Interview: Tony Kearns

tony kearns

With Sinister 2 directed by Ireland’s own Ciarán Foy out in cinemas now, as well as Irish horror The Hallow coming out in November, Deirdre Molumby talks to film editor Tony Kearns (Citadel, Let Us Prey, Charlie Casanova) about the horror genre, the Irish film industry, and what his work entails.


What do you think is the current state of Irish horror?

It is a growing sector of film production in Ireland thanks to people like John McDonnell and Brendan McCarthy of Fantastic Films [the co-producers of Let Us Prey] who specialize in the horror genre. It has also become less of a guilty pleasure among film makers, especially those who grew up enjoying the classic horror films of the ’80s and ’90s.

I have observed that the younger generation of directors and producers are very keen to make their own stabs – if you’ll forgive the pun – at the genre. Another factor is the store of ancient nature based myths ad superstitions in Irish culture that provide fertile material for horror stories such as Corin Hardy’s The Hallow which was completed recently.

One of the benefits of editing Citadel [dir: Ciarán Foy] and Let Us Prey [dir: Brian O’Malley] is that I have become aware of the huge global community of horror fans as seen in the multitude of websites and film festivals dedicated to the genre, and this has been feeding back into the film culture and community in Ireland. Seriously, you would not believe how many horror movie websites there are out there.

citadel-3Pesky kids – Citadel


What do you personally like about the genre?

I love films with deeply unsettling atmospheres of dread and terror which play into and feed on the darkest parts of the viewer’s psyche that scares the bejesus out of you at judicious moments. An example would be John Carpenter’s The Thing. There is very little blood and guts in Citadel and the tension and horror is centred around the main character’s agoraphobia after a vicious attack on his wife. I’m not into gratuitous gore as such and I am turned off by torture porn. Yuk.


What makes a successful horror movie editor?

It’s the same for any genre or type of feature film really – the ability to craft a compelling film that tells the story well, that brings out the best performances from the actors and that reshapes the film if necessary to achieve a better outcome. Furthermore, a good editor has to be able to keep in mind the effect of the film on the general viewer who experiences it for the first time even though he or she will have become incredibly familiar with every frame by the time they’re finished the edit. You have to create something that engages the audience and keeps them there, regardless of what type of film it is. If you’re editing a horror film, it helps not to be squeamish; you need an iron stomach and a sense of humour.


When you start editing, do you stick to the script and storyboard or is there much room for interpretation?

I work off the rushes, initially editing scene by scene after reading the script to check I’m not missing a line here or there. I never work from storyboards because I’m looking at the shots on the screen; generally I’m never given them anyway. There’s always room for interpretation, for example, you could have a number of angled shots for a scene but you could end up using only one in the final edit. Scenes are frequently dropped or put in a different part of the story than in the script. Once it has been filmed with flesh and blood actors the film gains a new and vibrant life which gives me a wealth of options to explore.


What have been some of the greater challenges in your line of work?

Getting Martin Scorsese to return my calls. Otherwise, working under tight budgets and tight schedules. We’re all miracle workers here.


Whether it provoked screaming or nail-biting suspense, is there a scene you worked on that are particularly proud of and how did you cut it?

There is an interrogation scene in Let Us Prey between Liam Cunningham’s character and the police sergeant played by Douglas Russell that I feel very satisfied with as it is the first real inkling of the dread to come. Big, unforgiving close ups and terrific performances create a wonderful, tense atmosphere. As for how I cut it? You want my secrets as well?

LetUsPrey-thumb-640x360-49212Another bloody headache – Let Us Prey


Your most recent work was in Let Us Prey – what was your experience of that production?

It was a great experience to work with Brian O’Malley as he is a good friend and we have worked on many commercials and two short films, Screwback and Crossing Salween, over the past fourteen years or so. We have a great intuitive understanding of each other so it made the editing process an enjoyable one. I also loved sourcing and mixing the temp music and sound FX which gave the composer Steve Lynch and the sound mixer Richie Naughten a base from which to do their own marvellous work. It was also a great pleasure to look at the luscious work by the DOP Piers McGrail.


What is next in the pipeline for you?

I’m currently editing a coming of age comedy set in Scotland called Moondogs, which is directed by Philip John (Downton Abbey, Outlander). At the time of this interview, I’m in Glasgow assembling scenes during the shoot and will continue editing in Egg in Dublin once the filming has been wrapped. That’ll keep me off the streets for a while at least.


Competition: Charlie Casanova DVD


Thanks to the generous Casanova-ites at Studio Canal we have a copy of Terry McMahon’s Charlie Casanova to give away to coincide with the release of the film on DVD on 15th October.

