Interview: Tony Donoghue – ‘Irish Folk Furniture’



Steven Galvin catches up with director Tony Donoghue, whose short film Irish Folk Furniture is currently screening at Sundance. Irish Folk Furniture uses stop-motion animation to breathe life into the disregarded pieces of furniture that frequently lie rotting in Irish barns and sheds, showing the process of renovating them and returning them to the homes they once inhabited. The short is directed by Tony Donoghue and produced by Cathal Black under the IFB ‘Frameworks’ animated short film scheme.

This interview appears in the current Winter 2012 issue of Film Ireland magazine, which is available now.


Tony, you’ve created a beautiful film that is quite unique – can you tell us about its genesis.


Elsie Hogan owned a beautiful pub in my home village of Ballinderry, Tipperary. It had been in the family for about 150 years and it was one of those pubs where you had to walk through the family kitchen to go to the bathroom. In that kitchen was a big old painted dresser so laden with Willow pattern dishes that it always looked like it would collapse under the weight at any moment. When Elsie retired and sold the pub, she brought all the elegant Victorian furniture with her to her new house – but not the dresser.


That fine old dresser after 150 years in that one spot was relegated to the shed by the new pub owners. I was horrified so I immediately started photographing and recording the stories of the people of my parish with their traditional folk furniture.


As someone who had lived away for 20 years and had seen so little traceable furniture in either the UK or the USA I could see it was really important to try and increase the appreciation of this much undervalued cultural legacy.


Irish Folk Furniture was pitched as a Frameworks project to explore the history and integrity of Irish rural furniture. Like all documentary work the real structure came out through the process of making it. It has ended up being a propaganda type film – an absolute unapologetic celebration of the beauty, integrity and downright excellent honesty of Irish hand-made furniture.


The film looks beautiful, and there’s a particular stunning shot of a dresser and chairs in a frosted outdoor environment – can you tell us a bit about the shoot and the equipment you were using?


We are permanently surrounded by things that in themselves are interesting but sometimes those same things have to be isolated out for us to see them properly. That’s what this film has tried to do. We have tried to separate out items of old Irish folk furniture so we can have a good look at them as individual items and then again look at them in a modern domestic context.


When screening a film about inanimate objects it’s very easy to lose an audience’s attention so we did put a lot of time into compositions and lighting that an audience might find interesting. We didn’t use any artificial lighting at all just the crazy lighting that this mad climate of ours throws at us. The down side of that was that it did mean sitting around for days on end waiting for that right moment.


The film was shot on an old Nikon D70 stills camera that cost just €150 on eBay.

This camera isn’t particularly good in low light but one of the great advantages of shooting single frame is that you can choose very long exposures. A long exposure can bring in a lot of soft richness and small detail that wouldn’t be there with fast shutter speeds.


This film, like your previous short, A Film from My Parish 6 Farms, was made in a green and environmentally-friendly way – obviously this is something that is important to you.


At film school and afterwards I was horrified by the ridiculous waste I saw on film shoots and especially on TV commercials. This included everything from exotic locations to excessive lighting and equipment. I decided it was important to try and make this film with as small a carbon footprint as possible. This is the second Frameworks film we have shot in one parish. The hope here is to encourage local filmmaking about local subjects and in a way that is also feasible for a community. In this instance we used the €150 second-hand stills camera I mentioned before, a Minidisc recorder, a bicycle and a basic tripod.


David Kitt did the music – how did he get involved?


David had seen the previous film and liked it. I had heard a lot of his music and loved it. I really wanted to use David’s dreamy voice in the film, but for the film to work we ended up using an instrumental piece.


The film recently garnered the Special Mention at Galway, has screened in LA and is about to screen at Cork. And A Film from My Parish 6 Farms went down very well on the festival circuit.


VIMEO and YouTube are great and instant ways of distributing visual content. However, their success must not be allowed to take from the absolutely crucial place film festivals play in the exploration and development of film language. Just as good curation is essential to a good museum fine art show, so too is good curation at the heart of every great film festival. Festivals bring intellectual analysis to the curation and cross-referencing of film and film genres.


Were it not for experienced curators and programmers, such as Mick Hannigan and Una Feely at the Corona Cork Film Festival, Dan Brawley at Cucalorus Film Festival in North Carolina and Annegret Richter at DOK Leipzig in Germany this film and many others like it would sit at the bottom of the box indefinitely.


Can you tell us a bit about using animation as documentary?


Animation as documentary is really opening up and cross-fertilising now. The animation scene in Ireland has grown largely out of the commercial sector. This means that for most people animation is seen as either light entertainment or children’s programming. Animation is one more form of communication that can be used in any number of contexts. All documentary filmmakers know they can influence their audiences with their choice of shot, of lighting, of edit, of music. Single-frame filmmaking is just another option within that available filmic catalogue. Since 1957 the German documentary film festival DOK Leipzig has been a major venue for the exploration of documentary film language. Leipzig has for 16 of those years (since 1996) been running annually an exploration of animated documentaries called Animadoc.


