Sugrue headshot

The right horse, but the wrong guys

Cillian O’Sullivan plays James and Victoria Meade is Ruby in “Misty Button.”

By Mike Houlihan

What are the odds of a 35 to 1 shot winning a race?

“Misty Button” is the black comedy opening our 5th Annual Irish American Movie Hooley this Sept. 27 in Chicago. See, I was stuck for an Irish-American film and had plenty of Irish films, but no Irish-American film to kick off the Hooley. We’re the only Irish-American film festival in the world, so proceeding without one wasn’t an option, we had to find one.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

So I reached out to the Irish Echo’s arts department for help, offering to waive submission fees for any films sent immediately. I got a nice spread in the Echo and a handful arrived.

“Misty Button” was one of those films. The film tells the story of a pair of Irish lads, living in the Bronx, who get caught up in a caper gone bad, with a 35-1 shot racetrack wager on the right horse by the wrong guys. An engaging cast of Irish and Irish-American actors make this a thrill ride all the way down the stretch. One of those characters, James, is a bartender and aspiring writer living in New York who can’t help bumping into trouble wherever he turns.

“Misty Button” screenwriter Seanie Sugrue, told me, “The character of James was me about 10 years ago.”

Seanie has come a long way since then.

The second son of Eileen and John Joe Sugrue, he grew up in Tralee, Co. Kerry, and left Ireland when he was 18 to ramble around Grand Canaria island off the coast of Morocco, then Edinburgh, and London, backpacking and bartending along the way until finally winding up in Scotland again, before heading to New York in March of 2005, just after his 21st birthday.

Tralee native Seanie Sugrue is the writer and director of “Misty Button.”

As luck would have it, his aunt, Joanie O’Connell, had owned a bar in Woodlawn in the Bronx for decades. The bar, “Just One Tavern,” was where you would go for “just the one”. What are the odds of that?

Fast forward to Seanie living in New York, bartending, thinking about writing, but “putting the pen to paper isn’t always that easy.”

He told fellow bartender Josh Folan his idea for a film and the next thing you know they had written it together and they did the film, “Catch 22,” the following year. While looking for the money to finance that film, Seanie wrote a play “Black Me Out,” then five more plays. “I put six plays up in a year and a half. I wrote ‘em and directed ‘em.”

“We came up with a formula, sell enough tickets so that we kind of broke even on all of them.” (There are legendary Broadway producers who still haven’t figured out that formula!)

His friend Josh adapted Seanie’s fourth play “Love Is Dead” as a screenplay and directed it. “We shot the whole film on three i-phones.”

“Love Is Dead” is now available on Amazon Prime. What are the odds?

“Four years of solid work and that’s how I got ‘Misty Button’ financed. We shot the whole film in nine days, 124 pages, and we shot it for sixty grand!”

“Misty Button” is a low budget film for sure, but it’s a good story with funny, engaging characters, and it works. Aunt Joanie’s pub is featured in the film as well. That’s indie filmmaking at its finest.

Seanie tells me, “We shot this film on a crazy schedule…it was such a team effort, the only reason we were able to do it was because of the huge effort of the whole cast and crew, it was really amazing, even a few friends who showed up as production assistants. The cavalry really showed up at the end for us.” That’s how long shots win.

“Misty Button” premiered at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival triggering the first and only St. Patrick’s Day parade in the history of that town. They also won the audience award at the Soho International Film Festival, not far from where it was shot.

So look for writer-director Seanie Sugrue and his gang to premiere “Misty Button” in Chicago at our 5th Annual Irish American Movie Hooley, on Friday night Sept. 27 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, ( All audience members are invited to the opening night party around the corner at the Emerald Loop Pub for complimentary Paddy’s Irish Whiskey!

What are the odds of that? I wouldn’t bet against them!