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Online soap to be made in Westport


Online soap to be made in Westport

Hopes are high that this innovative project will be a big hit and highlight surrounding area as ideal filming location

Áine RyanAine Ryan

THEY say the best ideas are born out of necessity, and that you should never waste a good recession, and now the people of Westport may well agree with both sentiments.
The town is about to become the star of a new soap. 
The idea is the brainchild of scriptwriter, actor, director and Westport resident Len Collin and the initiative has been welcomed by the Town Council, Chamber of Commerce and many of Westport’s independent businesses, including local hoteliers, publicans and restaurateurs.  Len’s credits include Eastenders, Ultimate Force, The Bill, The Clinic, Holby City and Lowlifes and he also worked on RTE’s popular rural police drama Single Handed. He is very excited about the potential of this new project.
“I was approached by Danny McLaughlin from the Chamber of Commerce about promoting Westport as a film and TV location. When working on RTE’s  Single Handed, I brought the Executive Producer Rob Pursey and the Creator of the series Barry Simner to Westport, showed them around and many of the characters in the series were inspired by that trip.
“However Westport and Mayo lost out to Galway when it came to shooting, mainly because the location manager was more familiar with Galway. We want to change that. The best way in my opinion is by filming here. So we aim to make the world’s first multi-stranded online drama, or soap, which is the popular term.”
Whilst there have been attempts to make online soaps before, the term is used rather loosely. Episodes of online comedies such as the Hardy Bucks have proved very popular, in the US, car company Lexus have sponsored L-Studios, who produce Web Therapy, a comedy that is only available online and stars Lisa Kudrow from Friends.
“There is no doubt that Covies will be the first attempt to seriously create a dramatic series that will only be available online,” added Len.
“Drama is expensive to make, an hour of Eastenders would cost around  £250,000 to  £300,000. We’re trying to film over 80 minutes worth of drama for a fraction of the cost. At the moment our budget is  €20,000, and because of that no one is getting paid, including myself.
“However, the hope is that it will generate business for the town and for the production company I’ve just set up for €20. Last year, records showed that film was a significant factor in attracting tourists to the country, accounting for some €735 million in direct investment in 2007 [courtesy of Irish Film Board]. If we can attract a fraction of that investment it will be good for the town of Westport.”
Len insists that despite the low budget for the production,  the quality of the final product will be top notch.
“I’ve had to be a little secretive about plans, because this is a first. I also don’t like asking people to work for nothing, but that’s exactly what I’m doing at the moment, my last commission ended in January so reluctantly I joined the unemployment register in June.
“It’s the first time in twenty years I’ve had to do so. If it can happen to me it can happen to anybody. Either you wait for the work to come to you or you get busy and do something about it. I spent the last six months writing a novel and now I’ve written the scripts for Covies and started my own film production company. All this with energy and commitment, but no money.
“Despite this, the response has been amazing, Patrick Kielty got to hear about what we’ve been doing and has asked to see a script. We hope to confirm his involvement in the next week or so. Others include Hollywood composers and local musicians offering their services. The main star however is the town of Westport - and most of all its people.
“We’re auditioning for actors this week. We are starting Tuesday in Dublin at the Irish Theatre Institute in Temple Bar and on Friday, August 21 we will be in Westport in the Castlecourt Hotel from 2 to 9.00pm. We want actors of all shapes, sizes, ages, male, female… oh and we also need a pet pig.”
Len went on to say that other helping hands will be needed along and any ‘techies’ who fancy offering their services for free.
“This is a town coming together as a community to do something different. There is no doubt in my mind that the internet is the future for film and television.  Sometimes you have to think outside of the box and the one in the corner of your living room may have had its day.”
Michael Duffy, editor of The Mayo News, said the newspaper would be delighted to help in any way over the coming months in relation to this ‘innovative and groundbreaking project’.
“This concept undoubtedly has serious potential but it will take a community effort to ensure that Len’s plans come to fruition. We are also delighted to be able to launch a promo of ‘The Covies’ on our own website, www.mayonews.ie/thecovies, in the near future, which we hope will give everyone a taste of what’s to come.”
Filming is expected to begin early September and anyone wishing to get involved can contact Len Collin via the the website www.thecovies.com. News on how the project is evolving will appear in the coming weeks in The Mayo News.
Auditions for The Covies

Dublin - Tuesday, August 18, Irish Theatre Institute, Temple Bar
Westport - Friday, August 21, Castlecourt Hotel, Westport, 2pm – 9pm