Award-winning filmmaker Katie McNeice is fast developing a reputation for her moving and thoughtful identity-based films with a focus on sexuality and gender. She co-wrote the screenplay for Who We Love, the tale of Lily and Simon, close friends who navigate school life and Dublin’s vibrant LGBTQ+ scene, which was nominated for six Irish Film and Television Awards, including best script and best film, and is poised to make her feature directing debut with an adaptation of Meg Grehan’s LGBTQ+ children’s novel The Deepest Breath.
“It’ll be my first time writing a feature script solo as well,” says McNeice, who is working with Ali Doyle of Wild Atlantic Pictures with a view to applying to Screen Ireland’s feature film development fund.
Like all of the most powerful storytelling, McNeice’s work comes from a personal place. The 32-year-old is gay and says it was an integral part of her identity growing up — unfortunately not always for the right reasons.
“Being the slightest bit different in any way related to your gender or sexuality in rural Ireland in the ’90s wasn’t safe. I got beaten up over it. I was bullied constantly by children and adults. Even though the times are changing, people have completely underestimated the level of change. People think it’s all fine.”
On completing a master’s degree in film studies at University College Cork, the County Kerry-born filmmaker wrote her first short, Flaneur, about a young man’s passion for poetry and philosophy, and made her short directing debut with 2019’s In Orbit, which focused on the older LGBTQ+ generation, and picked up 58 international awards. Her second, Lambing, won best international drama at the Discover Film Awards, and she’s recently finished filming her latest, and her first in the Irish language, Focail Baile Croí (Words Home Heart), which was written in response to her grandfather’s death at the start of the pandemic.
“I think film is the most unbelievably wonderful medium to change people’s minds and to share emotional experiences,” says McNeice, who’s adapting Who We Love into a TV series and still works full-time as a senior producer for global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, “and that’s what I use it for.”