Interview: Conor Barry

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The 14th edition of Producers on the Move will be held during the Cannes Film Festival ( 18-21 May). Since its launch 14 years ago, Producers on the Move has brought 270 producers together over four days during Cannes and aims to lay the foundation for future collaborations at round table meetings and co-production lunches. This year 29 producers from 29 different European countries will take part in the event. Among them is Irish producer Conor Barry.

Conor graduated from the IADT in Dun Laoghaire (the National Film School). He has worked very closely with the writer/director – Brendan Muldowney over the years, producing his IFTA award-winning feature film Savage, and eight short films including Innocence and The Ten Steps. He has also produced two IFTA-nominated documentaries In Sunshine or in Shadow and Gualainn le Gualann (w/d – Andrew Gallimore). He is currently producing the feature film Love Eternal (w/d – Brendan Muldowney) with Morgan Bushe and Macdara Kelleher in Fastnet Films and is serving as the Irish co-producer on Simon Pummell’s transmedia project Brand New-U and is now in advanced development on Muldowney’s next project Pilgrimage.

Conor co-founded SP Films, an award winning Dublin-based film production company, with Brendan Muldowney, with the aim of developing and producing feature films for an international audience.

Niamh Creely caught up with Conor just before he headed off to Cannes as this year’s Irish Producer on the Move.

 

You must be very pleased to be selected as one of the 25 Producers on the Move at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

 

Yes. Producers on the Move is obviously a great brand and it gives me a tremendous opportunity to pitch some of the projects I’m involved with and also to get to hear about the projects all those other Producers on the Move have as well.

 

I was reading what it entails and it sounds great –lots of networking and also getting a chance to meet Producers on the Move from previous years.

 

Yes, and I know for a fact that an awful lot of Producers on the Move end up working together and that is again a great opportunity to put the projects in the shop window.

 

How does the selection process work?

 

I think in each country the film board or whatever selects a particular producer, and I was lucky enough to be selected by the Irish Film Board this year.

 

I read that it has to be someone who has done some work on an international film already.

 

Love Eternal was a co-production with Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland and Japan and also we’ve just finished shooting another co-production with the UK and the Netherlands, Brand New-U, directed by Simon Pummell.

 

Love Eternal is based on a novel and directed by Brendan Muldowney – can you tell us a little about it? I see you’re working with Fastnet Films – how did that connection come about?

 

Love Eternal is a Fastnet Films project. Macdara Kelleher, the MD of Fastnet, was at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and he came across a treatment of a novel by a Japanese author Kei Ôishi called Loving The Dead. The book is quite dark but has a heart to it and he contacted both of us in relation to that. We loved the material and have been developing it since 2008.

 

I noticed that the Dutch production company Rinkel Film, who worked with Fastnet Films on The Other Side of Sleep, are involved with Love Eternal – is that how that connection came about?

 

Funnily enough the Producer on the Move in 2008 was Macdara Kelleher and Reinier Selen of Rinkel Film was the Dutch Producer on the Move in the same year  – and out of that came a project Nothing Personal, which was led by Rinkel Film, and that was the start of a relationship on several projects between Fastnet Films and Rinkel Film – Nothing Personal,  The Other Side of Sleep and Love Eternal. Coincidentally Brand New-U, which is done through SP Films – myself and Brendan’s company – our Dutch co-producer on that is Rinkel Film. So there’s connections there alright!

 

You also attended the EAVE 2010 European Producers Workshop and the ACE Producers Network as well – so you’ve been using all these opportunities that have arisen.

 

Totally. In this day and age your natural networks are probably the most important thing. You just can’t finance a film through one country or through one partner;  you need multiple partners – and EAVE 2010 and ACE and, to a certain extent hopefully Producers on the Move allow producers to be able to engage with talent in each other’s countries in a very natural manner. The whole purpose of EAVE and ACE is to get to know people over a period of time and it becomes a very natural process rather than  just showing each other projects or becoming  attached to one or just looking for advice. It gets rid of all those borders… in your headspace anyway.

 

Making it more of a human connection…

 

Yes.

 

You’ve had a long-term creative partnership with Brendan Muldowney. How did that begin?

 

We were in film school together, doing the degree in Dún Laoghaire College  IADT now. His graduate short film was called The Church of Acceptance and that was screened at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival a very prestigious festival and we just kicked on from there doing a number of short films together and moving on into features with Savage.

 

For people who want to get into film would you say your route was ‘textbook’ – going to college; making short films…

 

You know, I hate reducing it to a game but sometimes it’s like Snakes and Ladders – and I’ve definitely never taken the elevator; it’s always one step at a time. It’s what I would call a well-worn traditional path – doing a Filmbase course, or some film-related course, using that to get a portfolio together to allow you to get into film school, then making a graduate film, and then using that film to get into festivals and then kicking on in terms of various different short-film funding awards and then gradually developing into features – very much one step at a time. It’s good to know that there is some sort of a route out there – but it’s a long-term route and a lot of work.

