ARTS AND FEATURES — 11 December 2013

Shelley Marsden speaks to Marie Caffrey, producer of award-winning Irish webseries Cuckoo

Marie Caffrey is a happy lady. Cuckoo, the 28-minute Irish webseries that she produced, has recently won two awards.  She and her team were in London to pick up a Bronze award in the Music & Entertainment section of the LOVIE Awards (European Internet awards), and it was also voted Best Drama at Atlanta webfest.

It has been a busy few months for the team behind the webseries, with a WEBBY nomination and screenings at webfests in Geneva, Marseille, Rome and Melbourne. Cuckoo is also on the active panel picker selection for SXSW.

Says Marie: “I’m delighted with all the attention Cuckoo is getting. And winning the Bronze award in that category at the LOVIES especially; we’re the first Irish team to do that. It’s difficult to win for a webseries like ours too, because it’s not a comedy which is the kind of webseries that normally does well. Ours is a slow-burning drama. We’re delighted.”

Cuckoo stars unknown Pagan McGrath as its lead, Niamh. A redhead, Marie says she was chosen out some 250 redheaded teenage girls who came to audition for the role, but her sparkle made her stand out instantly.

She is joined in supporting roles by a couple of well-known faces – IFTA winner Denise McCormack of Love/Hate fame and Brian Fortune, who plays Bowen Marsh in Game of Thrones.

Like many teenagers, Cuckoo’s protagonist Niamh doesn’t feel she belongs, and consequently throws caution to the wind in her journey through it. Casual sex and drugs are some of the thrills she gets from a rather miserable existence, stuck at home with her parents who she has nothing in common with.

She doesn’t even look like them, as she’s the only redhead in her extended family. Compounding this, Niamh’s hair colour has made her feel like an outsider in life from an early age, the memory of playground chants linger in the back of her mind.

Everything changes when she sees a recently constructed police photograph appears in the press. It uses very accurate computerised technology to ‘age’ old photos of children who disappeared in the past. It may give new hope to parents still looking for their missing children. The first picture released looks remarkably like Niamh today. The child’s hair colour is exactly the same as hers.

Marie explains: “She starts to ask if she is this child; did her parents actually abduct her as a baby?  And her imagination runs riot. For a disaffected teenager, it’s the perfect drama to revel in and give her life some heroic meaning.

“Niamh becomes obsessed and starts searching through her family’s photo history, even following the redheaded mother, Tina Vickers, at the centre of the new police investigation, becoming more and more convinced that she is her real mother.”

Niamh (Pagan McGrath) has a very active imagination

As we follow Niamh on her journey, we are never sure if this unfolding story is just another form of escape or if she really has suddenly found herself in the kind of drama she has been desperate for all along.

One of the most daring moves to date in the online world was when the creators of hit US political drama House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, decided to make the series viewable through online streaming site Netflix and nowhere else.

But there are still people out there who don’t really know, or care, what a ‘webseries’ even is, aren’t there?

“The medium is gaining momentum but of course, there are lots of people who wouldn’t think of watching a series online”, says Marie. “But that’s changing a lot and I hope Cuckoo is doing its little bit for turning the tide on what people think can be achieved online”.

Aer Lingus will be screening Cuckoo, which is directed by ex MTV presenter and former Hollyoaks actor Danann Breathnach, alongside short film Sylvia (also produced by Marie Caffrey) on all its long-haul flights during December and January as part of the Gathering initiative.

Marie has also been selected to participate in the Irish Film Board Catalyst scheme which offers emerging filmmakers the chance to produce a low-budget feature film through its funding and mentorship scheme, and she’ll be hoping to develop Cuckoo further.

She has just started the Catalyst scheme and is buzzing with excitement about it so far: “We’ve had really interesting talks with Ben Pugh, producer of Welcome To the Punch, Irish director Lenny Abrahamsom (What Richard Did), Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot) and had a Skype talk with Ben Whjeatley, who directed indie hit A Field In England.”

She adds: “We have great hopes for Cuckoo now. Our four-part webseries is like a taster, really. The primary ambition now is to continue the series and to engage our audiences through other media platforms including TV, film, theatre, aps and online magazines.. And people already like what they see, so who knows!”

Check out the Facebook page RTE CUCKOO and Twitter @storylandcuckoo. The full series can be seen at https://vimeo.com/54623645.

 

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