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How I Made It: Não Me Abre (2021)

In the film, 6-year-old Jojo and his dog Braços receive a mysterious gift from the sky

and find that it is important to always judge what is on the inside.

9 Mins | Portuguese | Drama | 2021 | Ireland

In its persistent mission and zeal to promote good cinema, the Indian Film Institute brings you the experience of the Director of the film - Michael McCudden

What inspired you to venture into short filmmaking?

Early in my career, while working as a truck driver I discovered a great course at St. Johns Central College in Cork, Ireland. I started it and immediately fell in love with everything that involved capturing scenes. My peer group that particular year was exceptional, and we all encouraged each other and started our respective journeys in the film industry. Great memories, I must say!

What was your background before making this film?

I started with a film course then went ahead to secure a degree in filmmaking and steered towards writing in film and theatre before I found a bit of stability in teaching filmmaking. Later in my career, I rediscovered an early love of photography. That’s where I am currently.

What was the starting point for you deciding to make this film?

Lockdown’s lethargy guilt and just having enough resources to do something at hand. Everyone encounters such a state so don't ever let that put you off. If your location isn't perfect, decide black and white, make those production decisions early and lean into them. Start with what you have and make sure to put your best with the resources you have.

9 Mins | Portuguese | Short, Horror, Fantasy | 2021 | Ireland

Why this subject matter for your film?

Necessity. The dog would have accidentally wandered into shots a couple of times, so I just cast her. It isn't particularly a film with a great deal to say socially or anything but sometimes just being entertained by some unusual aspects of life’s regular mundaneness is enough.

Where did you find this story for this film?

I found a can of food without any label up in the kitchen cupboard and wondered what was in it but didn't want to open it as I didn't actually want anything at the time. But that curiosity itself was an interesting idea for a starting point.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts

What were the challenges you faced in making the film?

None really as all the problems were headed off in production. The decision to go monochrome and have a rough movie with low contrast look, no speaking roles and shoot in the house with family without lighting meant that the schedule was completely relaxed.

Making short films on a zero or a low budget is a customary practice for most short filmmakers around the world. Do you think it affects the quality of production? What would you suggest to first-time short filmmakers on a budget to ensure a good enough production quality?

It does affect production quality in technical terms but in terms of audience impact, it becomes less relevant. We too often try to recreate our admired big movie scenes in visual and technical terms and take our eye off the ball with the simple impactful aspects. In terms of first-time filmmakers, I suppose I’d say keep your shots simple and put your efforts into performances (once you have got a cracking story of course).

NEVER rush sound designing and put way more resources into your post-sound finish than you expect to. Rough sound will expose you quicker than a rough grade.

Did you face any problems in releasing or distributing the film? Do you think short filmmakers today have a marketplace to showcase and sell their works?

I was quite fortunate that the film was selected by a lot of film festivals globally (Helped by having so little dialogue and sidestepping language barriers or nuances). After it did some festival screenings, I distributed it through film hubs and that's where it is now. Short filmmakers have a vast range of festivals to screen at now but it's probably easier to sell yourself rather than your works at these. Post pandemic the ‘meeting like-minded people’ aspect of festivals has returned and that is where the real value lies. Beyond that, the YouTube short film aggregate sites are strong for reaching new eyes and expanding the audience base for your project.

How do you think filmmakers like you can overcome common challenges like finance and distribution?

My key advice to aspiring filmmakers out there would be to SHOOT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE.

Make early and realistic decisions about what you have and what you do not and then rank the do-nots in order of importance.

People say to never wear a producer's hat when writing. I agree, except when you have to, which is always.

Any other interesting facts about this film that you may like to cover, any experiment you did, or style?

My dog was quite terrified of the Sony camera. The can was shot on a piece of black thread and needed a few touch-ups on the star plate behind it. I sent the scene to my wonderful colleague Noel, and he secretly recreated the entire scene digitally and didn’t tell me to see if I would notice. I couldn’t really detect the alteration!

Film Poster - Não Me Abre (2021)

What would you advise filmmakers making a short film for the first time?

I have always believed in starting with what resources I have without waiting for an appropriate time to kickstart my filmmaking journey. Nurture your networking skills and make meaningful friendships that add value to your skills professionally and mentally. A good network of people can create a resourceful pool of necessary skills. Make sure you make decisive choices with your cast selections and sound designing. Believe in the power of simplicity and do what you do well and ace it.

Festival Screenings

  1. Spookscreen Cork 2021

  2. Diorama International Film Festival 2021

  3. Ontario International Film Festival 2021

  4. Cinemagic International Film Festival Belfast 2021

  5. Sessions By Lift-Off Global Network

  6. McMinnville International Sci-fi Film Festival 2021

  7. DarkHedges International Film festival 2021

Meet the Director

Michael McCudden studied film at IADT-DL and graduated with a MA (Hons) in the year 2002. He has produced several plays and is credited with writing and directing award-winning short films. Currently, he explored the feature-length formats where he secured further development funding for several of his scripts prior to directing Sodium Party (2013). He started teaching filmmaking, screenwriting, and photography. Besides being a teacher, he works as a freelance director/editor/shooter and runs a photography business doing portraits, actors' headshots, and magazine features. At this point of his career, his focus is on combining photography and literature.




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