You say that in the course of making the film, 16 pieces of rural furniture were restored and returned back into daily use. So the film extends beyond its telling and back into the lives of the people involved.


It was very important to me that the filmmaking process didn’t just go in and take something from the community; I wanted to be sure that it gave something back. The original film commission was for the documentation of the restoration and return of two pieces of folk furniture. Those two pieces of 19th century furniture were viewed by locals as exceptional pieces of furniture, rather than the norm, and the local people just didn’t get the message that all their old folk furniture, given a bit of love and attention, still had a potential life back in the family home. That was why we ended up restoring and returning home 16 pieces of furniture in total. I hope now the message is clear that all old Irish folk furniture is indeed restorable and loveable.


It is also very important that Irish people realise that there are very few countries left in the world where the whole 100-year history of a piece of furniture is totally interwoven with and associated with only one family. Seldom will even the finest pieces of Victorian or Georgian furniture have the family-specific history that individual pieces of Irish hand-crafted furniture have.


Hopefully the long-term legacy of the film will be that people will see it and realise that their old dresser, flour bin or settle bed is a fine thing and worth repairing.


What were the locals’ responses to being asked about their furniture?


At first people were surprised to be asked about their Irish furniture. Patrick Cahalan, the third narrator in the film, is pretty much representative of what I encountered. Patrick was a farmer and a carpenter. Yet, when I asked to see his furniture he took me through his front door, turned right and into the parlour to see his mass-produced brown English furniture. I wanted to turn left into the kitchen and talk about his hand-made red dresser, matching red bread bin, matching red table and matching red cupboard and red mug rack. He just couldn’t see how furniture so simple and functional could be held in higher esteem than Victorian furniture with ostentatious decoration.

Steven Galvin

This interview appears in the current Winter 2012 issue of Film Ireland magazine, which is available now.

Irish Folk Furniture is available to view online for the duration of the Sundance Film Festival


Sounding Off: ‘The New Wave, The Fís And The Rage’ Mark O’Connor Issue 142 Autumn 2012

‘The New Wave, The Fís And The Rage’

There is a new face in Irish cinema. The makeup is finally coming off.  The conventional and generic Irish films of the past are being replaced by what could be referred to as ‘The Irish New Wave’ or ‘Tonn Nua’. I believe that we are finally finding our voice.


The new wave has being rising for a few years now with pioneers like Ivan Kavanagh leading the way but not until recently has there been an emergence of a whole movement in Irish cinema. We have for too long focused on perfecting the script when in fact some of the finest work in this country, such as ‘Tin Can Man’ and ‘Pavee Lackeen’, came about through a uniquely personal way of working. These films show that the logic of film can work in a very different way than a rigidly plotted out story on paper.


This is not to dismiss the work of such early pioneers as Joe Comerford or Bob Quinn, or the two most respected film makers in this country, Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan who have shown how the traditional approach can lead to works of real genius.


However there is a new movement in Irish cinema emerging which has an emotional truth and it is more exciting than anything that came before. Simon Perry could be seen as the grandfather of this new wave because of the amount of kids he produced. He was the first to encourage personal film making by supporting first time writer-directors that he believed in. Now that the fruit of Perry’s tree is beginning to ripen we are seeing an emergence of a new kind of cinema, driven by what I like to refer to as ‘Fís’ (vision) men such as Brendan Muldowney, Ian Power, Ciaran Foy, Colin Downey, Lance Daly, Ken Wardrop and ‘Fís’ women like Carmel Winters and Juanita Wilson.


Unlike the ‘Auteur’ or ‘Shreiber’ theories favouring either the director or the writer as the true author of a film, the ‘Fís’ Theory holds that a true singular voice can only be attained when the director is also the writer. If the director does not write it then they must rewrite it and reinterpret it into their own vision.


Whether you loved it or hated it, it is clear that Terry McMahon’s ‘Charlie Casanova’ is an astonishingly powerful cinematic voice and yet it was rejected by the critics. It seems sadly familiar to the years leading up to the French New Wave and Alexandre Astruc’s 1948 essay ‘The birth of a new Avant Garde: La camera-Stylo’ how the critics have once again over looked ground breaking films like Charlie Casanova. Is the point of art not to disrupt familiarity? It is not a perfect film by any means but it didn’t need to be. Its very conception was avant-garde and it’s a testament to its power how it has divided audiences, receiving international festival selections and IFTA nominations on the one hand and verbal assaults and one star reviews on the other. It seems ‘Charlie’ was a tough pill to swallow for certain audiences used to sucking on Hollywood infant formula.


As a direct result of ‘Charlie’ a new form of Irish cinema has begun.


