Prisoners of the Moon – Johnny Gogan, Director & Nick Snow, Writer

Image used with kind permission from the IFI

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh talks to director Johnny Gogan and writer Nick Snow at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon at the IFI.  The film tells the story of Arthur Rudolph, a scientist who played a key role in NASA’s historic 1969 moon landing. Rudolph was one of over 100 Nazi V-2 rocket engineers secretly brought to America in 1945 to work on the Cold War missile programme. He became a key figure in NASA’s space race, but was arrested in Toronto in 1990 on suspicion of being a war criminal. The dramatised trial (featuring Jim Norton and Cathy Belton) animates this revelatory documentary which uses archive material, expert witness interviews, and the testimony of Jean Michel, a slave labour survivor of the subterranean wartime V-2 Rocket.

This podcast was recorded at the IFI on Monday, 1st July 2019 at a special screening of Prisoners of the Moon.



Film Ireland Podcasts






‘Hubert Butler Witness To The Future’ Dublin Screening this Weekend



Johnny Gogan’s documentary Hubert Butler Witness To The Future screens this weekend at the New Theatre, East Essex Street at 3.00pm on Saturday, 28th May and 4.00pm and 7.00pm on Sunday 28th.
Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future traces Kilkenny essayist Hubert Butler’s journey through Stalinist Russia of the early 1930s, through pre­war Vienna, where he worked to smuggle Jews into Ireland, to his exposure of the hidden genocide of half a million Orthodox Serbs in World War2.
Using recently declassified documents, Gogan’s highly visual and expansive film explores why Butler “was fifty years ahead of his time” and “one of the great Irish writers”
You can read an interview with Johnny here



ADIFF Irish Film Review: Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future



June Butler takes in Johnny Gogan’s documentary about Irish essayist Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

Born in 1900 to a family that could trace their roots to the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, Hubert Butler thrived on the peaceful existence of a life that included a zest for growing apples in his own orchard. Not being without a robust sense of humour, Butler was oft heard describing himself as a writer and market gardener.

His fluency in Russian enabled a translation of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard (1904), which is still in use to this day. He loved the slow pace in his ancestral home of Maidenhall and was a popular figure in the local village of Bennetsbridge, Co Kilkenny. Despite having travelled extensively throughout the Balkans in his early life and learned multiple languages along the way, Butler’s heart first and foremost, lay in the land where he was born and he maintained the mantra that local history was eminently more important than national history. Indeed, Hubert Butler went so far as to insist that ‘where life is fully and consciously lived in our own neighbourhood, we are cushioned a little from the impact of great far-off events which should be of only marginal concern to us’.

Butler was passionately committed to verbally defending Ireland both within and without from forces that at times threatened the integrity and stability of the nationalist core he strove to protect  – sometimes even at great sacrifice to his own mental and physical wellbeing. On more than one occasion, Butler held forth on matters of great portend to a disbelieving public who aimed derisive criticism at this man of letters when the opposite should have been the case. While he may have appeared mild-mannered, when circumstances dictated, Butler had a firm grasp on the subtly of politics and could deliver stinging rebuttals as his rivals all too humiliatingly became aware.

Ireland was, and remains, deeply indebted to Butler’s unwavering morality and nowhere is it more evident than in Johnny Gogan’s in-depth and soulful film on Butler’s life ‘Hubert Butler; Witness to the Future’. Aided by poet Chris Agee, Gogan ably narrates Butler as an expert essayist and considers him to have been at least fifty years ahead of his time when it came to summarising events of national and international importance.

Gogan claims that Butler was able to predict with unerring accuracy future happenings in the volatile arena of pre and post-war Europe. It is testament to the level of investigation into Butler’s life that his writings are mentioned throughout the documentary with such affection and to such a relentless level of detail. Gogan has literally left no stone unturned.

In my interview with Johnny Gogan, he took into account Butler’s devotion to the country life and in no small way, Gogan has included the orchard at Maidenhall where Hubert Butler spent so many happy hours, almost as an expert witness but equally silent additional cast member. When discussing Butler’s impact on modern history, Gogan said one thing that above all made him feel he was in the presence of greatness – Butler he averred, wore his learning lightly and with humility. The magnitude of knowledge he possessed was vast and yet Hubert Butler was a model of reservation and sincerity – unless his conscience was piqued in which case, Butler’s righteous rebukes were remorseless and acerbic. Gogan goes on to prove his words by stating Hubert Butler travelled to Austria at his own expense in 1938 and rescued Jews who were almost certainly due to be transported to work camps prior to the outbreak of WWII. There are dozens of Jews who could place the claim of survival firmly at the feet of Hubert Butler and his wife Peggy.

