Last weekend was the culmination of a busy and rewarding 10 days for Glengarriff actress and writer Clodagh Downing, which saw her take in two very different coastal towns, each with their own film connection. It began on the Côte d’Azur with Downing endeavouring to sell her short film Patsy Dick in the Short Film Corner of the Cannes Film Festival, and finished with her presenting the film in Schull, at the Fastnet Short Film Festival.
This week she can look back on that period with the satisfaction of having won a special prize for a film with local interest in Schull. But more importantly she has secured an offer for a distribution deal in Cannes, as well as expressions of interest that need to be followed up.
Patsy Dick is a gentle feelgood short film that details a true-life magical encounter between a childless American couple on holiday in West Cork and local boatman Patsy Dick.
It premiered at the Cork Film Festival, and was later premiered at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Listening to Downing recount her experience of Cannes, it is clear she is someone for whom networking and business have become as important as the art.
“I was networking so much at Cannes that somebody bought me a business card holder,” she laughs.
One person who didn’t receive her card at Cannes was Jim Sheridan, but Downing made amends when she met the director of My Left Foot and In America at Fastnet.
“Myself and my producer Laura McNicholas were in a coffee shop on Sunday and she said: ‘Oh look, there’s Jim Sheridan,’ and I was like a meerkat – up. Because I had dropped the ball in France, I went over to him and he came over to the table and he asked all about us. He had watched Patsy Dick and he said to me: ‘How come you’re an actor and I haven’t heard about you?’, And you know, I’m living in Dublin for the past 10 years.
“And I said it to him. I said I went around believing that the talent will out. You know you feel a bit awkward going: ‘Me! Me! Me! Over here!’. It’s a bit cringey but at the end of the day when I started writing my own stuff I had to sell it.”
From a young age Downing wanted to act. She tells a story of how as a star-struck seven-year-old she asked Glengarriff’s most famous resident, screen legend Maureen O’Hara, for some advice when O’Hara visited her parent’s shop. “Have another string to your bow,” counselled the great lady. It wasn’t until 2009, when Downing wrote her first one-woman show, The Evolution of Lauren Begaun, which was a sell-out at the Dublin Fringe Festival, that the extra string would be her writing.
That show has since evolved into another short film, Lauren Begone, which also screened at Fastnet and which she hopes to make into a feature in west Cork.
‘Life is for living not wanting’ is the tag line to Patsy Dick, and it’s a maxim Downing has been careful to heed. While she has yet to decide upon the distribution offer she has received, so far it has buoyed her.
“It means you’re making films of international appeal if they’re interested and that’s good,” she says. “Patsy Dick is a very Irish name and it’s very Irish in terms of the backdrop and the characters but it’s a universal theme.”