independent

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Cooley the backdrop for Coffey's 'Writing Home'

Mark Coffey pictured on location in Greenore
Mark Coffey pictured on location in Greenore
Shooting for the movie took place in Greenore Co-op, as well as other locations in Cooley

Anne Campbell

Shooting in Carlingford and Cooley of the 90 feature film, Writing Home, ended last month and it stars stand-up comedian Tony Kelly and actors Caoimhe O'Malley and Geraldine McAlinden.

The 20-plus members of the cast, technicians and production team had spent almost two weeks in the North Louth area and focus now shifts to Dublin and London for further ten days to complete the film.

The film, a romantic comedy, is part of the Filmbase Masters Course accredited by the University of the West of Scotland and the producer Mark Coffey has strong local connections.

Mark is the son of local retired RTE political journalist, Nick Coffey and Dr. Susan O'Shaughnessy, a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He's a first cousin of Cllr. Emma Coffey and nephew of the well-known barrister Eamonn Coffey.

Mark attended secondary school at the High School, Rathgar, Dublin, also the alma mater of acclaimed filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson, whose film Room was nominated for Best Picture at the 2016 Oscars and whose leading actress Brie Larsson won the Best Actress award.

After secondary school Mark went to Trinity College and graduated with a degree in nanoscience. He also spent a semester at the University of Oregon where his interest started to veer towards film-making rather than the sciences.

Mark said: 'I suppose I first caught the film-making bug as a schoolboy when I helped out on a documentary my dad was making in Spain on how that country had adapted to democracy after forty years of the Franco dictatorship.

'It was pretty hectic stuff with my main function really being as a helper, carrying the equipment. Family friend Benny Watters from Blackrock was also involved in the production in Spain. I suppose you could say it was a mini Dundalk production.

'I experimented with some short films while at secondary school but it was during my time at the University of Oregon, during trips with the college rugby team to Los Angeles, that I decided to test the waters as far as a career as a filmmaker was concerned'.

After graduation Mark returned on a 14-month graduate visa to Los Angeles with the aim of making it in the film business. According to Mark he got a few lucky breaks.

He said: 'I had got a few small production assistant assignments but a few doors were opened for me by an assistant director friend when I was playing rugby for Santa Monica.

'It wasn't quite in the Steven Spielberg league but I got a great variety of experience, everything from the reality TV show Vanderpump Rules, to Nike commercials and a high end TV show, Hand of God for Amazon. After I returned home I enrolled on the year-long masters course'.

Mark isn't the only local connection to the Writing Home film. Three Dundalk actors have major roles in the production. Tom Doonan, Juliette Crosbie and Jack Montgomery have all been on location in Cooley.

Mark said: 'They've all been brilliant. Tom has achieved something of a cult status nationally with his part in the recent McDonalds burger commercial. Juliette brings the prestige and experience of the Gaiety School of Acting where she studied. She has starred in a number of Shakespeare productions and this year will tour with the Abbey Theatre's play Me, Sara.

'Jack Montgomery, from Blackrock, has a lifetime's experience on the drama festival circuit and of course had a leading role in two locally made films Wild Goose Lodge in 2016 and Shackled in 2012. Our film provides a great opportunity to showcase the magnificent Cooley peninsula and hopefully it will help enhance the reputations of three great local actors'.

According to Mark the location filming in Cooley went like clock-work. 'We set up our headquarters in the family holiday home in Whitestown and we also rented a large house in Glenmore.

'We had very long days, some lasting fourteen hours. Last Wednesday we were filming until almost midnight outside Lily Finnegan's pub in Whitestown. And I must pass on many thanks to Derek McGarrity, Lily's landlord, for allowing us great access to film extensively in the pub.

'We're so appreciative of the help and encouragement we received locally. People like Brian and Anne Larkin of the Greenore Co-op when we filmed in their shop and restaurant, Olive Savage in Savage's butcher's shop which was another location; Dan McKevitt of Dan's Café and local tourism chief Richard Brennan.

'All helped enormously to ensure everything went smoothly. And I can't forget to thank Conor McGuinness who helped on set, the committee at the Heritage Centre, Anne McDonald of Whitestown, the Carlingford Medical Centre, Sharon of the Carlingford Arms who provided on-set catering and sponsorship, Debbie at the Foy Centre and, of course, Doreen at the Greenore Golf Club for the catering in Greenore. I'd also like to thank the local people who answered the call when we were in need of extras. And finally a special thanks to two local councillors, my cousin Emma Coffey, a great help with sponsorship, and Cllr. John McGahon who arranged a grant from Louth County Council. I'm hoping that more North Louth councillors will come on board with funding'.

Mark emphasised that the production team still needs funding to complete the film. He said: 'We haven't yet reached our projected shoestring budget of just fifteen thousand euros and we'd appeal to everyone in the locality who might be inclined to act as sponsor.

'We hope the film will have its premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh and we have plans for a special screening in Carlingford at the Heritage Centre which features as a pivotal location in the film. We're also exploring the possibility of screenings in Dundalk and Newry'.

At the end of this master's program Mark hopes that Writing Home will be a springboard to a successful career in film production and directing.

Potential sponsors, whose logo will be credited at the end of the film, can contact Mark at coffeymn@tcd.ie or 0838326603 for further information.

The Argus

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