The ‘Protest Film’ genre of which ‘Charlie Casanova’ (#1) and now ‘Stalker (#2) belong to, are direct reactions to what has happened in this country. They reflect the changes in the Irish psyche and the socio-economic and moral conditions of our time. The protest film is not conceived for the market. They are emotionally reactive, born out of necessity and a political and social consciousness.


With the development of high quality formats and crowd funding opportunities now accessible to all of us the tools are finally in our hands to go out and make films like ‘Charlie’ and ‘Stalker’ without having to wait for permission. While the funding bodies have been massively supportive to many of us and will remain so in the future, I believe there is also ‘ROOM FOR THE REJECTS’, the films considered culturally shameful, the films that go to the core and do not fit in with the standard, the ‘scannáin bagairt’ that are refused a voice.


These films ‘RAGE AGAINST THE SILENCE’ by expressing the inner most feelings about the society we live in. Their stance which is outside the system enhances the pure vision which is not answerable to a committee of opinions or restricted by time and money.


There are new techniques at play in our new wave, such as how music is being used, over lapping in editing and bringing actors more into the creative process, a technique being utilized by the very positive new Actor’s Studio in ‘The Factory’. The language of cinema is evolving and audiences are now capable of cognitively solving the mysteries of crossing the ‘180° axis’ or ‘jump cutting’ which has removed all remaining limitations in film making.


This article is written with the intention of bringing recognition to the wave. We need to build our indigenous film industry by making it about ourselves instead of trying to replicate the foreign model. For this movement to reach its full potential we need to promote Irish cinema as an important part of our culture and bring this new wave more into the mindset of Irish audiences. We need better models for the distribution of Irish film and we need our television stations to show more support for the industry. We should not be looking to work within a hierarchy but in a collaborative environment.


I would like to issue a call to arms that if there are any up and coming ‘Fís’ men or women reading this then you don’t need to wait for permission anymore. As Terry McMahon believes ‘The art is in the completion, begin’. Pick up a camera, create your spiritual treasure and reveal your feelings in all their unique beauty and our new wave will turn into a cinematic revolution.



Mark O’Connor


If you would like to respond to this article or feel strongly about something and would like to kick off your own topic, please email


Out Now: Film Ireland: The Autumn Issue 2012 – Issue 142

Issue 142


In the immortal words of Kool & the Gang: ‘Celebrate good times, come on.’

In this issue we celebrate this year’s Galway Film Fleadh with a host of features celebrating the many new Irish films that are set to screen at the Fleadh. We also celebrate the fact that Film Ireland has now been in print for 25 years! Yes, it’s our birthday. And we mark the occasion in this issue with a look back over 25 years of the magazine providing some fascinating snapshots of Irish film history.  

‘So bring your good times. And your laughter too’
and enjoy another mighty issue of Film Ireland. Available now just for you…

In this issue, we feature:

Good Vibes

Paul Webster talks to directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn about recreating the ’70s Belfast punk scene in their new film, Good Vibrations.

Song for Amy

Steven Galvin catches up with director Konrad Begg as he prepares for his new film’s premiere at this year’s Fleadh.

A Dangerous Documentary

Ross Whitaker talks to Paul Duane about his latest documentary Very Extremely Dangerous.

Pilgrim Hill

Niamh Creely talks to Gerard Barrett about his debut feature, which is set in his home county, Kerry, and due to screen at this year’s Fleadh.

All The Elements

Ross Whitaker talks with Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe of Element Pictures about their current success and their plans for the future

Yes we McCann

Gemma Creagh chats with Belfast actor Martin McCann about being Bono, his buddies and his role in James Marsh’s Shadow Dancer, which closes this year’s Fleadh.


Martin Cusack reports from Ireland’s first symposium on the legendary filmmaker John Ford.

Sundance London 2012

Emmet O’Brien reports from the inaugural Sundance London Film and Music Festival.

25 Years of Film Ireland

We celebrate our birthday by taking a look over the last 25 years

Sound of Silence
Niamh Creely talks to director Pat Collins about his film, Silence, which is screening at this year’s Fleadh.

Life through a Lens

Steven Galvin talks to Ciarán Tanham, president of the Irish  Society of Cinematographers (ISC), about his recent project, A Kiss for Jed.

The Write Stuff

Claire Dix has written and directed two award-winning short films. After recently winning the Zebbie for Best Short Film Script for her short film Downpour,  Steven Galvin caught up with her to find out about her approach to writing.

Sounding Off

Mark O’Connor lays out his vision for a new cinematic movement in Ireland.


And all our Regulars, including

Up Close – with John Ford, plus Ian Palmer on ‘My Inspiration’.

Your Updates – all the latest Irish film news.

On Set – a report from the set of Black Ice.

Spotlight – on Norah McGettigan’s Sanctuary.