People often made the point that Butler’s writings could be compared to those of George Orwell. I would go a stage further and suggest that Butler’s writings were unique and comparable only to one – that of Hubert Butler himself. It is right and fitting that through the remarkable vision of Johnny Gogan, Butler has finally come to our attention for his supreme acts of humanity and recognition as the man of learning he truly was. Generations of Irish will have much to thank Johnny Gogan for this wonderful film.


Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future screened on 22nd February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 18 – 28 February) 


Interview: Johnny Gogan, director of ‘Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future’



Johnny Gogan’s new documentary Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future, traces Kilkenny essayist Hubert Butler’s journey through Stalinist Russia of the early 1930s, through pre­war Vienna, where he worked to smuggle Jews into Ireland, to his exposure of the hidden genocide of half a million Orthodox Serbs in World War2.

Using recently declassified documents, Gogan’s highly visual and expansive film explores why Butler “was fifty years ahead of his time” and “one of the great Irish writers”

Johnny Gogan told June Butler how the project came about.


I heard about Hubert Butler around the time he had been published in the late 1980s. I hadn’t read him. Three years ago I was in Belgrade and I attended a lecture by the poet and publisher Chris Agee. He was talking about Hubert’s writings on Archbishop Stepinac, the wartime Croatian Catholic Archbishop in Zagreb. Hubert wrote a lot about this period and about Stepinac as a central character – and he actually met Stepinac when he was subsequently imprisoned for treason and collaboration with the Ustaše regime. I was talking to Chris about this and a few lights started to go off my head.

Butler was very interested in the local world, the power of the local, and very much wary of that centralised phenomenon that you get in the western world and in big cities.  I myself have been based in North Leitrim for the last 20 years, so I kind of understood that aspect of his work. I had also touched on that in my film Mapmaker back in 2001, which is about the tensions in a border community in the years after the ceasefires. That was quite influenced by what had happened in the Balkans in the ’90s.

Hubert Butler had in many ways predicted what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s and saw the roots of its violence and the intensity of the violence in what happened in Croatia in the Second World War. You can see it for example in his essay ‘The Artukovitch File’ and in an unpublished essay I found called ‘The Trial’ – he talks about seeing how the seeds of future treason lay in what had happened in the Second World War, particularly in Croatia – and how that had been, in many ways, swept under the carpet.

He wrote exhaustively and very skilfully about that period. He was in the extraordinary position where he came in for criticism from both sides. Butler was obviously really critical of the Catholic Church’s role in the genocide of half a million Orthodox Serbs in Croatia during the Second World War. But he was also critical of Tito and the way the Communists were dealing with the aftermath of that. They didn’t deal with the guilt and the responsibility, the way that Germany had been confronted with it. So he writes that in 1946 I see the seeds of future treason in the way these crimes are being tried and dealt with.

And then in Ireland he’s also being criticized. He confronts Ireland at the time with what has happened in Croatia and nobody wants to hear. The State and the Church conspired to silence him. And then you have Peadar O’Donnell, one of Ireland’s foremost radicals, telling him to go easy on the Communists. Butler was a very brave, very moral, very informed man.

What I love about Butler, and what I’ve always felt strongly about, is that Ireland should have a much wider international vision for itself beyond obviously a relationship with Britain and the way we have subsumed our international vision into the EU. We hide behind the EU a lot. Butler was saying that Ireland has a role to play as a new nation, as a postcolonial nation, able to put forward a different view of the world and that was potentially shared by many other countries that got their independence and liberation around the same time. That is still very relevant. That vision he developed in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s is still very true and the kind of provincialism that Ireland was slipping  into at that time is still very true – obviously with some exceptions… but we like to think of ourselves as very cosmopolitan. But actually we are quite provincial and quite derivative in our thinking. This is why from an Irish perspective I wanted to make this film. I also found that I hadn’t read a lot or seen a lot about what he was writing about. There are sensations you have yourself but then you see someone articulate them and you just think wow.


Hubert Butler: Witness To The Future screens at the Light House Cinema on Monday, 22nd February 2016 at 8:30PM 



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The 2016 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place 18th and 28th February 2016. 



IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Johnny Gogan, director of ‘Generate The State/Gineador An Stait’

Generate The State/Gineador An Stait documents the ambitious building of the Shannon Scheme in the newly established Irish Free State of the 1920s that revolutionised electricity production and supply in Ireland. The scheme involved the construction of the hydro-electric power station Ardnacrusha at a cost of IR£5m, one fifth of the Irish state’s annual budget – and at a time of tremendous economic difficulties. Constructed by the German company Siemens-Schuckert, the plant was completed in 1929 and provided the base for the construction of a national power grid while also symbolising a determined forward-thinking independent nation.


