Home­town direc­tor opens event

As Carmel Win­ters’ cre­ation opens the Cork Film Fes­ti­val tonight, she tells Es­ther McCarthy why she’s so glad she shot it in lo­ca­tions around her home county

Irish Examiner - - Front Page -

THIS year’s Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val will go down as one to trea­sure for Carmel Win­ters. Not only did her West Cork-shot film Float

Like a But­ter­fly have its world pre­miere and win the FIPRESCI Prize for the Dis­cov­ery Pro­gramme, she also mar­ried her long-term love, artist and pro­duc­tion de­signer Toma McCul­lim, in the Cana­dian city.

The womens’ de­ci­sion to tie the knot fol­low­ing 18 years to­gether was a spon­ta­neous one, made in their Bal­ly­de­hob home just two days be­fore they ar­rived in Toronto.

“I thought it was hi­lar­i­ous when she said: ‘It’s non re­fund­able, you can’t change your mind’,” said Win­ters of the ini­tial con­tact with Toronto City Hall. “I got off the phone and it was ar­ranged — it was that quick, that im­promptu. When I got to Heathrow the next day, there was a nine-hour de­lay on my flight. We were trav­el­ling on dif­fer­ent routes to Canada but it looked like I wasn’t go­ing to make the wed­ding.

“I was lit­er­ally on the phone to Air Canada beg­ging them to get me into the city in time for the wed­ding. It’s one thing to miss your world pre­miere, but there was no way you could miss your own wed­ding. Fair play to them, they got me on to her flight. The whole of the Toronto Film Fes­ti­val of­fice that pro­grammed the film all showed up at the City

Hall to wit­ness our wed­ding. It’s in­tensely spe­cial to get mar­ried in front of a room full of strangers and for them to re­ally see you and hon­our you and wit­ness you. It makes you feel like you can have fam­ily all over the world.”

Fam­ily and com­mu­nity are an in­te­gral part of Win­ters’ life and her work, and she is proud to show off her adopted home of West Cork (she grew up in the north of the county) in all its big-screen glory.

Set in 1972, in the build-up to Muham­mad Ali’s fight against Al Lewis in Croke Park, it tells the story of a young Trav­eller, Frances (Hazel Doupe) who dreams of be­com­ing a boxer and mak­ing her idol Ali proud. But Frances has other things to con­tend with, in par­tic­u­lar her re­la­tion­ship with her father, re­cently re­leased from prison, raised to be­lieve a woman’s place is in the home. “I’ve never cre­ated a play or a film about a hero be­fore,” said Win­ters of the film.

“Some­one who you’d think they de­serve to be sup­ported as they are. I think she goes back to the best and truest in all of us in life, be­fore life de­rails us, be­fore life knocks us off our path.

“I see a lot of light in young peo­ple par­tic­u­larly. That light is there in you through­out your life­time, but of­ten if you are de­railed from your path, or you don’t get to share your best qual­i­ties in this world, I think that’s a tragedy and it’s a great waste of hu­man po­ten­tial.”

The film-maker, who first started de­vel­op­ing her story in the early days of Katie Tay­lor’s rise to fame, says that the Ir­ish boxer was very much an in­spi­ra­tion. “I think there’s so many things in the world that make what you imag­ine pos­si­ble, and Katie Tay­lor is def­i­nitely one of them. I think there’s some­thing in the in­trin­sic sovereignty of Fran­cis. When I saw the Katie Tay­lor doc­u­men­tary, Katie, I thought: ‘Wow, she re­minds me im­mensely of the char­ac­ter’.”


For Win­ters, the film is about the un­der­dog in all of us. “Be­cause what that girl is fight­ing for is not only her own eman­ci­pa­tion, she’s fight­ing for her father to come back to him­self. I see noth­ing nat­u­ral about a break­down in re­la­tions or the op­pres­sion of women. In a healthy so­ci­ety you’ll see men hon­our­ing and cel­e­brat­ing women.