To be in with a chance of winning, answer the following question:

In what international Film Festival did Charlie Casanova recently win awards for best Film, Actor and Director?

Send your answer to before 5pm on Mon 8th October and the winner will be selected Casanova style from the recently laundered Film Ireland hat.





Issue 132 Spring 2010 Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild: Terry McMahon


Over the coming weeks Film Ireland will publish online the entire back catalogue of articles written by members of the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild that have appeared in Film Ireland magazine.  These popular articles give an insight into the creative process used by each writer.  Terry McMahon, writer/director of the recent cinema release Charlie Casanova, wrote the first piece in Film Ireland 132 Spring 2010 which was published on April 1st 2010.


Two Actors, a Camera and a Taboo


With over a hundred Fair City episodes under his belt and several screenwriting awards, Terry McMahon talks about every writer’s Holy Grail: completion.


I got a second tattoo recently. The first one I got a few years back in a tattoo parlour sandwiched between a Chinese takeaway and a strip club on Hollywood and Vine when Daryl Hannah flew me out to Los Angeles, first class no less, to write a script for her. Living in a council flat on Dorset Street with my missus and young kid, and, having just written my first screenplay, I was naïve enough to think the world would give a damn. It didn’t. But Daryl did, and for a long time I kept the stub of that advance cheque; her name on it and the three most exciting words I’d ever read: twenty-five thousand dollars.


Writing originals, along with more screenplay commissions, I was also paid to portray absurdly unconvincing stereotypes as an actor. Things were dandy. I was working on scripts with the cream of a generation, Damien O’Donnell, Paddy Breathnach and Richie Smyth; hell, I’d even been feted in Cannes and Hollywood where they gave me screenwriting awards. My screenplays were going to be made into movies. No doubt about it. Fast forward to more commissions, a couple more kids, a home owned by the banks instead of the council, a hundred plus episodes of Fair City, and thirty pounds of spare tyre stomach hanging above an increasingly flaccid fallacy. Every script turned from green-lit certainty to amber-dark shit. Not one movie made. Not even a short. Not even an opening title sequence.




So I did what any frustrated hack would do. I got words tattooed onto my arm: ‘The Art is in the Completion. Begin.’ It was 3 am, near Christmas, and, to distract me from my need to scratch the ink burn on my arm, I pondered why I had become immersed in the soul-raping loneliness of writing? It wasn’t cash. It wasn’t fame. It wasn’t sex. (Whoever boasted, ‘I fucked a really hot writer last night?’) And then I remembered what I’d loved in the first place: the simple compulsion of two actors, a camera and a taboo. I emailed in my unknown-to-me-at-the-time final episode of Fair City, then typed a message into that bizarre funky funhouse Facebook:


Intend shooting no-budget Charlie Casanova, a provocatively dark satire, in the first couple of weeks of January. Need cast, equipment, locations, and a lot of balls. Any takers? Script at This is sincere so bullshitters fuck off in advance. Thank you.’




The standard lies are learned early in life: the cheque is in the mail; I won’t cum inside you; I won’t mess with your script. Sure as night follows day, writers get fucked. Standard contracts are written in ink but writers’ contracts are negotiated in Vaseline, and, when you pull your underwear back up, you discover everybody and everything, including the used lubricant, has secured more rights than you, and probably a co-credit too. Not that I’m complaining. Writing has been damn good to me. I consider it a humbling privilege to make a living from it. And there are occasions when collaborating with remarkable people whose sole intention is to elevate your words from script to screen is sublime. However, when the author’s contribution is valued at the standard 2.5% of the entire budget, it remains clear, in this gorgeous love affair, who is the pimp and who is the whore. I had no equipment, no cast, no crew, no budget, but I had a script, and a taboo. It took eleven seconds for someone to respond. Within twenty-four hours, a hundred and sixty more responses. A mass blind date was set, and, with me as writer and director, against the oddest of odds, the first day of principle photography was set for four weeks away.




Now we’re about to edit our strange little movie, and, like the weirdo you try to avoid but end up getting drunk with, it has character, balls, and is unlike anything you’ve known before. Does that mean it’s good? Who the hell knows? You’ll decide that for yourself. What I do know is this jaded tattooed hack-whore took that cobwebbed script out of a drawer and is now somehow editing a movie. The only gig in town, Fair City, is no more, and the bank manager wants to know how in hell I’m going to honour my debts and I want to know how in hell I’m going to feed my kids, but I don’t despair. From equipment to locations, everything was donated; everybody worked for nothing and the ensemble cast, led by Emmett Scanlan and Leigh Arnold, were courageous beyond measure. The crew were mostly in their early twenties; diligent, passionate, fearless, and an honour to work with. If these kids are Ireland’s future, then, despite the incompetence and corruption, our future is bright.

