Interview: Ciaran Creagh, writer/director of ‘In View’

Ciaran Creagh Writer Director In View

Writer / director Ciaran Creagh talked to Film Ireland about his film In View, the story of the implosion of Ruth Donnelly, a thirty-something Garda officer, whose drunken indiscretion set off a chain of events which she never could have foretold. A couple of years have now passed and Ruth’s life is one of burdening guilt dominated by rage, alcoholism, depression and self-loathing. Ruth eventually concludes that there is only one way for her to make amends with the world.

 

The subject matter of In View is particularly challenging for a filmmaker – can you tell us how the project came about?

This was one of the challenges facing me when writing the screenplay. From the outset, this film is more than just about depression and suicide. I wanted it to touch on the larger, more universal story of human guilt, the way sometimes one can never move on with their lives and also the extreme and sometimes nonsensical measures people take to placate their guilt.

I had the central idea of the story and then came up with the characters and scenarios.  While writing the screenplay I carried out a lot of research into the area and spoke to organisations working in the sector.  They all welcomed the raising of these issues into the national debate on a topic which really needs to be talked about.  Of course, the more you get into a project the more you learn and discover. This can ultimately change the direction of the script, which of course it did.

Through this process the script went from being initially a chase movie to save Ruth to the telling of a story through the eyes of one character.  The art of writing a screenplay is very demanding but I don’t feel that any particular topic should increase that challenge unless it is so close to your heart that you, as a writer, can’t step away to be impartial.

 

From script to screen – you frame the world in a particular way in the film that informs us of the main character’s state of mind; obviously working with David Grennan as your DOP was crucial to achieve this. And then there’s getting the final project through the edit working with Tony Cranstoun. 

In every feature there are three films. The script is the first as to how the writer sees it. The second is the director of photography, with the third being the cutting room. Dave Grennan is a hugely experienced DOP who brings an awful lot to the table. What Dave did is to take what’s on the page and turn it into not just pictures but the visual experience for the audience. We worked together really well and understood each other. Trust is so important and as a writer/director you are exposing yourself on film and you need this sort of relationship with your DOP. I would give an idea of what I wanted and Dave just made it come to life. Simple as that. I think that is what you call talent!

The third part of the equation is the edit. On In View this was Tony Cranstoun. Tony has an amazing CV and the breadth of his experience really helped make this film what it is. He continually pushed me and came up with solutions when none seemed possible. The pacing of In View is pretty amazing considering that the assembly was 155 minutes and the completed film 93 minutes. I suppose the key to a good editor is to figure out what the director wants and then push it way past that point to a place where you watch the film over and over again and can’t think of any further changes. Tony got me there.

 

Can you tell us about the decision to have the main character as a garda?

When I came up with the main theme of the film I then needed to create the backstory and lead character.  I love character and especially making them in some way an anti-hero. Given the story sentimentality could have crept in very easily and there is nothing worse on screen for me than having the lead as a weak character. The police deal with and protect us from the very worst in society but this cannot but rub off. It gives this inner resilience to compartmentalise awful things they encounter and this is what the lead character in this film needed. She needed an inner strength and by making her a garda, the character could take on a persona which is both believable and real.

In View - Ruth (Caoilfhionn Dunne) listens from behind the door

Caoilfhionn Dunne as Ruth is immense in the film. What did she bring to the role as an actor.

Caoilfhionn was terrific in the role and has been praised by everybody that has seen the film and has been lauded by all of the reviewers for her stunning performance. Her character is in every scene and half of the scenes in the film have no dialogue. The actor who had to play the lead character was always going to have to be terrific to carry this film. If the audience didn’t believe her portrayal of Ruth, they wouldn’t believe the film either. I know I am biased but her performance is in my opinion unsurpassed in 2016 in Ireland.

 

You didn’t do too badly with the rest of the cast either.

How lucky were we! The cast was pretty amazing and reads like a who’s who of Irish talent. Stuart Graham, Ciaran McMenamin, Gerry McSorley, Maria McDermottroe… need I go on. So much talent and ability and all so generous and understanding of what we were trying to achieve with the film. When you work with experienced actors they will know what they must bring to the film and have a level of professionalism which gives great reassurance to any director.