The film’s director Johnny Gogan explains what brought him to the project. “On one level, the Ardnacrusha story is a typical Ireland’s Own story, a tale of derring-do from a rose-tinted glorious past. I wanted to rescue the story from that fate, peel back the wall-paper to reveal it once more to current generations who know nothing about the scale and the ambition of the project. It is a particularly relevant story for today in that we are failing so abysmally as a country – Society and Government – to address the transition from fossil fuels. The Government recently announced that we would not meet our 2020 Carbon emissions targets. Government has hidden behind the Financial Crisis when in truth the Financial Crisis was the perfect opportunity to change direction. The Shannon Scheme is the living embodiment of that opportunistic ambition.”


In 1923 , Dr T.A. McLaughlin proposed the idea of the Shannon Scheme, which came in for criticism at the time as it gathered momentum garnering a few opponents. Johnny says, “I heard a comment recently from the writer Terence de Vere White describing how Ireland experienced a Renaissance – that ran from the end of the 19th century with the Celtic Revival through to the end of the 1920s. The Censorship of Publications Act (1929) represented a symbolic end to this epoque. We need to see Ardnacrusha in the context of that ferment. One of the things that was not allowed to happen was for big ideas not to be quashed and for vested interests not to hold sway. We now know that for most of our history of independence vested interests have been able to hold sway over public policy. One area where vested interest may have held sway was with the powerful farmer – or “rancher” – element in the body politic. Workers were not to be paid in excess of the Agricultural Labour rate, which was incredibly low for this kind of work.”


Around 1,000 German and 4,000 Irish workers were involved in the construction phase between 1925 and 1929. The documentary recounts a fascinating part of the process that involved The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union going head to head with Siemens over the workers’ conditions and wages. Siemens appointed Joseph McGrath, the former  Minister for Industry and Coinmerce, as Director of Labour. A ruthless man, McGrath was brought in as a means to oppose the Unions and avert strikes. His victory in doing so would result in injuries and deaths as many underskilled workers were put in dangerous working conditions. Johnny explains howthis post Civil War society was a brutalised place and McGrath symbolised that. He is at once a fascinating and scary individual who subsequently went toe to toe with the Mafia in the U.S. over his promotion of the Irish Sweepstakes. But yes there were many deaths which had to do with the vast industrial nature of the project. It wasn’t that there was no awareness of Health and Safety. The Germans were complaining to the Irish Government about the lack of suitability of the Irish workers who were mainly from agricultural backgrounds.”

Nevertheless, the Shannon scheme itself was a major success story. Indeed, the magnitude of the scheme had it dubbed “the Eighth Wonder of the World. ” Yes, it was massive,” Johnny says, “not just in Irish terms, but in European terms. It happened in a brief window between the First World War and the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Once again it has relevance today. For example, it is strongly argued that one very proactive way in which Europe could break its current economic stagnation is to adopt a very determined Europe-wide transition to Renewables – solar in the South of Europe and Wind and Ocean Energy in the North – and to construct a Europe wide grid for Renewables. We don’t have the space to go into this in the film, but we do interview one of the main proponents of this approach the Irish engineer Eddie O’Connor, founder of Airtricity.”


As Johnny is at pains to point out this piece of Ireland’s history has a lot to say about contemporary Ireland and the lessons we can learn, an indeed the lessons we failed to learn. “The promoters of Irish Water could have taken a leaf out of that Government’s book in how to successfully set up a public utility. The ESB – set up on the back of the Shannon Scheme – canvassed and enlisted communities when setting up the distribution system that was the less vaunted but equally massive task involved in Rural Electrification. The Shannon Scheme also tells us as a country that you can’t use a financial crisis as an excuse for not thinking and planning for the future. In fact, within every crisis lies an opportunity to change direction. As we surface from our recent economic nightmare can we really say that we have changed direction? I don’t think so.”

Generate The State/Gineador An Stait screens on Sunday, 22nd November 2015 at 13.00 at the IFI as part of its Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.

Director Johnny Gogan will participate in a post-screening Q&A.
Tickets for Generate The State/Gineador An Stait are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at
Johnny Gogan was founding editor for Filmbase of Film Ireland in 1987. His films include the feature films The Last Bus Home (1997), Mapmaker (2002), Black Ice (2012). He is currently working on the feature documentary Hubert Butler Witness To The Future, which will premiere at DIFF 2016.
Generate The State/Gineador An Stait screens at Limerick’s Belltable Arts Centre 13th January in advance of its TG4 broadcast.


