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Two Suitcases Project 2013: The making of ‘The Forge’ at IMMA

On a sunny autumn day in 2013, bemused families looked on as teenagers in medieval costume went to battle with swords, axes, hammers and spiky sticks in the gardens of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, filmed by a teenage camera and sound crew. Overseen by film mentor Zachary Griner, the actors worked on choreographing the fight scenes while the camera crew blocked out shots and art director Sonia Haccius placed menacing hand sculptures into the shrubbery.

 

The Forge is the latest film from members of Two Suitcases, a community film project for teenagers living with chronic illness. This year, we teamed up with teen actors from Stage 51 Drama School and Casting Agency to make our most ambitious short film to date. After an experimental second phase in 2012 in which the teens wrote and filmed a short called Creepy in 5 days, it was agreed that this time round project members would develop a script online in the months leading up to film week with mentorship from writers and academics.

When two childhood friends drift apart, one of them decides to take his revenge through a virtual role-playing game, both teenagers losing something of their real selves as they become more entwined with their online characters…

Teen members first started brainstorming script ideas during our annual film screening in summer 2013. Stephen O’ Driscoll and Eoghan McConnell were very interested in creating a story around people who get addicted to online role-playing games and begin to feel more at home with their virtual selves than their real selves. From this initial premise, the script took shape during online brainstorming sessions with project co-ordinator Emma Eager and script mentor Ben Murnane, and online masterclasses with Chris Collins from the Drama Department at Trinity College, Dublin. Gemma Kent, an online participant, came up with the main storyline, contributing script ideas to the OAK website and writing the screenplay with Emma.

 

Film week started with a workshop day by artists and film professionals, who kindly gave of their time to mentor the young people. In the morning, drama teacher Orla Coffey and drama scholar Monica Insinga gave an acting workshop, with a focus on improvisation techniques and mask work, with a very entertaining character birthing session rounding off a lively session. Film director Ciaran Foy followed with a directing workshop which centred on how to tell a story through shot composition, spacing, framing, and movement. Finally, Ben Murnane engaged in a script Q&A session with the teens, looking at how the teenagers would approach their online characters during filming: How do they act in this world that’s different to how they act in real life? Does the online world behaviour start to encroach on real-life behaviour? By the end of Day One, everyone was excited about the shoot ahead.

The Forge was shot over the following four days in the artist studios and grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Dublin. Chris Collins gave a character hot-seating session on the first morning of filming, where we were joined via Skype by online participant Gemma. Through a series of character experiments – a Jeremy Kyle style tabloid talk show, a classroom interrogation, a radio show phone in with Josephine Duffy (AKA Gemma) – the characters were brought to life and their back story was developed. In the meantime, animation mentor Siobhán Clancy was busy prepping the opening sequence with budding artist Laoise Barrett. Throughout the week, Siobhán worked with each participant on the project to create an animation based on Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Forge’, the source of inspiration for key themes in the film.

The Forge: artist and youth liaison Linda Hederman helps teen actor Leona with her animation

 

Suffice to say, nearly everyone’s favourite part was shooting the Shadow Universe fight scenes where the real-life characters turn into sword-wielding avatars. Artist and youth liaison, Linda Hederman, did a fab job with the make-up for the characters who included a psychotic pixie assassin, a barbarian, a less-than-noble paladin, and a shadow priestess. Once filming ended, we held a series of post-production workshops for the teenagers in November at the FCP suite of the Digital Hub Development Agency. Zachary Griner facilitated editing workshops and we were delighted that Rod Morris and Mark Murphy of the SoundButlers came on board to deliver an original music and sound design masterclass. At the moment, we’re doing further editing work on the film and look forward to the screening in summer 2014.

Participants have their say:

‘I love every second of this week!!’

‘I learned a lot of animation skills and computer skills’

‘I learned that I like dressing up in medieval clothes’

‘I gained a greater interest in sound and I learned so much’

‘I learned many new camera tricks and directing tips’

‘Had such a great time, made great friends, and had such good fun, was a great experience and I won’t forget it, thanks to everyone :)’

Two Suitcases 2013 is produced by Helium Children’s Arts and Health in partnership with the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). The project is funded by the Arts Council and the Community Foundation for Ireland with in-kind support from the Digital Hub Development Agency.

Many thanks to our friends in the LARPing community who lent us costumes and LARP-safe weapons, to Katy Fitzpatrick at IMMA, to Louise Morgan and Keith O’Regan at the Digital Hub, to the professionals who gave online and on-site workshops, and to all those who helped us behind the scenes to get the show on the road.

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