UNJUST - The Short Film I'm glad I made

So, I started my last year in St. Malachy's college in 2011 and I'm thinking, "This year, I really want to go all out. I want to make something, not just to leave my mark at the school, but something that I will really be proud of and that would help me stand-out to film-makers in Northern Ireland."

I needed a story. A dam, good story at that. I've always been a big believer in that you can make a good film with a good script, but you cannot make a good film with a bad script. Story is key.

One night I was watching, or re-watching I should say, Joel Shumacher's 'Phone Booth' starring Colin Farrell. And I found myself constantly on edge, always at the edge of my seat for a figure of speech. I mean, what is more terrifying than someone with the ability to take your life in a matter of seconds?

This had me thinking (again). What would really drive a man so far over the edge to want to inflict terror into another mans life? Well that's obvious isn't it. Family. I know that I love my family very much and it kills me to see them in any sort of pain or distress. So I did my my research, my notes and all my mind maps to pull together something I thought could really work. Finally, I got writing. You can watch the film on the web for yourself to find out what plot I went for in the end.

The script was drafted around four times and finally locked down about two weeks in to the school year. So pre-production started immediately thereafter. I didn't want to waste any time.

On set - All BTS images courtesy of Rhys Montgomery
This film had to be done right. I wanted it to be the best it could be. I couldn't do it on my own again, I needed help this time. I wanted a proper cast and a proper crew that were as passionate about the project as I was. And the main thing I needed most of all was a Producer. Someone to represent the film where I could not. Someone to relieve some of the pressure in getting locations, actors, crew, equipment etc. A director needs to be able to focus the majority, if not all, of his energy on getting his vision onto the screen. Luckily I found an amazing producer and friend, Chris Heath. Who donated so much of his spare time and handled everything so professionally. Honestly the film would not have been made without him, I owe him so much and am eternally grateful for his dedication.

Anyway, the film! With the help of Chris, I was able to lock down an amazingly talented cast all perfect to their suited roles. Neal McWilliams starred as the main protagonist in the story. I had hired him before for a small role once before in an earlier short film and I was blown away by his talent. I actually felt bad that I hadn't a bigger role to offer him at the time. Then there was Robert Render, the antagonist in our tale. I had been following his very impressive work and knew that this was a perfect part for him to play. Boy was I right. Lindsey Mitchel then joined the cast. An underrated actress who doesn't hold back for the sake of the character, who takes direction so well and was an absolute joy to work with. Then we found Niketa Ferguson who again is a very talented, up and coming actress finding herself quite a bit of work in the N.I indie scene. Other roles included brother & sister child actors, Tobyn and Leo Clarke, Natalie Johnston, Chris Heath and Daniel McCartney who special thanks are given for producing his very own PSNI uniform costume! Legend!

Shooting the Police scene with Daniel and Natalie

Through pre-production, we planned a very busy three day shoot. I wanted to accommodate for all who was helping me as best I could. So the less time we spent shooting, the better. That's not an awful lot of time for a thirteen minute film. But I enjoy the challenge.

Production started in January. I'm so glad I had the help of creative genius Leo McGuigan as AD and camera to help me out on set. A great friend also stepped in as sound recordist when no one else would and Lucy Turner with her vast knowledge in make-up design. Aidan Largey, George Clarke and Roddy Conlon were also vital assets to my crew. So special thanks to all of them! The shoots themselves went... well, really well actually. Everyone really did me proud. Cast, crew, the lot! I remember being in awe of the performances from the cast, thinking to myself, "we're on to something here." The only big slip up we had was turning up to shoot at a store in Belfast and being told we had an hour to do it. Of course we appreciate getting permission to shoot there in the first place but it really did put us under alot of pressure! Thankfully we dove right in, pulled through and got it done in time.

On set at Homebargains, Newtonabbey

Shooting wrapped on the 14th of January. And I was delighted to have musical/technical extraordinaire,  Adam McCausland from Warp & Woof to compose the score and sound design. I'm so glad II had met him before on another shoot because his endeavors made such an amazing difference to the overall product. I loved the music he created and the audio couldn't have been crisper! So another special thanks to him!

(What a coincidence, the very moment I finished that line of this blog I found out that the film picked up two awards at  the Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival! Audience choice and Best short film! Great news!)

Anyways,  post production took quite alot of time and alot of coffee but it definitely paid off in the end. It was officially complete on the 20th February. Which was awesome because it gave me alot of time tto focus on the rest of my studies. I would highly recommend to anyone studying Moving Image arts in any school to start early and gain the best result.

The film premiered at the Devour Film Festival in Belfast and was awarded the Directors Choice award. It later screened and was shortlisted to the finals of the Fastnet Film Festival in Cork.

I love making films and in particular I loved making this film most of all. Surround yourself with amazing people and anything is possible.  Thankyou once again to all who helped make it happen!

Hope you enjoyed this post.


Full film can be seen via YouTube HERE

I happily receive the award for Directors Choice