(Aneurin Barnard in Citadel)
With Ciarán Foy’s Citadel gaining rave reviews stateside after its premiere at the SXSW festival, we revisit our ‘Best of Both Worlds’ article from Film Ireland 136 Spring 2011.
Luke McManus talks to some Irish directors who are forging ahead with Irish-Scottish co-productions.
Two countries divided by a narrow stretch of water that share a Celtic heritage, a love of strong whiskey and an embattled native tongue called Gaelic – if Ireland and Scotland are not quite sibling nations, they surely must be close cousins.
The combination of geographical proximity and cultural synergy, as well as a lively historical spider’s web of migration, plantation, exile and return means that there is a natural affinity between the nations. It’s a relationship that has rich potential for creative expression, and there appears to be a growing trend for producers and creative talent from both countries to band together.
There have been four feature co-productions between Scotland and Ireland in the past four years, including feature debuts from Ciarán Foy and Colm McCarthy.
Outcast is an outstanding urban horror starring James Nesbitt (Bloody Sunday) and Kate Dickie (Red Road) and was directed by Hiberno-Scottish filmmaker Colm McCarthy. The film was a co-production between John McDonnell and Brendan McCarthy of Dublin’s Fantastic Films and Eddie Dick (True North) of Makar Productions in Edinburgh.
Director Colm McCarthy embodies the intertwining dna of the two countries. ‘I’m a Scottish-Irish coproduction myself, as is my brother who wrote Outcast with me. My dad is from Cork, my mum is from Edinburgh. I was born in Scotland, spent five years of my childhood there, and most of my adult life in Dublin.’
Producer Brendan McCarthy instantly fell for Colm’s richly detailed vision. ‘I loved it. We started to see how we could pull it together. I’d met Eddie Dick through David Collins [managing director of Samson Films] and we got on well so I sent him the script. I thought he might not like it, but he actually loved it so we started to work together on it.’
Shooting in Edinburgh had always been a key aspect of director Colm McCarthy’s vision for Outcast. ‘I always wanted to shoot in Scotland, in a particular location in Edinburgh, where I lived as a teenager.’ The production then moved to Studio Solas, the former Roger Corman facility in Connemara.
Ciarán Foy’s Citadel is a feature that is now in editing after a shoot split between Dublin and Glasgow. Developed by Katie Holly at Blinder Films, the production was shared with Glasgow’s Sigma Films, who have produced some of the best Scottish films of recent years (Red Road, Hallam Foe)
The young Dublindirector has been working on the project since the completion of his award-winning short film The Faeries of Blackheath Woods.
Citadel is about a chronic agoraphobic trapped in the council estate from hell. The decision to shoot in Scotland was not necessarily derived from the script. Foy took a look at his native city before opting to head across the water. ‘We considered shooting in Dublin and in Glasgow. In the end, Glasgow had the necessary tower blocks for the script and it was also going to be cheaper to shoot there.’
Of course, support from public bodies is an important factor in the financing of independent features. In the case of Outcast, Scottish Screen didn’t come on board immediately and were keen on further rewrites to the script before they would commit. In the end, their creative input proved very useful to the production.
Producer Brendan McCarthy joined the chorus of praise for the Scottish equivalent of the Film Board and also noted the strong contribution from the Irish Film Board. ‘Alan Maher was brilliant to work with as well, he got it instinctively and he had confidence in Colm and the team around him.’
‘There has to be a rapport between the producers, an understanding about the creative journey to be undertaken as well as a responsibility to deliver on budget,’ says Emma Scott of the Irish Film Board. While she admits that co-production brings its own challenges, ‘the advantages of co-producing generally far outweigh the downsides.’
Citadel’s producer, Katie Holly (Sensation) also felt that the cross-channel collaboration was essential to the viability of Citadel.
‘It is an ambitious project and couldn’t have been financed out of what we could raise in Ireland alone. Sigma Films were a natural fit as production partners: they’ve produced many films that I have greatly admired, would be quite similar in ethos to Blinder and Ciarán Foy was already working with them on another project.’
The advantages of co-production are that every source of money is doubled up, from the funding bodies, the Irish Film Board and Creative Scotland, to the tax incentive schemes – Section 481 in Ireland and its uk equivalent.
‘Of course, the disadvantage is that you are doubling up the administration, but that’s unavoidable. You are getting significantly more money, so that’s good’.
Katie Holly’s experience on Citadel was a good one, though a few issues proved problematic, including the euro-sterling exchange rate, and the fact that the uk is not part of the Eurimages production support fund.
What advice does Brendan McCarthy have for producers who are interested in co-productions? ‘You need to find someone with a practical relationship that you can talk honestly to. You are going to have to share everything with them, you have to accept that. They won’t deliver for nothing, the deal has to be good for them too.’
This article originally appeared in Film Ireland 136 Spring 2011.