Conor Murphy and James Fair can’t agree what pub they were in when they had the conversation in December 2007. But the outcome of the conversation is not contested. James said that it was possible to shoot, edit and screen a feature film, that looked like any other, if you used new tapeless technology differently. He based his argument upon the research that he had done whilst studying for his Masters in Film at University College Dublin (UCD). You can read his thesis. Conor was on the same course. He enjoyed winding James up about his digital evangelism. He came up with the concept of embedding the project within a film festival and making a spectacle of it. He recommended the Darklight Film Festival in Dublin as it was focussed on digital technologies and liked to think of itself of as ‘innovative’.
Darklight refused. The idea seemed dead, except that another classmate at UCD, Gary Hoctor, decided to pitch it to Miriam Allen, the artistic director of the Galway Film Fleadh. Conor and James felt that it was unlikely, because the festival is Ireland’s largest and most prestigious. Miriam had the faith and vision to offer a Town Hall screening space on the final Sunday of the 20th Galway Film Fleadh in July 2008, if the team would except the challenge. The deal was on! But it was already February!
What followed was a chaotic few months of scriptwriting, casting, testing, fundraising, begging, borrowing, scrounging. It was all very stressful. The shoot itself came and went it a blur, all involved were caught up in a furious whirlwind of hyperactivity. There were smiles and tears, no more so than the screening, when a two minute portion of the final film was missing and the cinema sat in darkness!
So mixed were the emotions that no-one really knew what to do with ‘Watching & Waiting’ once it was finished. The film screened in Dublin and then travelled to Berlin to be screened alongside the Berlinale festival in February 2009. Whilst there, Miriam Allen suggested that the Melbourne International Film Festival was interested in the project. Gary and James went to meet Mark Woods (Premiere Fund Executive Director) and Claire Dobbin (Festival Director) in the Marriot and the offer was made – to repeat the feat in Melbourne!
It was unlikely to repeat the feat on the other side of the world in such a short time frame. The decision was made to aim for the 59th Melbourne International Film Festival in July 2010. What followed was many more months of scriptwriting, casting, testing, fundraising, begging, borrowing, scrounging.
Ultimately, ‘The Ballad of Des & Mo’ screened to a sold out cinema and entered the Audience Top Ten at the festival. The project had been successful and achieved international recognition from filmmakers all over the world, with ringing endorsements from digital filmmaking visionaries such as Ted Hope and Chris Jones.
Behind the scenes, a documentary was being filmed in Melbourne. It hinted at the challenges and sacrifices that had been made along the way. As a result, the 72 project, which began with a spirit of transparency, became dogged with debate over ownership. What began as the “72 Hour Film” project, became the “72 Hour Movie” project, and now simply the “72 project”. The saddest thing? It diluted and distracted from the wonderful commitment that everyone put into making the whole thing possible. This site aims to collect many of the memories and artifacts that made the 72 project possible, with all the films given the recognition they deserve. In the autumn of 2011, James & Conor were instrumental in launching the MSc in Digital Feature Film Production in Filmbase, Dublin. The beginning of the course marked another chapter in a long journey to capitalise upon the educational value of the project. An interview with James in Film Ireland magazine covered the logic behind the project.
In December 2011 ‘The Ballad of Des & Mo’ travelled to the IrishFilmFesta in Rome. Whilst there, the actor Stephen Rea convinced James Fair to pursue the project once more, this time in Derry, Northern Ireland, as part of the City of Culture celebrations in 2013. Stephen put James in touch with Margo Harkin, who would help lead the project forward to a brighter and more successful future. Pre-production was underway and going well until early 2013, when a series of non-filmmaking events unfolded that put an end to the project in Derry.
Keen to add a third instalment to the project, a third film has been planned for Birmingham in England, for summer 2014. Called ‘The Confusion of Tongues’, the script focuses on one day in Birmingham as multiple stories intertwine. The farcical comedy is built around a pub quiz with a bumper prize, and everyone is out to get it.