Five Questions with… mature student Elaine Mulvaney
By Danny Kelly
13 February 2020
Don’t you just hate it when you stumble upon a missed delivery note from a mail carrier despite feeling like you’ve been around all day? Well, maybe it doesn’t bother you as much as the Brenda from short film Sorry You Missed Me, who is left so frustrated that she decides to seek revenge in spectacular fashion…
Written, directed and produced by former Part-Time Six-Month Filmmaking student, Elaine Mulvaney, the 8-minute dark comedy has recently impressed at a handful of festivals, scooping the Best Editing award at the National Student Film Festival.
The project is described by Elaine as being a “family affair”, with the cast and crew of 15 including her sister in the lead role, nephew as 1st Assistant Camera and cousin on catering. The rest of the crew were made up of professionals found through networking groups and fellow students who help on each other’s films.
We caught up with Elaine Mulvaney to discuss her time at MetFilm School, making the short and trying filmmaking in later life…
What motivated you to try your hand at filmmaking?
One of my younger sisters became a professional actor later in life, in her forties. Within 6 months of graduating she was being auditioned by Sam Mendes and ended up as an understudy for two of the main roles in The Ferryman at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End. It made me realise that no matter what age you are you can still study, learn about things you love and possibly even make a career out of it. Soon after that, I had some time on my hands and, as I’ve always loved film, I decided to take the opportunity to do a course in filmmaking.
How did your time on our Part-Time Six-Month Filmmaking course set you up to make Sorry You Missed Me?
The course was geared towards teaching what we needed to know in order to write, produce and direct our own short film. At the outset, I didn’t really believe I could actually do this as I knew nothing about making a film. The only past experience I’d had was writing some short scripts for a writing competition, five of which got selected and filmed with actors – but I wasn’t involved in the actual filming process.
MetFilm School’s part-time course was at quite a high, generalist level but we were given lots of ideas and suggestions about films to watch, additional reading and sources to look at. I spent as much time as I could on this in my own time to augment the course. Another key element was connecting with other students, some of whom were much more familiar with filmmaking than I and who were able to suggest ways to recruit reliable crew members, what to look out for when sourcing equipment etc. I’m still in contact with many of them.
The film blends a certain British sensibility with a pastiche of America cinema to great effect – is it an idea you’d had for a while?
Actually the idea came to me when I was writing a completely different script and a delivery man came to my door with a parcel. I watched him walk up to the front door, but instead of leaving my parcel he left a Sorry You Missed Me card! Very frustrating. I started to think about taking this to an extreme level, and the recipient finally getting really angry and taking their revenge.
During our course, there were many references to classic movies like Network, The Godfather and the Rocky movies, and I love Tarantino, so I thought it would be funny to have my apparently mild-mannered, middle-aged heroine prepare herself in a Rocky-style training montage before carrying out her Tarantino-inspired revenge, all the while echoing iconic lines from famous films.
Having been involved in various parts of the production yourself, is there a specific area which you have a new-found respect for?
I was fascinated with all aspects of filmmaking but the two areas which really made an impression on me were sound and editing.
I mean ‘sound’ in the broadest sense. From having the very best sound recording while shooting so you have high-quality material to edit later, ensuring the post-production sound mixing and editing is as good as possible to ensure that the dialogue so lovingly written can actually be heard by the audience and, in my case, paying attention to the music. I had certain tracks in mind but I couldn’t obtain a licence for them within the timescale and budget so I hired a composer – for a fraction of the cost – to licence 10 seconds of one track I would have had in a perfect world. She then wrote original music echoing my music choices and also added incidental music which was very effective in enhancing the action on screen.
As for editing, it’s such an art and so exciting to see how the raw material is shaped into the final product. I hired an experienced picture editor but worked closely with him on every iteration from the rough cut to the final edit. I sat beside him during the final days of the editing process working on the film frame by frame. It was a very intricate and painstaking process, I must have driven him a bit mad at times but I think we got it right in the end. Winning the award for Best Editing at the National Student Film Festival vindicated all our work on this.
Do you have any ideas brewing for another project?
Many, many ideas. Almost too many. I’d like to write something longer with my sister playing the main role, probably something set in Northern Ireland and drawing on our shared experiences growing up there during the Troubles. It would be dark, very funny with lots of plot twists, filmed in a beautiful setting – and with a great soundtrack!
Elaine Mulvaney studied our Part-Time Six-Month Filmmaking course. Interested in learning some filmmaking skills? Find out more here.