The balance of the characters at script stage was a real challenge since you have to ensure that  the focus is on Ruth as this film is about her journey and how she interacts with the environment that she encounters. The spark between all the actors was instant with all having a very strong instinct for the characters and an immediate rapport with each other as actors.

 

I read that the script was originally written with a male lead in mind. Can you explain your decision to change that.

I worked on the script for about one year and one of the producers, Simon Doyle, was very involved in the process. We brought the script to a really good place and we felt that it was ready for production. Out of the blue, one evening while sitting at home, it came to me, what if the main male character and the supporting female character switched roles without changing the characteristics of their individual character.  I rewrote the script in the matter of 24 hours and knew straightaway this simple change would make this film something special – showing a female in a male dominated world.  I think women are generally a lot more complex and, as a writer, this gives you so many more places you can go when exploring a character.

 

What has been audiences’ reactions to the film?

It has been pretty amazing everywhere we have been. Whether it was the Ireland, the US, Germany, Poland or Estonia the reaction has been great from the reviewers but especially the audience.  I have had a number of audience members approach me who have been touched by depression and suicide in some way and all have been so positive about In View. When we were trying to fund the film the usual funders you would approach all said that the lead character would never hold an audience. This certainly was not my experience. She is the anti-hero and you are sucked into her world.

 

Recently there was Frank Berry’s film [I Used to Live Here] about suicide clusters and now your film, which both make an important contribution to public discourse around suicide.

In View is an original piece of filmmaking which directly relates to the on-going crisis of suicide in Ireland and in many other countries around the world. Its approach, by focusing on the character and how she develops throughout the feature, is a very distinctive voice and is challenging in how it shows an individual’s view of the world and the progression of her life to what she sees as its successful completion and atonement.

This is not a popular choice of topic for a film and I do understand that – but writers are supposed to challenge and I hope in some way that I have contributed in some meaningful way to the debate that needs to happen.  Frank’s film is great and while looking at similar themes shares something in common with In View, that is the terrific performance of the lead actor, Jordanne Jones.

I hope that the audience will find the film an accurate and true reflection of a person’s life who had found herself in a bad place through circumstances of choices made. This is not about judging the character of Ruth but is about trying to understand and have compassion for her. All that she can see is all that is now gone. How many people around the world feel this every single day?

 

 

 

Caoilfhionn Dunne, Actor, ‘In View’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview: Patrick Brendan O’Neill, director of ‘The Uncountable Laughter of The Sea’

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Patrick Brendan O’Neill took time out to answer a few questions about his film The Uncountable Laughter of The Sea. Structured as a visual hymn and meditation, The Uncountable Laughter of The Sea is a journey through the spirit of abundance in nature, filmed in County Kerry, Ireland, this journey follows in the poetic footsteps of a vision, in the light and presence of our rich cultural heritage, which is celebrated and shared with Pádraig Ó Fiannachta our guide.

 

Thanks for speaking to us Paddy, can you introduce us to your film?

The title The Uncountable Laughter of The Sea comes from a line in a play entitled Prometheus Bound written by Aeschylus ( 525-455 BCE ), where he describes the sparkling of the sun over the ocean as ‘anarithmon gelasma tas thalassa’. As with all human endeavour, we relate to life and nature via our conditioning. Almost all experience is filtered through language as a mechanism of the mind. What does this title or creative description of Aeschylus illustrate? Is it a bright rich scintillating trope? Or does it also contain darker deeper tones, to act as a check against vanity?.

We navigate through life and encounter what it is to be alive, coming to terms with all that is on offer, through social interaction with our own kind, as well as our interaction with Nature, Space and Time. The key stone philosophical question of antiquity was ‘what is the good life?’ – this is a theme for the film, as we observe the characters of the film in various settings. The splendour of the natural world. Amongst ruins from another time. Within the environs and descriptions of language, poetry and contemplative thoughts. All wound into the aesthetic that is sound and cinematography, keyed to inspire or provoke the viewer’s imagination and feeling.

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Irish Consular General to NYC Barbara Jones, Fr.Pádraig O’Fiannachta, Susan Sarandon (first screening of the film in Soho House NYC)

Can you tell us about the genesis of the project?

My freind Paris Kain and I wished to celebrate the riches of Fr. Pádraig O’Fiannachta’s way of life. He possessed a Scholastic Intellect, being a master of Greek, Latin, Welsh and Irish. He felt beauty was revelation as an article of his Faith. He lived a simple life, while tirelessly publishing and promoting the literary talents of others as well as his own.

