THE director of the 2019 film Miss Virginia – now available on US Netflix, for anyone living in America – looks forward to returning to Fermanagh where he has many fond childhood memories.

The son of Lisnaskea natives, R.J. Daniel Hanna (inset) was born in Ontario, Canada but spent a number of his summers as a child in his parent’s home place of Co. Fermanagh.

Currently based in LA, where he has a few film productions in development, he hopes to one day make a film in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Daniel explained how he first got into filmmaking.

“I guess I always was a writer, I started writing as a kid, and wrote like a novel,” he said, noting that it took a little time for him to pursue screenwriting and filmmaking as a career choice.

“It was always something I enjoyed as a hobby. I made some films in high school and then in college.

“At a certain point, I was sitting Economics and Finance and just decided I couldn’t really do that any more, and wanted to dive all-in to film,” said Daniel, who at that point applied to the University of Southern California’s (USC) Masters programme in Los Angeles at the age of 21.

From graduating, Daniel has been developing his career in the LA film industry, working as an editor, making shorts and writing scripts.

“Eventually, I got asked to read a script for a feature, Miss Virginia. I was just supposed to give notes and work with the writer, giving feedback and my perspective on it so that they could do a rewrite,” he explained.

“From there, they asked if I wanted to pitch to direct, and I gave my take and they hired me on to that movie,” said Daniel, adding: “I was working with them then for a couple of years, on the process of the rewrite, then shooting the movie and editing it, all that stuff, and that kind of brings me to where I am now, working towards getting my second movie off the ground.”

Directed by Daniel, Miss Virginia is a drama telling the story of a struggling inner-city mother who sacrifices everything to give her son a good education.

Unwilling to allow her son to stay in a dangerous school, she launches a movement that could save his future – and that of thousands like him.

Currently streaming on Netflix, the film stars Matthew Modine, Vanessa Williams and Adina Porter.

When asked what it means to have his film showcased on Netflix, Daniel said: “It’s great because it means that obviously people can see it really easily. It’s sort of a legitimising thing.

“In the independent [film] world, a lot of movies don’t get seen very much or don’t get a platform, and so getting on to Netflix is definitely a big milestone for me.”

Following the success of Miss Virginia, Daniel is currently working on several different film projects.

“That’s how it always goes in the film industry – you have to keep a lot of irons in the fire. I have a project that is similar to Miss Virginia that I’m working with a producer and co-writer friend of mine on, and he’s in the process of raising the financing,” said Daniel.

Going on to explain the concept, he said: “It’s a movie based on a true story about a coach at a youth reform school, like a juvenile detention alternative, who takes the kids on a cross-country cycling trip.

“It’s sort of a story about him coming to terms with his past and his demons, while also these boys are learning how to set a goal and achieve it; they are both kind of learning and growing along the way. So that’s more of a ‘true-life inspiring, social issue’ kind of film.

“I’m also working on a horror film that’s written. It explores internet dating through a supernatural lens. It’s kind of a more fun, twisty scary story,” he explained.

With the Northern Ireland film industry continuing to grow, The Impartial Reporter asked Daniel if he had any plans to make a film in the home country of his parents.

He said: “Yeah, absolutely. I guess I actually did start working on a project, but it got slightly pushed back.

“I started working on a project in the last few months that is set in Northern Ireland that has a supernatural take or a family’s ghost story during the famine, and that came from wanting to do something about Ireland, and I kept coming back to that while I was exploring other stories.

“Rather than doing a contemporary story, I wanted to do something set in the past, first. There’re several things I’d actually love to do there [in Northern Ireland,” said Daniel.

Going on to talk about his love of Fermanagh, he told this newspaper: “I still have a lot of family there; both my grandmas are still there, and I have many aunts and uncles in the area.

“As a kid, we’d go back every two or three years in the Summer and spend eight or ten weeks there [in Fremanagh]; the whole Summer.

“For me, it was always an amazing time and a place that was both home, and also very different from home.

“I love the area, and can’t wait to go back and be there for a bit again,” he said.