On the Reel: Interview with Johnny Gogan, director of ‘Black Ice’

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 18.59.28


Black Ice is written and directed by Johnny Gogan, (Mapmaker, The Last Bus Home). The film explores relationships set against a backdrop of local street racing and tragedy.

Black Ice was shot on a variety of rural locations including Sligo’s Strandhill beach and many of the roads of Dromahair Co. Leitrim.

In the wake of a fatal boy-racer collision that took the life of her brother and his girlfriend, Alice (newcomer Jane McGrath) returns home to reflect on events that lead to the accident. Seduced by the criminal activities of her petrol boyfriend, Jimmy (Killian Scott, Love/Hate, Good Vibrations), Alice plays witness to both the attractions and perils of this Irish sub-culture.

Gemma Creagh spoke to Johnny Gogan at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh about his latest feature, which is in cinemas now.

Black Ice was released in cinemas on 20th September 2013



You can also read Rose Byrne’s interview with Johnny Gogan here talking about his journey into filmmaking


Cinema Review: Black Ice



DIR: Johnny Gogan  WRI: Johnny Gogan, Brian Leyden  • PRO: Johnny Gogan • DOP: Peter Martin • ED: Patrick O’Rourke • Cast: Jane McGrath, Killian Scott, Dermot Murphy, Marian Quinn

Black Ice begins when an uneasy and distraught local, Alice returns to her hometown near the border for the funeral of her young friend.  After this, a series of flashbacks reveal the events leading up to the crash that caused her brother, Tom and his girlfriend to lose their lives.

This slow-paced thriller examines the dangerous relationship between young people and speed, as then schoolgirl Alice falls for the mysterious, delinquent boy-racer, Jimmy – played by Love/Hate’s Killian Scott. Alice loses her innocence quickly as she finds herself hurtling down the road and into a world of fast cars and corruption.

Featuring some excellent performances from the latest wave of national talent, as well as some fantastically electric chase sequences, Black Ice proves that you can certainly get value for money in these recessionary times with a low-budget feature.

Gemma Creagh

15A (See IFCO for details)

102 mins
Black Ice is released on 20th September 2013

Black Ice – Official Website



Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh preview: Black Ice

Black Ice

The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

Black Ice

Saturday, 13th July



Black Ice will race into the 25th Galway Film Fleadh this Saturday. Set in rural Ireland, and written and directed by Johnny Gogan, (Mapmaker, The Last Bus Home), the film explores relationships set against a backdrop of local street racing and tragedy.

‘It’s very fitting and exciting that The Fleadh are screening Black Ice as it was truly made possible by the budding filmmaking community in the North West’, director Johnny Gogan told Film Ireland. ‘The enthusiasm and energy of the crew is translated onto the screen, where the thrilling high-speed race sequences are vividly brought to life’.

Black Ice was shot on a variety of rural locations including Sligo’s Strandhill beach and many of the roads of Dromahair Co. Leitrim.

‘It was challenging but we hope to do it again. There’s a phenomenon in rural areas of young men in particular jumping into cars and losing the plot. This is really strong in border counties because the border roads are like No Man’s Land in terms of the law, it makes them a choice location for this wild driving’.

In the wake of a fatal boy-racer collision that took the life of her brother and his girlfriend, Alice (newcomer Jane McGrath) returns home to reflect on events that lead to the accident. Seduced by the criminal activities of her petrol boyfriend, Jimmy (Killian Scott, Love/Hate, Good Vibrations), Alice plays witness to both the attractions and perils of this Irish sub-culture.

Read Film Ireland’s full interview with Johnny Gogan here.

Tickets to see Black Ice at the Galway Film Fleadh are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at


Celebrating 25 years of Film Ireland magazine, Exhibition Piece 4 – Issue 36 Aug/Sep 1993 Interview with Lelia Doolan, chair of The Irish Film Board ‘On The Board’.


Film Ireland’s first editor Johnny Gogan interviews Lelia Doolan who at the time was the chair of The Irish Film Board.  This four page article appeared in issue 36 August/September 1993 of Film Ireland which was edited by Frances Power.

To view high res 150 DPI jpeg of part one click here


To view high res 150 DPI jpeg of part two click here



Interview: Writer/Director Johnny Gogan

(Black Ice)

Filmmaker Johnny Gogan talks to Rose Byrne about his journey into filmmaking since being the founding editor of Film Ireland or Filmbase News as it was known twenty five years ago in 1987.

Johnny has written and directed fifteen films to date including shorts, documentaries and features. He has been involved in a number of projects promoting the film industry over the years. His latest venture with Sleeping Warrior Productions has seen the recent launch of Studio North West T.V, an on line channel. His latest feature Black Ice is due for release in early 2013.

