THIS year’s Young Filmmaker of the Year Awards, shown on Wednesday on RTÉ2,recognise the best in young Irish filmmaking.
They are part of the Fresh International Film Festival, which awards filmmakers aged 7 to 18.
This year there were three Cork nominees: Bishopstown Community School presented Live and Let Live, Eoin Murphy produced the animated Machine, and Michael Antonio Keane made a drama, Like a Bolt from the Blue.
The festival’s founder and artistic director, Jayne Foley, says that some young filmmakers made films specifically for the festival. Others make a film and then decided to enter.
“In some cases, they may be making videos or films with their friends and realise that they could enter, others might want to make a film, and the festival gives them something to work towards.”
Foley says that the Cork nominees reflect different elements of filmmaking: animation, drama, and ensemble work.
“The Bishopstown Community School has an amazing group. They wrote a song for their film and I just can’t get out of my head. It’s a great example of a group coming together to make a short film.
“Eoin Murphy is an interesting animator. He uses stop-motion animation and is so talented for a young filmmaker.
“We also have Michael Antonio Keane, who we have known for a long time. As he has aged out, this will be his last film with us, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of our time with him. We love to keep in contact with our young filmmakers and build relationships that can last years.”
As well as the film festival and awards, Fresh offers various training programmes throughout the year.
“We’ve been running a programme called Hot House for a long time. One of the big things we do is give young people money to make their films. That sounds like an obvious thing, but young people under the age of 18 aren’t usually given money. We mentor them on how to do a budget, how to keep receipts, and all that boring but important stuff, which is essential to know if they want a career in filmmaking. “
The festival also annually hosts film workshops and events and distributes Irish-made short films to international festivals.
Foley says the prizes awarded by Fresh reflect the needs of the winners.
“There are set prizes, but others depend on the winner. It might be a piece of equipment or a tour of an animation studio; it all depends on what they need to help them progress with their work.”
Cobh filmmaker Michael Antonio Keane entered the festival for the fifth and final time this year. Now 19, he will be too old to enter next year but says the festival has been a vital part of his filmmaking journey.
“Every year at Fresh, you pick up new inspiration and ideas when you meet other filmmakers and from networking. The most important and rewarding thing about the experience is getting feedback from the audience; there is nothing quite like that in-person experience.”
Keane says that everyone at the festival is supportive and that his skills have improved each year through the support.
“I find myself improving my storytelling, working with actors, and nailing down what I want to tell. Every year, when you submit a film, you find your weaknesses, what you need to work on, and what really works.
“Filmmaking is trial and error, and the festival allows you to fail and succeed in the most encouraging way possible.
Keane’s film, A Bolt from the Blue, revolves around a young couple who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy. He says he wanted to explore the idea of conflict and resolution in his film.
“Conflict is the main theme, but I wanted to explore how young people in a difficult situation progress, evolve and deal with what they are going through. Teenage pregnancy is a sensitive and serious subject. The couple can use this difficult situation as an opportunity to turn their relationship around or fall apart.”
The film has a large cast and ten actors involved, and Keane says he enjoys working with like-minded people.
“I have a lot of like-minded friends who are really into film, and they are dying to get their hands on a camera and work behind the scenes or play a part on screen. The film is a collaborative piece that incorporates students, actors, and friends who are film enthusiasts.”
As a festival veteran, Keane has some advice for young filmmakers who might be a little nervous about picking up a camera.
“When you are in secondary school, you are dealing with a lot of nerves, procrastination, and uneasiness when it comes to trying to fit in. Once you realise that you should be trying to stand out and make your mark on the world, that will enhance your drive to create cinema and films.
“Try not to overthink; if you have an idea, make it into a film. If it doesn’t work, you move on to the next one.
“There are people who will support you, which is what Fresh does well. It teaches you that if something doesn’t work, it is not a big deal; you can always try again.”
The short film by Bishopstown Community School, Live and Let Live, was a collaboration between local artists and students to create a message of compassion and inclusion through music and film. Rebecca Milner, a teacher at the school who helped with the project, says the students sought to show that every individual, regardless of their appearance, ethnicity or background, deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity.
“They are proof that young people can truly make a difference when they come together with a shared vision and are proud to be a part of a generation that is committed to social justice and equality. The Arts Council of Ireland helped to fund and guide their film project. Their work is pivotal in shaping creativity in young children and teenagers in Ireland.”
The Fresh International Film Festival Ireland’s Young Filmmaker of the Year Awards are on the RTÉ Player. All entries can be viewed here https://www.youtube.com/freshfilmfestival