Stingy studios stiffing strikers, films written off for tax breaks, ‘cameos’ by actors that have been dead for decades, Mel Gibson still being cast in things – we’re living in a Golden Age of Bankruptcy not seen since the Recession. And why should ‘moral’ have all the fun, when ‘creative’ can get involved too? For all that movies like Barbie can make earnest, entertaining and interesting efforts to explore the relationship between what, ultimately, is a brand and its customer base, that film sits in the middle of what is an unusual recent trend in Hollywood.
From Air exploring the origins of a really cool shoe, to the word salad of Flamin’ Hot, Eva Longoria’s Cheetos origin story based on a true story that isn’t true, this year has seen the rise of the ‘buy-opic’, films based on products. Perhaps the ultimate end of the increasingly IP-driven cinematic landscape. Though Barbie was a billion dollar success and genuine cultural phenomenon, reports of Mattel execs excited to launch into a whole universe of films about their toys does give us pause.
While a film like Blackberry, out in Irish cinemas from 6th October, has received critical interest for telling the “true story” of the meteoric rise & catastrophic demise of the defunct smartphone, that at least has the buffer of being about a now-defunct product. Hollywood has always been about selling something, but a two-hour long advert for spicy crisps you can snack on right as you’re watching a movie about them is on the nose even for them, and risks further eroding the membrane thin understanding that studios have about their output as anything other than “content”. It’s easy to be cynical about these movies…so let’s be. How can the Irish market cash in on this trend? What Irish brands could join the Brand New Wave of cinema?
Now it’s important to think outside the box on this one. A hagiographic account of Arthur Guinness or a screenplay by Roddy Doyle about how Mr. Brennan met the auld fella who asks him to come here to him might be more likely to be made, but those big names don’t necessarily make for the best stories. Ohhh my god u tweeted about how there should be a Tayto movie? should we tell everyone? Should we throw a party?should we invite Northern Irish Mr Tayto.
Here then are a selection of five Irish brands whose stories are truly worthy of the big screen.
We know we said to avoid the obvious, but in order to ensure the success of the Irish entries to this trend, we need at least one box-office hit, and the Ulsterian frozen fish brand can snag that for us. The people of Ireland are better able to recite the lyrics of the Filing Cabinet advert more accurately than our national anthem, and though we know that the head office are keeping Donal’s idea on file, in a filing cabinet, there’s so much more of that story to be told. What Donal’s idea actually was, for example. Was it frozen fish. Is that not what they already do.
The tempestuous mistress of the unpredictable ocean has always provided deep waters for big screen stories. How would the lovable lads bringing us our chunky cod fillets fare when faced with The Perfect Storm? If they reeled up an ancient, unknowable evil to which they gradually succumbed one by one, a la Sea Fever, who would survive? Would Donal’s resentment of Eoin’s beauty rise to the surface? Would head office leave our lads adrift? Give us Neasa Hardiman’s Donegal Catch, a paranoid horror of what emerges when profit-hungry overfishing plunges man into the deepest, darkest depths. Some things should not be caught. Some ideas, should remain on file.
In a filing cabinet.
McDaid’s Football Special
Staying in Donegal for what would make an intriguing period piece. Everyone likes a bit of nostalgia, and what better topic than the memory of sweet summer holidays, a bottle of pop, jumpers for goalposts, etc, etc.
The story of McDaid’s Football Special is an interesting one. The flavour was originally born in the 40s to help celebrate the numerous successes of local Ramelton, Donegal football club, Swilly Rovers. The drink called “Football Cup” was designed for players to “fill the cup” with an exciting non-alcoholic beverage. Swilly Rovers were a very successful amateur side in the 1950s and 1960s and this success allowed the cup to be filled on many occasions. The McDaid family were heavily involved with these teams so it added extra sentiment to be able to develop a product to celebrate their local team’s successes. Later the name was changed to Football Special, but the unique taste stayed the same. As the family business expanded, the McDaids partnered with Guinness to bottle and distribute the black stuff in the North Donegal area, and that partnership and knowledge in turn led to the soft drink side of the business expanding, with their signature unusual flavours like Banana, and Pineapple. A quirky and charming story of a self-made family business. That’s not what the movie would be about though.
