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Thursday October 9th at THE KERRY FILM FESTIVAL

I took a chunk of the day off so I missed some good stuff here, but frankly, this is such a packed and well selected festival of film that even if you dedicate all your time to seeing it, you still have to miss some of the events. It’s not an adequate excuse, but I’ve been living in Kerry for ten years or more and have never been to Listowel, home, among many other things, of the Listowel Literary Week, but also one of the ancient centres of the Kingdom, so when I got the chance to get a lift there and spend a few hours wandering around, I took it.

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As a result, I missed more of the Kerry Film Festival’s excellent short film programmes. There are a lot of film festivals around, even in this small corner of the world, and they have to find their niche. Kerry Film Festival’s focus on short films is one distinguishing factor and one it fulfills wonderfully. The films selected by the director Roísin McGuigan have been a broad, encompassing look at this particular genre, bringing films from all over the world as well as a healthy representation of the Irish film industry.

Of course, there are also some great feature films (last night Wake In Fright was shown at the Brandon Conference Centre, and today we have the chance to see La Grande Illusion, Jean Renoir’s masterpiece set in the First World War, as well as the tempting Darkness On The Edge Of Town showing tonight in Killarney (but I can’t get to it and also see Beyond Clueless at the Brandon Conference Centre, which I really don’t want to miss).

The Short Film programme that I missed was 6 films sharing the theme of “Professions, Pastimes & Passions”. As always, most of the short films shown at the festival can be found on youTube, or at least their trailers, so check out The Showreel, Nasreen, an immigrant worker in a London office, makes her acting showreel by imagining there are crews on every corner as she pretends to be an action heroine, with surprising results; Suddenly, a writer overcomes his writer’s block when confronted by a man with a gun; I’ve Been A Sweeper, the Sweeper reflects on his long life and travels; Gammel Bikkje, Nye Triks, a taxi driver picks up a senile old man, but things are not as they seem; Mr. Invisible,  an old man finds being ‘invisible’ on the streets of London works to his advantage; and Rockmount, a comedy drama set in Cork about a boy who defeats all odds to join his local football team.

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IMRO Seminar – Composing Music For Film/TV And Animation

I was asked to take part in this as a member of the panel, a result, I assume, of my being a director of Atlantic Screen Music Ltd., a company that publishes, manages and also finances film scores. But everyone else on stage with me were the real McCoy, professional composers with an impressive history in the industry.

scoring panel kff14

The panel was chaired by Derek Gleeson, an Irishman who works largely in Hollywood. The other panelists were composer, orchestrator and mentor to many a young composer, Fiachra Trench; and composer Ross O’Connor.

Derek decided to start the evening with a discussion of the thorny subject, composer’s fees. This seemed to be a bête noir for him, as he launched into a tirade against the falling fees for composers, the plethora of people willing to work for nothing that is undermining said fees, the ignorant producers who expect too much, interfere too much and know nothing… And so on. It took the discussion somewhat downhill spiritually, as his fellow composers admitted it is a hard life with a lot of work and few rewards. We’d all be better off if we’d gone into some steady Civil Service job, you might think… But I say (or said), so what? It is the same for everyone who works in the media industries, and the fact is, we do it for the love of the work, and despite all its hurdles. I spoke up for the joys of movie making and eventually we all agreed on that.

Probably of more interest to our mainly young audience of aspiring directors, and as far as I could tell, only one or two composers, was our discussion of the issues involved in getting a score written once you have landed a commission (we reverted a little here, by going into how hard it is to get a commission in the first place. Etcetera), coming up with something that suits the project , dealing with producers, directors and music supervisors, and coming out at the end with a piece of work you can be proud of.

Music supervisors got a bit of a basting, which touched on my area of knowledge in this, as my co-director at Atlantic Screen Music Ltd., Tim Hollier and also his son Rupert Hollier, both do a lot of music supervision, the job of clearing licenses for use of recorded works, finding a composer, organising the production of the score and so on. A necessary evil at the least, and actually a useful service, if you ask me, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Being only involved in the business end of music for film it was a very helpful insight into the tribulations of composers, but heck, they’re creatives, their modus operandi are all about going through tribulations in the hope of arriving at triumph. Without the trial, what would the reward be worth?

As a cap to the programme we watched three short films, the shortlist for this years award for Best Composition:

An Ode To Love, score by Stefan French.


The Gravedigger’s Tour, score by Kevin Whyms.


and The Goblin Market, score by Ross O’Connor.


They were all excellent and will soon be available to watch, if they’re not already. I was especially impressed by Ross’s work, as he lifted what could have been an over-long, not very well shot, rather confusing film and turned it into a cohesive and intriguing work with his dynamic score. He picked up on all the right moments to add to the shock of the visuals and give the film, based on the Christina Rossetti poem, a real sense of dread. Not easy but he did it. But I hasten to add, all the films are well worth seeing and any one of them could carry the prize.

Afterwards we had a great meal at Pomo Doro, a very good Italian restaurant here in Tralee that I will try to remember to review for Tripadvisor, and then drinks in the Festival’s official bar, Roundy’s, also highly recommended, if you can find this delightful but almost camouflaged bar in the centre of town.

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So on to today, Friday’s programme, which has been fascinating so far and looks to only get better!! More on that tomorrow.


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