You were the founding editor of Film Ireland or Filmbase News as it was known in 1987. How did that come about?

I returned to Dublin from working as a journalist in South America early in 1987. The three tenets of Filmbase were equipment, training, and information. Filmbase members had agreed they needed a newsletter as a means of addressing the information issue. I always thought there was space for a film magazine in Ireland. Up to that point there hadn’t been a consistent magazine.

I was working with Mike Collins on the early issues and ironically the first thing we had to report was the abolition of the Film Board. Some people might have questioned the magazine’s timing in the light of that but in a way, we were bearing witness to the biggest event in Irish film and keeping the magazine was an act of faith on the future that many of us could see for filmmaking in the country.

Anyway it became apparent after the first three issues this was more than a newsletter. It was the genesis of a film magazine for film practitioners. We attempted to tread a line between the necessity of people in filmmaking to have information while in time developing a critical angle on the film industry in Ireland.  It became a good means of creating awareness of the lack of a film policy in Ireland. There were a lot of good ideas coming out of Filmbase at the time.  The magazine was a good way of transmitting these ideas to the wider industry and public.

You were editor for three years. How and when did you get into filmmaking?

I start attending training courses in Filmbase making a transition from journalism. Within a few years I had written some scripts and made my first short Stephen in 1990. It was one of the early Filmbase Shorts. It worked really well for me and did well in the festivals and was widely broadcast.  Quite memorably it was released along with Jane Campion’s first feature Sweetie which had a cinema release in Ireland. That was a great boost for Stephen and was really my starting point.

You set up Bandit Films in 1989 to make your first short Stephen. Did you find it necessary to set up a company  or was it something you wanted to do anyway?

I was creating an umbrella with Paul Donovan. We started to produce Stephen but Paul had to go to Australia so it didn’t work out at that time. However I liked the idea of an entity and not just me as a sole operator.  When Paul returned we moved on and worked on The Last Bus Home. Meanwhile I had done a film called The Bargain Shop for ZDF/ARTE and RTÉ. To do that production I did need a functioning limited company and I’ve managed to keep one operating since then.

So did having your own company give you more control?

Well it did but it shouldn’t have to be the way. It’s quite tiresome maintaining a company. There are a lot of administrative aspects to it. Though it has made increasing sense and it was a good exercise. I and Paul then formed Bandit Films Ltd.

What was your short film Stephen about?

It was about a young unemployed Dubliner who was very taken with the victory of Stephen Roche in the Tour de France. So much so, that he takes his eye off the road while on his bike and crashes. While unconscious he dreams he is a great national hero. Really the film was a play on Dublin being a depressed place at that time.  The victory of Stephen Roche was a national event and it captured people’s imagination similar to the national football team in the Euros in 1988.

Sport helped us transcend the reality we were stuck in at that time. The film was an ironic take on that.  The narrative was non-linear and the character never speaks.  People who saw it a few times said they got more from it each time. It was unconventional and low budget. It was broadcast around four times on RTÉ.  It won Best Film award at the Galway Film Fleadh in 1990.

(The Bargain Shop)

You already mentioned The Bargain Shop a film you wrote and directed in 1993. Your company was the first in Ireland to produce a commissioned drama for German T.V with The Bargain Shop. How did that come about?

Well there’s some interesting strands in my family background. My father worked in Germany in the late 1970s and my grandfather had a strong connection with pre-war Germany in the thirties which I subsequently made a documentary about.

My sister Jane Gogan had done the EAVE producers training programme and was working with me as executive producer on The Bargain Shop. She suggested to me to try ZDF/ARTE in Mainz. I was at a film festival in Hamburg with my short Stephen and on the back of that went to Mainz  to meet someone about The Bargain Shop. I had phoned ahead but when I got there she said she couldn’t see me. I explained I had travelled all this way and was there anyone else I could talk to. She went off to get someone while I anxiously paced the corridors.  Eventually I met Claudia Tronnier who later became commissioning editor for the film. Later my first feature The Last Bus Home was commissioned by public television W.D.R and my film Mapmaker by Z.D.F/ARTE.

You wrote The Bargain Shop before Stephen. What was it about?

I suppose it was a film with a lot to say for itself. It had a more conventional narrative than Stephen.  If you think of where we are now in terms of the economy it was a kind of allegory for the busted economy and the corrupt Ireland I saw in the late Eighties and early Nineties. What it had to say for itself was very enduring. In many ways, aesthetically it was a backwards step but in terms of taking on the bigger story form it was a forward step. It lacked some of the lightness of touch that Stephen had, perhaps because the script was an earlier work. Corruption was very difficult to talk about in Ireland at that time. Certainly in a journalistic sense criticism was heavily put down. The film was a way of talking about corruption, saying in fiction what a lot of people saw to be true. It was also a chance to work with a feature-like plot and narrative albeit in a one hour format. It meant I wasn’t going straight from short film to feature length. The Bargain Shop and Stephen were complementary works and led to my first feature The Last Bus Home.