We wanted to pay tribute to age, venerate the humility and wisdom that often times only those of such lived experience can share. So we conceived a film where he is not the central character, consciously wanting to steer away from the typical anthropocentric narrative; instead wishing to share some of the energies which support his calling, language, landscape and light, with him as a guide.

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 Patrick Brendan O’Neill and Rosario Dawson at Soho House LA screening

It’s a very meditative piece – what was the thinking behind its structure?

The film visually references classic themes that poets have visited from Ovid and Virgil to Dante. One being that of the journey into The Underworld, a quest. The cave of Plato. Perhaps when we encounter the death of a loved one, the frail foundations of who we are are moved. Then questions are asked and mediations undergone. The journey of the film has no particular destination. It is not a straight line per se, in fact it is circular in nature, as we revolve around the ‘tree of life’ and revisit time and again central questions of value and importance that the modern material world oftentimes distracts us from.

The film also takes inspiration from Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment ‘Laudato si’, our narrator is a young lady, Kelsey Lang McCarthy, whose beautiful voice softly shares The Pope’s reflections. These serve to lead us deeper into active contemplation of our essential relationships, with other’s with ourselves, and ultimately with Nature itself.

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Dominic West

You were blessed to have three-time Oscar Nominee J. Ralph on board.

Indeed. Ralph received an Oscar nomination for his song “Before My Time”, performed by Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell from Chasing Ice. For his contribution to Racing Extinction, he received his second Oscar nomination for his song “Manta Ray” co-written and performed by Anohni (F.K.A. Antony of Antony and the Johnsons). For his contribution to Jim: The James Foley Story, he received his third Oscar nomination for “The Empty Chair”, which he co-wrote with Sting, who also performs the song. In the entire history of the Academy Awards, only seven songs from documentaries have ever been nominated for Best Original Song.
I co-directed the film with a dear friend Paris Kain; he and J. Ralph are close friends for many years, I have also known J since I moved to NYC back in 2004.  We wanted to transport the viewers to another space by design…somewhat interrupt any cliched ideas with regard a soundtrack that might numb our audience via cliched stock responses, hence the design of the music was at an angle to some degree from the visuals to further enhance the modernity of the journey, or, in other words, the universal aspect of the meditation.
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Michael K.Williams

How has the film been received so far?

The film had its first screening in Soho House in NYC to a select audience; the actress Susan Sarandon was present and became a fan of the film and of Fr. Pádraig, who, at 88 years of age, had travelled to NYC to be there. It was then chosen by the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, who acknowledged it as a work of Art, screening it on December 21st 2015.

The film premiered in Ireland at The Omniplex in Tralee, where President Michael D.Higgins and the first Lady Sabina Higgins were in attendance. Over the course of the summer season there were 52 cinema screenings in Kerry, followed by 6 screenings at The Triskel Arts Centre in Cork. Aer Lingus showed the film on their inflight entertainment on Transatlantic flights from August to October and Tg4 aired the film on Christmas Eve with 68,000 people tuning in to experience it. The Irish Independent film critic Hilary Adam White gave the film four stars.

As of February 2nd the film had its worldwide release on iTunes. We also launched our website that day with a link to the iTunes page.

 

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Writer/Director Tom Ryan on ‘Twice Shy’

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Twice Shy, is a modern, coming-of-age drama that revolves around a young, unmarried couple who set off on a road trip from Ireland to London, as the result of an unplanned pregnancy. The film charts the ups and downs of their relationship by juxtaposing their dramatic journey with flashbacks to happier times in their romance. 

The film stars Shane Murray-Corcoran and Iseult Casey in the lead roles and features support from a stellar cast including Ardal O’ Hanlon (After Hours, Fr. Ted), Pat Shortt (The Guard, Garage), Mary Conroy (Ros na Run) and Paul Ronan (Love / Hate).

