Jennifer Shortall

Position: Director of Poison Pen

What inspired you to go work in the Film Industry in Ireland?
I love telling stories and entertaining people. I particularly love finding interesting new ways to tell a story and films offer so many possibilities to do that.

What has been your career path to date?
As a kid I used to love performing onstage in plays and musicals and had a passion for entertaining people. In college I studied Drama and Film Studies at TCD and there I discovered that I loved directing theatre. When I left I was involved in a couple of Fringe shows but I really wanted to pursue film further, entertaining people is my passion so I decided to just start making little films with my friends. I made a documentary about a friend of mine and a music video and then I got accepted into the MSc in Digital Feature Film Production at Filmbase, where we made Poison Pen.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by people who follow their passion and who see set-backs as problems to be solved rather than impediments. There’s no particular individual that I look to for inspiration but I have learned a lot from watching my parents and family and how they deal with the world.


What does Copyright mean to you and your career?
Copyright law is there to protect artists from having their work or their ideas stolen. The only way that I or anybody else can have a career in film or entertainment in general is if we can be paid a fair wage to do it.


Tell us a funny work story…..
On our first day shooting in London we ran into a bit of difficulty because we hadn’t realised that we needed a specific permit to shoot in a certain public park. Our tiny skeleton crew arrived at the park first thing in the
morning to set up and the actors were due to arrive within a half an hour of us. We had a long day’s shooting ahead of us and we wanted to get off to a good start. It was slightly drizzling and overcast so we knew we would have to move fast to get the shots and continue to the next location. No sooner had we stepped through the gate than a rather brusque man motored up in a little park ranger jeep and sternly informed us that we would have to pay him £50, that the permit would allow us no more than 20 minutes of shooting time, and that there was no guarantee that he could even issue us with a permit that day as we ought to have applied for it weeks in advance. He ordered us not to move from that spot while he dealt with another film crew on the far side of the park so we dutifully laid down our equipment and sat by the park entrance to await his return. As the minutes ticked by and the weather worsened we began to get anxious. The actors arrived in costume, ready to go but there was still no sign of the exasperated custodian. Eventually we managed to flag down a security car that was winding along the pathway and found the occupant to be quite agreeable. He radioed the angrier man to let him know we were still awaiting further instruction but (without wishing to seem impertinent) we were concerned about the maturing morning getting away from us and were hoping to get started at his earliest convenience. The response was curt and to the effect that we would be dealt with when we were dealt with. The pleasant security guard seemed sympathetic to our plight but was apparently outranked in this instance and apologetically continued on his way. With pressure mounting and time slipping away from us we decided that we could at least scout out the location and give the actors an opportunity to walk through the scene while we were waiting. So the crew split into two groups with one contingent making their way up the hill to a bench where the scene was to be played out. Not more than five minutes later an angry buzzing signalled the return of the mini jeep which was whizzing its way on wings of fury up the hill towards us and bearing an extremely irate and red-faced park attendant. Much of what he actually said has been lost to the annals of history but the gist of it I’m sure you can imagine was uncomplimentary. Strangely though, as it turned out, he told us we had twenty minutes to pack up and get out of the park. No money changed hands and no paperwork was signed but when he had spent his ire, he left us to it and we got the scene. Success!

What’s your favourite film?
My favourite film changes on a daily or sometimes hourly basis. But the short answer is probably Casablanca.


Jennifer Shortall