The future is bright for film industry in Cork

Currently, Ireland is experiencing a huge growth in film production, says Mick Hannigan, Co-Director of film festival Indie Cork, which got underway this week
The future is bright for film industry in Cork

IndieCork's Niall Owens and Mick Hannigan. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski.

ONE of the founding missions of IndieCork was to provide a platform for local filmmaking. This is mainly expressed through the two Creative Cork programmes in the festival each year. These are comprised of some 16 shorts made by Cork filmmakers, or filmmakers resident in Cork. We’re constantly surprised by the brilliant work produced by people, often literally down the road.

Year after year, an impressive body of local work is submitted to us - dramas, documentaries, animation, experimental film, poetry film, horror, comedy, etc – covering a wide spectrum of film making styles and approaches. And this is work not just by film students or local film artists but also by those working professionally in the industry, either as skilled individuals for hire by big productions or those with their own film production houses.

The Creative Cork screenings are the most exciting of the festival, with the Gate Cinema packed with friends and family all enthusiastically enjoying the work on the big screen. And filmmakers are coming back with new work, year after year. The pattern often is, premiere with IndieCork, and then get the film out to other international festivals.

Despite Coved restrictions, which you might imagine would lead to a drop in productions, the reverse seems to have happened. There’s been an explosion in filmmaking. 

The Cork productions have spilled over into other sections of the programme; the Irish Horror Shorts, the Animation programme, etc., all testament to a very lively filmmaking scene in Cork City and County.

It’s also interesting how Cork organisations have incorporated filmmaking into their work. Hazel Hurley’s animated A Short History of Irish Travellers was produced by the Cork Traveller Woman’s Network and another animation, Jane Lee’s Timpeall, was created for Graffiti Theatre Company. A well-established Cork institution, the Quay Co-op health-food store and vegetarian café on Sullivan’s Quay, is also the subject of a new documentary. This is the work of Emma Bowell and Eddie Noonan of Frameworks Films, who for many years have been producing excellent, community-based documentaries. The film looks at the origins of the Co-op which has had a profound impact on bringing social change in Cork in many areas. As one who helped out a bit in the early days of the Co-op I was interviewed for the doc. but, as is the nature of these things, I’ll probably end up on the cutting-room floor.

I think it’s significant that, for the second year in a row, the IndieCork Opening Film is a local production. 

Last year it was Damian Mc Carthy’s horror feature, Caveat, which has been a great success for him. This year Niall Owens’, a well-established member of the Irish film industry, has delivered an imaginative psychological horror set in a strange house in suburban Cork.

Another long-time member of the industry is Conor Slattery who has produced quite a stunning Irish Civil War tale inspired by historical events. The title Once Upon A Time In Ireland gives a nod to the filmic sensibility of the film, set entirely in a beach cave in County Cork and shot quite brilliantly in black and white.

What’s contributing to Cork being a creative hub of filmmaking? For some it’s the ready availability of impressive technical equipment.

The digital revolution has transformed everything and lowered the barrier-to-entry to filmmaking. Some of Slattery’s film, for example, was shot on an iPhone and he was able to craft the look and style of the film on home editing equipment.

Some of the burgeoning filmmaking activity is fuelled by the ever-growing need for audio-visual content; streaming services have a voracious appetite for ‘content’. Some are passion projects of those who are otherwise busy working on other people’s commercial projects. Yet others are the works of young and emerging filmmakers learning their craft.

What they all demonstrate is the age-old desire of people to make their mark, to give expression to their creativity, to tell stories. When once it might have been wall-painting in a cave, or telling stories around a campfire, these days it’s with a camera. In IndieCork we’re proud to be the platform for this storytelling for a week each year.

Currently, Ireland is experiencing a huge growth in film production, both by indigenous companies but also by companies moving productions here, perhaps due to the complexities of Brexit. A number of new studios have sprung up to meet this demand. While there are excellent and successful small companies located in Cork and while there is undoubtedly talent in the region, the city will have to demonstrate that it has the infrastructure to enable large productions and avail of the immense opportunities that currently exist in the audio-visual industries.

IndieCork opened on Sunday 19 and runs until September 26 in the Gate Cinema and online until October 3. See indiecork.com

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