Film Ireland asked writer/director Tom Ryan about his second feature, which premieres at the Galway Film Fleadh

 

The idea for Twice Shy came about after I finished work on my debut feature Trampoline. Trampoline was a low-key film about trying to deal with a career that isn’t suited for you and life in a small town, I wanted to make sure that my second feature wasn’t going to repeat any of that. I also wanted it to be bigger in scope and have something more important to say. The idea of writing about a young romance that was suddenly impacted by an unplanned pregnancy really gripped me. I thought it could be engaging and complex while also having the balance of being sincere and compassionate. The trip from Ireland to London opened up the scope of the movie. We also integrate flashbacks as to how our two lead characters of Andy and Maggie met and fell in love to offer some lightness and counter balance the drama of their road trip to the UK.

I view the film as a love story first and foremost. The abortion is a means to test these two characters and see if their relationship can survive something like this. Film is a great medium to tell a story with such an important and topical issue like this. Abortion is such a divisive issue and addressing in a movie is a responsibility we didn’t take lightly. It is our aim to portray it in a sensitive, non-judgmental manner.

Shane Iseult Airpot June (1)

I was incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful cast involved in this movie. Iseult Casey and Shane Murray Corcoran (pictured above) are terrific in the lead roles of Maggie and Andy and have such great chemistry on screen. Having actors like Ardal O’ Hanlon and Pat Shortt in supporting roles was a massive boost for us. For an indie movie to have a cast like this and a soundtrack that features Gavin James (pictured below), Ash, The Corrs and Molly Sterling is incredible. Setting out to make this film, I could never have dreamed we would be as lucky as we have been in getting all of these talented people together.

Gavin James

 

Having Fionn Greger on board the project as producer was also a huge help. He has been incredibly supportive of the movie throughout its production and always had my back when the going got tough. Our entire crew went above and beyond the call of duty for this movie and I can’t thank them enough. I’m also very grateful to the Film Fleadh for premiering Twice Shy. It’s a wonderful and prestigious festival. The fact that the film was the first of this year’s programme to sell out is extremely rewarding. I’m very excited and anxious to see how people will respond.

 

 

 

Twice Shy screens at the Town Hall Theatre on Friday, 8th July at 18.30

Director Tom Ryan and cast members Shane Murray Corcoran and Iseult Casey will attend.

Take a look at our preview of all the Irish films ascreening at the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh

The 28th Galway Film Fleadh runs 5 – 10 July 2016

 

 

 

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Interview: Richard Bolger, producer of ‘Cardboard Gangsters’

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Stalker Films and Five Knight Films in association with Filmbase present Mark O’Connor’s latest feature Cardboard Gangsters. The film introduces us to a group of young men who attempt to gain control of the drug trade in Darndale, chasing the glorified lifestyle of money, power and sex.

Film Ireland caught up with producer Richard Bolger ahead of the film’s premiere at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

 

Described in the Galway Film Fleadh programme as “an intoxicating blend of high-octane violence and crime and a sobering condemnation of the circumstances that trap people in the lifestyle with no hope of escape”, Richard Bolger, the producer of Cardboard Gangsters, explains that the film is “the story of four best friends who form a gang in Darndale. They start off selling marijuana before things start to get a bit more serious and the main character Jay, who has a kid, has to get out as the situation becomes more dangerous when they start stealing heroin.”

Jay is played by John Connors, who was involved in the script with writer/director Mark O’Connor. The pair had originally worked together on Stalker and King of the Travellers. “The original idea for Cardboard Gangsters was John’s,” Richard explains. “Mark came on board and the two of them co-wrote the script. John was thinking that maybe he would do it himself and then the idea got bigger and bigger and he brought the project to Mark. Both of them have a huge love of the gangster genre. John started writing it around King of the Travellers in 2012 and we started shooting  in September 2015 for just over 3 weeks.”

The film boasts an impressive cast alongside John. Fionn Walton (What Richard Did) plays fellow gang member Dano. Irish rappers Lethal Dialect and Ryan Lincoln complete the gang. Kiersten Warren (Fishtank) is joined by Damien Dempsey and Jimmy Smallhorne who plays Derra – Jay’s nemesis. The cast also includes Stephen Clinch (Love/Hate), plus Gemma-Leah Devereux, Corey McKinley Lydia McGuinnessand Graham Earley amongst others.

“It’s a huge and talented cast, “Richard says. “The first AD, Craig Kenny, said to me that we probably had more in the movie than you’d have in a season of Game of Thrones. That’s down to the story and the different characters the guys meet along the way, be it opposite rival gangs, friends, and the like. Obviously, the guys are dealing drugs so through that there’s a lot of people that they meet for small periods in the film.”

