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Cast and crew on Abbey Street with Knox's bar all dressed up for Christmas.

Christmas comes early as movie shot in Clare county capital

CHRISTMAS came early to the streets of Ennis when filming for a new Hallmark movie took to Abbey Street.

Familiar buildings on the thoroughfare were decked out in festive flair for the filming of the movie starring Mean Girls’ Lacey Chabert alongside Irish actor Stuart Townsend.

Details of the movie have yet to be released but it is understood that the working title is ‘Christmas at Castle Hart’.

Earlier this year West Coast Casting, who do casting calls for productions in the West of Ireland sought extras for the film shooting in various locations in Clare and Limerick.

Stuart Townsend stars in the movie

The call specifically looked for men and women aged 50 and up to take part in a ballroom scene with other roles including hotel staff, diners, villagers and pub patrons. Filming has also been done in the Old Ground Hotel while Bunratty, Dromoland and Kinvara are also said to be among the locations for the shoot.

As well as the major stars, among those involved in the production are 12 children from the Clare-based Dance Attack Stage Academy run by Yvonne O’Sullivan. While she could not give away too many details about the film, she revealed that two of her students “have a pretty pivotal role”.

She believes that the film production is “huge for Clare”, giving the children an invaluable opportunity to perform to a wide audience.

“Normally with productions like this they would usually source kids from Dublin so it’s just fantastic to be able to see things like this for children on this side of Ireland. They are getting a chance to get on stage, get their faces shown, and also see what’s happening and what it’s like on set.”

Her students have been involved in many of the movies scenes, with Yvonne telling us, “They’ve been everywhere, they’ve been in Bunratty, Dromoland, Kinvara, Ennis, they’ve been in each location.”

As well as the children, Yvonne has also helped source around 20 adults to act as extras in the film also. A former Billie Barry kid, Yvonne started her stage academy four years ago with just 18 children. Since then it has grown to 300 kids, with locations in Ennistymon, Miltown Malbay, Tubber, Kilfenora, Corofin, Kilnamona and Newmarket-on-Fergus.

“I’m originally from Dublin and I was fortunate to spend 10 years as a Billie Barry kid, going on to larger scale events. I’ve been living in Clare for 15 years and we’re going into our fourth year of the academy. When my youngest started school I just thought to myself, now is the time to start something, and we’ve grown from 18 kids to 300.

“One of our niches I suppose is that I go to all of these locations around the county, maybe somebody who wants to study dance and drama might have to travel because they don’t have a stage academy in their area.

“But with this, it’s great because I can be out there for them and it’s just fantastic. And I love that we offer a connection with casting agents so that the students can have an opportunity to get in front of the camera. It’s just so great for their confidence.”

As well as the Hallmark movie, Yvonne’s students have also been involved in the filming of upcoming RTÉ drama Hidden Assets starring Peter Coonan of Love/Hate and Angeline Ball from The Commitments.

She revealed, “They also had their parents on set as well, as because of social distancing they couldn’t have actors with them. It was a great opportunity for the parents to experience something like that as well.”

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