days of 1970’s cinema have probably passed for all time, never to return. A decade that gave cinema films like “The Conversation”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Badlands”, “Rocky”, “Chinatown”, “Taxi Driver”, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Day’s of Heaven”, the list goes on. All films I believe that would find it difficult if not impossible to get funded today.

So yes, there are I’ve no doubt many film directors who are unemployed, finding it difficult to get their projects off the ground. But many have migrated to TV and the gaming industry and that goes for writers too. Normally at this point I like to draw some kind of conclusion but find I can’t. We’re in the midst of a revolution and how that turns out is quiet honestly, a crap shoot.

Bertie, Biffo and the Bard of Avon

Hailed as a strong and decisive leader on his appointment to the top job, Brian Cowen has managed to confound both his supporters and critics in equal measure. Among the many questions we are left asking after two years of his stewardship, surely the most pertinent is “What was Bertie thinking by positioning his finance minister for Taoiseach?” As always with Bertie, I believe he knew exactly what he was doing. The former Taoiseach is nothing, if not ruthlessly ambitious. By the time he knew his days were numbered, he very quickly set out his path to the big white house in the park and knew that he would have to seal the door shut behind him in Government buildings to ensure that no blame or criticism followed him on his quest for the Presidency. Brian Cowen held many cabinet positions and managed to distinguish himself in none. Seeing the ominous dark clouds on our horizon a lot sooner than we think, why did Bertie choose a successor who quite clearly would not be up to the task ahead.

In Fianna Fail, loyalty above all else is expected, treasured and rewarded and if nothing else Brian Cowen possessed it in bucket loads. If a leadership contest were to take place in the wake of Bertie’s departure, God forbid, a young turk could have risen to the top, a la Obama, who owed nothing to Bertie and while he or she struggled to steer our ship through very dark waters, would be always free to point the finger at Bertie and Biffo et al and say, “Look, I’m really sorry about this mess, but they caused it, I’m only trying to fix it. Give me a hand and we’ll get through this”. That possibility could never be countenanced, not matter how improbable. So quite apart from all the actions and inactions perpetrated on us by the affable Bertie, (Ah Jaysus lads), it is my belief that Biffo’s elevation at his hand, if not the most damaging of them all, was at least the final blow.

So what’s William Shakespeare got to do with all of this? Quite rightly we hold the man in high esteem for his uncanny ability to reveal the human heart in all it’s manifestations and gory detail. Of all of his fine plays, one of his lesser known is “Coriolanus”. It tells the story of a brave and loyal army General and servant of Rome, who because of his heroic exploits on the field of battle, finds himself persauded to run for the Roman Senate. For the first time in his life, he must converse with and seek the support of the common people or plebeian in order to secure his seat and finds it impossible to hide his contempt for them. Going so far as to insult and threaten them, Coriolanus finds himself, through the machinations of some cunning and manipulative politicians, cast out of Rome. The story goes on from there, but for our purposes we can stop here. Coriolanus was revered by his men as a warrior who feared nobody and so they gave of their affection and loyalty, without question. His flaw was that he was true to himself. He held in high esteem those who shed blood for him and Rome and felt nothing short of indifference, even contempt for the soft yet complaining citizens of that same city. And if he is to be admired, it is for his unwillingness to pretend to be someone he was not. Anyone else see the parallel?

So is Brian Cowen a bad man? No, not at all. By all accounts he is affable and witty, kind to animals and children, a strong family man with decent human values. He just found himself at the wrong end of the machinations of the most cunning and ruthless of them all.

What’s this got to do with a blog about film. Not a lot I will admit and I did point out that other subject matter would sneak in every now and then. Except this, I am working on an adaptation of Coriolanus for film. Yes I know, Ralph Fiennes has has just completed his adaptation. While I haven’t seen it yet, I have no doubt it’s a very fine film. The adaptation I have in mind would have a very different take on the subject matter and no, it’s not Biffo the movie.