The title of the film is a Dublin phrase for wannabe gangsters. Richard explains that the gang “are not really gangsters; they just want the lifestyle. They are not the most organised professional outfit. They are not like the Joker’s gang at the beginning of the The Dark Knight. These guys couldn’t come up with a plan like that!”

The look of the film was created with the assistance of Irish cinematographer Michael Lavelle, who Richard is quick to praise. “He’s done such amazing stuff. He worked with Terry McMahon on Patricks Day and that’s how Mark got to work with him. Terry just said you’ve got to work with this guy. The visuals were a huge concern for Mark on this project. Gangster films look a certain way. They need to look slick and we knew these characters wanted to be like them so they had to be shot and had to be framed in a certain way. Getting Michael on board was a huge step to achieve that. He knows what is going on and the dynamic of a scene and he can figure how to work it. Mark and him watched an awful lot of films together discussing things that they felt would work for this film.”

Talking about the music, Richard says, “we were blessed on this film. We have Darklands Audio. There’s a real talented guy there called Daniel Doherty who composed the original score for the film which uses a huge amount of rap music. There’s a really interesting scene in Dublin at the minute and some of these musician are in the film and they’ve been working with Mark making tracks for the film. What these guys are coming up with and with Dan producing is amazing. He’s engineering a whole feel to the film. Mark wanted the music to reflect the realism and grittiness of the film and show what life is like for these cardboard gangsters in Dublin.”

And for Richard himself working with Mark O’Connor, “I’d always admired Mark’s work and it was great to get a chance to work with him. He has a special voice and is a real talent in the industry. He makes films that nobody else does.”

 

Cardboard Gangsters screens at the Town Hall Theatre on Saturday, 9th July at 22.00.

Director Mark O’Connor and cast will attend.

Buy tickets here

Take a look at our preview of all the Irish films ascreening at the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh

The 28th Galway Film Fleadh runs 5 – 10 July 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IFI Irish Film in Focus Interview: Robert Manson, writer/director of ‘Lost in the Living’

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Robert Manson’s drama Lost in the Living screens at the IFI on Thursday, 11th February 2016. The film follows a young man, Oisín (Tadhg Murphy), who travels to Berlin with his band, buzzing with the potential of a tour and escape from his troubled family life. Oisín meets Sabine (Aylin Tezel), a pretty young Berliner, who shows him the secret places that belong to the city. The band lose patience with him and move on and he decides to stay. But this time of simple pleasures is based on illusions. Oisín’s willful escapism is thrown into a tailspin when events take a dark turn.

Robert has described the film as his ‘love letter to Berlin’, a city he has been visiting for ten years and where he now lives. “I love Berlin. It’s a huge inexpensive creative metropolis, where young and emerging artists, can find and afford space to develop their craft without too much hassle. Lost in the Living is an homage to the city of Berlin in many ways. This film is a collection of anecdotes, experiences and observations I have made in the city over the years. Some are personal ones, some are of friends and visitors, to Berlin, and some are things that I have seen and overheard. I collected all these little shards and memories and worked them into a simple script about love and loss in a foreign city.

“The film took me a little over four years to make and bring to this stage. I have been living in Berlin for nearly a year now so my perspective of the city has changed considerably over time. But it’s still interesting to see and experience things with fresh eyes. I still feel that newcomer buzz when watching the film now. I have learned a lot more about Berlin since shooting this film. Including a deeper understanding of the people, the culture and the history of the city. In some ways the success of this film has given me an opportunity to delve deeper into life in Berlin. It was originally my plan to make this film as a bookend of my experiences in the city and go somewhere else to discover another city perhaps. Berlin hasn’t let me go though. I have been immersed since then, presenting the film to new audiences in the capital city.”

It turns out that this will not be Robert’s only film set in Berlin. Robert explains that he plans to make a trilogy of films there, “representing three stages of life in the city: visiting the city; living in the city and, finally, leaving the city, after spending a long time there. I am currently developing the script for the second part of this trilogy, along with two other scripts, which are set in Ireland.”