So Stephen was a good calling card for you?

Yeah. A lot of people were fond of that film. It was ambitious at the time. Filmmaking was at its infancy and a lot of films weren’t being made. I had a lot of very good encouragement, Tiernan McBride andPat Murphy who were active in Filmbase. It was part of the spirit of Filmbase. They had a good connection with the next generation of filmmakers. It’s so important to have a sense of mentorship.

Where did you get  the idea for your first feature The Last Bus Home which you wrote and directed in 1997?

For myself and producer Paul Donovan It was very much our era in music. We both could identify with punk music.  The Punk (and subsequent New Wave) era was seminal even though it ended with the collapse of the Irish economy in early 1980s. It was like a small revolution that failed.

I wanted to tell that story as by the mid-nineties we were coming out of that period of stagnation.  In the early nineties there were two kinds of revisionism, the national question and we were a deeply conservative country that was becoming liberal. This was being achieved by the liberal agenda that Mary Robinson’s election represented.  That was partly true, but I felt it was a struggle that was going on before that.  There were various highs and troughs in that battle and one of the critical eras were the late seventies. It was happening in subcultures, but subcultures are very important for the revitalisation of a society.

The film was about a microcosm of that subculture and how these kinds of moments of extreme intense experience even though they fail, have reverberations through a society and have future meaning. The coda of the film takes place ten years later in the early nineties with the decriminalisation of homosexuality.   I was trying to connect what happened in the nineties with what happened in the late seventies.

Most filmmakers in Ireland would see Dublin or the larger cities like Cork or Galway as the best locations to further their career. Yet you moved to Leitrim in a gamble that seems to have paid off. Were you worried about your career when you moved?

I never really thought of myself as having a career. I know some people looked at me and said, “Uh, he’s on a career path” (laughs) I had made three urban films and I needed to revise what I had to say. I had lived in Dublin fifteen years and things were changing. By the late nineties the arts was becoming more corporate and the city was losing some of the village atmosphere I had enjoyed. So I decided to up sticks and move. I had this project Mapmaker and felt if I moved to a rural area essentially where the film was being made it would improve. It was either move abroad or further into Ireland away from boom time values that were becoming prevalent then.  It was just time for me to move on. I haven’t looked back and it’s been a really good period.

It was in the light of that move that I surrendered my role in Bandit Films Ltd which paved the way for Michael Garland to join the company and for the renaming of the company I had set up with Paul Donovan to Grand Pictures.

What was the first screenplay you ever read?

It was by American filmmaker John Sayles. The screenplay was called Matewan.

What filmmakers do you admire?

I’m really taken with Sayles work and am very influenced by his work. I’m a big fan of Pedro Armodovar.  Also Ken Loach and Irish filmmaker Joe Comerford.

What’s your favourite role, writer or director?

I would say director. I have benefited greatly from co-writing collaborations. I’ve worked with Joe O Byrne a lot. If I had been more career-minded I would have done more directing. Having taken this path of writer/director though it’s meant I got to do the films I wanted to make.

(Black Ice)

So is it fair to say when you started out you weren’t thinking of becoming a filmmaker for the rest of your life?

That’s true, I’ve always seen it as part of a mix of things, I’ve been involved with journalism, politics, even stood for election a few times with no success. At the moment I’m involved with the fracking issue in the North West. My involvement in the fracking issue arose out of my interest in film. A film called Gaslands had been made in the States. I took it on the road with the mobile cinema I’ve been involved with. It was a good way of raising the debate.

You’re very active in the film community. You created the Adaptation Film Festival in Dromahair, Co. Leitrim in 2005. Where did you get this idea from and what did you hope to achieve?

I was  involved in the hand over of the mobile cinema from Leitrim County Council to independent stewardship and was looking for new ways to use the cinema. I had attended workshops with screenwriter and educator Stephen Cleary. I learned on that course that fifty to seventy percent of screenworks were adaptations. I thought about the strong literary tradition in Ireland. We looked at writers whose work had been adapted already in Ireland. We decided on John McGahern as our first subject.

Working with the Irish Film Archive we found eight films, two of which had not been seen since first broadcast in the early eighties. We were acknowledging the contributions these writers had made to television drama and cinema.

Significantly John Mc Gahern died the year after, so it was good to have done his work. We also archived all the films.  I’m no longer involved and the festival has branched out into international writers which is exciting, so I think it is a festival that has legs.

