I made a Short Film; it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was incredible.
It’s the 22nd of April 2019. I’m starting the avalanche of posts and clicks I’ve prepared for my short film to go live on social media. It’s been a long time coming; I have footage of actors auditioning for an early attempt at this short film on my hard drive from 4 years ago. This short film, Hazardous Materials, has been bouncing around for an extremely long time.
My friend Robin trusted me with his script, and it sat there, a bit too ambitious for me to tackle fresh out of college and do it justice. I tried through.
Several production companies and teams who where interested, several false starts. To avoid my guilt over how slowly it was progressing, I’d work extremely hard on other projects, and wound up setting up a freelance business.
On top of the false starts on the project, I just didn’t feel ready.
In late 2017 I sensed that the chance to make it was around the corner. I got involved in working on Luke Morgan’s first feature, shot partially in the West of Ireland, and through that project, I was meeting more filmmakers than I ever had before, so I took the plunge and started asking around, for help, for interest.d
Robin’s script was gripping, and before long I had a real team of people willing to help make Hazardous Materials real. I set out to do it right, to do right by the story, and the people giving me their time.
Starting with myself and my Co — Producer Megan, we prepared and scheduled. We auditioned and found Molly O’Mahony from the band Mongoose, and she was able to express Nora perfectly. We also found Carla Keeny, who would bring warmth into Nora’s life as Rachel. They were the foundation for the rest of the work and they supported it excellently.
We broke the script down. We worked with the incredible Liana Sposto to help storyboard the most complicated segments. She’d never even been to the location in Ireland and just used google maps to get reference for Mutton Island and never left LA.
We found locations, we planned the costumes, everything was good to go.
It turned out that we had one of the worst snow storms in years on the shooting dates. My crew was calling me, telling me they couldn’t back out of their driveways. It was the fucking worst. 4 years the project had lived in the back of my mind, and we were forced to cancel the shoot.
I took stock, and we all agreed to try again. It took a full month for most of everyone’s schedules to line up and we had to chance some locations too, but it actually happened.
The shoot was incredible. It couldn’t have gone better, for that I’m so grateful. At night during those 4 days, I could barely sleep, anxiety pouring adrenaline into my heart, I thought about my main character Nora, and how she did the same on a daily basis and worked through it. Having on set photos from Vincent Hughes is a small way to preserve that feeling.
The crew I worked with on Hazardous Materials was the biggest yet, but they gelled like a family. I was so pleased to see people who hadn’t spoken beforehand become friends over the shoot; even if the shoot didn’t work out, that they might have had a good time was such a relief. I have to give a special mention to Eleanor, who had to triple job as makeup, costume, and onset Production design on the shoot as the rescheduling meant we lost some key people. She delivered and then some, and the film wouldn’t be anywhere as good without her.
The team worked in concert, and 4 days later we had stunning looking footage I was so proud of and eager to shape into the short film.
The shoot is only the beginning of any project, so I dug my heels in, determined to finish the project in good time and try to give it a decent festival life. The main edit took about two weeks, and from there we raised money for post production, and I threw all my time and money into supervising the colour grade and the sound mix, as well as preparing for the festival run.
Le Galaxie were so kind as to allow us to use their single Day of The Child in a major sequence that helped tie the short film together.
This is me on the bus back from Panic Post Production , shaking a little with surprise that the film is done, on August 27th 2018.
Since then it’s screened at festivals and won a few small awards, but even that wasn’t easy. A lot of submissions, write ups and emails had to happen, but I didn’t give up. I lived, ate, and breathed, Hazardous Materials for several months as I raised awareness, worked with Emma Fagan of Fillum on the PR side of things all while working as an editor to keep money coming in.
It was hard to stay motivated from the shoot through post production, to the festival run, but I couldn’t stop. I had to keep running with the momentum, I couldn’t let the project down. So many people chipped in, including the incredible Siobhán Lenihan who designed our title logo and poster.
But it’s now time. I have to stop for my own sake. This is me putting a pin in working on Hazardous Materials to such an extent. This project asked so much of me, and changed me so much by my working on it. I’d been living with blurry, unclear images of Nora, and her story for a very long time before the shoot, and through everyone who worked on the short, she’s come into focus wonderfully.
I learned that directors don’t direct projects as much as channel everyone’s skill, creativity, and enthusiasm towards an end result, without everyone on your team, you’re nothing. And that bears remembering. I took a leap of faith on a brand new team of people I didn’t know too well beforehand, and it couldn’t have gone better.
Watching it, you won’t have a clear idea of the work that went in, as it should be; this post is more for me looking back, than for you. Hazardous Materials itself is for you.
Nora’s story of anxiety and making friends can speak for itself.
Several years. Many false starts. I don’t think the short could have happened any other way.