Robert had written and directed 5 shorts before taking on his first feature and points out the particular challenges he faced working on his debut feature. “Shorts and features are two completely different animals. Everything is ten times bigger, scarier and more difficult when handling a feature. The hardest part about making a feature is knowing when you’re ready to step up and start swimming against the current. Then comes the decisions about what story or script to develop. There is also the challenge of gathering a team together to work with you.

“‘Don’t wait too long or you’ll miss your chance,’ an Irish film director once told me at the Fleadh in Galway. Convincing yourself is the first stage, then you need to try and convince everyone else around you that it is going to happen. It’s like a right of passage for a director/writer. Shorts are a great way to find your feet as a filmmaker and to develop your craft. It’s important to make as many as you can at a young age and make as many mistakes as possible during the process. I made loads of mistakes along the way to finishing Lost In The Living.

“We shot a feature film, on a minimal budget, in a foreign city, with a language and cultural barrier. My producer Lisa Roling was asked at a recent screening in Berlin, ‘how did you manage it all?’ she replied, ‘I really don’t know’. We survived this process by the skin of our teeth and with all the film Gods looking down on us and guiding us. The experience I garnered on this film, I think, will put me in good stead for many years to come. It will also help me tackle, with good temperament, the challenges of future projects. I am hungry for the next challenge now.”

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For a film like Lost in the Living to work, Robert needed particularly strong performances from its two leads, which he got in spades from Tadhg Murphy, playing Oisín, and Aylin Tezel, who plays Sabine. “After watching the short film Rhinos, I thought Aylin Tezel would be perfect for the role of Sabine in my film. I got in touch with her and visited her in the Mauerpark in Berlin. She liked the script and we became friends. There were a few bumps in the road before we actually got around to shooting the film in the summer of 2013 in Berlin. In that time, Aylin had started to become really famous in Berlin and was working on a number of high-profile films and had also secured a main role in the hit German TV show Tatort. But she kept true to the film and joined up with us to shoot in Berlin and Dublin.

“I cast Tadhg a few weeks before setting out to Berlin for the pre-production phase of the film. I met him in a cafe in Dublin just after he had finished shooting on Vikings and I was bowled over by him. He was so open and generous with me. I remember him being calm and revealing stuff to me after a matter of minute that he said he hadn’t told anyone yet. I knew he was perfect for the role.

“It’s always a worrying moment when actors meet for the first time on set. Thankfully, Tadhg and Aylin got on like a house on fire from the first moment they met. Their first scene together was when they meet for the first time. I didn’t introduce them before the scene where Tadhg looks over at Aylin in the cupboard bar scene in the film. I told him to find her amongst the crowd of extras and he did. It was perfect and is still one of my favourite moments in the film.

“We worked with a lot of non-actors and real people just off the street in Berlin during, the making of this film. Tadhg was a godsend as he relaxed people he shared screen time with and also guided some people that needed a little extra encouragement. He was like an acting coach for some people. It was amazing working with both these generous, high-profile actors, and so much fun, introducing them to the madness of Berlin.”

In the film, Oisín has left behind the sadness of his mother’s death and disappointment towards his absent father and his disaffection spills over into an overt feeling of alienation – something that his character pursues. “Berlin is like the city of lost children,” according to Robert. “Maybe an inverted Tír na nÓg. There’s a strange energy in the city. I regularly find myself just wandering around the city with no real destination or appointment to keep. It’s great. I enjoy switching my brain off, grabbing a beer from a Spati and taking the long way home or then going to a party. Also if you don’t understand the language it’s easy to filter all the conversation around you on busses or trains and find complete silence in your brain. I think Oísin’s character has been through a lot in recent years and a few events at the start of the film forces him to break away from his friends and to search for some peace within himself. He seeks distraction and silence… but finds love.”

That sense of alienation is made more palpable by the cinematography of Narayan Van Maele and Gareth Averill’s sound design to create a particular sensual environment that sets the tone of the piece. “Narayan was a lifesaver for this film. I have worked with him many times over the years on short films, in and out of college. So he know my approach as a filmmaker and knows what to expect. Sometimes it can be hard to form a relationship and dialogue with a new DOP. Especially when you’re thrown in at the deep end on set. It can take years to develop a connection and professional working relationship, sometimes.

“This was our first feature film together as DOP and director. Having solid people in all of the key Heads Of Department positions on set is so important. Also, it didn’t hurt that Narayan can speak German, being from Luxembourg. We would have been lost with Narayan, if the truth be told. I think that his European pedigree for cinematography and his rich and imaginative eye for details shows up through his shot selection and the visual style in the film.

