Kate Dolan is one of the fastest rising directors working in Ireland at the moment. The last year in particular has seen Kate’s 2017 horror short Catcalls feature at numerous festivals both at Ireland and abroad, including Women in Horror Month, Fantasia, GAZE, Frightfest and more. Kate has also contributed to the rising profile of Irish bands like Bitch Falcon and Pillow Queens through her music video, and is one of the filmmakers chosen by Screen Ireland to take part in their inaugural POV scheme, supporting the development and production of low-budget live action feature films from female Writers and Directors. Kate took a break from writing to talk with Film In Dublin, looking back at the last year and her work, and looking ahead at what’s to come.
Film In Dublin: You’ve had a great year. How do you feel looking back at the last 12 months or so?
Kate Dolan: Haha, probably mainly freaked out at how quickly time passes when you have a busy year. Like, another year gone it’s frightening because as a filmmaker it’s always “what’s next?”. It’s like there’s always a giant countdown over your head since when you last made something. Time just flies by. That’s why doing music videos is nice because you feel you’re making something between the bigger scale projects that keep you ticking over.
2018 has been amazing though, I have had some great success with Catcalls and have met some really cool people so hopeful next year will be a pretty good year too off the back of it.
FID: Catcalls was something you worked on in 2017, but it’s been keeping you busy this year too – do you take on a different relationship with a work once the production is done and it becomes about bringing it to festivals and growing its audience?
KD: Yeah I come from a DIY background. Like Catcalls was my first properly funded project, and just due to the nature of DIY filmmaking, even as a writer / director you come quite involved with festival submissions. I have done the submissions for most of my films over the years and it’s taught me a lot. So now with Catcalls, even though Screen Ireland were there overseeing I had a plan in my head of where I wanted to go with the film and the best ways to get there.
Festivals are really energising too, I mean filmmaking can be such a slog and there’s many days (like today with awful writer’s block sitting alone in my house eating noodles) that you just feel like – god this is shit. So being somewhere with like-minded people watching films and having people talk to you about your work is really great!
FID: That doubly for festivals were the likemindedness is as people, as well as creatives, like GAZE, Women in Horror Month etc.
Catcalls is a genre film but its very relevant to real life experiences. How do you develop a concept from real-life and lived experiences into something like this, are there challenges with maintaining the strong message at its core?
KD: As you probably know, Catcalls is based on an actual event that happened to me and friend while walking home one night. A guy pulled in and was masturbating in his car. We got his license plate number and the police went to his house, there he answered the door crying, and his wife was in the hallway.
The whole thing really blew me away, that someone so intimidating could then be so vulnerable
I think Horror is amazing because it allows for you to explore depressing / horrific / unsettling parts of every day life without feeling like it’s too “real”
If you tell an audience they are about to watch a film about a rape victims recovery they will probably feel like “I can’t deal with watching that, it’s too real and disturbing” but if that film then is taken out of reality into a space where there are monsters / supernatural elements at play then it becomes easier to watch
FID: You’ve mentioned elsewhere an interest in a feature set in the same world as Catcalls but with a different focus. What are some of the challenges as a writer developing those connections in a new story?
KD: Well I have a feature in develop with Fastnet Films / Screen Ireland at the moment, called Silent Caller. It has similar creatures and themes around women being treated badly and reaping revenge… but it’s quite different than Catcalls. So not sure it’s a Catcalls feature. Also I have been pretty busy with the POV scheme writing at the moment so nay new iterations of Catcalls have been put on hold for a while. Often, people are really eager to adapt great short films to features but sometimes shorts are perfect as they are!
FID: And it’s very exciting to work on new ideas as well – with the POV scheme, how valuable is support like that to a developing filmmaker?
KD: I feel like Screen Ireland are particularly good at supporting filmmakers in this country. Whenever I speak to people abroad in the US or UK they are always blown away by the financial support we get here and also the involvement of all the project managers there. Also working on anything with Screen Ireland gives you a stamp of approval that open doors for you.
POV has been great, and I’m really looking forward to getting to the next stage.
FID: You’ve had mentoring in your work before, like with the UK’s Guiding Lights programme were you paired with Alice Lowe. What was it like working with someone with Alice’s experience and what was the most valuable thing you’ve gained from mentoring like that? Is mentoring something that you would be interested in providing to others yourself in the future?
KD: Guiding Lights, again, was a real stamp of “you’re legitimate” it opened a lot of doors for me, and hopefully will set me up for some cool collaborations in the future. Alice was really great, she gave me a lot of guidance through the production / post-prod of Catcalls. She’s a great writer, and is really technical in how she approaches writing, she really helped me break down scripts to simplify how to direct scenes etc.
I would always be open to mentor others, particularly female filmmakers and LGBT filmmakers. If you are in any kind of position of power, you definitely need to use it to amplify the voices of people who may not get the chance.
FID: You mentioned earlier one of the benefits with working on music videos. When you’re working with the likes of Pillow Queens and Bitch Falcon, how collaborative is that process?
KD: Well I’m really lucky because I’m good friends with the people in those bands, so we naturally have a lot in common in terms of aesthetics / films / music / style so when I have an idea or they have an idea we will most likely agree that it will be a good one!
I think when it comes to musicians they obviously are very protective of their music and how they come across and the image they are putting out into the world so as a filmmaker you need to be really aware of that and make sure you understand what they need and want. Making music is a vulnerable process like filmmaking so there’s a common understanding there. I always want to have a meeting with a band and get their input, usually over a beer, where I can get a sense of what they want from it, then I can put my spin on that. Once you are representing their music in a way they are happy with collaboration is easy!
FID: Lastly, it’s been a great year, what are you most excited for going into 2019?
KD: Probably mostly POV, it will be really amazing if we get to the next stage with the script and I actually might be shooting my first feature at the end of 2019 (AHHH) so that’s really exciting. Although, off the back of Catcalls travelling so well over the past year I now have a manager in LA, so some doors over there are opening too right now which is really exciting. There’s a massive hunger for female led genre pieces at the moment so it’s a good time to be me, it’s a little overwhelming at times but I’m ready to dive into 2019 guns blazing!