Schull to transform bank into film hub

Planning permission will be sought, this week, to redevelop a landmark building in a West Cork village, creating a home for an internationally successful film festival as final preparations are put in place for the event’s 10th anniversary celebrations.

Schull to transform bank into film hub

The proposal is to redevelop the imposing stone-cut former AIB building, on the Square in Schull and, all going well, work is expected to begin this year to redevelop the premises into a state-of-the-art film centre.

“Hopefully we will have our new film centre for May 2019,” said Hilary McCarthy, communications director and vice chair of the Fastnet Film Festival which runs, this year, from Wednesday, May 23, to Sunday, May 27.

She singled out Irish-American couple William and Judith Bollinger for their continuing support and patronage.

Two years ago, the couple purchased the old bank building to provide a home in Schull for the festival.

Although the organisers moved into the old building at the beginning of this month, the actual redevelopment is not scheduled to begin until the summer, said Ms McCarthy, who has been with the festival since it was established 10 years ago.

Shortly after moving to Schull with her husband and family, Ms McCarthy recalls, she met someone on the street who told her about the festival’s first committee meeting, held in September 2008: “She asked if I’d be interested in coming along — little did I know what was in store.”

About 20 people turned up to that first meeting, the attendance including film score composers, a cinematographer, and scriptwriters. “I had no knowledge of film,” said Ms McCarthy, a marketing consultant, remembering how the first meeting discussed the knock-out success of a film night which had taken place during an annual arts festival running in the town.

“It had sold out, so people basically sat back and decided to set up a short film festival,” she recalled, adding that she was immediately put in charge of marketing the fledgling festival.

Ms McCarthy took up the challenge, and along with the rest of the eight-member committee, worked hard in the following years to grow the festival to the success it enjoys today.

“This year, we have 345 submissions, up from 65 in 2008. Last year, we had about 5,000 visitors compared to about 1,000 back in 2008. It started off as a three-day festival, now it’s a five-day event. In fact, the film festival weekend is now the second busiest weekend of the year in the village.”

The sense of satisfaction is huge, said Ms McCarthy.

“Each year, it surpasses the previous year; the beauty is that you have young fledgling filmmakers meeting with established names in the field like Mike Lee, Stephen Frears, Jim Sheridan, or Lenny Abrahamson. They meet on the village street and just chat.”

She also related some great, quirky moments: “We had a cinema in the bedroom of the ferryman’s house on Long Island, a cinema on a single-decker bus, and also a bicycle-powered cinema.

“We even had a Horror Horsebox once — people watched horror shorts in the horsebox sitting on a bale of hay with headphones and a 50” TV!”

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