Little Cinema, Big Talent

It was a frosty November evening in Galway. A cold chill blew through town so we were glad of the heat entering Little Cinema’s monthly screening in the Roisin Dubh. Although having somewhere cosy to sit for a few hours and being entertained by short films was an added bonus, there is another warmth very much worthy of a mention – and that’s the feeling of support Little Cinema offers to budding filmmakers.

Founded by three friends – Julia, Liam and Kenny in 2010, the evening offers new and more experienced filmmakers a platform for screening their productions in front of an audience. In the last 6 years it has hosted hundreds of short movies, music videos and documentaries across all genres. There are three rules when submitting a short to the Little Cinema. It must be under ten minutes, the contributor has to be present on the night and they must introduce themselves to the crowd. All genres are welcome for submission once appropriate.

Perhaps the idea of walking on stage with a large group looking your way can be daunting. I can tell you from experience there’s nothing to worry about. I’ve been up on that platform and the audience is a receptive and understanding one – maybe because there’re many in the crowd who’ve graced that mic before, or perhaps they realise just how much work goes into filmmaking. The founders also make sure that the filmmaker feels very much welcome.

A potential contributor might feel too that their production isn’t good enough- the special effects aren’t amazing, the acting won’t win any awards and so on. Little Cinema isn’t about having the perfect film. It’s about giving filmmakers a chance. If you look at the earlier movies or student shorts by Martin Scorcese or James Cameron you’ll see they’re far from the cinematic masterpieces they’ve produced through the years. It’s easy, however, to spot the originality and talent shining through despite the flaws.

Previous contributors to Little Cinema who have gone on to other successes include the comedian Peter McGann – now appearing on the Republic of Telly. Conor Quinlan acted in a couple of films screened with them and has since starred in the Siege of Jadotville starring Jamie Dornan. Kevin Minogue showed his productions and his music videos for the band Funeral Suits now have huge viewing numbers on Youtube. He also made a full length feature called Limp . Another, in the Little Cinema alumni, is Sean Clancy who has also gone on to making a feature.

Film is an art-form in itself, as well as containing multiple art forms like acting, costume design, special effects,writing….the list goes on. It takes years to hone the skills involved. Take editing for instance: before I studied film I took for granted how movies were sequenced. I didn’t realise or think about the meticulous detail, timing, transitions of different shots and placing involved. Now I know that a good editor tells the story without you even noticing.

Little Cinema offers support and encouragement to people honing their skills and on route to becoming the next Kathryn Bigelow or Denis Villeneuve.

It’s also a hugely entertaining night. I’ve had many a hearty laugh watching the shorts, smiled at a new revelation from gaining an insight into the creative mind of another, and have been touched by emotional scenes. More than likely there will be at least one production that speaks to you personally.

So before I give a quick rundown of the shorts from the November screening I’ll leave you with two apt quotes, one from a song by the late Leonard Cohen and another from comedian Ricki Gervais.

“Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in” –  Leonard Cohen

“It’s better to create something that others criticise than to create nothing & criticise others. Go create! Have fun” – Ricki Gervais

The night opened with ‘Falsely imprisoned in a taxi’– a comedy from Little Cinema’s own Kenny Gaughan. A man assumes his life to be in danger by an unimpressed taxi-driver who innocently locks his door. His ‘dilemma’ is linked to the Joan Burton incident when she was locked in a garda car at an Irish water protest. The man projects a sinister persona onto the driver who looks mostly indifferent to his crazed antics. The satirical message of the short is hilariously clear: sometimes reality can be skewed by perception or how others portray it.

Next up was Ruth McNally and John McLean’s ‘Electronic Noise’ – an observation on people’s addiction to their phones and technology . At one point a young man’s headphones become disconnected from his mobile. He writhes on the ground like an addict in withdrawal from a drug. This scene reminded me of a painting I saw recently. It shows a man hooked by a drip to his computer, with Facebook on the screen and ‘likes’ travelling through the medical tubes into his arm like a heroin addict.

Third short on the night was Christian Craughwell’s ‘Derailed’. Bizarre events link Ireland to Budapest with the contents of an unusual looking case. This mysterious short kept me guessing and had some great aerial shots. It’s clear from the main character’s monologue that Craughwell has a beautiful command of the English language.

‘Before You were Old’ was the night’s animated piece. Maxx Webb has stunning animation in this short and effectively portrays the genuine love that can exist between a grandparent and grand child. I wasn’t quite prepared for the end.  

‘Blu Shawl’ was Mike O’Dowd’s entry about a young man coming out as gay. He succeeds brilliantly in depicting both the terrible feeling of rejection and the love and acceptance we can feel from our friends and adopted kin.

Patrick Fallon’s ‘Contemporary Palaeontology’ was a sweet commentary on remaining true to yourself. It warns of the dangers of trying to be something you’re not in an original and unique manner.

Twice Dead Once Removed was a tongue in cheek horror by Kevin Glynn. If you suffer from Coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) this isn’t the short for you. I had a great chuckle at one of the scenes: a killer clown wheels a trolley in the company of two of his victims down a street. An older couple pass them by, possibly thinking the trio are dressed for a costume party but still looking horrified.

Gerard Browne’s comedy ‘This is not a Mugging’ contained hilarious dialogue and great acting. The leprechauns in Darby O’Gill and the Little People don’t curse, so I got huge enjoyment from some of the lines spoken by a leprechaun character in this short.

Finally on the night was ‘Spotless’, submitted by Emily Murray. The film won this year’s OFFline film festival challenge. This hilarious comedy revolves around a Francis Brennan type chairperson of Birr’s Tidy Town’s committee, his effort to win and the misfits he entrusts to help out. What I loved about this film was the chairperson’s character as he reflects on the good nature of people in small Irish towns and villages; the types who do their best to help in the community, even if only on a small scale. There was a particularly funny but devastating scene where he finds out a certain celebrity won’t be attending on the day the judges arrive.

The special Christmas screening of Little Cinema will take place in the Roisin Dubh again on the 21st December. Calls for submissions are open so whether you are an aspiring filmmaker yourself or just love fresh, engaging new talent, make sure to mark it in your calendar.  You can also check out a selection of the Shorts previously featured over on the Little Cinema page