Talking Movies

January 7, 2015

Digital Biscuit 2015

The Screen Directors Guild of Ireland today announced the full line-up for the third annual Digital Biscuit, which will feature a talk by writer/producer David Chase: creator of The Sopranos.


Inspired by William Wellman’s 1931 James Cagney classic The Public Enemy and his own early years in New Jersey (which he’d previously touched on in The Rockford Files), Chase created the HBO series The Sopranos, the most financially successful series in the history of cable television. Chase will join Digital Biscuit as headline speaker to discuss his career as a director, writer and producer par excellence. Speaking about his forthcoming visit, David Chase said: “I’m delighted to come to Ireland, a place of great storytelling tradition, and look forward to exploring the future of stories at Digital Biscuit.” Chase joins Michel Gondry; director, screenwriter and producer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Bruno Delbonnel; cinematographer for Amelie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Big Eyes; and Franklin Leonard; Film Executive and founder of screenwriting event The Black List; in this year’s line up of Digital Biscuit speakers.

James Gandolfini and David Chase


Digital Biscuit is an international film and technology forum that aims to foster innovation and collaboration in film and television production, and will take over Dublin’s Science Gallery from 28th–30th of January. Speaking about Digital Biscuit, SDGI director, Birch Hamilton said “Making a movie is one of the biggest creative collaborations between people that exists today. To truly be creative is to make connections with the people and world around us. With Digital Biscuit we are trying to enable the Irish film industry to improve its global position as a centre of creative and technological excellence. It is our hope that through Digital Biscuit groundbreaking new works will be made and new relationships formed between people in different disciplines. We are fortunate to have a global Brain Trust of leading experts in film, technology, finance, games, augmented reality, animation, software and hardware that have guided us in what I think is a really exciting line up for 2015.” That Brain Trust, entertainment industry leaders who act as ambassadors for Digital Biscuit, includes Damini Kumar (European Ambassador for Creativity & Innovation), Marie Schmidt Olesen (Commissioning Editor, New Danish Screen), and Nick Meaney (CEO at Epagogix).


Guests at the Digital Biscuit launch today included Emmy and BAFTA award-winning director, Dearbhla Walsh (Roald Dahl’s Esio Trott), and Mads Damsbo and Lasse Andersen; who brought their innovative virtual reality experience The Doghouse from Denmark for a sneak preview ahead of its Irish Premiere at Digital Biscuit later this month. The launch also featured the latest Hexicam Aerials drone camera. Combining robots, remote control, and HD video, it is an extraordinary new piece of technology, which shoots in full HD whilst in flight. The three-day event will kick off with a special screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s psychedelic surf noir Inherent Vice at the IFI (28 Jan, 8pm). Digital Biscuit is delighted to present the Irish Premiere of Is the Man who is Tall Happy?; an animated conversation with Noam Chomsky, directed by Michel Gondry (29 Jan, 6.30pm, IFI). Digital Biscuit will present a bigger than ever Kino Play programme of events and live demonstrations, including first-person virtual reality film for Oculus Rift –  The Doghouse, a self taping booth from Bow Street, and an Irish Film Board and Oxford University collaboration on a multi-sensory film and food experiment; led by Charles Spence,experimental psychology scientist at Oxford University.


One of the most exciting events at Digital Biscuit will be 20 minute first-person virtual reality film installation for Oculus virtual reality headset, The Doghouse. The project uses this gaming technology to allow one story to be told from five different points of view at the same time. Sitting around a dinner table set for five people, you get a view inside the character, via a virtual reality headset, to see and hear what the actor experiences, sees and hears. The film was originally seen in 2014 at the Copenhagen Contemporary Art Centre as part of FOKUS video art festival. Digital Biscuit will be the first time that the film is shown in Ireland and its second European outing. Birch Hamilton said “We’re particularly thrilled to present this preview of The Doghouse, which until now has only been seen in Denmark and Switzerland. It’s like an advanced role playing game, and is an exciting development in the future of the moving image and technology.” The multi point-of-view film installation will be accessible at points over the three-day event. Producer Mads Damsbo and director Johan Knattrup will give talks about the project. The Science Gallery exhibition spaces will play host to many such demos of the latest must-have technology for the film and moving image industry.

