Nerd of the Week

Meet Barbara, a Film Nerd

Interview by Terra Olsen 

You’re a complete film nerd. How did filmmaking spark the nerd in you?

I grew up in Ireland watching great films like The Commitments, In The Name Of The Father and Into The West. I’m not someone who grew shooting super8 footage in the garden with my family. In fact I don’t know anyone of my generation in Ireland who had a film or video camera as a kid. So the whole concept of ‘film-making’ came to me much later. I just knew that I wanted to be involved in telling stories in a way that those stories were told to me. 
My very first job in ‘showbiz’ was working for a local theatre company as a gofor…the creative director very kindly gave me the title ‘assistant stage manager’ but he was being generous. I’m sure I was mostly in the way, but I was eager. At sixteen I got to travel around the province with the cast and crew. It was awesome and a huge learning curve. It made me realise that if working in entertainment was a viable career, then I wanted in.

How did you discover filmmaking? 

arbara on location at the Connor Pass, Ireland for a 3Mobile commercial, testing out a prop

Barbara on location at the Connor Pass, Ireland for a 3Mobile commercial, testing out a prop

I studied for a degree in film and television and a masters in screenwriting; the final term of which I was lucky enough to spend at UCLA. Hollywood!!! That was it, I was hooked.
Coming out of film school you tend to take any job you can get and I worked as a runner for a post production facility to get the proverbial foot in the door. I made coffee. I mopped floors. I replenished loo roll. It wasn’t where I saw myself starting with an MA in screenwriting in my back pocket but I’m so glad that it was my first job. I learned so much about post production and the Irish film and television industry. 
I stayed with that company for five years working mainly in commercials as a post production producer, then a content producer for the website where I’d interview producers and directors about their film and tv projects. 
I moved to Toronto in 2011 where I now work for the Directors Guild of Canada by day and write by night. 
How has film impacted your life?

Film has been at the heart of almost all of the big scary life decisions I’ve made so far; my education, my travels, and now where I’ve decided to set up a new home in Toronto. Most of my friends are film nerds and a lot of them work in the industry. I’m basically surrounded by film on all sides ….and I love that. 
Where do you want to take your passion for films and film making in the future? 

With the assistance of the Irish Film Board I’m currently developing my comedy feature film ‘BLOOM’ which will hopefully inch closer to production in 2013. I would love to see that and my other writing projects come to fruition on the big screen. 
What advice would you give to others interested in exploring filmmaking?

• Be around people who are more experienced than you and learn from them. 
• Study what appeals to you and figure out why it works. Actually study it. Judd Apatow used to transcribe the sets of comics he liked to figure out the nuts and bolts of the jokes. He seems to have done ok for himself!!
• It’s difficult to do, but understand that you are on your own path so don’t get hung up on the guy in your class whose movie has been optioned by some big studio. An Irish screenwriter I admire says he used to see success as an apple pie. Every time a friend or acquaintance had some kind of achievement he’d see the pie disappearing slice by slice in front of his eyes. It was crippling him creatively. Then one day he woke up and realised that there is no pie. He’s on his own path. This is a lot less eloquent than when he told it but I regularly try to remind myself that there is no pie.  
Favorite moment or memory filmmaking?

I’ve had some amazing experiences filming around Ireland that will always stay with me but I’m going to cheat a little as my favourite memory isn’t actually while shooting…
…I have a slight obsession with the Irish film The Commitments. I had it on VHS as a kid and would watch it at least once a week. I know all the dialogue and I’m that annoying nerd at screenings quoting it line for line in the seat behind you. It most certainly made me want to work in the Irish film industry. I have a number of daft stories that demonstrate my obsession including pulling a slug colonised poster from a skip of the post house I worked in (where 20 years earlier the film was edited) but I won’t bore you with those…I will though bore you with this…
I was in work one day when my buddy, who works at a newspaper, emails me. There’s a press conference at a theatre space across the city to announce The Commitments: Twenty Year reunion tour.  The gigs are happening in Ireland the year that I leave for Canada so I have no hope of seeing them perform. I was eight when the film first came out and the band; who actually became a real life band for a time after the film’s release, toured the country. I missed them then and I’d miss them again, twenty years later. 
My buddy, in his email, says that the cast are going to be at the press conference. I should go. Attached is the invite……..oh, and it begins in 15 minutes.
I read the email to my boss. He just points at the door. GO. So I run out of my office, grab a cab, race across town, get stalled in traffic, jump out of the cab, sprint the remaining five minutes, reach the venue, find the room, race to the door and it’s closed. I’m late. I run up to the girl with sweat and tears streaming down my face while waving the press pass at her and ranting “favourite film ever…work for post house that cut the film 20 years ago…please I have to go in there” I don’t know why but she very kindly opened the door and shooed me in just as the curtain raised and the band began to play the familiar riff of ‘Treat Her Right’ exactly as they would have in the film twenty years earlier. 
I take a seat at the back of the theatre and for just a couple of songs I’m inside the film. I’m a kid again and it’s pretty amazing!
barbara deignan headshot
Barbara Deignan is a graduate of GMIT, NUI Galway and UCLA. She moved from Dublin to Toronto in 2011 where she now works with the Directors Guild of Canada by day and writes by night. With a script she developed while on scholarship at UCLA she won the Pitching Award at the 2008 Galway Film Fleadh. As of December 2012 she is knee-deep in development on her feature comedy ‘Bloom’. When she can she also likes to shoot short bits and bobs….you can view some of them here

Do you know a self-proclaimed nerd we should interview? If so, please contact Terra at and tell us about them.