How The Film Scene is fostering the next generation of Irish filmmakers

Jane Loughman speaks to Ní Shiordáin about the steps The Film Scene is taking to benefit fellow student filmmakers

Third year English and Film student Hannah Kate Ní Shiordáin sources the inspiration to create The Film Scene, a monthly student-run forum for student filmmakers in Dublin, in both her experience in composing music for films and her active participation in the Trinity Jazz Society. Through working on the score for a film with her colleague Jessica Timlin at the end of her first year she faced the usual student filmmaker difficulty of trying to enter festivals. Ní Shiordáin admits: “The film was submitted to several festivals but failed to gain a slot in any, not because it wasn’t good but [because] film festivals receive so many submissions from professionals as well. It’s very difficult for a student to penetrate the festival circuit.” With a lack of student film acknowledgement within festivals, she describes feeling as if there is a lack of opportunities for students to network outside of their own college circles. 

Ní Shiordáin was used to having a platform to perform her music as a member of the Jazz Society, with their regular open mic nights and ‘Battle of the Band’ events. When asked what platforms subsist on student filmmaking, she responded: “I used my head and I combined the idea of an open mic night with filmmaking and voila! The Film Scene was born.” As a “massive” Jools Holland fan, the idea of creating a platform for artists to showcase their work “seemed natural” to her.

“With a lack of student film acknowledgement within festivals, she describes feeling as if there is a lack of opportunities for students to network outside of their own college circles.”

Since its humble beginnings in October 2018, The Film Scene has quickly grown to be well known as a student run forum for college filmmakers not just in Trinity, but all around Dublin. Ní Shiordáin noticed how Trinity’s film course focuses on scriptwriting and theory and not so much on practical skills, while IADT students, for example, have “the most beautiful cinematography, but are often in need of a script,” and so creating an event that could help one college’s cohort of filmmakers engage with those from other colleges was at the core of The Film Scene’s mission. 

The eagerness for this kind of platform for other college filmmakers was apparent in setting up the first event. Independently taking on the roles of secretary, social media manager and host, she found it “surprisingly easy” to get The Film Scene off the ground, reaching out to her peers in other colleges like Ballyfermot and DIT to spread the word. Ní Shiordáin had an aim “to keep the event as unaffiliated as possible with a single college to encourage networking,” which is why she chose The Workman’s Club as venue of choice over any venue in Trinity. The Film Scene has, since its first night, screened films from UCD, Griffith College, IADT, Trinity, Ballyfermot, DIT as well as other independent filmmakers. 

At every night hosted by The Film Scene, up to six 10-15 minute films made by students are screened. When choosing which films to screen, Ní Shiordáin looks for filmmakers who have a passion for what they do: “It doesn’t matter if it was filmed on a potato or on the most high end professional gear. Every filmmaker has something to show and to say and I encourage every filmmaker to get involved. Every film is a learning curve for the filmmaker and the audience.” The crew and cast of each film is invited for a question and answer segment after the screening, where the floor opens to the audience, usually filled with other filmmakers aiming to learn and network. 

To Ní Shiordáin, networking is key at The Film Scene: “I do an interval halfway through for filmmakers to network over a casual pint.” She herself has benefitted, receiving requests for film scores, and has heard of not only people who met at The Film Scene working together on films but also gaining friendships: “I hope we can expand upon that in the next year.”

“Many of the films screened at her event that didn’t make it or weren’t submitted to festivals were some of “the most captivating” to The Film Scene’s audiences.”

When the event is over and “everything has been cleaned up and everyone has gone home,” there is still a buzz, an “excitement for films and for each other.” The Film Scene, unlike film festivals, succeeds from its lack of a sense of competition as it is an encouraging and supportive environment: “It is so nice to cultivate an event that concretes a sheer and honest passion for the arts.” 

Even as its founder, Ní Shiordáin finds herself learning lots about filmmaking at each event. From torrential snow to complete changes in scripts, lots can go wrong in the process of making a film and she has heard it all. She loves to hear the story behind a film, and appreciates the wide range of genres of films that are submitted to the Film Scene: “…it’s so interesting to expose yourself to these different films.”

Some of the films showcased have gone on to gain more recognition at festivals. Notable ones Ní Shiordáin listed include ‘Colin The Pantomime Horse’ by Susannah Hunt, her personal favourite film ‘The First Dance’ by Daragh Goan, and ‘Unforgotten’ by Alexander Wilson Flynn. They were a big hit at The Film Scene and went on to be a big hit on the festival circuit. But what Ní Shiordáin also remarked on was the fact that many of the films screened at her event that didn’t make it or weren’t submitted to festivals were some of “the most captivating” to The Film Scene’s audiences. For example, she reflected fondly on the Q&A session after the documentary film ‘Resident Troubador’ by Luke Brabazon, in which the director Luke and the documentary subject Fin Divilly left the audience “in stitches”. 

Last year, Ní Shiordáin ran The Film Scene primarily by herself, but also received “fantastic help” from her colleague Emily Thomas. For this upcoming year, Ní Shiordáin knew she would need more help with Thomas gone for an Erasmus year, but still wanted to expand the team anyway and to “bring some new energy into it.”

“We are the next generation of filmmakers.”

She hopes for The Film Scene to become “self-sustaining”, so that once she graduates, there will be a new crowd of students continuing the events. She sent out applications at the end of summer for roles to be filled out for the year and she has found her final team: “Eamonn MacMahon of IADT is our new coordinator and I am so excited for the energy he will bring to [the team]. Cáit Murphy will be in charge of social media and graphic design. She is the current social media head of DU Film and she is more than qualified for such a role.” Markéta Ní Eithir is The Film Scene’s new host, while Ní Shiordáin will be the secretary, grateful that everything “won’t be as hectic for [her] as last year”. She will still be very much involved by being in charge of communications with filmmakers submitting shorts and with the press. 

Behind Ní Shiordáin’s hard work and success in running The Film Scene is her belief in the importance of cultivating the work of young Irish filmmakers: “We are the next generation of filmmakers. In a country that is so rooted in the arts, it is vital that we voice our worldview. There are virtually no other platforms for young Irish filmmakers to connect with like-minded people or to showcase their work.” Ní Shiordáin’s event has screened films that had never been screened publicly before, and she feels that this fact highlights the desperate need for more platforms like The Film Scene. However, being the “first step” in a student filmmaker’s journey is “such a thrilling experience”. 

The Film Scene are currently accepting submissions for their next screening, which will take place on October 21st.