 

So what’s the plan for Cannes?

 

I’ll be there from the 17th to the 22nd with John Keville, my producing partner at SP Films  and as usual we will be pushing the projects we have and also keeping our ears open for anyone who’s looking to speak to us about other projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Issue 136 Spring 2011 Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild: Brendan Muldowney

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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.  

Brendan Muldowney, writer and director of Savage, talks to Steven Galvin about the importance of obsessions in his writing and the ‘Eureka’ moment.

 

Writing for me happened when I was young. In English in school when I was asked to write essays I’d be writing extra long essays – ridiculous nonsense – completely ripped off from Salem’s Lot, which I’d watched the night before. That’s the start of writing as a child – you know nothing, you start copying, basically ripping off stuff. That’s something you grow out of as you get older. I suppose when I was first making film, studying film, I would have still had that mindset. The only difference is that you start to have more life-experience, your principles and morals begin to get fully formed, you make sense of political things around you – you start to make decisions about the world.

 

When I was in college at first in IADT studying film, I had a revelation one day. In first year they had these five-minute exercises and what we had to do was write a script but it had to come from that day’s newspaper. When you’re asked that question it focuses your mind, and I found myself asking at that stage: if you’re put on the spot, where do your ideas come from? You start to impose your own narratives on the world and you realise that everything you do during the day has a narrative.

 

Eureka

 

When Archimedes got into the bath and the water rose he had his ‘Eureka’ moment – he realised that was how he could measure the mass of objects. But the thing is that he didn’t just get into the bath and discover something. He was obsessive with these thoughts and I think that’s the key to where ideas come from for writers. Every writer has obsessions and interests – mine in my short films being death and religion and how people deal with existence. Every writer has these personal obsessions or themes and when you start obsessing over these things, everything you watch, everything you read filters through your obsessions. So it’s like that Archimedes thing – a bit melodramatic but that’s more or less what it is. Your obsessions can fire your brain into overdrive and then, when you least expect it, maybe daydreaming on a bus, an idea will suddenly come from your subconscious. I suppose that’s the ‘Eureka’ moment.

 

With the shorts, ideas used to come to me thick and fast. And maybe that’s something that comes with shorts – they’re simple; they’re one idea. Ideas still come to me through the same routes – whatever I’m interested in, whatever I’m obsessing over.

 

You’ll choose the subject matter that’s being filtered through your own obsessions. I’ve been working on an adaptation of a Japanese book called In Love with the Dead. The film is called Love Eternal, which is completely filtered through my obsessions – death, existence, the afterlife… So I was able to bring my own ideas to the material.

 

Then there’s rewriting. That’s what I’ve found myself doing for the last four years. It’s funny but the only time I feel enjoyment with what I’ve written is the first draft. After that it’s a struggle. It doesn’t get easier. I have learnt a lot – to take notes from people who can point out the problems but can’t help you solve them – that can be soul-destroying. I’ve found over the last few years that I go through these moments (I’m very hard on myself) where I struggle with a problem and I mightn’t write for a month yet every day you’re waking up thinking about it, you’ll try to get back to it, but you can’t. Yet you’ll still be thinking about it all day. Again it’s chasing that ‘Eureka’ moment, when something just clicks. That’s the magic you’re looking for – born out of obsession! And everything and anything can trigger that off.

www.script.ie

www.spfilms.ie

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland Spring 2011 issue 136, published 11th February 2011.

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DVD Review: Savage

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DIR/WRI: Brendan Muldowney • PRO: Conor Barry, Alan Maher • DOP: Tom Comerford, Michael O’Donovan • ED: Mairead McIvor • DES: Padraig O’Neill • CAST: Darren Healy, Nora-Jane Noone

In this impressive debut feature from filmmaker Brendan Muldowney, Darren Healy plays Paul Graynor, a nervy, loner photographer who becomes the victim of a terrible assault while walking home to his flat in central Dublin one night. From thereon in we witness a vulnerable victim transformed into a desperate man on an unfocused mission of revenge. His distorted, unbridled rage is fuelled by a mix of testosterone stimulants and an uncoiling desperation that bursts forth from the film’s guts. Michelle, played by Nora-Jane Noone, becomes Paul’s only tenuous link to the world of normality.

Savage is skilfully photographed and shot in bleeding hues of blue. The night scenes are pregnant with peril and imbue the urban landscape with a growing sense of claustrophobic foreboding that carves its way through the film and into Paul’s state of mind.

The visuals are matched throughout by a cacophonous soundscape that infects the film with a growing sense of violent anxiety. The use of threatening low tones and visceral sound-effects puncture Stephen McKeon’s music score, attacking the viewer’s senses and inflicting a palpable sense of unsettling menace that builds up to the knock-out punch of the film’s climax.

