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'You see a lot of young, eager people who have to work long, hard hours for very little money'

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Fionn Walton plays a returned emigrant in Out of Here

Fionn Walton plays a returned emigrant in Out of Here

Director Donal Foreman

Director Donal Foreman

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Fionn Walton plays a returned emigrant in Out of Here

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for the Brooklyn-based Dubliner Donal Foreman. The young director has seen his first feature, Out of Here, released in Dublin's art-house cinema, the Irish Film Institute (IFI), and it has attracted several enthusiastic reviews.

"It's great to have it out there at last," he says on the day he flew to Germany to show his movie at a film festival. "You spend so long working on it and trying to make it happen, so it's great that people can finally get to see it."

Foreman (right) is well aware of Ireland's standing as a magnet for big international productions like Vikings and Penny Dreadful, but does not believe a rising tide lifts all boats. "Of course there's work for camera, sound, editing people and so on," he says, "but for writer-directors like myself, it's still very difficult to get projects off the ground."

He notes that Ireland lags some way behind a country like Denmark which, despite a similar population, has a culture of idiosyncratic, uncommercial film-making.

"In a way, the industry in Ireland is still small and friendly and people are very happy to give you advice, but when it comes to hard support and actually getting funding, it's a very different story."

In order to get the project made, Foreman raised €25,000 through a crowd-funding initiative. The Irish Film Board initially rejected his application for fiscal aid, but did grant him completion money once he had shown them a 'rough cut' of his film.

But there were still obstacles getting a film focused on Ireland's post-boom youth culture into the cinemas. "It was also very difficult to get distribution in Ireland for what might be seen as an art-house film," he says.

Foreman teaches in New York - it's what helps him pay the bills - and, despite getting a feature film made and on to the big screen, is under no illusions about what a difficult industry he was chosen to work in. "It can be very hard to make a living and in the US, in particular, you see a lot of young, eager people who are having to work long hard hours on film sets for very little money and no security," he says. "There's a huge culture of internships in New York and people can find themselves in that rut for years."

Donald Taylor Black, of Dún Laoghaire's IADT film school, says the industry is a tough one, especially for creatives like writers and directors. "It can be extremely difficult to get your film made and the process can take a long time, during which the bills don't stop," he says. "You have to go in with your eyes open and realise that there could be a long, hard slog ahead."

Taylor Black acknowledges that "exploitation can happen" to those trying to break into the industry, but says poor practice is less likely nowadays due to union rules. He says would-be film staff are encouraged to specialise in a highly skilled area such as lighting or sound. "Not everybody can be Martin Scorsese," he says. "One of the things we've done to help make our students more aware of what the industry is like is to get them to attend the Berlin Film Festival in their second year. They get to see just how many people have films made that they are trying to sell and it gives them an idea about what a challenging industry it can be."

Indo Review