The fresh princesses of Alfonso Films.
By Clara Brannigan | Nov 21 2018I am greeted by three charismatic women Jo, Emma and Claire, who meet me in the Library Bar in the Central hotel. We all order Americanos (well, Claire opts for a green tea) and we settle down for a chat by the fire. Together the trio aims to bring scripts and ideas together no matter the budget and so far, this has been a success. They begin by telling me a little about themselves and how they met each other. Emma speaks first of how “Jo and I met in college in DCU and we both had moved to London. After two years in London, we moved back to Dublin. We were trying to get involved in the film industry. One day I went to a mixer for women in film.” Claire chimes in “someone introduced Emma and I, as they had reckoned we had gone to the Gaeltacht together.” Time passed and perhaps the stars had aligned, as they separately made their way to another mixer for a short film scheme. Emma recalls, “I spotted Claire in the foyer, I introduced her to Jo and we all got chatting.” The mixer involved trying to put together a team with a writer, director and producer. Claire remembers “I was like ‘oh’ because Emma was there as a writer, I was there as a director and Jo was there as a producer but also had a script.” Emma pitched her script to Claire and she pitched to Emma, ultimately deciding that they were both happy to stop the networking, as Emma said “it was all a bit much.” The girls sat in the back of the room in a dark corner and began to chat. Emma explains that “Jo said she would come on to produce and then we applied for funding with that script and we didn’t get it, but we made the script anyway.” Jo recounts what was said to them at the mixer that day “I just remember them saying this really snotty thing on the day: ‘If you don’t get picked, don’t worry, it’s so inspiring seeing people make scripts that were rejected anyway, because it proves that they really want this.’” The girls all share a moment of disdain with each other and then begin to laugh. Claire agrees that “they did say something like that, and I remember thinking at the time this is good and we were glad that we had met each other.” When asked about the beginning of their working relationship, Emma shares one of their first projects as a trio. “We shot a music video for Darren Morgan on a beach in Arklow.” Darren was a friend of Emma and Jo, so they decided to try something together, just to start out. “The point was to try and get something together and see how it felt and if we could work together”. Claire adds “it was like an exercise for Alfonso”. The story behind the name ‘Alfonso’ begins to unfold reluctantly, as they each protest the story behind it is silly. Claire takes the plunge and begins the explanation “you know one of those situations when you’re looking around a room putting two words together, like ‘tablefilms, lampfilms, it was like that.’” The two girls look to Jo and wait for her to explain. “Well the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was on in the background, we’d been there for two hours, thinking this isn’t important, let’s just pick a name, no one knows us or is looking at us anyway. I saw the guy who plays Carlton and his name is Alfonso and that was it, it became Alfonso films.” From here on out the trio became official.
“Their debut short film SPENT (2017) is currently appearing in festivals across the world and has been gaining traction.”The trio managed to raise some funding for their film SPENT. They reminisce on how it felt when they found out they had been rejected for funding. Emma says “I remember we were at my house and we had been rejected and Claire and I were freaking out.” Claire shares that the film may not have been made if Jo hadn’t said they were being ridiculous, Jo asked “what will we do with 40K? let's do it on three!” Claire reveals the lesson the girls made from this film that “if you can do as much as you can yourself, you can save money. I directed, Emma had written it and Jo produced it and we didn’t pay ourselves.” This didn't set them back, they didn’t cut any corners regarding production value and managed to make it for €4,000. Their debut short film SPENT (2017) is currently appearing in festivals across the world and has been gaining traction.
“Their latest film called PAT, has been selected as one of Bumbles five short films for the first ever Female Film Force.”Their latest film, PAT, has been selected as one of Bumble’s five short films for the first ever Female Film Force. Emma begins to talk about the journey to the top five. “We had to download Bumble and through this, we applied for funding. You applied with very little information, just the company name, who you were and a tagline.” The aim was to swipe and match with people in an attempt to match with the scheme. From there everything began to move quickly for the trio. They were asked would they re-pitch the lead character as female. Jo humorously adds “Emma had a bumble bee in her bonnet over this, but we didn’t want it to stand in the way of a chance of winning.” So, PAT was re-pitched as female and the trio were flown to London to pitch with the final ten. They got to meet the likes of Edith Bowmen, Ophelia Lovibond, Nicholas Pinnock, the head of Women, TV and Film UK and the editor of Grazia magazine. Emma recalls that they were “elated and terrified, the head of Bumble was there too, it was very disarming.” When they got back to Ireland, they received a phone call to tell them that “they were in”. Claire exclaims “It all just happened so fast, so we had to get our act together and now we are editing it.”
“They share some of their experiences around making their short film PAT and the highs and lows of the process.”They share some of their experiences around making their short film PAT with the highs and lows of the process. They shot the movie in Dingle in the midst of storm Callum. Emma reflects “we had to keep putting the props like the phone box back in the van because of the rain. We had issues, but everything was handled well.” Claire adds that Jo “definitely dealt with more of the stress on the outside as the producer.” The trio also share some of their highlights of the shoot, as they graciously speak about the crew. “They knew they were making a short film and they weren’t there for the money, they were there because they love making films. When they were told they were going to have to shoot unexpectedly tomorrow morning for a few hours, no one was getting their noses bent out of shape because of it.” The conversation turns to the competitive nature of the film industry and how it has been a male-dominated sphere. Claire reflects, “it’s funny while directing PAT people kept saying to me, ‘oh that’s really unusual’, which is mad because I didn’t realise there are so few female directors.” They have noticed that the producer role is still female dominated, Jo states “it is probably the department that women get wedged into, because it's organizational.” The trio draws inspiration from women such as Kate McCullough, the Irish cinematographer, who has succeeded in climbing the ladder in the film industry, and has been honoured at the Sundance Film Festival. Emma agrees “I think we’re coming in at a good time. The landscape is changing, so we are benefitting from other women’s real struggle coming up against difficult situations in the film industry.” They all agree they have seen a shift in the industry even since they started out a few years ago, with the help of campaigns like the #MeToo movement. Jo nudges Claire “remember you said something really good the other day, you said ‘you need to flood the industry with women to make it even, it shouldn’t be let’s make a crew of all women but let’s make a crew of people who support everyone.’” Their hopes for the future are ambitious but not out of reach as they hope to take the leap and make a feature film. Their hard work and dedication paired with competition and opportunities like Bumble’s female film force is a recipe for greatness, Alfonso Films is something worth talking about.PAT’s release date is not set in stone, but keep your eyes peeled around January and make sure not to miss this fierce female trio making waves in the Irish film industry.