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Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I recommend that along with your pint of Guinness or green beer as you celebrate today that you add watching the movie Once if you haven’t seen it (or again if you have seen it). This independent film made in Ireland won the recent Academy Award for Best Song “Falling Slowly.”

It also won the Best Foreign Film at Film Independents Spirit Awards. Shot mostly handheld with a couple Sony HDV cameras for a little over $100,000., this little film has gathered quite a following.

It made many Top 10 film lists for 2007 including the LA Times and USA Today.  Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying “A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year.”

I think it exemplifies the ideals I write about in Screenwriting from Iowa.  And that is people hunger for stories told outside of LA and you can make these films anywhere without spending a lot of money.

Here’s the story in a nutshell from the Fox Searchlight website;

A modern-day musical set on the streets of Dublin featuring Glen Hansard from the Irish band “The Frames.” The film tells the story of a street musician and a Czech immigrant (played by Marketa Irglova) during an eventful week as they write, rehearse and record songs that reveal their unique love story.

Writer/director Jim Carney said that he didn’t want to spend a year and a half writing the script so he wrote 60 pages and shot the film with a mix of the script and improv. (One of the funniest lines in the film “I’m a broken-hearted-Hoover-fixer-sucker guy” was an improv line.) The film is made up of approximately 60% of music.

“Camcorders are a small thing. You don’t need huge arc lights and 35 mill. If you have some way of getting a bit of sound on your picture and syncing them up — go off and make you bleeding movie. It doesn’t matter where it’s made or how it’s made. At the end of the day an audience just wants to see a director’s vision.”

Carney says he was inspired by the John Cassavetes’ film Faces. In that you could make a film “with four characters in your parents home.” Once was shot in 17 days.

If you want to make it an independent Irish double feature night throw in The Brothers McMullen. A film made for $25,000 in 1995 and which launched writer/director Edwards Burns’ career.

Finish the night with a little U2, Van Morrison and Enya and you’ve had quite a proper St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

And let’s not forget Ireland’s great literary past that includes Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and William Butler Yeats.

In closing let me mention that Carney says on the DVD that he titled his film Once because people always have an excuse and say “Once….”

As in “”Once I get some money saved…”

“Once I get a camera…”

“Once I move to LA…”

…then we’re going to do something special. We miss many opportunities.

As the old saying goes, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

Copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

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