“I have worked with Gareth on many projects over the years. We have a great working relationship. I don’t need to describe too much about what I am looking for on each project. He just gets it. I send him a cut of the film to work away on and I get some of the most amazing soundscapes and scores back that I can pick and choose from. He usually sends me samples of the directions he’s going in and I can keep up to speed with him that way. For me the sounds design is always one of the most enjoyable stages of the whole process. Sound really brings everything together.”

 

Lost In The Living screens on Thursday, 11th February 2016 at 18.30 at the IFI as part of Irish Film in Focus, a focus on new Irish film and filmmakers.

Director Robert Manson will be present for a post-screening Q&A.

Tickets are available here or from the IFI Box Office or on 01 679 3477 

 

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

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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 www.ifi.ie
 
 
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.

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Interview: Alex Fegan, director of ‘Older Than Ireland’

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Alex Fegan’s documentary Older Than Ireland tells the story of a hundred years of a life as seen through the eyes of thirty Irish centenarians. Beginning with their youth and working up to their thoughts of the afterlife, each person shares their extraordinary stories of a life that has shone for over a hundred years.

Alex explains that the idea for the film came about when he met a man who was going to a 100-year-old’s birthday party. “I just thought that was amazing. I asked him what was she like and he said she was in great form. That triggered the idea and things took off from there.”

Being born before 1916 and with the centenary coming up next year, Alex felt it would be an interesting way to get an historical perspective from the nation’s older citizens. Yet, as Alex admits, the film found its own narrative and rather than Alex looking to tell a particular story, the story began to tell itself. “That’s the great thing about documentary – you can start off in a particular direction but then you can discover a whole new thing. We realised as the journey went on that the film really isn’t about history at all or being Irish. It’s about being human. I suppose more things have happened in the last century than any other century – and while that’s in the film, it’s really irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the personal stories and these are stories of relationships. That was the big discovery. Ultimately, when you reach the pinnacle of the mountain of life you know that what matters is your spouse, your kids, your family and your friends.

“Early on we had an idea of going through the decades, so the film had various narratives, starting off with the ’10s, then the ’20s and ’30s and so on, and asked them what their thoughts were about the 1929 crash or the political situation in Ireland in the ’40s or ’50s for example. But very soon we realised they weren’t that interested in talking about such things. They just didn’t have a passion for that. What they did have a passion for was their wedding day, their first kiss, telling a story about their first pair of shoes. The stuff that probably everybody else will think about when they reach 100 – things like their school days,  first girlfriend or boyfriend, how they proposed to their wife, how their husband proposed to them, their honeymoon… these are the things that they really wanted to reflect back on. You ask what was your happiest time and that’s what they would talk about. So what we initially set out to do just didn’t transpire in the way that we thought it would. What quickly became apparent was that this was a film more about their personal journey than a sociopolitical journey.”

Ultimately, this is what makes Older Than Ireland‘ such a wonderfully warm and tender film. You never feel that the people involved are being interviewed. It’s more that they are being allowed to talk and tell their stories. “I suppose what we ultimately decided was just to hold the camera up to these people and let them do all the talking, deciding to try and stand out of things as much as conceivably possible. You’ve got to remember”, Alex continues, “these people are 100 years of age and over. They’ve got a lot more wisdom then we do – they’re really authentic and they have zero pretence whatsoever. They just say it as it is. They don’t care what I think or what anybody else thinks. They just speak their mind. So, ultimately, what we wanted to do was to capture these people who are spiritually and soulfully as authentic as you can get.”

As well as offering a rare insight into the personal lives of the individuals featured in Older Than Ireland, the film also exists as a great personal archive for the families of those involved in the film. Alex talks about how families have sent on emails saying how grateful they are. “Especially for those centenarians who have since passed. It’s such a nice thing that they have this film. As well as that, we will be providing all the footage to them – we had about two hours, at least, of an interview per person, so it’s a lovely record. Sometimes you don’t take the time to put the camera on people and just let them tell their stories. One of the reasons this film got made was because when we went to the Irish Film Board with the initial idea, which they really got behind, they said to us that no matter what happened with the film, it would exist as a great archive.”