It must have been beneficial to the wider community. Has it grown in success?

Yeah, Cinema North West has grown into an organisation that is an exhibiter of good quality films and they provide training, including in screenwriting for the north west and the wider community nationally. It provides a strong focus for the film community. We’re geographically dispersed so it’s great to have ways of crossing paths and the mobile cinema provides that.

You recently stepped down as chair of Cinema North West, how and when was this project started?

It started as Leitrim Mobile Cinema in 2001. I joined the board in 2004. We rebranded it as CinemaNorth West in 2007. I had left the board but when the financial crisis hit Leitrim and Sligo County Council wanted to pull out. I came back in to work with the Board again to establish an independent company. It worked out, we traded out of the red for a while then the International Funds for Ireland came in which allowed us to hire a full time director Colin McKeown. We’re on a pretty sound footing now, so it was a good time to leave. I have a three year rule with organisations that I tend to stick to. Things should be moving after three years. For the organisation you don’t want the it becoming too associated with one individual. It frees you up to go on and do other things and it’s healthy for the organisation too. That’s the position I am taking with my current role on the Film Board too.

You were appointed in 2009 by Minister for Arts to the board of the Irish Film Board. As the only member outside Dublin, does living and working in a rural setting have any advantages such as highlighting the needs of the film community in the North West?

The board already has a regional dimension to it with an office in Galway. I suppose people’s understanding of regional policy is largely about companies coming in from Dublin and shooting films in rural areas. I would make the analogy with regional theatre: in the early eighties we understood regional theatre to be companies such as the Gate and the Abbey touring Ireland with their shows.

In the mid to late eighties a whole range of regional theatre companies started up all over Ireland, Red Kettle, Blue Raincoat, Field Day, Druid etc. These are strong examples now of regional theatre companies who have had a big impact not just nationally but internationally. My argument is we can develop film and digital media in the regions in the same way given the technological changes taking place. The prevailing model for film we’re working off is still the 20th century model. We still have to find a model for the 21st century. Regional development is a key part in developing  film and digital media in the next ten years. Regional Policy is part of what I do on the Film Board but there’s more to it than that. Apart from my involvement in the Irish Film Board, I have tried to be active in the region and develop the sector.

You are a member of Studio North West, a forum for filmmakers and practitioners based in the North West. You have recently launched Studio North West T.V channel. What’s your involvement in this?

Early in 2011 I commissioned a feasibility study into the film sector in the North West. I also looked at how we might benefit from incoming productions. When the study was completed by Oonagh Monahan I circulated it to as many people as I could who I knew were active in the region. Cinema North West called a meeting in February 2011 and the Forum has been meeting regularly since then. There was debate about how to proceed; some people felt it was too soon to cluster. I accepted that but had to follow my own instincts.

I pushed along with the idea of clustering and along with Patrick O’Rourke of Sleeping Warrior Productions set up Studio North West T.V. which is an online channel. It’s an outlet for the work already produced here most of which has not been previously broadcast. It’s also a way of generating new work. My hope is Studio North West T.V can assist in increasing the output of the sector in the region. It’s also about building people’s confidence.

It’s a great incentive for filmmakers and writers in the area. They’ll now have an outlet for their work.

Exactly it’s a way for them to say “O.k. we can develop a short drama or a short documentary series for the web”. I think it’s a great opportunity and though developed through my own company it’s not about having control. I hope people can see they have their independence while getting their work out there.


Can you tell us a bit about your documentary “Homeland” shown on T.G.4?

The film is about emigrants and immigrants in Leitrim. It’s a small place and the people have an amazing openness about them. I believe it’s because they feel the benefits of people moving in boosting the population. Also, a lot of Leitrim people lived abroad from necessity and experienced a wider world.  It’s an openness you don’t find in the richer counties and its one of the reasons I like living here. Homeland is about a mixture of people who lived abroad and how that experience formed their lives when they returned; it is also about people who weren’t born here like myself but decided to make it their home.

Your latest film Black Ice is due for release in early 2013 and was filmed in Leitrim and Sligo and co-written with Brian Leyden. What inspired you to make this film?

I’m fascinated with cars and the way people can get into a car and cut themselves off from the rest of the world.  There’s a phenomenon in rural areas of young men in particular jumping into cars and losing the plot. This is really strong in border counties because the border roads are like No Man’s Land in terms of the law. It makes them a choice location for this wild driving.

I approached Brian Leyden with an outline for the story. He was writing a book about suicidal behaviour in young men. He had a good insight into what’s going on behind boy racing. We worked really well together. I’ve been lucky in collaboration. It’s a very layered story with layered meanings.