With Savage, Brendan Muldowney has fashioned a story that skilfully draws upon its obvious influences and in Healy boasts a compelling central performance of intense, swelling dislocation. Muldowney is a serious filmmaker and deserves all the plaudits Savage is bound to bring him.

Special Features include an audio commentary by director Brendan Muldowney; Q&A with Brendan Muldowney; and cast auditions.

Steven Galvin

Savage is released on DVD on 14th March 2011

  • Format: Colour, PAL
  • Region: Region 2
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 18
  • Studio: High Fliers
  • DVD Release Date: 14 Mar 2011
  • Run Time: 84 minutes

 

 

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'Savage' Available for Rental on DVD

Brendan Muldowney’s debut feature, Savage, is now available for rental on DVD in Ireland and the UK via High Fliers Films. It will also be available to purchase on DVD from 14th March.

Savage, starring Darren Healy (Eamon, Once) and Nora-Jane Noone (The Descent, The Magdalene Sisters), is an exploration of violence and masculinity – a story of obsession and revenge, as a man tries to come to terms with a brutal, random attack and its consequences.

Savage was produced by Conor Barry for SP Films and funded by the Irish Film Board.

 Visit the film’s official sites on facebook and www.savage-the-movie.com

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Galway Film Centre – The Path to Distribution Seminar

The Path to Distribution

Making a feature length film takes a long time, sometimes years. When the film is completed however, the journey is just beginning. The road to successful distribution of your film is difficult and many films don’t complete this step. A panel of industry experts will discuss film distribution in Ireland, looking at the type of work being distributed, securing distribution abroad, current trends and the importance of festivals. These are:

  • Conor Barry, Producer of Savage
  • Siobhán Farrell, Eclipse Pictures
  • Felim McDermott, Former Artistic Director, Galway Film Fleadh
  • Audrey Shiels, Element Distribution

Dates: 11am to 1pm, Thursday, 9th December 2010
Course Fee: €5. Places are limited so reservation is necessary.
Venue: The Studio, The Town Hall Theatre, Galway City
Contact: Mary at education@galwayfilmcentre.ie or phone 091-770748 for more information.

www.galwayfilmcentre.com

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SAVAGE – Special Mention at Leeds International Film Festival

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Brendan Muldowney’s debut feature ‘Savage’ picked up a Special Mention in the Méliès Competition at the recent Leeds International Film Festival, see here.

The jury commented that SAVAGE was “a brutal, powerful and brave piece of filmmaking with an impressive central performance at the heart of it”.

In December ‘Savage’ will be screening at the upcoming Capital Irish Film Festival (CIFF) in Washington DC, for more details click here.

‘Savage’, starring Darren Healy (’Eamon’, ‘Once’) and Nora-Jane Noone (’The Descent’, ‘The Magdalene Sisters’), is an exploration of violence and masculinity – a story of obsession and revenge, as a man tries to come to terms with a brutal, random attack and its consequences. It was produced by Conor Barry for SP Films and funded by the Irish Film Board.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Savage-The-Movie/339916004056

http://www.savage-the-movie.com/

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'Savage' theatrical release

Savage, the award-winning film directed by Brendan Muldowney, is currently being screened at 5 cinemas nationwide.

To check times and book tickets, visit:

Eye Galway – www.eyecinema.ie

Gate Cork – www.onlinecinematickets.com

Gaiety Arklow – www. gaietyarklow.onlinecinematickets.com

Gaiety Sligo – www.onlinecinematickets.com

Omniplex Limerick – www.omniplex.ie

Paul Graynor is an alienated press photographer who falls victim to a serious crime. Finding himself the subject, rather than the provider of an inner city tabloid story, Paul tries to come to terms with his attack. However his injuries, both psychological and physical, prove impossible to heal. Savage follows Paul’s metamorphosis, from victim to avenger in this chilling thriller.

Savage stars Darren Healy & Nora Jane Noone and was produced by Conor Barry for SP Films.

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Issue 134 – Served Cold

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As his debut feature Savage – an arresting, violent and vengeful slice of Dublin life – hits Irish cinema screens, director Brendan Muldowney revisits some of his key inspirations with Jamie Hannigan…

BRENDAN: It was 1980, so the start of these video-nasties. I don’t think The Exterminator was a video-nasty, but video-nasties were about.

JAMIE: You would have been what, nine, ten?