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland Spring 2010 issue 132, published 1st April 2010.


Interview: Terry McMahon and Emmett Scanlan on Irish film ‘Charlie Casanova’, released in cinemas this week

With Charlie Casanova being released in cinemas this Friday, David Neary caught up with the film’s writer and director, Terry McMahon, and actor Emmett Scanlan to find out more about the ruling class sociopath who uses a deck of playing cards to determine his fate.

How long was this a script before you managed to go DIY on it?

McMahon: I had an idea for a character that I saw more and more prevalent in Irish society and when the Film Board set up the Catalyst project, which was a great idea and produced some marvelous films, I wanted to write a punk film, which was abrasive and ugly and rage-fuelled that took standard structure and form and turned it into something even more extreme than expected. I was working with a director and a producer and it wasn’t working out, so I pulled the plug on it and went away and worked on it myself. I think that was four years ago.

Charlie is, as you say, a rage-fuelled character and it is an angry film. How much of this anger is your anger.

McMahon: It starts with shame – shame that I’m a such a eunuch in a whorehouse when it comes to the political process and when it comes to my children’s future and watching that future being flushed down the toilet by a tiny group of controlling class freaks. So Charlie’s rage is born out of self-interest and self-loathing and you see that manifested in the language of deceit and actions of deceit. He was supposed to be grotesque when I wrote him. I didn’t know he was going to become a dark prophecy as now that mentality has become government policy. And you watch how they treat the working class – how they are all disenfranchised. So Charlie’s rage is born out of self-interest and my exploration of Charlie and reason for creating Charlie is born out of shame.

The only time Charlie is sincere is when he’s being cowardly. Every other time he’s being fake – fake emotions, fake dialogue, fake engagement. He’s a bad actor… And it takes an extraordinary actor to play that. He’s a liar, a liar who’s so obviously one-dimensional, yet none of us call him on it. And you see with our political leaders it’s the exact same principals applying and none of us call them on it.

Emmet, how much of that anger Terry talks about is channeled in your performance?

Scanlan: It’s a lot different for me. Terry’s a lot more poetic and it’s a lot deeper for him. I understand what it represents and how it provokes people and what makes it so controversial and I’m really proud to be part of something like that. But as for channeling any anger in the movie, it’s just me playing Charlie Casanova. You can’t come at it from that point of view. I can only come at it from understanding… and acceptance.

What stage did you join the production?

Scanlan: Well I know Terry for many years. He had written a script called Dancehall Bitch, which was the best script I’d ever read – it’s absolute genius. And I wanted to be part of it. A mutual friend of ours, a theatre director, wanted to put it on. No one else would go near it. No one had the balls to take it on. It frightened a lot of people. We basically took the screenplay and turned it into a stageplay and performed it. The first time Terry arrived was the first time I met him and we gave each other a great big hug and thus spawned a great fortuitous, debaucherous, productive relationship and friendship. Then he said he was doing Charlie Casanova. I’d just come back from LA after doing a show over there for about a year and a half and told him I wanted to be involved at any level because I knew his writing was so great. So he cast me in a small part and then I stood in for the character Charlie Casanova for the screen test in the auditions and Terry told me that he realized that I was probably going to be Charlie Casanova and that he was probably going to regret it for the rest of his life. And I arrogantly and naively said ‘I’m all over that shit’, but little did I know the beast I was going to be sleeping with. And I immediately immersed myself into the role and started playing the Charlie Casanova game with the deck of cards two weeks before shooting. I went around the streets of Dublin and started playing the game – and it took me to some dark, seedy areas in my mind and pushed me to limits I didn’t even know I had. And Charlie was born in my fingers and he’s still there today. And I’ve a great love and affection for it and for working with this man Terry here.

Obviously people will have seen you before in Hollyoaks but this is a hugely different beast.

Scanlan: My character in Hollyoaks  pushes limits and I give Terry and Charlie massive credit for allowing me to do that. Prior to playing Charlie, there was an arrogance and a naivety that I had about acting and I realized that I was totally unequipped for it even though there was nothing I would have rather done with my life. It taught me a lot about acting. And I took that into Hollyoaks and I made this new character, Brendan Brady, quite dark – the difference is he has more of a moral compass than Charlie, who’s way more dangerous but far more cowardly – it’s a different breed of animal. It’s a massive satisfaction doing a movie. It’s 11 days – you have a beginning, middle and end. Whereas in soap it evolves day by day with storylines changing. But I’ve been so fortuitous since January 2010 doing Charlie Casanova and then Brendan Brady in Hollyoaks in May.

The film is mostly set at night…

McMahon: Yeh. We had expositional shots but when I was editing it I thought, when you’re in a nightmare you’re not aware of the world you’re in. I knew Charlie Casanova was going to be divisive and that some people would hate it – but I didn’t realize the extremities of response on both sides was going to be so profound. But I knew that I wanted to create a nightmarish world where you were constantly unaware of where you were – every time you thought you knew where you were you would suddenly be subverted. So we cut any of the expositional shots out, including much of the daytime shots because you want to be forced into the mind of the character – but I didn’t want to create empathy with the character or tag him with him with a series of prerequisite humanities that allow us to distance ourselves from him by pretending we’re not him. It’s a big gamble – for some people it hasn’t paid off at all; for other people who become incredibly passionate advocates of it, it makes perfect sense.

As you say the audience response has been dramatically divided. What’s your reaction to the reaction?

McMahon: It was always intended to be divisive film. Now I’m not pretending that doesn’t affect us when we see audiences spitting bile but what is equally compelling to me is that the people who are incredibly passionate advocates of the film adore it for the exact same reasons that people despise it. All we were trying to do with Charlie Casanova was make a divisive, provocative, visceral film. To some we’ve succeeded; to others we’ve failed. But I think… I hope… that in the long term it’ll be viewed with the objectivity of its time and place and context, with the realisation that at least someone in this country was trying to make a film that wasn’t committee driven, consensus driven and was about the time we live in.


More Details of The Underground Film Festival in Dun Laoghaire Announced

Submerge yourself in Independent Irish Film with the Underground Cinema Film Festival (UCFF) which will take place in Dun Laoghaire between September 9th and 11th.


This year’s festival offers an incredible mix of film for professional filmmakers as well as genuine film lovers. On offer this year are 70 short Irish films, 15 independent features, an Irish language programme, a children’s programme and free workshops from some of the country’s best writers, directors and actors including: Una Kavanagh, Noel Brady, Edwina Forkin, Marie Caffrey, Ali Coffey, Vinny Murphy and Ferdia MacAnna to name but a few.


Q&A sessions have been arranged with such renowned figures as director Terry McMahon (Charlie Casanova), actor Mark O’ Halloran (Adam & Paul), director Jason Figgis (3 Crosses) actor Emmett Scanlan (Blood, 3 Crosses) and director Conor Horgan (One Hundred Mornings).


Some of the highlights of this year’s festival include the Dublin Premiere of Charlie Casanova  (opening film) and the multi award winning Tin Can Man  (closing film). We are also delighted to be screening the 20th Anniversary of Screening of The Commitments followed by an interview with writer Roddy Doyle.


70 short films will be screened as part of the Shorts Section including Gerard Lough’s horror The Boogeyman, and David O’Neill’s The Shadowboxer.


Entertainment in the evening will be provided by Comedian Joe Rooney and Musicians and Artist Aindrias De Staic. For the kids, Sinead Monaghan will keep the young audience busy with her free puppet workshops and face painting.


UCFF Weekend will embrace 5 major venues in Dun Laoghaire: The IMC Cinema, The Royal Marine Hotel, The Kingston Hotel, The Dun Laoghaire Club and Privé Nightclub, the official Festival Club.



The event is crowned with The Underground Cinema Awards Ceremony held in Fiztpatrick’s Castle Hotel in Killiney on 17th September.


More information on tickets, programming and workshops can be found on


Line Up Announced for Underground Cinema Film Festival in Dun Laoghaire 9th -11th Sept

The Underground Film Festival have announced their program for this year’s festival which runs from Friday, 9th September to Sunday, 11th September at various venues across Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Highlights include, the Dublin Premiere of the award-winning Charlie Casanova and the 20th Anniversary Screening of The Commitments with Roddy Doyle in attendance.  On top of that there is a special screening of The Secret Of Kells for the kids, over 70 short Irish films and an incredible selection of film workshops from some of the best experts in the business.

For full details visit


Charlie Casanova Win

Charlie Casanova has won two awards at the DMV International Film Festival in Washington – ‘Best Film’ plus ‘Festival Pick.’ Terry McMahon’s film will receive its Irish Premiere at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.


Emmett Scanlan wins at European Independent Film Festival

Irish actor Emmett J. Scanlan has won Best Actor at the European Independent Film Festival for the title role in Terry McMahon’s Charlie Casanova.

Charlie Casanova premiered at SouthBy Southwest® earlier this year, and tells the story of a sociopathic member of the ruling class who kills a working class girl in a hit and run, using playing cards to determine his fate.

European Independent Film Festival – whose goal is the discovery, promotion and projection of the best of independent filmmaking talent from around the world – took place 1–3 April 2011 in Paris.

For more details visit or to read a Q&A with the film’s director, click here.