The award-winning filmmaker walked away with the XX prize at this year's Underwire Festival. Here she discusses her new short, The Shift
The Shift is a female-centric comedy that dabbles in politics, gender, and everything inbetween, and was awarded the BFI NETWORK-funded XX Award on account of its fun and timely take on what it means to be a young woman today. We spoke with filmmaker Megan K. Fox on what it means to scoop the prize, and what drives her as a creator.
What did you want to say with your film The Shift?
The Shift is a fun little film about female friendships, and about how being yourself will always ‘trump’ trying to be like everyone else. Ultimately we just wanted to make something that would give people a giggle, that young women could relate to and that celebrates funny women and girls.
What was the process behind getting the film made?
I’d fallen in love with West Cork after visiting Schull for Fastnet Film Festival, so when I saw that there was a regional short film fund in the county (our generous funders, Film in Cork) I set about looking for scripts that could be shot in the area, and reached out to female Irish writers online.
I’d also been really interested in incorporating the Irish language and some of our more colloquial teenage experiences in to my next film, so when Mairéad Kiernan sent me the script for The Shift it felt like fate!
Our turnaround was super quick after we found out we’d won the scheme – just over two months until delivery to premiere at Cork Film Festival. So we set about the pre-production and casting process across Cork and Dublin, found our incredible cast and crew and went into production in August 2018. We had an amazing time filming for three days in Schull, where the community were so helpful and accommodating. Then we premiered at Cork Film Festival in November and were delighted to win the award for Best Cork Short, kicking off our festival run on the right foot!
What was your biggest challenge when making the film, and how did you overcome it?
As with most shorts, the budget is always tight, and we were trying to achieve something so ambitious. When you choose to shoot in a more remote area, although it offers great production value and creates incredible morale in your cast and crew, you’re also up against it budget-wise because so much goes in to housing the crew and mileage, and other things that aren’t such a concern shooting closer to the city.
We were lucky in that the local community were excited about our project and more than willing to help us in every way they could, and our fantastic producer Karen Twomey is a Cork native, so she knew the lay of the land as well, which always helps. We overcame a lot of our budgetary constraints the way any good filmmaker does, by being crafty and thinking outside the box to solve problems: things like choosing a house to shoot the domestic scenes in that would also be suitable as our accommodation for the week; just making what could be a problem into a positive, and reaching out for help when we needed it. We owe a lot of the success of the film to the Schull community and the women who run the Fastnet Film Festival, who helped us with locations and local extras among other key production concerns.
What did you see in Fiona Bergin that made her right for the role of Denise?
We saw loads of brilliant, funny young women for the role of Denise, but something about Fiona just stuck with us – she was the first person to audition for the role and we couldn’t get her performance out of our minds! She wasn’t exactly what we’d been imagining for Denise during the writing process, but that’s what was so exciting; she made it her own and really brought the character to life in an unexpected way. It helps that she’s a talented actor of course, and has hilarity in her bones!
What was it like to have your film play at a female-focused festival like Underwire?
Underwire has been a festival close to my heart for years now. When I first moved to London and started submitting my shorts to festivals, the team at Underwire saw something in my work and really went out of their way to support me. I won the Best Director Under 25 award there a few years ago, so it’s an absolute honour to return with The Shift this year and win the XX Award, especially knowing what that award means to the festival and for female representation on screen. It was a momentous occasion for Fiona too, who was there to accept the award on our behalf and said it was an absolutely great night filled with laughter and new connections being made between talented women in the industry.
What is the biggest lesson that you learned from making this short film, and where do you hope this experience will take you to?
I think the biggest lesson I learned was the importance of enjoying yourself in the process of making shorts. We had so much fun making this film, everyone loving the role they had to play in its execution; it made me realise that every filmmaking experience can and should be this way, if people respect each other and remember how privileged we are to get to do what we love. I hope I can continue collaborating with some of the talented people who helped me make The Shift and carry that sense of fun and adventure with me into my future productions. Comedy is definitely something I love working on, so The Shift was also a lesson in trusting myself and my instincts, and those of my actors and writer too. I’m hoping to get the opportunity to work on more comedic projects off the back of The Shift, particularly in TV as I’ve just started earning my first TV directing credits on Irish soap Fair City.