We caught up with Irish Writer-Director, Shane McCabe (second from right), when he was recently in West Hollywood to attend his awards luncheon for placing in the top five at this year’s Write Movies International Writing Competition for his feature film script Probable Cause. In between taking meetings with L.A.’s top talent agencies and production companies, Shane tells us why he is fighting to get his films made in the U.S. Check out our Q &A with this up and coming talent!
Q: Growing up in Ireland, what interested you about the entertainment industry and how did you get your start?
A: Like most people, I always loved movies. From there, it was a progression that began from studying acting. I worked for a number of years in Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall, for the car manufacturer BMW. When I came home, I decided to pursue this career path and enrolled at the Gaiety School for acting- the same school Colin Farrell attended. After school, I did a lot of television commercials but got my big break working on the film Veronica Guerin. I wrote my own audition piece and auditioned for one of the lead roles but didn’t get it. Joel (Schumacher) really liked it and hired me for one of the smaller parts. It was on the set of this film that I really became inspired to write and direct. I found watching someone like Joel and seeing first-hand how the whole movie comes together was quite extraordinary. It was especially exciting being a big Hollywood production shot in Ireland. From that point on, I started studying screenwriting books and read a lot of scripts and decided to give it a go in this career.
Q: Your feature, Probable Cause took third prize at this year’s Write Movies International Writing Competition and was a top six finalist at the Austin Film Festival, beating out thousands of applicants. Tell us about your work and what feeds your creativity.
A: To date, I’ve written several features and a few short films. My first project to get made was a short entitled Never Wrote A Book. Every year, as a part of a government program in Ireland, the Irish Film Board fund five shorts with a hundred thousand dollar budget each and mine was selected in 2005. After having this initial success, I made a conscious decision to set my movies in the U.S. because although the movies we make at home are loved, they are also very parochial. The language and the humor often doesn’t translate. In order to attract investors to put millions of dollars into a film it needs to have universal draw- more than just the 5 million people of Ireland. Personally, I have always been drawn to supernatural thrillers and cop dramas so a lot of my work is based in that world- including Probable Cause.
Q: What is the advantage of getting your films made in the U.S. versus Ireland?
A: Both Probable Cause and my film The Base, which is currently in talks for a U.S. production deal, are low budget features. Financing for these types of films is easier to find in the U.S. because of the sheer volume of potential investors and magnitude of the industry. When putting up money, investors need to see a bottom line. A U.S. release has a better chance of return on an investment and a better chance of getting a foreign release and traveling outside of the U.S.- but not as much the other way around. You would need a huge hit in Ireland for it to even be considered for an international release.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the scripts you currently have headed into production or being shopped around town.
A: The films that I’m focused on at the moment include:
Probable Cause – is a supernatural thriller set off the Florida Keys. An inexperienced Special Agent must straddle the world of the living and that of the dead when tasked with solving the ritualistic murder of a ship’s captain, as those who charted the vessel point the finger of guilt at one another.
The Base – is a disturbed psychological thriller set in real time on an army base near the U.S. – Mexican border. It follows an hour and a half in the life of a young NSA Profiler who must relive her harrowing abduction in order to get inside the mind of a child serial killer and bring closure to a case that has haunted an entire investigative unit.
Next of Kin – focuses on a young California victim who is rescued after six brutal years held captive by FARC terrorists. This young woman struggles to adjust when her ordeal follows her from the Colombian jungles to the Los Angeles suburbs in the form of a corrupt Columbian official hell-bent on killing her. The story also explores the relationship between daughter and mother as they reconnect.
Breakthrough – is a supernatural thriller in which a NYC homicide detective has her world thrown into a tail spin when she discovers that the prime suspect in her murder is actually her murdered sister’s Guardian Angel.
Q: In each of these stories, I noticed your lead character is female? Is that a deliberate choice? How do you find writing from a female perspective?
A: With my screenplay Breakthrough, the central character was originally male. But then after asking myself some serious questions, I found it far more interesting to look at this character through the eyes of a female. I’ve also found there are not as many good roles for women in Hollywood these days and even less if you’re of an ethnic descent. My characters are Native American and Mexican American, and yes, it is a conscious decision. Usually this choice is integral to the story- its setting and other factors. For me, I think it’s almost always more interesting to tell a story through a female than male because you can get deeper – females are more complex than males and there is more to explore inside the mind of a female character. I hope I do justice as a male writing a female perspective but a lot of good writers write for the opposite sex. I think it comes down to what is more interesting for each character. That said, I never think of a specific actress when I write a character. I always think of the character and who she is only.After the 2nd and 3rd draft, I begin to think who could portray this role. I try to let the character tell the story and let the casting come later.
Q: What would you like to see happen from here?
A: I’d like to get these films in production! My goal is to move to Los Angeles from Ireland and work full-time writing and directing my projects, possibly produce down the line. Even though I started as an actor, I have no desire to cast myself in my own projects. I’d love the freedom of someone like Tarantino. He’s known as a director but he’s a great writer as well. I’d like to get the movies I discussed completed and I’d be quite happy.
Since we interviewed Shane, his film The Base signed a deal with Fern Lief Productions in the U.S. and is set to go into production in 2012 with Shane attached to direct. Next of Kin is currently being considered by Estevez Sheen Productions having attracted the interest of top Columbian actress Sofia Vergara and actor/producer Martin Sheen. Probable Cause is currently under consideration for representation by The Gotham Group here in Los Angeles. One of Shane’s shorts, Lucky Escape, was signed to a worldwide distribution deal airing on NBC Universal (Italy), NBC Pan Asia, HBO (Europe), UK Channel 4, the website Atom.com, and is in negotiations to be available on all North American flights on Aer Lingus airlines. To top it off, Shane was hired to do a rewrite on a big budget (20 million) Hollywood feature but is contractually bound from giving us any more of the juicy details. He is also in development on his next original script Kopkiller – a supernatural thriller set in Dublin about a rookie narcotics detective who is given the unusual opportunity of investigating her own murder.
No wonder we consider Shane McCabe one to watch.