‘Miracle Fish’ dir. Luke Doolan

8 year old Joe has a Birthday he will never forget. After friends bully him, he sneaks off to the sick bay, wishing everyone in the world would go away. He wakes up to find his dream may have become a reality.

Writer-Director: Luke Doolan
Producer: Drew Bailey
DOP: Brad Shield
Key Cast: Karl Beattie, Brendan Donoghue

2009 UK Film Council Audience Award Winner

Presented in association with Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival 2013

C8: Where did the idea for ‘Miracle Fish’ come from?

LD: The idea for ‘Miracle Fish’ came about from two sources. One was I used to spend a lot of time hiding from or avoiding school by slipping away to the nurses office. It was a welcome retreat from kids and school that I thought was bullshit.

The other, was I wanted to find a way to tell a big-ish scale story, but through a very modest means. The key was to stay rigidly with the main character and not see or hear anything he didn’t.

Also, my general feelings of our shoot first culture, post 9-11. The result is the short film.

C8: They say never work with kids. What was it like working with a large number of school children?

LD: I found working with kids to be really cool. I mean they are really just playing versions of themselves, so I guess the trick is really in the casting. Most of them were my little sisters class mates, so I knew them or they knew of me. There were one or two we had to take out while shooting because they kept mugging the camera.

C8: The main character, played by Karl Beattie, is eight years old. What challenges were presented by working with such a young lead actor?

LD: Karl Beattie who plays Joe was a real find! I’ve joked about it before, but in all seriousness - he made the film memorable and made me look good. There was quite honestly no challenge working with him. He came equipped with an understanding of the character and the spirit of the film we were trying to make. But more importantly he came with gifts on camera I hadn’t even anticipated. The subtlety of his craft is very impressive to me.

C8: How did you go about shooting in the school? Did you have to secure specific permits or shoot at weekends?

LD: The school we shot in is actually two schools. When there are lots of kids around, it was my sisters school. When it’s empty, it was another school that I ‘cast’ for its long hallways. There was special permission granted to us for both locations.

C8: You edited the film. Were there any scenes that you found difficult to cut or anything you didn’t include?

LD: My back ground has been in editorial - so it was cheaper and easier for me to edit. A lot of editing was done at script stage ie. not to see what was happening outside of Joe’s experience. There were two scenes that let the audience get ahead of Joe’s point of view. One was shot but cut out, and the other was dropped on the day. The scene that was dropped on the day was to feature a dead teacher to be played by David Michod (director of ANIMAL KINGDOM). He came all the way out to location, got in make up, and waited for hours only to be told I had scrapped the scene. I still feel bad about that one.

C8: Were there any key references you hand in mind when writing or making this film?

LD: Geoff Murphy’s ‘THE QUIET EARTH’ was a big inspiration on this film. Also ‘EMPIRE OF THE SUN’. I’ve always had an obsession with ‘last man on earth’ type stories. Logistically they tend to lend themselves to small budgets. The tough part is getting rid of everyone!

C8: If you did the whole process again, is there anything you would do differently?

LD: There is always things you would do differently if you could, with a little more time and money. But I’m very happy with the overall response to the film, so I can’t complain too much.

C8: If you could give young filmmakers a piece of advice what would it be?

LD: Advice for young film makers? Find your own voice. Easier said than done. It’s ok to stand on the shoulders of giants, but what you say with your film should be a part of you and your view of the world. I really think that’s what audiences are after.

C8: What do you think is the essence of a good collaboration?

LD: The essence of good collaboration? In its most basic form: if someone has a better idea or way of getting your vision realised, use it. All the best do. Also, learn how to read between the lines of the notes you are given. Knowing when to listen and when to stand your ground, has always been the hardest thing for me to do.

C8: ‘Miracle Fish’ played at Encounters in 2009, have you made any films since?

LD: Since Encounters 2009, I have made other films and attempted to make many other films. I’ve also spent a lot of time working on bigger movies to fund my smaller ones. I continue to push to make features of my own. It’s very hard.

C8: What’s next for you? Any plans for the future?

LD: I’m currently in the US, pushing to get my next film up and running. Time will tell if I’ve been successful.