After making seven short films, Letterkenny man Gerard Lough is ready to move on to making a full-length feature film.
He has made the seven films over the last six years and is now happy that he has served his film-making apprenticeship.
His latest film Ninety Seconds has just just gone on line, which for Gerard is him ‘putting it to bed’. Released last summer the film has been the most successful of his releases. A futuristic thriller set in Letterkenny and inspired by Gerard’s favourite film - Ridley Scott’s film noir classic ‘Blade Runner - it opened the Wexford Film Festival. British movie website Horror Cult Films awarded him ‘Most Exciting Breakthrough’ in the directing category for The Boogeyman.
Gerard studied media at the North West Regional College in Derry which gave him an insight into how different aspects of the media work. Following that he set his sights on becoming a film-maker. After a time spent in Dublin and in London trying to break into the film business, Gerard returned home disillusioned but still keen on pursuing a career in film.
Making films on his own has been made possible by changes in technology and he realised there was no reason why he could not make films in Donegal. “I realised that actually you don’t have to move anywhere to start off as a film-maker. You make your base your home and get started. Nowadays the technology is here that I can get a camera, shoot something that looks good enough to show in the cinema and edit it at home. Years ago that was not possible but it is possible now. You couldn’t do that in the 90s.”
An unexpected break came when he took a marketing internship with a company in the US. “Being the pushy fella that I am I talked them into letting me do a music video in their studio with their equipment. I had a good looking music video and I was up and started - just when I thought I might throw in the towel. So there is a moral there - never give up.”
Gerard came home and bought a camera, more determined than ever to make it as a film-maker. He has shot six music videos since, which helped him learn the trade. He enjoys working with music and it features strongly in his films.
The making of short films has helped him develop his craft. “You can go to college and everything and I know all the theory, but you don’t know how to make a film until you make a film. In a way you have to fall down and fail and make mistakes to learn the reality of film making.” He is happy with the his latest film and has learnt from mistakes. “It is the slickest looking, everyone says. It is cinematic looking, very striking looking. It is the last of four films, ones I am most proud of - Ninety Seconds, The Boogeyman, Stolen Wings and Deviant.”
Making the films independently he has developed into a one man band, wearing many different hats in order to get each film finished -including that of writer, director, editor, director of photography and producer.
One of the films he enjoyed making most was The Boogeyman, an adaptation of a Stephen King short story that he made in 2010.
He took advantage of an arrangement the American writer has where he allows up and coming film makers to adapt his short stories for just $1. While he enjoyed having rich material to work with, there was pressure working with a story by such a high-profile writer. “There is a downside. If you made a mess of it or changed things you would get 2,000 emails from Stephen King fans saying - that wasn’t in the book. But the general consensus from hard core Stephen King fans was that it was extremely faithful to the story.”
The film made it to film festivals in the US, the UK, Australia and the Netherlands. “Getting it to the festivals is the easy bit - you just post some DVDs. “Making the film is the hard part, getting it shown is easy. You just put a DVD in the post.”
He has used many Donegal locations in his films and tries to use local acting talent when possible but has found himself having to use actors from outisde the county. “I always have trouble using local actors. I know they are here but I always have a hard job finding them. I have put out the word in the paper and on radio but I don’t get them because they are always in a play that is going to be seen by about 100 people while I am going to put them in a film that is going to last forever.”
Gerard says his films have been described as “very American” and that this is meant in a critical way in that the films are too slick or commercial. He says he doesn’t want to make “pretentious, slow-moving, arty crap”. “I don’t mind something artistic but what I want to make is commercial and accessible. It does not have to be stupid either. Some people think commercial is a dirty word or that it is wrong to put emphasis on the marketing.”
The posting of Ninety Seconds on the internet indicates that Gerard is drawing a line under it. Obviously posting a film online is a more recent development but he says it is really just another medium and while nothing can beat watching a film in the cinema, the internet allows it to reach a larger audience. “Some people make a short film and don’t put it on line. What is the point of making a film and hiding it away on a hard drive? It is meant to be seen.”
Plans are now well advanced for his first feature film and he has the script written “It’s now or never and it is time to make a feature film. This film is going to be shot here, in Sligo, in Wexford, in Dublin. It is going to have loads of speaking parts and I may have to do it with no money because I have had no support. I have done my apprenticeship with short films but they have shown me that every film maker should make short films.”
He says he is determined to keep making films but his determination is despite the lack of support he has received from arts funding in the country and not because of it. “There is no support. I have had more support from the manager of Century Cinemas than any arts organisation and it is not his job to be a patron to the arts. I have never had any support or help of any kind. The Irish Film Board are there to make films that promote the idea of what it means to be Irish and put across a flattering image of Ireland and I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what it means to be Irish and I don’t care. I want to make films for everyone in the world. I think we make films that aren’t accessible to outsiders. They don’t want to make the type of films that I want to make and that’s fair enough. I can’t change and I’m not going to make a film about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, I’m not going to make a period drama about the Famine, I’m not interested. I’m not going to change.”
Ninety Seconds can be viewed at http://youtu.be/Quvf7tmeVeo.