So with Black Ice you proved your point, you can make films in the North West?

Yeah, I think so, though it was challenging but we hope to do it again. I can say to myself now I’m not waiting another ten years to make a feature. We’ve found a model that works and I hope to do another one that way in the next two to three years.  We had a great cast and the film has a youthful energy about it. Killian Scott from Love/Hate, new comers Jane McGrath and Dermot Murphy. We also had a fine cast of the older generation if you like, such as Donal Kelly, writer Michael Harding, Deirdre O‘Meara, Marian Quinn and Conor McDermottroe.

It was great to work with Peter Martin the young camera man who shot my short film Astray and who, among others of the crew, I met through the Studio North West Forum. I really wanted to work with that crew again. Nicky Gogan and Trevor Curran from Still Films in Dublin came in to provide logistical support to the production. Nicky was also very engaged with the development of the script.

What’s your next project?

Getting Studio North West tv on a sounder footing. I’m also looking at the short film Astray and thinking of adapting it into a longer work. Based on a Seamus Heaney text, it’s a story definitely worthy of a longer film.

Well Johnny you certainly packed a lot into the last twenty five years. What advice have you got for filmmakers and writers trying to break into the business?

I think collaboration is very important, as it’s a collaborative medium. It’s great to get good mentorship as well. I know I benefited from more experienced people who were  generous enough to share their experience. Filmbase provided that kind of nurturing environment. I’m hopeful Studio North West can do the same.  You need to be open, prepared to have a go, follow your instincts and don’t be too defensive when your ideas are challenged. Because I hadn’t gone to film college I was very aware of people around me who had gone and what they might think of me and what I was doing, but you know it’s not like that. So as I said be open and give it a go.

Rose Byrne

Johnny Gogan’s short film Astray broadcasts in RTE Shortscreen’s Autumn/Winter season.


Celebrating 25 years of Film Ireland magazine, Exhibition Piece 2 – Issue 1 of Filmbase news May/June 1987


Exhibition Piece 2 –  Issue 1 of Filmbase news May/June 1987.

Johnny Gogan was the first editor of Filmbase news, he went on to edit the first 17 issues from May 1987 to June 1990.

Johnny founded Bandit Films and is currently on post production on the feature Black Ice.  He is also a current board member of the Irish Film Board.

Click here for 150DPI  res of outside cover of issue 1 of Filmbase News.



Click here for 150DPI  res of inside text of issue 1 of Filmbase News


Film In The North West Information Session Tuesday June 26th The Model, Sligo

The Film In The North West information session (programme below) next Tuesday June 26th will be of interest to practitioners based in the region as well as representatives of development agencies with a current or future role in nurturing the regional film and digital media sector.
The Irish Film Board/An Bord Scannan na hEireann, the State Agency for the development and promotion of film, will be represented by Film Commissioner Naoise Barry. Chair for the day is Colin McKeown, Programme Director, Cinema North West.

The event will include the launch of the Studio North West tv channel, home to over 100 films and features produced in the region by members of the Studio North West Forum.

The Studio North West Forum’s 50-member base meets on a monthly basis and is drawn from Leitrim, Sligo, North Roscommon and South Donegal. Studio North West tv operates from Cinema North West offices in Dromahair, Co. Leitrim

Tuesday, June 26 The Model, Sligo

2.00pm Convene, Atrium, The Model.

2.15pm Introduction to the Studio North West Forum of practitioners – Colin McKeown (Cinema North West)

2.30pm Regional Collaboration in Action. The creation of Studio North channel

Johnny Gogan (Bandit Films), Patrick O’Rourke (Sleeping Warrior Productions),

Sile Garret Haran (Marketing Sligo Forum), Rhona McGrath (Sligo Arts Office),

3.00pm The Future of Film Training in the North West: Colin McKeown (Cinema North West/Crossing Borders),

Ruth Earley (Action Film School), Mike Guckian (Sligo Film Academy), Tom Weir (Janey Pictures, IT Sligo)

3.30pm Attracting Inward Production, Maximizing Regional Benefit Naoise Barry (Irish Film Board)

(With contributions from County Film Commissions and Studio North West Forum)

3.50pm Talent Voucher Scheme: Presentation from Aoife Flynn and Mary McAuliffe (Creative State North West)

4.00pm Coffee Break

4.30pm Screening of Astray (16mins) – A Public Art Commission for Sligo,

Introduced by Mary McDonagh (Public Art Commissioner, Sligo)

Finish time 5.00pm Car-parking available at The Model via Connaughton Rd. Pedestrian access also via The Mall

For further Information contact Chloe at Studio North 071-9134658