Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Firehouse Film Contest

The Firehouse Film Contest is a monthly amateur film competition being organised by Conor Barry and a team of others. It takes place in Rathmines on the first Sunday of the month, with the first two events being well attended. I caught up with Conor Barry to find out more about the event and his own film-making activities.

What were the origins of the project and who are the people involved?

The other two organisers of the Firehouse Film Contest are Conor O’Toole and Simon Mulholland and they have an office in The Mart, the former fire station turned hip art space in Rathmines. Since we all have a background in filmmaking we thought it would be a fun experiment to see if we could gather a bunch of filmmakers in a friendly, non-pressure environment and The Mart seemed like that kind of a place. Apart from the competitive part of the contest, which I suppose is a slight pressure.

Conor O'Toole, Simon Mulholland, Conor Barry
The main appeal was to get an actual audience together. Filmmakers often make their shorts exclusively for YouTube or Vimeo, which has its benefits because your potential audience is everyone who owns a computer. But the flipside of that is you have an audience of individuals only half paying attention in front of their laptops rather than the buzz you get from an attentive live audience. So I think you lose a lot of the fun of it that way.  There’s also the more selfish reason that we get to watch a bunch of new short films every month.

How did you get started in film making? 
I personally got into filmmaking because Ireland is a very cold place and filmmaking is an activity you can do indoors. Also, I had very little else to do back when I was in Transition Year. So my friends and I spent a lot of our teenage years just filming ourselves running about and then cutting it together into vague narratives.
We got a few of them screened in film festivals around Ireland. It’s a pretty nerve-wracking because you’re watching people watch you on a giant screen and your face is being projected at a ridiculous size. But it’s also exhilarating and helps to make your film feel more legitimate. So I’ve always thought it was a shame that there are not more places where people could get that experience, which is part of the reason we set up the Firehouse.

Your film last week won the Audience Choice award. Who was in your film and what was your inspiration?
The film was a collaborative effort between me, James McDonnell, Fionn Fitzmaurice, and Ciaran Maginn. They were the group I started making films with back in my youth, so we’re quite used to working together with no proper division of labour. Everyone writes it, suggests camera angles, sets up lights; it’s a messy but functional system.

From left: Conor Barry (he's in the mirror too) Neil Anderson, Rosa Dempsey, Jesse Park, James McDonnell, Ciaran Maginn, and Fionn Fitzmaurice
Our inspiration for the film came from procrastinating while deciding what type of film to make and watching too many midday murder mystery shows. Credit where it’s due to the TV channel Alibi for playing a constant stream of mediocre detective dramas, which we fast forwarded through to the end part and just stole their ideas.

What's good about the creative media environment in Dublin? (I suppose you could probably read this as "what's stopping you from emigrating?")
For me, the main benefit of Dublin is that it has all the amenities of a larger city but it still has that feeling of being a comparatively small town. New York, London or one of them other fancy cities are pretty overwhelming and alienating in terms of creative media. It’s harder to break into the film industry in London, for example, purely because you’re competing against so many people. In Dublin it feels more plausible that you can get into a creative field that you’re interested in because it’s smaller and the groups who are involved in your area of interest are less exclusive. I’d imagine that would be tougher in a larger city.

How do you feel about sponsorship of the arts at the moment in Ireland?
To be honest, it’s not something I’ve had that much experience with.

Do you have any plans for 2014?
Our main plan is to expand what we’re doing and get as many filmmakers interested as possible. It would be superb if we could eventually make the Firehouse into a hub for new filmmakers to come together and experiment with whatever ideas interest them. We also want to give more people who have never made a film the opportunity to do so and screen it in front of an audience, which is why we have a ‘best newcomer’ category.

Also, since there’s the time limit of a month to get your film made, there’s less pressure for it to be polished and perfected, which hopefully motivates people to finish their film rather than tinkering with it forever. Variation is way more important than pristine levels of filmmaking ability.

Where can people learn more about the Firehouse Film Contest?
You can join us on Facebook where we have updates about our upcoming events, as well as subscribing to our YouTube channel, which is updated with films from the contest. If anyone is interested in participating they can email us at firehousefilmcontest@gmail.com. But the best way is to come to the event the first Sunday of each month; people will learn loads that way.

All the details for February's film contest can be found on the event page here. The theme of love, what with it being February (the must lusty of months) is just over two weeks away, so there's still time to put a video together.

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