The Woodstock Film Festival, 2011, from left: Tim Palmer, Terry McMahon and Moe Dunford. Trailer for Charlie Casanova (2010)
This one is for you.
Facebook just reminded us that nine years ago a bunch of lunatics turned up during the worst winter on record to make a psychotic movie about the cancer of the controlling class.
Staring in panic at a blank page for a long time, before projectile vomiting a political script onto ninety of those pages, I was an unproduced hack, who had never directed a short film, much less a feature.
We had a budget of nine-hundred-quid, and our borrowed camera had to be back eleven days later, so that became our production schedule.
Snow bombarded the city but nobody backed out. Frost incapacitated the equipment but filming never stopped. Doubt crept in every second but nobody backed out. Eleven days later we got rat-assed drunk in the way that only a group which has been through hell together can. Awoke the next morning, aching to the bone, wondering if the footage we captured would get anywhere beyond the bottom of a drawer.
What chance did a messed-up little Irish film about a controlling class psychopath have on the world stage? Home-burned DVDs with the title hand-scrawled across them were submitted to film festivals, and we waited for Godot.
Then, Janet Pierson, head honcho of one of the world’s great film festivals, wanted our film to be the first Irish movie ever selected for the coveted SXSW Narrative Feature Competition. And we nearly shit ourselves.
‘Charlie Casanova’ ended up being picked up for distribution by Studio Canal and released in UK and Irish cinemas before being kicked to death by our critics.
We presumed we’d never make another film, particularly since we wanted to address the dehumanisation of people with mental illness; another subject nobody wanted to touch at the time; but five years later those same critics would pick our second film, ‘Patrick’s Day’, as Best Irish Film of the Year. Yet the more things change the more they remain the stagnant same.
Nearly a decade later it’s never been more difficult to make political cinema. Or political television.
The explosion in cheap technology in that decade should have opened the floodgates. But where are those films? Where is that cinematic rage? The controlling class, which we denied even existed a decade earlier, used austerity to relentlessly attack our most vulnerable. But perhaps they also succeeded in sidelining our artistic culture. Or are we just cowards?
Who the hell knows what our collective future holds. Nobody could have believed a decade ago that we’d become the country we are today. What we become in the next decade is wide open.
There are brilliant filmmakers out there. Some of them we already know. Men and women born to make magic. But maybe some of them are as yet unknown. Maybe some of them have yet to dive into the madness of their first movie, penned in panic and made for no money. Maybe some of them have yet to put pen to their first blank page.
Maybe one of them is you.
Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69