My Weekend: Youth film festival requires lots of energy, lots of early mornings and weekends working

Mary McGrath is the Festival Director of First Cut! Youth Film Festival which runs from March 8 to 11
My Weekend: Youth film festival requires lots of energy, lots of early mornings and weekends working

Mary McGrath is from East Cork, and now lives near one of its most beautiful beaches in Ballybranagan. She is the director of the First Cut Youth Film Festival.

Mary McGrath is from East Cork, and now lives near one of its most beautiful beaches in Ballybranagan. She is the director of the First Cut Youth Film Festival; the 14th edition will take place March 8 to 11 in two amazing venues in Youghal. The four-day programme, coming live from the Mall Arts Centre and the Regal Cinema, is packed with imaginative, thought-provoking and engaging events for young filmmakers aged 12 to 24 years. First Cut is dedicated to showcasing new films by young filmmakers. It presents films in all genres by individual filmmakers, schools and youth groups as well as offering workshops and talks by film industry professionals. The festival creates a unique space where young filmmakers can share their passion for making films with their peers.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

Friday nights are all about relaxation, putting your feet up and watching a good film, unless there’s a Film Gala or a First Cut Festival event! 

It's that time of the year when the lead-in to the festival keeps our growing festival team very busy. 

Right now, is extra busy as we prepare the festival programme, out of the hundreds of entries we received worldwide. We are really looking forward to seeing new films through our Open Call for entries – and to seeing those young people at the festival in March. 

Mary McGrath director of the First Cut Youth Film Festival. Pictured with the First Cut Team.
Mary McGrath director of the First Cut Youth Film Festival. Pictured with the First Cut Team.

In addition, First Cut! Youth Film Festival runs two other opportunities for young filmmakers through the Youth Music Video Competition, a music video mentoring initiative, and Athrú Amháin, a filmmaking through Irish programme – both of these are central parts of our programe, and extend our connection to many communities nationwide. Now more than ever, supporting young people’s creativity in their own communities is very important.

Otherwise, watching all those amazing Irish films which are out at the moment is a really great way to spend a Friday night. Our film, television and animation industry has really become a global success story!

Lie ins or up with the lark — which is it for you?

Definitely depends on the time of year! In winter months there is nothing like a good sleep in especially at weekends. But once Spring is in the air I’m definitely up with the lark. 

Organising the First Cut Youth Film Festival, which is in March, makes Spring a very busy time for me. 

I love being up early and heading off for a walk with our dog Riley on the beach down the road from where I live- it’s a great way to start any day of the week.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

For about six months of the year, it most definitely does, between the Cork Young Filmmakers workshop programme and Gala which I co-ordinate with Cork Film Centre and the First Cut Festival which is growing year on year. This is our 14th year and it is bigger than ever. 

We’ve expanded the festival by a whole day allowing us to extend the reach to even more young people. 

Our aim is to work with young filmmakers to create a vibrant, exciting and innovative programme every year – that requires lots of energy and lots of early mornings and weekends working.

If money was no object, where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

If money was no object I’d head to Italy, to Naples or maybe Rome with my family. There’s nothing more relaxing than some sun, amazing Italian food and time to explore and chat, maybe a swim.

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries (particularly beauty spots, walks, beaches)?

Sherkin Island is like home from home, great people, family and friends, sailing, swimming and fresh garden produce.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

Ideally, but that is not always possible. Sometimes it’s just great to hang out at home, with my family, and friends who live locally.

Mary McGrath enjoys a bit of summer sailing with friends around Fastnet Rock.
Mary McGrath enjoys a bit of summer sailing with friends around Fastnet Rock.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

I love reading and always have and I am part of a great book club, we’ve been meeting for the last 12 years. I love our book club meetings, they’re great fun, it’s really interesting sharing our reactions and hearing what everyone thinks. It is also a great way to catch up with friends on a regular basis.

Film is of course a great passion and I do love a bit of summer sailing with friends around Fastnet Rock.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter, do you have a signature dish?

I have been spoilt for years by my husband, and now my children, who are all great cooks, I am surrounded by foodies but I do have a signature dish- aubergine parmigiana to die for, served with a simple tomato & buffalo mozzarella salad.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork —where are your go-to spots for coffee/ lunch/ special meal?

East Cork is a great place to live if you’re into food, the market in Midleton on Saturday mornings, Monty’s for coffee and Coppinger’s is a warm cosy place to meet. Youghal is a great place to head off to on the weekends for an invigorating walk on the boardwalk, coffee and lunch in too many great places to name. I’d recommend a bit of exploring!

Sunday night comes around too fast — how do you normally spend it?

These days it’s like being back in school - planning for meetings in the week ahead with the fantastic First Cut Festival team, the enthusiastic youth advisory council and all our great partners and supporters.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

7am – allowing for the luxury of a walk on the beach before the week begins again. Unless of course, it’s closer to our festival week in early March – where I’m to be found up early and on the streets of Youghal organising the festival! Local support for our festival is so important, it’s lovely to get out and meet everyone who supports us.

For more see www.firstcutfilmfestival.com

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