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Corey brings ‘Ulster Alien’ to the big screen

A STRABANE student has revealed his ambitious new plans for a feature-length film.

Corey Gallagher, who is currently in his final year studying film at Screenology at the University of St Mark and St John, in Bristol is presently in the process of adapting a friend’s novel for the big screen.

The project, which encapsulates the entirety of Corey’s final year at uni, is based on Strabane man, Stephen Birkett’s book, ‘Ulster Alien.’

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“It began about ten years ago,” Stephen explained. “The first novel I wrote was published in ‘99. And about ten years ago I got an award in Belfast – Queer of the Year – and I was talking to another awardee, who is a playwright and she suggested converting the book to a screenplay and submitting it to the BBC. I hadn’t a clue how to do that and I was busy at work, I was still teaching at that stage so I didn’t really do anything about it.

“Then about a year ago, Corey was home for Christmas and we met up for a coffee and I mentioned to him, now he was at this film school, how would he go about this – converting the book. He said he didn’t know but if I sent him the stuff, he would ask around. And it went from there.”

Corey takes up the story…

“I was reading it (Ulster Alien) and at that time I found out I had one project to do in my final year – no exams – just one major project. So I said to Stephen I have this one project, how would you feel about me doing a short film based on the novel?”

Adapting the book to a screenplay followed – the idea of a short film being replaced by a feature – and that took most of last summer, the two friends working on the project together.

Ulster Alien features Matt, a Protestant man coming out as gay in Derry and Fermanagh in the late 1970s to early 1980s. It focuses on his relationship with Alex a bisexual RUC man.

“We got the screenplay done in September and then we started to look for the actors,” Corey explained. “It’s all done locally. The locations now are Stephen’s home, the Farmers’ Home, a flat above the Central, Dicey’s, the Fir Trees and a local man’s house, where we’re setting up a road block. Trying to find a location where we can legally set up a road block to film armed soldiers… it’s been rather complicated.

“But I’m on the ball. Sometimes it’s stressful but everything is sort of coming together now. We have all the auditions done and we have more than enough actors to choose from for the three roles we have left. All the locations except one are done.”

Several scenes for Ulster Alien have already been shot but the bulk remains. This, Corey explained will be his biggest challenge.

“Because I’m relying on the crew coming over from England, I only have three times when I can bring them over because I have to pay for the flights,” he said. “So I have about 15 days that they’re actually here and we can shoot and we have 23 scenes to do. It’s a stretch but it’ll be fine.

“I have a week at the start of March, a week at the end of March and a week in April. That’s it. And I have to make sure everything’s perfect before they come over.

“I need to have something to hand in to the uni for May 25. The filming I need done for April 10, to give me time to edit. But our first big screening is going to be Derry Pride in August.”

Stephen concluded, “Both the Rainbow Project in Belfast and Derry have been really obliging to us, allowing us to use their premises for auditions. On Sunday we auditioned five actors and they were all absolutely brilliant.”

Corey also plans to screen the film locally, though details have yet to be confirmed.

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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