In Orbit is a LGBT sci-fi short film (my first), a well-travelled script, and the winner of the 2018 Writer’s Pitch Competition at London Short Series. The pitch in London was the first and only in a string of festivals and competitions–around fifteen total between 2017 and 2018.
I was playing a long-haul game of trying and testing the story on the festival circuit, picking up feedback wherever I could, and gathering praise whenever it cropped up. Twelve months and five awards later, I had enough to attract the actors and crew I wanted to make my first film.
“Interesting, topical and emotionally rich…it’s the kind of mature and intelligent project Ireland should be producing right now.” – Tomm Moore, Founder of Cartoon Saloon & Academy Award Nominee
“It is imperative that we increase positive visibility of older LGBT+ people in a way that portrays their experiences, their resilience and that celebrates their lives. For this reason we are supporting this short film In Orbit. And we will be supporting this initiative as much as we can.” – Paula Fagan CEO, LGBT Ireland
What a pitching competition like London Short Series does is force you to know your own work so well, you can withstand questions or criticism from any angle. That’s exactly what’s coming once you finish trying to bounce from one point to the next with all the confidence of a casual conversation. You already need to know all the answers and no one is obliged to agree with you. It’s intense, it’s pressure and it’s fantastic.
The pitch works like this. Speak for ten minutes, with or without supporting visuals. The standard is a powerpoint presentation guiding your pitch and the extra mile is filming a proof of concept and playing it to conclude. Next come questions and quibbles from the judges, and then we’re over to the live audience for more of the same. Getting ahead of them in your prep is the simplest thing you can do. That goes something like:
Can I do this in ten minutes or less? Are the relationships believable? Because this story is anything but simple, what’s the simplest way to make it understood? What string of words can I possibly throw at this to explain the visual and emotional worlds I’m going to build, with nothing but paper and a one-minute teaser to show, so far?
It turns out I love directing, but I never intended to be a director. I was always first and foremost a writer, and any writer will tell you we’re crap without a deadline and a healthy amount of stress. Useless, actually. So when I got the selection notification from LSS, I thought, ‘Katie, you lump. This is exactly what you need. Stop watching Netflix and go get your film ready for pre-production.’
What came out of my prep for the pitch was a one-minute teaser which became the start of VFX testing on the film, a clear-cut basis for notes on cinematography, music and even in-depth character motivations for the actors. This led us into a pre-production process which got the film finished in time to submit to (and premiere at!) the Galway Film Fleadh. In Orbit got a Special Jury Mention here and was described by Gearr Scannáin as, “A bold sci-fi vision from debut director Katie McNeice, whose capable queering of genre with a flashback lesbian love story stands out as one of the most admirably ambitious efforts of the slate.”
From here it went on to win Best Irish Short at the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival, which on a personal note has been the highlight of In Orbit for me so far.
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