The Irish are everywhere in film now, from top-flight directors and screenwriters to Hollywood’s A-List acting talent.
There were five new Irish films at the Sundance and Toronto festivals, and in New York and Telluride recently there were two. That’s a lot of output for a country the size of a postage stamp, and it’s time we recognized it.
Step forward Niall McKay, executive director of Irish Screen America (ISA), a new organization formed to seek and promote influential and emerging Irish talent to the U.S.
The idea is to showcase the very best of contemporary Irish film, TV, animation, video games and interactive media in LA and New York -- and this weekend it’s New York’s turn.
“I’ve been banging this drum for over ten years and it’s great to see that Irish talent is getting the recognition we deserve internationally,” McKay tells the Irish Voice. “It’s really beginning to happen. Our festival introduces the directors of tomorrow.”
McKay started the forerunner to the festival in San Francisco in 2005 and it was an immediate success. “Later I moved to New York and continued here, but it’s a voluntary project, and I do it because I love the films and I’m a filmmaker myself. No one is paying me.”
The best way to make good work is to be in the mix and curate it too, McKay believes, and the ISA is a way to keep the lines of communication open between Irish filmmakers.
Now the annual format for the ISA is that events are held in LA the first week and in New York the week after.
“The idea is really to get behind new Irish talent. This year we’re bringing over director Cathy Brady. She’s directed a number of award winning shorts but not made a feature yet. She’s tomorrow’s Lenny Abrahamson,” McKay said.
But the festival isn’t just a closed shop featuring the usual suspects. McKay is interested in the true scope of Irish film talent, which means its open to any filmmaker with skill and something to say.
“We’re also bringing over Liam Hallihan who’s created an animated series called Martin’s Life. He’s working completely outside the industry and he’s amazing. He got back from traveling around Australia and started making these animated shorts and his work has over two million hits on the web now.”
“Hallihan’s a civil servant, he works in a dole office, but his film’s are wonderful so we’re bringing him over,” explains McKay, underlining why the ISA is for everyone.
Also appearing at the New York events this weekend are the makers of Traders, a tense new thriller by Irish writer and directors Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murphy.
Traders is a jet black thriller about the extreme lengths that people will go to hang onto their wealth and status, so it’s a timely message out of Ireland and it will be the film's US premiere. Traders stars John Bradley (Game of Thrones) and Killian Scott (Calvary).
“The festival will also present a local Irish showcase getting behind New York based Irish filmmakers like Trevor Murphy and Laoisa Sexton, the talents behind You Are Beautiful. We will also screen our own Irish web comedy series On the Lig,” says McKay.
McKay’s ambition is to start a conversation between Irish filmmakers in New York, LA and Dublin with the aim of getting people to work together professionally and promote Irish films.
“Last week I was massively encouraged by the feedback of industry insiders in LA. They’re all beginning to realize that a rising tide lifts all boats. Irish film is coming into its own now.”
There are filmmakers who are already very established in their careers who are as interested in the ISA screenings as newcomers. Ireland is a small country, and that means that in a collaborative medium like film many of the participants already know or have worked with each other.
“The opening night film Traders, the new Irish talent showcase and the master class with Cathy Brady are all outstanding events for people to come along to,” explains McKay.
“As a filmmaker myself I’ve curated events that I would love to attend myself, meaning that this is a festival that welcomes people at every level.”
For tickets and event times visit www.irishscreenamerica.com/nyc.