“Frances’s plans to over­come her father’s re­stric­tions ul­ti­mately bring him back to him­self. The only way he’s led into the er­ror of re­strict­ing her is be­ing re­stricted him­self, he can’t imag­ine any bet­ter for her.”

She is proud and ex­cited to bring her beloved West Cork to the big screen, with well-known lo­ca­tions like the Ilen es­tu­ary, the white sands of Bal­lyrisode and Levi’s Cor­ner House Bar in Bal­ly­de­hob all fea­tur­ing.

“I had the ben­e­fit of know­ing all the trea­sures in my area, trea­sures in terms of land­scape, in terms of lo­cal tal­ent. The place is just brim­ming with tal­ent and it was so dear to my heart to put those trea­sures on the screen.

“I thought the way we’ll carry off this is in an abun­dance of cre­ativ­ity and good­will and gen­eros­ity. I felt I had to put these plea­sures on the screen. You should love see­ing what you’re see­ing. I felt that West Cork could de­liver in a big way and the kind of re­la­tion­ships I had lo­cally with peo­ple, like the peo­ple who run Fast­net Film Fes­ti­val, they’d move moun­tains for you.

“I’m a great be­liever that if you want a cer­tain feel­ing on the screen, it helps if you can en­gen­der that feel­ing in the shoot it­self. I wanted gen­eros­ity and a feel­ing of ex­tended clan. Com­mu­nity. We har­nessed what was in our lo­cal com­mu­nity to make the feel­ing of this. The in­tense, bonded com­mu­nity of an ex­tended fam­ily.”

Win­ters also got her fam­ily in­volved in the film. “I come from a horse rac­ing fam­ily and they brought me rakes of horses. I just har­nessed what­ever trea­sure was avail­able. When those worlds came to­gether there was a real fire. I loved the amount of chil­dren lo­cally, trav­ellers and set­tled, and how they worked to­gether on the set is prob­a­bly dear­est to my heart.”

Win­ters has just re­turned from Los An­ge­les, where she was one of three Ir­ish writ­ers placed by Screen Train­ing Ire­land on the LA Writ­ers’ Room place­ment. Ac­cess in­cluded Net­flix’s Jupiter’s Legacy and Warner’s The Big Bang The­ory. For the film-maker, who wants to de­velop a TV series set in West Cork — a mock­u­men­tary where bil­lion­aires tend to go miss­ing — it was a huge op­por­tu­nity.

“It’s ex­tra­or­di­nary — I am ba­si­cally go­ing around the best writ­ers’ rooms in LA. The large TV series here are writ­ten by teams of writ­ers and typ­i­cally the series will be cre­ated by one writer who then man­ages a room and fa­cil­i­tates a team of writ­ers writ­ing in­di­vid­ual episodes, while they take care of the over­all shape and in­ten­tions of the series. Those peo­ple are known as showrun­ners.

“What Screen Train­ing Ire­land has done is cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity for us to go into the top showrun­ners writ­ers’ rooms and see how they elab­o­rate their series for a team. It’s an un­be­liev­able op­por­tu­nity. I want to make a TV series set in West Cork and if it runs long enough to be able to showrun it in the way they do over here.”

As well as their abil­ity to make screen gems, Win­ters was also im­pressed with the showrun­ners as peo­ple, de­scrib­ing them as “in­cred­i­bly de­cent hu­man be­ings”.

“I’m all fired up now to make it work hav­ing seen these peo­ple in ac­tion,” she says. But first, there’s just the mat­ter of her Ir­ish pre­miere in Cork tonight.

Float Like A But­ter­fly screens tonight and to­mor­row at the Ev­ery­man as part of Cork Film Fes­ti­val

‘I had the ben­e­fit of know­ing all the trea­sures in my area, trea­sures in terms of land­scape, in terms of lo­cal tal­ent. The place is brim­ming with tal­ent

A scene from Float Like a But­ter­fly; be­low, direc­tor Carmel Win­ters with her wife Toma McCul­lim af­ter their re­cent wed­ding in Toronto.

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