For more information on the full programme and to book, visit

Digital Biscuit | Speakers |

Writer, director and producer David Chase (The Sopranos); Writer, director and producer Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind); Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amélie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Big Eyes); Writer, director and novelist Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, The Borgias); Genevieve Dexter (IP financing expert and founder of Serious Lunch); Lizzie Gillett (Producer of climate change blockbuster, The Age Of Stupid); Franklin Leonard (Film Executive and founder of The Black List); Triona Campbell (Director of beActive Entertainment); Bobby Boermans (Creative Director of 2C Films); Sophia Stuart (Digital strategist, director and writer); Mads Damsbo & Johan Knattrup Jenson (Producer and Director of The Dog House – 20min virtual reality multi point-of-view film installation for Oculus Rift); Harry McCann (Founder of the Digital Youth Council); Prof. Charles Spence (Head of Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Oxford University); Mike Cockayne (Director, Writer & Producer of The Hardy Bucks); Dr Brian Vaughan (Lecturer in Digital Media, DIT); Shimmy Marcus (Creative director, Bow Street); Eibhlin Curley (Assistant Head of Enterprise, Local Enterprise Office Dublin); Casting director Maureen Hughes (The Butcher Boy, Love / Hate); Director and animator Anitti Haikala (Niko & The Way To The Stars, Little Brother, Big Trouble); VFX artist Glen Southern (Penny Dreadful); Cinematographer Owen McPolin (Penny Dreadful, Da Vinci’s Demons); VFX supervisor and producer Thomas Horton (Da Vinci’s Demons, The King’s Speech); Supervising visual colourist Peter Doyle (Edge Of Tomorrow, Big Eyes, Inside Llewyn Davis); Vocal coach Gerry Grennell (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Heart of The Sea, Thor: The Dark World). John Maguire (Film Critic, Sunday Business Post); Gavin Burke (Film Critic,; Karlin Lillington (Technology Journalist, The Irish Times); Andrew Kavanagh (CEO & Founder, Kavaleer Productions); Damini Kumar, (European Ambassador for Creativity & Innovation); Production designer Tom Conroy (Legend, The Vikings, The Tudors); Previsualisation Vincent Aupetit (Gravity, Thor: The Dark World); Donald Clarke (Chief Film Correspondent, The Irish Times); Tara Brady (Film Critic, The Irish Times).

Find out more at!speakers/cee5

August 9, 2011

Project Nim

If you see only one film about a chimpanzee that’s smarter than your average primate this weekend then make it this one.

James Marsh, who’s becoming a regular Werner Herzog in alternating acclaimed documentaries with features, returns to the 1970s milieu of his previous hit Man on Wire. The setting is again New York but this time the dare-devil antics are intellectual not acrobatic and the span being traversed is not the gap between the Twin Towers but between the human and chimpanzee species. Nim Chimpsky is a chimpanzee baby taken from his mother in 1973 for a Columbia University experiment. Marsh mixes archive footage and still photos with a number of interviews he’s conducted with some of the principal players in the experiment which asked can a chimp, if raised as human, be taught to communicate in sign language? Marsh’s staged reconstructions and overly dramatic pans away from his talking heads are unnecessary, there’s drama enough in the story without inserting the visual clichés of 1970s thrillers. Startlingly enough the relevant clichés are Woody Allen’s 1970s films as nearly everyone involved was sleeping with everyone else, while maintaining that this in no way affected an experiment originally intended to provide a stable family environment for Nim…

Dr Herb Terrace, a psychologist, gives the baby Nim to his ex-lover Stephanie Lafarge, a former graduate student in Oedipal psychoanalysis, who promptly breastfeeds said chimpanzee before moving on to investigating his masturbatory habits and getting him high on marijuana. Nim’s lack of progress in learning sign language sees Terrace hire Laura, a linguist, as a teacher. Hardly a surprise given that Stephanie, obviously railing against her poet husband, reveals that she thinks word are bad and that Nim lost his essence by having language foisted on him… Bob and Joyce, another couple, arrive to help in the teaching, later joined by Renee, but as Nim grows up he becomes more dangerous and Terrace abruptly terminates the experiment. It’s radically unclear from the film who collated the data, or indeed why Terrace got all the credit. Project Nim loses its way in dealing with the endless post-experiment life of Nim. Sent back to the Oklahoma facility where he was born he is treated as another dude by hippie psychologist Bob Ingersoll, who eventually forms an unlikely alliance with British veterinarian Mahoney to give Nim the special attention he deserves.

While it’s heartbreaking to see an animal being made exceptional only to be casually discarded and cast back with other chimpanzees who now regard him as a freak, Marsh forces the pathos with continual emphasis on Nim’s humanity. Nim could never remain with humans as he always remained a wild animal, a point proved by his vicious attack on Renee in which he gashed a whole thru her cheek, and then attempted to re-open it months later, from pure instinct. The true fascination of this film is the conflict in Nim between nature and nurture, to wit – the experiment. Terrace concluded (all visual evidence to the contrary) that Nim never learnt language but was merely a beggar using signs. This seems to ignore the work of Eric Berne who posited in Games People Play that all social situations were transactional, one interpretation of which is that everyone always wanted something. By which yardstick Nim mastered language’s ultimate purpose perfectly…

Columbia University won’t thank James Marsh for it but this is a fascinating study of how science can be derailed by the human factor.


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