What flavour is Football Special anyway? Reasonable assumptions like cola or American cream soda are already covered elsewhere in the McDaid’s repertoire. Their cheerful copy taunts us, revelling in the mystery. Cast Paul Mescal as an eager copywriter driving himself round the bend trying to get the answers, Colin Farrell, his Dublin-based colleague who’s seen it all but is gradually gripped by the uncertainty. The film is perfect for a Zodiac esque investigative thriller to uncover the McDaid families special secrets, a search to which there is no true answer.
Toy Show – The Musical
– the musical
Look, just hear us out.
The news cycle may have already mostly moved on from the scandal of our national broadcaster’s overspending and the public debate of whether Ryan Tubridy has a soul. However, you may recall from those halcyon days of six weeks ago that one of the most engagingly egregious through-lines in the whole sordid tale was RTÉ’s consistent over-estimating of how successful a musical based on an annual toy advert could be.
Are Irish people overly engrossed by the Late Late Toy Show? Of course. But the big miscalculation by RTÉ and Tubridy appears to be the belief that the show is viewed by the public as a reverent, magical, fantastical evening that brings joy to the hearts of children everywhere, on a level akin to Christmas itself, and not what it is, a chance to win a free Fitbit and make jokes about culchie toddlers. Toy Show the Musical is a twee and unwanted financial disaster. Toy Show the Musical, the Musical on the other hand would be a tale of hubristic hucksters in the same spirit as Mel Brooks’ The Producers, a comedy of desperate men who set themselves up to fail setting themselves up to fail (not a hope the real production was ever meant to be anything other than a tax write-off).
With Charlie Kaufman an increasingly frequent visitor to the capital, he’d be perfect to pen the metatextual bleak black comedy that emerges from a show that’s a product about a product that’s a show about a show that sells products. Get comedians like Seán Burke and Michael Fry in to do the songs and play some characters of sweaty Bialystockian stock, and something worthwhile might just emerge from Toy Show – the Musical after all.
From Oppenheimer to Chernobyl, nuclear disaster sells baby. Give the viewing public a story of horrific mass death brought about by the hubris of man, and the content flies off the shelf like hot cakes, or like iodine tablets that are ultimately uneccessary.
When concerns about potential terrorist attacks and nuclear emergencies at the Sellafield and Chapelcross reactors in the UK gripped Ireland in 2002 almost as tightly as Saipan, the government responded in a fashion that was equally as effective as it was necessary, by sending homes a packet of 6 iodine tablets in the post.
The 2002 batch of 14.2million tablets expired in 2005, mostly unused, at a cost of €630,000. A snip to be fair, especially because anything else the Department of Health could have been spending money on in 2002 would definitely, presumably, be resolved today. The Department never replaced the initial batch after the threat of a nuclear meltdown receded and the realisation that taking the Sellafield tablets actually wouldn’t help anyway.
There are a few different ways to tell this story, which is an exciting opportunity for any filmmaker. A Music Man style cheeky tale of the pied piper of iodine unloading unwanted stock on a gullible government. A contemplative exploration of War on Terror era hysteria. Either way, the film would have to include a scene, similar to Oppenheimer‘s invocation of JFK, or The Post‘s overwrought ending of Nixon and Watergate, as the protagonists breathe a sigh of relief that the incumbent, incompetent Minister for Health in 2002 would surely fade into political obscurity.
Pat the Baker
County Longford is having a year in the cinematic spotlight, between the shocking look at Ireland’s history in Ann and the explorative emotions of Lakelands. It’s worth keeping that momentum up, and who better as the subject for the next offering from Longfordollywood than the county’s most famous son?
Lovely, sleepy, Longford, a quiet, cosy place. A place where one man makes the sun rise each morning. A man to whom the church steeple bows. The people depend on him. They are in his thrall. Everywhere he goes, they invoke his name in prayer.
It’s Pat the Baker.
A folk tale so fresh, that it would be famous. Infamous, even. A Kate Dolan helmed horror about the underbelly of the seemingly idyllically idle midlands, and their master, and the sacrifices that must be made to ensure his harvest comes, bright and early each morning to bring the best to you.
It is time to keep your appointment with the Baker Man.