Shania has spent the last academic year as Auditor of UCD Film Society, during which time she has been involved in the production of a number of shorts, including Dialogue, Pundertaker 2 and Film Socs most recent production, Part-Time Hero, set for release in mid June. As well as this, she has been responsible, along with her committee, for the organisation of weekly screenings, the running of production workshops and general housekeeping within the society. Sean Moriarty sat down with Shania to discuss her early influences, this years Academy Awards and the current state of Irish Cinema.
Right, so tell me a bit about yourself Shania.
My name is Shania O’ Sullivan and I am in final year of My Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Film Studies. I am also the current auditor for the Film Society in UCD.
Very nice. It seems that you have a keen interest in film then. So what got you interested in filmmaking or just films in general.
Um when I was younger my Mum bought me a video camera, which I then used a lot with my cousin. We used to make tons of short films with it but the only problem was that we didn’t understand how to use editing software. We had no idea what we were doing but we had so much fun with it.
Can you remember the first film that you saw in the cinema?
Ooh that’s a tough one. I think it was Garfield with Bill Murray. No wait it was actually The Bourne Supremacy! That was the first time in which I realised that cinema could be intense. A lot of shouting and gun-pointing. I had never seen anything like it so it definitely stuck with me after viewing it.
So with all of that being said, do have particular genre that you love to watch?
To be honest, I’m kind of into most genres. Anything that’s not run of the mill is definitely what I am interested in seeing. For example, I recently saw Elle starring Isabelle Hubbert and it was so different and unique. Definitely one of the most original films I have seen in a while and she was absolutely fantastic in it.
Do you have a favourite film?
Dog Day Afternoon. A masterclass performance by Al Pacino
Do you have a least favourite film?
Drag Me To Hell. Not scary and not funny at all. It’s all over the place with regards to its tone.
Cool. And in relation to college, what are the types of films that you study.
It depends on what the topic is to be honest. I’ve studied a variety of themes throughout the years ranging from European Cinema, Hollywood Cinema, Irish Cinema and Alternative Cinema. Some of the time they can be fascinated to watch while other times the films are completely bizarre. But those are the films I love watching. My favourites that I have watched would definitely have to be Funny Games, Cache, Blue Velvet and Jan Svankmajer’s adaptation of Alice. I can’t think of any film that I didn’t like.
I see. You mentioned at the start there that you were involved in the Film Society in UCD. Can you tell me more about this society and what made you want to get involved?
Well I was involved in something known as the fresher’s project during my first year of college and it was such an enjoyable experience. We were given a set of instructions by the committee as to how the film should be made and it was a ton of fun. A real learning experience. As for the things that the Film Society does, we have three films screenings throughout the week. Two in the cinema which are usually in relation to a theme of films chosen by the committee and also we have what is known as the Cineclub screening. Here, we show very avant-garde and surrealist films. Stuff that is in complete contrast to what we would show during the other screenings. We also do loads of production workshops for people who are interested in picking up a camera and making their own film. People can submit their scripts and ideas to us and we’ll review it and see if we are interested in making it.
What is the production side of the society like?
It’s definitely an area that I am passionate about. We use the workshops to focus on the various aspects of the filmmaking process. We talk more about cinematography, which is basically how the shot should be framed, and how people can get the shot they want to get.
Tell me about your role as auditor.
So basically it’s my job to make sure that the society is running smoothly. I see if the other members of the committee are carrying out their own individual jobs. I also collaborate with the treasurer to make sure everything is ok with regards to the finances of the society. Also like I said earlier on, I promote the production workshops to other students so that we can have more filmmakers involved in the society and have more student films.
Are you into filmmaking yourself?
Yeah I have been involved in a good majority of the Film Society productions over the last few years.
Have you ever acted in any of them?
(Chuckles) I act when I have to.
It is of my understanding that you recently had the UCD Film Festival? What kind of activities took place?
Well one of the things that we did was we used the UCD Cinema in the Student Centre to show some of the various productions that had been made throughout the college year. Another thing we do is we usually have some guest speakers associated with the film business. We try to get Irish filmmakers, actors, directors, production designers, cinematographers etc. In the past we have had guests such as John Carney, the director of Once and Sing Street, Lenny Abrahamson, director of What Richard Did, Frank and Room and Aiden Gillen who is known for his role as Little Finger on Game of Thrones. This year for the festival we had Irish actor Emmet Kirwan who talked about his experience in acting on television and on stage. He also talked about his latest project titled Heartbreak who focuses heavily on the treatment of women in Ireland.
Is there a particular film that has been made in the past that you have either liked to have featured in or would have liked to help make?
(Pause) Hmmm that’s a tough one. Em I suppose I would have, if possible, liked to have been in one of Stanley Kubrick’s films. I would have loved to have seen what methods he used during his filmmaking process.
Yeah I get you. Do you have a favourite actor and director?
Oh without a doubt it has to be Matthew McConaughey, even before his ‘McConaussaince’, I have always found him so much fun to watch on screen. As for favourite director, I’m not quite sure. I do however have a favourite cinematographer and it would have to be Roger Deakins. He is without a shadow of doubt the best at his job in the industry. He has worked on films such as Unbroken, Skyfall, Prisoners, Sicario etc. His shots are immaculate.
On the topic of film criticism, are you into it and do you read film reviews? Do you have a favourite film critic?
I used to in the past but I have no found it easier to go in with an open mind when seeing a film. I used to always be influenced by the critics opinions, which would always give me a lot of pre-conceived notions before watching a film. As for my favourite critic, I used to read a lot of Roger Ebert’s reviews. He really knew his stuff. I recommend the documentary Life Itself, which focuses on his career as one of America’s top critics. It’s on Netflix for anyone who is interested in checking it out.
Now let’s briefly talk about the Oscars with the painfully obvious question: Moonlight or La La Land?
Moonlight. There was no competition. I knew it was going to get it the moment that I had finished watching it. It’s also incredible because it is officially the first low-budget film to win best picture.
Wow. I did not know that. Are you a fan of the Oscars? Do you watch it when it’s on each year.
Not really to be honest. I always felt as though the Academy overlooked a lot of films in the past and it was all about the big-budget melodramas. However, this year was definitely the year that I felt that they got it right as most of the films that I hoped would get nominations did. Also funny how last year they were critiqued heavily last year for boycotting black nominees and this year both the best supporting actor and actress were black along with the best picture winner which focused on the African American experience as well as tackling the issues of homosexuality. That’s why I loved Moonlight, it was so unconventional and relevant.
Exactly. Back to the topic of cinema, are looking to pursue a career in the future that is film-related?
Yeah. I have been looking into pursuing a masters in cinematography.
That sounds great. Just one final question before we finish: What is your opinion of the current state of Irish cinema.
I do think that we are far behind in comparison to the films from other countries but I do feel that is mainly due to size of our country. We have proved in the past that we have some talented actors and filmmakers. I think what we need at the moment is better writers and actors. There are some filmmakers that I would like to get more recognition. Who knows, maybe all of that will change in the future.
Well thank you very much for your Shania and best of luck with everything in the future.
For anyone interested in learning more about the work of UCD Film Soc or interested in joining and/or taking part in the society, see their Facebook page below: