In this podcast, Gemma Creagh is joined by writer Stephen Shields (The Hole in The Ground, 2019) to chat to Hugh O’Conor about his feature directorial debut Metal Heart.
Hugh talks about pitching “Twin Peaks in Terenure” to writer Paul Murray, the development process, a darker version, casting and working with the actors. Hugh explains how his own background as an actor influences his directing and learning from other directors he’s worked with as an actor. Finally, Hugh sheds light on getting the soundtrack right, Louise O’Neill’s influence on the script , creating a complex bad guy and Resistance, an upcoming pilot for RTE.
The Stag is released today in Irish cinemas. John Butler’s comedy follows a bachelor party weekend in the great outdoors that takes some unexpected detours. The film stars Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Brian Gleeson and Peter McDonald, who co-wrote the script with Butler.
Gemma Creagh caught up with the film’s director, and its stars Andrew Scott and Peter McDonald at the recent Jameson Dublin Film Festival for On the Reel in association with Film Ireland.
The film closed this year’s festival and Gemma was there on the red carpet to find out more about the film and what it’s like for a load of men to be in the nip on a weekend away.
DIR: John Butler • WRI: John Butler, Peter McDonald • PRO: Rebecca O’Flanagan, Robert Walpole • DOP: Peter Robertson • ED: John O’Connor • MUS: Stephen Rennicks • DES: Ferdia Murphy • CAST: Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Peter McDonald, Brian Gleeson
New Irish comedy The Stag boasts an impressive cast including Brian Gleeson, Andrew Scott (fresh from his Sherlock fame) and the film’s co-writer Peter McDonald. Not forgetting, of course, Amy Huberman who – I was surprised to note – wasn’t attending to any table-setting, à laher recent advertising campaign.
The premise is simple enough: Ruth (Amy Huberman) desperately wants her fiancé Fionnan (Hugh O’ Conor) to go on a Stag weekend, and enlists the help of his best friend Davin (Andrew Scott) to get him to go on a “manly” adventure, or rather, to take a trip to the mountains. The catch is that Ruth insists that her mysterious brother “The Machine” (Peter McDonald) must be included in the plans, to the chagrin of all involved. So up the mountains they go, with a series of misadventures guiding the rest of the film along.
As with any road movie or narrative which has a trip at its centre, The Stag is more about an exploration of identity and the journey towards the realisation of that identity, than about the upcoming nuptials of Ruth and Fionnan. It wouldn’t be an Irish film without probing Irish identity just a little, now would it? Moreover, The Stag is really concerned with the exploration of Irish masculinity and in typical Irish fashion, works through these issues in the format of a comedy.
These men don’t belong in the wilderness – gone are the days of representations of rugged Irish masculinity and the idea of Irish identity being tied to the land. Instead, we have the new Irish metro-sexual man in Fionnan, who plans his wedding meticulously, would rather attend a Hens than a Stags and contributes Frere Jaques to an Irish sing-song.
However – this is not a film which takes itself seriously in any way. The working through of Irish masculinity is played for laughs; there is one scene in which the group of lads find themselves naked in the woods (wearing only cavemen-esque attire), as Fionnan and Davin begin to talk through their feelings and emotion is at an all-time high.
The film sets itself up as a parody of sorts, and uses as shorthand for “us Irish” references to the recession and the love/hate relationship we have with U2. Despite making fun of Irish identity in a way that will almost certainly have an audience laughing, the film ironically falls into the trap of perpetuating these same, somewhat jaded discourses. Having said that, the film is a good-natured romp that will certainly entertain. Just, enough with Irish masculinity already. We’re ready for something else.
Filmbase Training is planning its busiest autumn ever: launching several brand new courses and hosting talks and seminars with industry experts from home and abroad. After building on six years of success as an Apple Training Centre, Filmbase has also recently added several Adobe Certified Courses to their range of professional industry training. The upcoming speakers and tutors include make up artist Terri Pinnell (Portrait of a Zombie), actor Hugh O’Conor (My Left Foot), casting director Thyrza Ging (Savage) and directors Lenny Abrahamson (Adam and Paul) and Sonya Gildea (Bua).
Filmbase can now deliver Adobe courses taught by certified trainers in all the applications of the Adobe Creative Suite. Similar to the Apple courses, students will have the opportunity to sit exams and upgrade their credentials by becoming Adobe Certified Experts. A course entitled Illustrator Essentials is fully booked but there is still a chance for individuals to secure a place on InDesign in September and Photoshop or Premiere Pro in October. For further information and to book a place, contact Alessandro Molatore (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Paul Schwer (email@example.com)
For anyone applying for funding or seeking private film finance filmmaker Elliot Grove, founder of Raindance Film Festival will be in Filmbase on Friday the 24th of September (2-5pm) to deliver a Masterclass on ‘Creating a Business Plan’. This will enable participants to prepare a business plan for presenting to industry funding sources and to private investors.
Other seminars in September include ‘The Business of Acting’ on Tuesday the 7th (6.30-8.30) with panelists Thyrza Ging, Lenny Abrahamson and Hugh O’ Conor. For more information on the event and panelists visit www.filmbase.ie
In addition to this the group has also organised a course specifically aimed at actors entitled ‘Auditioning for Film and TV’. The course starts on Thursday, September 9th and will be lead by Thyrza Ging and Hugh O’ Conor. Running over two Thursday evenings and one weekend, all students will be recorded in a mock audition, view playback and get candid feedback and tips for improving screen performance. All students will also receive a DVD of their audition.
The rest of the September line up includes a new three-day ‘Shoot to Edit’ course from the 15th to the 17th of September with Tanya Doyle (The House). This will cover shooting and editing sequences and interviews – ideal for those working in documentary, TV journalism or indeed anyone who wants to shoot short videos. A new intensive Directing weekend course with Sonya Gildea entitled ‘The Directors’ Craft – Visual Storytelling’ will run on the 18th and 19th of September and will look to banish all misconceptions about what a Director does. This course is aimed towards anyone planning to direct for the first time or looking to improve their skills.
Eight evenings of ‘Film Appreciation’ will also start on the 21st with Robert Furze of Dublin City University who will explore the history of cinema. Also scheduled is ‘Special Effects Make Up’ with Terri Pinnell on the 16th and 17th of October, ‘Hollywood Scriptwriting’ with James Bartlett on the 19th of November and much more including Screenwriting, Producing, Camera, Lighting Design and Sound for TV and Film.
For information on all of the above contact Gráinne MacLoone firstname.lastname@example.org and Simon Eustace email@example.com Check www.filmbase.ie for details. Filmbase is grant aided by The Arts Council.
Snow storms continued to cover Berlin but as the 60th Berlinale celebrations kicked-off, over 1,500 guests managed to brave the weather. Hollywood’s Renée Zellweger, appearing in only a low cut dress, remarked that it was ‘Perfect cinema weather here in Germany.’ Zellweger sat on the judging panel for this year’s Golden Bear Prizes. The Opening film of the festival was Wang Quan’an’s Apart Together. The selection of this film highlights the strong link the Berlinale has always had with Asian film. The gala screening was attended by the festival’s jury president Werner Herzog plus a starry guest list from across European and Asian cinema. Stephen Dalton of The Times remarked on the film: ‘The low-key family drama that follows finds history repeating itself, more as farce than tragedy, with flashes of lyricism and dry humour.’
Belinale festival director Dieter Kosslick commented in a recent interview: ‘Even if we are in the entertainment business, it’s really important to deal with art seriously.’ And while the big hitters like the troubled Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer) and Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island) have featured, European indies reside centre stage throughout the festival. Representing Ireland was Hugh O’ Conor with Corduroy (which premiered on Tuesday 16th as part of Generation 14plus Short Film) and Rebecca Daly with Hum in the Berlinale Talent Campus Short Film (which premiered on Saturday 13th February). Hum is a project that began almost a year ago as part of the festival’s Talent Campus. The competition was entered by 250 young filmmakers from 65 countries working with the motto ‘Straight to Cinema’. Last year Rebecca Daly, along with 15 other hopefuls, was invited to meet with producers and pitch an idea for a short film. Five were selected (Hum, Jonah and the Vicarious Nature of Homesickness, Reflection, By Night and The Astronaut on the Roof) for the Berlin Today Award 2010. Daly admitted there was ‘a great relationship from the start. I met with producers and the project happened in August.’ The shoot for Hum took place around Dublin and Daly was delighted with the support that she received. ‘It was a hectic two-and-a-half days. Post-production was taken care of in Berlin by Lichtblick Media.’ Hum is anchored by a stellar Irish cast of Kerry Condon (The Last Station) and Lalor Roddy (Hunger). Daly reveals ‘it’s fantastic working with actors like Kerry and Lalor. Both of them brought something special, interesting and sometimes unexpected to the project – which was great. Kerry was particularly drawn to the script, recognising the character of this woman immediately.’ This is not the first festival project Daly has been involved with as she also took up a four-and-a-half month residency with Cannes. She feels ‘it really helps you to gain recognition and is a great way to meet people, to share and work on your ideas. They are a big help when starting out.’ Daly added ‘I really enjoy working in Ireland, the stories I want to tell tend to have an Irish context or at least that’s how I naturally access their themes.’ This is only the start of many successes for Daly as the hard work continues saying ‘it’s exciting and daunting. I’m really looking forward to it. It has been in development for a couple of years and feels ready to be made.’ The Other Side of Sleep, her next project, is in the early stages of planning but Daly hopes to start shooting by the end of the year.
Beyond the Cutting Room Mary Sweeney, long-time editor and collaborator with David Lynch, talks about the transition to directing with her first feature Baraboo. Read more here
Happily Ever After? RTÉ’s Storyland competition was no fairytale: success required a huge amount of hard graft. However, for those willing to put in the effort, Storyland did grant some filmmaker wishes: recognition, networking opportunities and the golden egg – funding. Angela Nagle reports. Read more here
A Haunted Look
Hugh O’Conor talks to actor Ciarán Hinds and writer/director Conor McPherson about their supernatural feature, The Eclipse. Read more here
Business of Acting
How to get ahead in acting? Gordon Gaffney talks to the Gaiety School of Acting, actor’s agent Maureen McGlynn and casting directors Thyrza Ging and Maureen Hughes. Read more here
Alright. You’ve had your big breaks: you were the back-end of the orange caterpillar in the latest Meteor ad and second punter from the left in the pub on Fair City. Nonetheless, it looks like the emerald isle will all too easily contain your talents. But what about our real rising stars? Does a talented actor have to leave Ireland in order to make it? Niamh Creely investigates. Read more here
The professional film reviewer is critical of film but are they critical to film? David O Mahony talks to The Irish Times‘ Donald Clarke. Read more here
Work You Can Bank On?
Adam Lacey chats to Voicebank, an Irish agency for talented talkers. Read more here
Not Just Another Bee Movie
Ross Whitaker puts the spotlight on Colony. Read more here
The Irish New Wave
Guest editor Hugh O’Conor revels in the current abundance of excellent Irish film. Read more here
You can buy Film Ireland magazine online or in here.
Fresh from his Tribeca Best Actor win for The Eclipse, Ciarán was reunited with Conor for another collaboration: Conor’s new version of The Birds at the Gate Theatre. Film Ireland’s guest editor caught up with them for the low down on the film.
Hugh O’Conor: You’ve known Billy Roche, the writer, for a long time. With The Eclipse, was it a question of trying to find something to work together on, or did you read his short story and think, this could make a film?
Conor McPherson: Well, there is something about Billy’s work that I will always love. From the very first time I read his stuff, the worlds were so real to me, I wanted to go and live there. And so I had that sort of soul connection with Billy and we became friends over the years. He told me he was writing a book of short stories and that it was taking a long time – seven years. He was emailing me them as he was finishing them off and one of them was called Table Manners, set during a literary festival, about a guy who is married and has kids and becomes obsessed with this woman, this poet. He begins to stalk her and his life goes completely out of control for a few days. Billy and I had already worked together before; I directed one of his plays, Poor Beast in the Rain, at the Gate. I said to him, ‘Why don’t we look at turning this into a film?’ So that was how it began. I started getting the bus to Wexford and we sat up in his little office. His kids are grown up and moved away and his wife Patty would be making us dinner. We would be up there…
Ciarán Hinds: Getting cosy…
CMcP: Getting cosy. His dog Ringo was there. Billy sat at the keyboard and we started developing it. And it was years we were doing this, on and off.
HO’C: The supernatural element wasn’t in the short story at all. Was that something that you arrived at together?
CMcP: When Ciarán and I were working on The Seafarer in New York, I decided to introduce a supernatural element. Because at the time we had shown it to a few people, like Film4 and BBC Films, and nobody wanted to know. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to make this a genre film somehow.’ And of course it was staring me in the face, why isn’t there a supernatural aspect to this? But it was actually my wife Fionnuala who said to me, ‘I’m warning you, if this guy is married and has kids and he’s falling in love with this other woman, women are going to find it hard to trust him and like him. Why don’t you kill his wife?’ And I thought, ‘That’s brilliant!’ Because if he is available, we will love him and he can also be haunted…
CH: And in grief, I suppose, as well.
CMcP: Exactly. And everything just fell into place.
CH: I hadn’t actually read the story. The soul of it is radically different. The way the guy was – and I love the story that he wrote – it was quite hard on male attitudes. He was a bit of a chancer.
CMcP: That could be why we were having a problem getting people interested in it. Because they were like, ‘Why should we care about this?’ It was a dirty…
CH: …murky world there.
CMcP: Yes, it’s hard. It’s about a breakdown. They were like, okay, thanks but no thanks. Having said that, even then when we introduced the ghost element, it wasn’t like it got any easier. But something I learned on The Eclipse is to keep the screenplay very short. In films I don’t think there is much room for a whole lot of story. There is no time. The image is so powerful, you’ve got to let it tell the story.
CH: It’s interesting, because when I read it for the first time, we were in New York and I was getting to know Conor. I knew that in between the lines there was a whole different psychology going on that would be developed. So I had this initial faith in what it was, even though to begin with it sort of slipped through my hands. Usually when you get a script, you’re going, ‘Oh that’s clear.’ But with this it was, ‘What is in there?’ I showed it to my agent and he was like, ‘Ummm… uhhh…’ I said, ‘I don’t think you really understand. I don’t really either.’ But there are some things you go on because you have a sense of… something else.
Guest editor Hugh O’Conor revels in the current abundance of excellent Irish film.
It was a strange feeling. A strange, spooky, unqualifiable feeling. I was on my way to the Galway Film Fleadh to see the premieres of six new Irish features, as well as a whole slew of new Irish shorts, and I was genuinely, palpably excited. What the hell was going on? Maybe it’s just gas, I thought. But I was wrong. It wasn’t gas. For here’s the twist – advance word on the six films in question, as well as the shorts, was really, really good.
Okay – that’s happened before, you say, and they’ve still mostly turned out to be rubbish. But this was different. These filmmakers were part of a new wave of Irish talent and had notched up great work already. We were all waiting to see what they had come up with, and we were pretty sure that this time we weren’t going to be disappointed. When has that ever happened before?
It’s long been an easy target, the Irish film industry, and for much of the time the spirit of weary disappointment in its criticism has been largely justified. But it seems that things really have begun to change. And it may sound strange in the current climate, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that our film industry is in the most exciting state it’s ever been. The record number of Irish films selected to screen in the recent Toronto Film Festival is just one example. That a small film like Eamon, made under the Film Board’s Catalyst Project scheme, can earn a rave review in Variety can only be a good, exciting thing.