Monday, April 18, 2011

Answer the Question! 'One Hundred Mornings' director Conor Horgan talks Q&As

There’s one school of thought that says what an audience needs immediately after a film ends is time to reflect and gather their thoughts, rather than an opportunity to interrogate the director. But post-screening Q&As can be unexpectedly revealing, and are often a great way for both the audience and the director to find out a little more about the film.

We’ve just returned from screenings of One Hundred Mornings in Budapest and Krakow, where I found an unexpected benefit of doing Q&As abroad. The Krakow Q&A was moderated by Brandon Harris of Filmmaker Magazine, who knows the film well having first written about it after our North American debut at the Slamdance Festival. His questions were very much to the point, but being translated takes twice the time, so I had to be on my toes to get the most information across with the minimum of dialogue (which is also what I’ve tried to do in the film).

Kelly Campbell, Bob O'Mahoney, Grainne Humphries, Conor Horgan at JDIFF.

During the Slamdance Q&A I was asked about the films’ cast and mentioned that Bob O’Mahoney (who plays Tim) had a small part as a fighter pilot in the original Star Wars movie. Several of the male members of the audience sat bolt upright at this point and one informed me that were no small parts in the original Star Wars. If Bob has been receiving invites to fan conventions ever since, he only has me to blame.

Inevitably, similar questions come up. There's one in particular I get asked more than any other, naturally enough - what happened in the world of the film to cause the breakdown of society? I tend to respond, politely, that as it was a deliberate decision not to put this explanation into the film, I’d rather not offer one afterwards. What often happens then is that I get to explain why it was a deliberate decision.

Conor Horgan, Katie Holly and Kelly Campbell at Downtown Independent, LA

In Thessaloniki, when the discussion moved on to the societal breakdown, one very irate customer from the back of the hall started shouting “It could never happen here! Maybe in Africa, but never here!” Actually, I appreciate these kind of responses – when people are so exercised by the film, it has to have affected them. As a filmmaker this is the most you can ask for, and when it happens it’s kind of thrilling.

My worst ever Q&A happened at a festival where the screening system broke down and we had to project the film onto a huge multiplex screen from a DVD. When most of the questions were about what had actually happened in certain scenes, my heart sank – they just hadn’t been able to see it properly.

A much more inspiring Q&A was hosted last September by Ted Hope, one of the great indie film producers of the last twenty years, with credits on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Ice Storm and many others. After showing the film at his Goldcrest series of screenings in New York, one question in particular led to some revealing answers about the making of the film (you can read about it here).

Last month the film was back in New York for a week-long run, with the usual Q&A to follow. I wasn’t expecting the first question, which came from a young man with an Irish accent. In fact I was gobsmacked - he wanted to know what had happened to a couple of deleted scenes that had been in an unfinished version of the film. It turns out he was a friend of my brother's and had been part of a random audience for our only test screening, held in Dublin a few days before we finished the edit. He promised not to tweet about the details, and I thanked him for coming to see the film again.

One Hundred Mornings

Q&As can be a hugely educational experience - for the filmmakers. After all the work that goes into the making of a film, it only really comes to life when it’s shown to an audience, and a post-screening Q&A offers a chance to interact very directly with that audience, in a much more human way than via twitter or Facebook. I’ve learned a lot from doing them, and have loved hearing other people’s responses to the film – I hope the audiences have benefited as well.

We’ll be doing a Q&A on Saturday May 7th in the IFI, do please come - and bring your toughest questions.

Conor Horgan
One Hundred Mornings
(Opens May 6th)