Finally, Alex hopes that the film will encourage families to visit the cinema together. “We are trying to encourage young people to take their grandparents to the film. It could be seen as a cynical ploy to get more people into the cinema but one thing we did discover making the film was that a lot of older people find loneliness to be the biggest issue. They all want to go to the cinema. They might not want to watch The Avengers but I’m sure they would like to see this film. So we are hoping that younger people will take their grandparents or elderly neighbours to see the film.”

 

You can check olderthanireland.ie for screenings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Clare Delargy, director of ‘Mercedes Gleitze: The Spirit of a New Age’

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Clare Delargy’s documentary Mercedes Gleitze: The Spirit of a New Age, tells the extraordinary tale of British swimmer Mercedes Gleitze. In a career that spanned from 1921-1932, Mercedes became the first European female to swim the English Channel, the first swimmer to complete the Straits of Gibraltar and completed 51 endurance swims, with half of them lasting longer than 26 hours. Mercedes’ incredible journey was to make her one of the first international sporting celebrities of the modern age.

Filmmaker Clare Delargy explains her own journey into the documentary. “I first heard of Mercedes Gleitze some years ago on a visit to my husband’s family in Cushendun. My mother-in-law happened to mention her name in passing and spoke about the excitement surrounding her visit to the village when Mercedes attempted to swim from Scotland to Ireland. Her family had a real involvement in the matter because her uncle and cousin had been on the pilot boat that accompanied Mercedes on at least one of the attempted North Channel crossings. The story intrigued me and later I came across a reference to Mercedes and her English Channel success in a Sunday newspaper and then I needed to find out more.”

Mercedes’ success was built on her early dreams of becoming a professional swimmer while working as a stenographer in London. Her determined spirit is evident early on in life in her escape attempt from Germany as a 17 year old after her family’s repatriation during the First World War. Clare points out that “to leave her  home in Bavaria and make her way across Europe in chaos just as the war was ending in the hope of making it back to England was extraordinary. Furthermore, in then attempting to swim the English Channel Mercedes may have revealed the innocence of youth but her strength of character and fearlessness were truly awesome.”

This strength of character and a “will to want to succeed” was to play its part in what became known as Mercedes’ Vindication Swim. After successfully swimming the Channel on 7th October 1927, there were those who questioned the validity of her achievement. Indeed, the English Channel Swimming Association refused to recognize her record as legitimate. Mercedes refused to let the doubters negate her achievement and repeated the feat. In doing so, she garnered a new wave of admirers who were in awe of her courage and determination in the face of adversity.

The documenatry combines newsreel with a wealth of personal archive to tell the story of Mercedes’ amazing life. Clare tells how “after Mercedes died her family came across her books of cuttings and photographs in the attic. As Doloranda and Fergus, two of her children explained to me, before then they knew virtually nothing about Mercedes’s life as a young swimmer, her achievements and her celebrity. As Doloranda began to read through her mother’s records she was becoming acquainted with a young woman whom she had never known and a life filled with surprises and achievements. It was a privileged moment when I first went to meet Doloranda and see all her mother’s press cuttings and photographs. Subsequently I contacted various archive agencies worldwide to establish if any other still or moving images existed of her and the responses that came back were just amazing.”

As the title of the films attests to, Mercedes embodied the spirit of a new age. “Mercedes Gleitze was a fearless pioneer, “Clare says, “swimming many of the most challenging stretches of water in the world including the English Channel, Straits of Gibraltar, Cape Town to Robben Island, the Hellespont. And bear in mind too that she was not just the first woman but the first person in history to swim the Straits of Gibraltar. But ultimately she was a wonderful role model for a new generation of young women challenging the status quo and taking on the old order.”

Since completing the documentary Clare began to develop Mercedes’ story for cinema. With the support of Northern Ireland Screen, Delargy Productions have now produced a screenplay based around Mercedes’ Vindication Swim on the English Channel and her subsequent attempt to become the first person ever to swim from Europe to Africa which she succeeded in achieving in 1929. The first draft has been written by Daisy Waugh, granddaughter of Evelyn Waugh.

Mercedes Gleitze: The Spirit of a New Age screens on Sunday, 20th September 2015 at 13.00 at the IFI as part of its Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.

Tickets for Mercedes Gleitze: The Spirit of a New Age are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

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