Hush for Peter McCloskey

Philip Byrne talks to the Co Down filmmaker before his premiere

Newry-born Director Peter McCloskey, 24, whose first film Hush will have its first screening in August at the Cathedral Quarter’s Black Box venue, dropped out of film school and undertook the mammoth task of movie making with only the help of a few friends.

You started out as a film student, but you left University to make a movie. That seems like a rather strange choice.

With the course I was studying, there was absolutely no hands-on experience with directing or producing a film to be had. There was a lot of critical stuff, appreciation of films, but nothing about how to make them. In my final year, I could make one short, but that just wasn’t good enough.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do, so I had to just go and do it, even though the faculty told me I was wasting my time making a film. I think I was just wasting my money and not learning very much at the time.

Your screenplay involves a priest, and the perception of paedophilia. It’s a tough subject. What inspired you to write about it, and how difficult did you find writing a screenplay?

I knew I couldn’t write some big flashy screenplay, or a comedy or something, because I just wouldn’t have the resources to pull that off. The paedophile scandals within The Church had been all over the news for years at that point, and not too many people were dealing with the reality of it. I just thought it could make an interesting, human story about perceptions without being too much of a 'student' film.

Keeping the script short and simple was the main thing; a small cast, a handful of locations, no big effects or anything. I wanted to see if I could sustain people’s interest for around twenty minutes, with the bare minimum of fuss. That’s a hard thing to do.

Peter McCloskeyAs a first time Director, did you find it hard to organise such a big task?

I wanted to skip the whole ‘make a student film’ thing that everyone else does. I didn’t just want a gang of my mates hamming it up for a camera, so I wanted real actors, proper locations and a crew of people who knew what they were doing. I’m lucky because I pretty much got what I wanted.

Victoria Cafola (Producer) had a major hand in things, she sorted out a lot of the business end that I never could have managed. She arranged contracts for the actors, scouted locations with me, she had a huge role in everything. And she’s always there to kick me in the arse when I need it.

Not many people your age in Ulster have done something on this scale. What have you learned from the experience?

The whole thing was a real learning experience, every minute. We spent seven hours shooting a day, and I’d go home with the footage, and immediately wish I could fix this, change that. The next day you’d do the same, even though you thought you’d learned heaps, you knew nothing about how to really direct a film. By the time we’d reached the end of filming, we were really just getting up to speed.

You also learn a lot about trying to organise people. It is extremely hard to get thirty people together in the same place, the same day, for eight hours without paying them a penny. You can’t presume authority, or start giving orders to people who are there voluntarily, so you just need to learn co-operation.

After the long slog of fundraising, production and editing, on the eve of your first screening, how happy are you with what you’ve achieved?

It’s still hard to say, until people actually see the film, and give us their feedback, their reactions. As I’ve said, the original idea was simply to try and sustain drama, emotion, people’s interest for about twenty minutes.

Given the standard of performer we got, the dedicated people in the crew we found, and the time and effort everyone put into it, I think we can do that. It should be a sign to everyone in my position that yes, you can make your own films in Northern Ireland; the talent is here, you just need a lot of late nights, patience and good friends!

Hush will be showing at the Black Box on August 28 2006.

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