Uh, no… Hang on a second… Eleven, I was eleven, but by the time it got to video it was ’82. So I was twelve or thirteen. All I know is that everyone was talking about it in school… Typical kid shit, the most shocking things are what everyone’s talking about: ‘They put someone in a mincer!’ I was dying to see this thing because of this infamy. I can’t remember it exactly, but this guy’s friend is either crippled or beaten up or killed by these thugs, and if I watched it now, it would probably be cheap and shit, but my memory of it was kickass! It was Robert Ginty going around with a flamethrower, trying to find out where people are and when they don’t speak – or even when they do – they’re all trussed up on a chain, and he pushes the button and they go down into the meat mincer… And then they have the money shot of the minced meat coming out! (laughs) Anyway, as a kid, I thought this was pretty cool.

So this was your first exposure to the revenge movie?

The Exterminator was the first one I saw, so I was exposed to the lower end of these things, and, as a kid, your morals are more…

Simplistic?

Yeah, and you’re not trying to intellectualise it as much. And then Death Wish… The weird thing about Death Wish is that I saw them in the reverse order. I saw Death Wish 3 and then I saw Death Wish II and then I saw the first Death Wish! What I was thinking about the third one was, it was perfect for me when I was young, because it was a comedy, it was funny, there were old ladies getting involved, setting traps for the thugs…

Like Home Alone?

Yeah! It was an action movie and a bit of fun. I didn’t think of it further than that: Bad guys get done by normal people. That’s the key to it, it’s not the cops, it’s normal people. Then – let me see – I saw Death Wish II, which I found really disturbing, because there’s a horrible rape scene with Charles Bronson’s daughter, and to add insult to injury, she tries to escape and falls through a window and gets impaled on a fence… It’s just horrible. I think that was when I first started to question what was going on with these films. And Michael Winner is to thank for that… I felt like he was wallowing in the rape, that he was enjoying that as much as he was going to enjoy showing the revenge. It was more about spectacle and he wasn’t really getting under the skin of revenge and vigilantism and the normal, everyday person…

What was the first film you remember doing that?

Oh, Taxi Driver. But it’s not even necessarily a revenge film. A good friend of mine said to me: Travis Bickle is just this ticking bomb that’s presented to the audience with the fuse lit. There’s no sort of character arc… He was always crazy, and he just gets progressively worse until he explodes… And yet, because Robert De Niro is playing it so low-key, that stuff really had an impact for me, because it reminded me that the actor doesn’t have to be everywhere, ranting and exploding. We can tell that through the world around him, do you know what I mean? The way it focuses on small moments, the way he drops an Alka-Seltzer in a glass and it just zooms down into it and then into his eyes… What I really found impressive about Taxi Driver was the atmosphere of everything around Travis, so you could feel it being claustrophobic. And of course, in the latter half, where he starts looking in the mirror and starts tooling up with all sorts of weapons. When you imagine revenge films like Death Wish or The Exterminator, they’re very simplistic: there’s a bad guy who’s done something and they get the bad guy. In Taxi DriverEveryone’s a bad guy, so he has no focus, and yet, there’s more dread in Taxi Driver than in any of those other films.

I think I saw Taxi Driver at the perfect age to have such an impact on me. Maybe seventeen, eighteen. About ten years after it had been made. But I think it’s perfect for when you are trying to get your morals, you’re getting more complex in your thinking. It probably got me at a perfect time. Straw Dogs I would have seen next. It would have been banned for a long time, so it must have been a bootleg VHS or something… Another interesting one, because this was an ordinary man –

Much more so than Travis Bickle…

Oh yeah, this is like an intellectual… What I liked was the Dustin Hoffman character having to step up, and to become a violent man… There’s a big jump now, but the next one I do remember seeing was when I was in college, which was A Short Film About Killing. The story is as simple as a man commits a crime – the murder of the taxi driver at the start – and the state executes him. That’s it. But what Kieslowski does is that he shows both murders as being as brutal as each other. What I took from A Short Film About Killing was the fact that the murder itself – he’s strangling the guy from behind – takes so long to happen. And not only does it take so long to happen – as the guy is dying, he’s kicking out the front windscreen of the car. So it’s got these details. He made it very real. He cuts outside the car for a bit, I think. There’s another car that drives by in the distance, in a wide… I tried to get that into Savage. I wanted to have, for the fight at the end, a woman in a car, driving by, seeing a fight and just driving on. But the fight took up the whole day, so I couldn’t get it. It’s a pity. The camera was going to be inside the car, with someone listening to pop music, someone else’s life and day. Just a quick glance and seeing these guys fighting, and then… just doesn’t want to know, and drives on. But anyway, this messiness in the detail which started with Taxi Driver and I saw it again with this. I liked the morals of A Short Film About Killing. I would have been brought up on the side of The Punishment Fits The Crime, and I remember when I was in my first media course in communications, doing a documentary about Amnesty International and to suddenly think about the rights and wrongs of the death penalty. Going beyond whether innocent people can be killed, going beyond whether the punishment they’re using is inhumane, going beyond that: asking whether it hurts us as a society to kill in our name. There were complexities in everything. A Short Film About Killing perfectly followed on where I was at that stage.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 134

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