Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sharon Cronin on set of short film Lily.



As the film Young Offenders continues to break boxoffice records, another movie filmed in Cork city, Maze, is one to watch this year. JENNY REGAN talks to two women involved in making the film, who relished being back home for the project

MAKING their mark in the world of film-making are two young Cork women who played roles in the making of Maze, which is due for release in 2017.

MAKING their mark in the world of film-making are two young Cork women who played roles in the making of Maze, which is due for release in 2017.

Sharon Cronin, 24, from Garryvoe, a Film and TV Studies graduate of St John’s College in Cork, produced her first feature film, Poison Pen, as part of her Masters in Digital Feature Film Production at Filmbase in Dublin in 2013. In just 30 days, she raised €25,900 through Indiegogo, a crowdfunding campaign and completed the film in just five months.

The film, starring Lochlann O’Mearain and Aoibhinn McGinnity premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in July 2014 and went on to screen at 25 film festivals across the world.

Sharon also produced the short film Lily which premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh where it won the Tiernan McBride Award for Best Short Drama. The film was long-listed for the Academy Awards in 2017.

While Sharon spends much of her time working in Dublin, she returned to Cork last year to work as a Production Assistant on the highly-anticipated film Maze — due for release this year.

The Irish-Swedish production, directed by Stephen Burke starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Nidge in Love/Hate), Barry Ward (Rebellion) and Cork actress Eileen Walsh (Disco Pigs/ The Magdalen Sisters/ Eden) was shot over a period of four weeks in the 210-year-old decommissioned Cork Prison in 2016. It is based on the 1983 escape of 38 IRA inmates.

Upon finishing secondary school, Sharon realised that film making was the career route she wanted to take.

“I was such a nerd. I used to watch all the extra features/behind the scenes stuff on my DVDs more than the actual films themselves,” she laughs.

Sharon was initially based in an office in Ballyvolane for the pre-production planning of Maze before moving to Cork Prison where the production department, cast and crew all worked under the same roof.

“The prison had just closed a couple of weeks previously and the first thing I remember about walking in is that it smelled like a prison. The walls of the cells were painted bright red which is quite an aggressive colour. The exercise yards and showers would definitely turn you off crime! You don’t realise how grim it is until you are actually in there but it was absolutely perfect as a location. It was weird going in to work in the prison every day but after a while it just became the norm.”

Sharon’s role as Production Assistant involved a lot of planning and attention to the finer details to ensure everything ran smoothly throughout the production.

Sharon says that one of the best things about the experience was the chance to work at home in Cork.

“It was great because at times I felt like I was living on the road constantly going back and forth between Cork and Dublin for work. I was able to spend a three month block of time at home. It was amazing to see all the people from Cork working in Cork.

“Many of those who came from Dublin are actually Corkonians but I never realised this because they work in Dublin.”

Sharon credits Rossa Mullin from Film in Cork for being instrumental in bringing Maze and other projects to Cork.

“Film in Cork have been a huge part of what is happening with film-making in Cork. It is great to have Rossa Mullin and his team who are focussed on trying to get bigger productions to Cork.”

Sharon found the experience of working on Maze very rewarding.

“When I got to see some of the footage and knowing that in some small way I had a part in making it happen, seeing that the film did so well being shot down here and the fact that so many Cork people had a part in that was really rewarding.”

Sharon recently received funding from RTÉ to produce another short film, Acorn, which she hopes to have ready in early 2017.

“My ultimate goal is to produce feature length films on a regular basis. That’s what I really love to do.”

Another alumna of St. John’s College is Patricia Dennehy, 29, from Blarney who graduated her with a distinction from her two-year course in Film and TV Production in May 2015.

Since then, she has worked with numerous Cork-based film-makers, including Epic Productions, Shaun O’Connor, Oonagh Kearney and Niall Owens.

Her first gig outside Cork was as trainee assistant director on the IFTA nominated series, RTÉ’s Bridget and Eamonn. Since then, she has worked on numerous productions including both independent short-films and features.

Patricia landed the job of Extras Coordinator on Maze and was overwhelmed by the positive response, particularly from Cork natives.

“My role involved casting extras for the film. I held a casting day in Cork in The Metropole Hotel and the turnout was crazy! Between 250 and 300 people turned up, most of whom are from Cork.

“There were times when I was looking for extras who could perform special skills or had some acting experience or the ability to do accents for speaking roles but most of the time, it is just based on personality.”

The film is set in 1983 in West Belfast so Patricia was looking for people with an ’80’s look.

“Some of the lads needed to look like they had been on hunger strike so I needed skinny guys. They had to be clean-shaven with moustaches. Some who turned up were happy to shave!”

While Patricia also found Cork Prison initially a little unsettling as a place of work, she soon got used to it.

“By the Friday of the first week, the huge concrete walls were getting to me. So when I finished work, I hopped into my car and headed down to the beach in Kerry for the weekend for fresh air and open spaces!” she laughs.

“But after the first week, I got so used to it and it didn’t bother me.”

Patricia loved the experience of being back on her home turf for the duration of the project and says that the enthusiasm of the extras was her driving force.

“Just being at home in Cork was wonderful as most of my family are here.

“Many of the extras I worked with were first-timers and were super excited. That kind of passion kept me going on days I was tired. Their enthusiasm reminded me what an amazing experience it was.

“The Irish Prison Service and the people of Cork were just so helpful and supportive.”

Patricia is keeping schtum about her current project for now.

“All I can say is I am working on a US TV show as a trainee Assistant Director and it’s great fun. I am getting great training. I love my job and it’s so nice to be able to say that. In the future I see myself as a First Assistant Director on international films. That’s the goal.”

Cork producer and film maker Rossa Mullin of Pooleen Productions won the tender to run the Cork Screen Commission in late 2014 and relaunched it as Film in Cork. Rossa played a pivotal role in securing Cork Prison as the location for Maze.

“Maze was a win-win because we had a location that had never been used for this purpose and everything was located on the one site,” he says.

It was a really convenient centralised unit which worked brilliantly.

The money spent on the production went back into the local economy and afforded the opportunity for many to gain on-the- job training and experience.”

Rossa would like to see Cork on the national and international stage as a prime location for all types of productions.

“What I am proposing to the councils is that we set up a standing regional support fund, a modest yet reasonable sum of money to incentivise productions to come to Cork.

“It is not something that will happen overnight but my view is that such an initiative is an absolute necessity.

“This has to happen for us in Cork to gain any kind of momentum in what is a very competitive industry.”

Maze is due for release in 2017.

Other major films shot in Cork in recent years include The Young Offenders, Ken Loach’s ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’, featuring Cillian Murphy; Neil Jordan’s ‘Ondine’, starring Colin Farrell; and Ian Power’s ‘The Runway’.


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