Alfonso Films: The Future of Irish Filmmaking

Alfonso Films is comprised of the vibrant female trio: writer Emma Wall, director Claire Byrne and producer Jo Halpin. Emma’s background is in casting while Claire has experience directing short films and in post-production. Jo also has experience in post-production and has worked as an assistant director on multiple shows and film sets.

As the Zoom call begins and all three enter the chat, their passion and energy oozes immediately (even digitally) and their bright personalities shine through. The chat flowed as we discussed how they got to where they are today, their upcoming projects and how they handle rejection in the industry.

The first question I asked was how they came up with the name, to which Claire said that it “started off as a joke and then it just stuck. It just feels like it has the right personality for us”.

Alfonso has made three award winning short films since forming: SPENT (2016) won Best Short in WIFT Ireland’s member showcase. HER NAME IS (2017) was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Actress at the Underground Cinema Awards in 2019. PAT (2019) won Best Short at the Chicago Irish Film Festival 2020 and was nominated for Best Short at Irish Film Festival London 2019.

[From left to right] Jo, Emma and Claire. Photo supplied by Alfonso.

They are currently working on their fourth short film, MAGIC, which they “hope will be ready for the summer”. It is clear that the three ladies are full of enthusiasm and aren’t afraid of hard work. So what is the process they go through to get these short films onto the festival circuit?

Claire summed it up perfectly for me: “Well you start off with an idea or script, then the script gets shopped around to various funding opportunities – we’re lucky to have a lot of short film funding schemes in Ireland. I suppose it’s identifying what funding you’re going for and what you need for that funding.”

“The first thing we officially got funded was Emma’s script PAT and that was funded by the BUMBLE Female Film Force Initiative which was ran by WDW, a brilliant company in London. And the dating app BUMBLE have started an initiative to get more women in the top roles in film,” she continued.

In order to accept funding, one must have a limited company. According to Claire, this was the “catalyst” for Alfonso to go limited. After securing funding, the fun begins. There’s pre-production, forming a crew, securing locations and organising a cast. Then, production begins. Claire described the production of PAT:

“It was such an amazing adventure because we went all the way down to Dingle and we had a deadline for that one because of the BUMBLE scheme. Most of the time when you get funding there will be a deadline.”

The production of PAT. Photo supplied by Alfonso.

When asked if it was a struggle to get funding and what the support system within the industry was like, Claire explained:

“No matter what you’re trying to get made it’s always a massive struggle. The more you can offer up to the funders the better because they want to know every little detail, they want to know how and why it’s possible, why it’s important and why it’s relevant.”

“At the same time, there is such an amazing wealth of support and opportunities for people trying to make shorts,” she continued.

The trio are now trying to secure development funding for features, to which they find “tough”. There is a “lot of rejection” according to Claire.

I know I can speak for a lot of people when I say that rejection can be tough and disheartening. But, Alfonso had some great advice for anyone that may be struggling with rejection in an industry like filmmaking:

“Try not to reject yourself first. We didn’t rely on people; we gave them a reason to try not to reject us by making something ourselves. I remember putting the applications in and I said, ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing but I’m just flinging stuff at them’. The more I did it, I don’t know whether we got more experience, or we understood what feedback was coming through or the more times we did it, but I just knew what to do,” said Jo.

Practice makes perfect according to the trio, and confidence is key:

“It’s normal to be rejected and it’s part of any job process.”

Jo Halpin

“It was almost really lucky that we got rejected the first time we went for funding because we learned that you have to make your project feel inevitable. So whether or not they fund you, it’s going to happen. You need to promote it as though it’s something that they should and want to be a part of,” added Claire.

Claire Byrne. Photo supplied by Alfonso.

Filmmaking can often be viewed as a male-dominated industry but this appears to be changing rapidly. The representation of females in roles such as writing, directing and producing is constantly growing.

“I think we’ve come up against it [a male-dominated industry] for sure but we’re also at the receiving end of a lot of women in the industry who have worked before us to bring all these female led schemes. I think when we were starting out those schemes were up and coming,” explained Emma.

“We’re benefitting from really hard work that women in the industry have done ahead of us. We’re then trying to take that with us and generate more opportunities for people and give them a hand up,” she continued.

Alfonso has clearly been inspired by other women in the industry and for Jo it was someone in particular; her aunt, who is a filmmaker, editor and director.

“I watched her in the film industry since I was a kid and that’s the reason why I’m here. She’s an incredible filmmaker and has made amazing stuff. Some of her greatest success has happened only in the last few years. She’s all about pushing women and is very supportive,” Jo said with a smile.

I asked Alfonso what’s in store for the future, to which they told me that they are working on upcoming projects and have a lot of ideas.

“The dream is to make a feature. We’d like to have a TV Show on our hands. So it’s about getting scripts into a good shape and getting pitching together and meeting as many people as we can who can fund us,” explained Emma.

Not only are these ladies extremely talented and hard-working, but they are genuine and fun. They don’t take themselves too seriously and they’re not afraid to fail. They are strong women with a firm plan in place for their future, which is sure to be brilliant.

The future is looking bright. Photo supplied by Alfonso.

To find out more about Alfonso Films visit their website, or you can contact them by email: info@alfonsofilms.com.

Published by Anna Cullen

Substantial experience in radio, digital and print journalism.

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