ReviewsCharlie Casanova, Barbaric Genius, A Kiss for Jed, John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man.

Festivasl – all the latest festival reports & previews.

ShortSpace – the latest ShortSpace short film news, plus Neil O’Driscoll on ‘How I Short’.

Filmbase News – ll the latest from Filmbase.

MEDIA Desk – news & dates to keep in your MEDIA Diary.

 Equipment – we take a look at Final Cut X.

Get into Film! – Get into Film Ireland!





Out Now: Film Ireland: The Summer Issue 2012 – Issue 141

Yes it’s raining; yes it’s freezing – but that won’t stop us celebrating the fact that this year’s Summer Issue of Film Ireland magazine is out now. As you can tell from the grooviest of covers, this issue is a scorcher. So wrap up warm, bring an umbrella and celebrate the start of an Irish summer with our latest filmtabulous issue.

In this issue:

Irish Animators for Annecy

Anna Rodgers assesses the Irish animation scene.

In the Bronx

Niall McKay meets director Macdara Vallely to talk about his new feature, Babygirl.

It’s in the Post

Paul Webster takes a look at the Irish post-production scene.

In the Limelight

Gordon Gaffney shines a light on the JDIFF Irish Talent Spotlight.

Dublin’s Fair City

Niamh Creely talks to Irish location manager Peter Conway about shooting in Dublin.

 Grand Masters

Paul Callanan at the 23rd Cork French Film Festival on guests  Pierre Étaix and Jean-Claude Carrière.

The Making of Moon

Shane Perez  reports on the fascinating Galway Film Centre masterclass on the making of Duncan Jones’ Moon.

Demanding Audiences

Niall Kitson checks out a new wave of online services that are putting pressure on distribution models

Moore Please

Film Ireland catches up with the Oscar®-nominated director of  The Secret of Kells, Tomm Moore.

Moving Pitchers

Niamh Creely sharpens her pencil for the UNTITLED Screenwriting Competition and Story Campus.


Maeve Clancy explores the world of distribution in Film Ireland’s comic page.

Sounding Off

Nadine O’Regan investigates why Stella Days upset the residents of Borrisokane.


Plus all our regulars:

Up Close – with Anjelica Huston, plus Paul Rowley on ‘My Inspiration’.

Your Updates – all the latest Irish film news.

On Set – Rory Cashin on the set of Mark O’ Connor’s latest, King of the Travellers

Spotlight – Steven Galvin takes in the sounds of the Casbah with Safinez Bousbia, director of El Gusto.

ReviewsAlbert Nobbs, The Other Side of Sleep, The Pier, Stella Days, This Must Be the Place

Festivals – all the latest festival reports & previews

ShortSpace – the latest ShortSpace short film news, plus Mark Noonan on ‘How I Short’.

Filmbase News – all the latest from Filmbase

Equipment – we get our hands on the RED Scarlet camera.

MEDIA Desk – news & dates to keep in your MEDIA Diary.











The Winter Issue of Film Ireland is Out Next Week


The Winter Issue of Film Ireland will be with Filmbase members, subscribers and on the shelves of newsagents across the country next week.

Jamie Hannigan talks to Colm Meaney about his role in Parked, Anna Rodgers catches up with legendary documentary filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams), Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan TD outlines his plans for office to Niamh CreelyRoss Whitaker chats with Asif Kapadia about the making of Senna, and we preview the 2012 DCNYF Chinese Film Festival.


With the Corona Cork Film Festival taking place in November we feature Gerard Hurley’s The Pier, Ben River’s Slow Action and Steve Sanguedolce’s Blinding.


We are delighted to announce a new regular piece from a member of the Irish Society of Cinematographers plus we have all our regular news, On Set reports, reviews, directors and writers guild pages, equipment reviews and more.


To find out which retailers stock Film Ireland click here


Out Now! Issue 138 – The Autumn Issue

Out Now! Issue 138 – The Autumn Issue


Emmet O’Brien talks to Brendan Gleeson and John Michael McDonagh about their surprising new film.

Niall McKay talks to the makers of a new documentary that follows Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová after their Oscar®win.

Ciarán Deeney shares some of the value of a masterclass with US Indie filmmakers Ted Hope and Christine Vachon.

Aoife Kelleher talks to the Oscar®-winning director James Marsh about his latest documentary feature Project Nim.

Ciara Peters talks to the new programmer of the Galway Film Fleadh, Gar O’Brien.

Jamie Hannigan talks to Alexandra McGuinness, the Irish writer/director, about her tragicomic debut feature, Lotus Eaters.

Steven Galvin soaks up the atmosphere at the recent Jim Sheridan retrospective at the IFI.

James Fair talks to Film Ireland about making films in 72 hours and the new Masters in Digital Feature Film Production he hopes to launch from Filmbase this year.

Ross Whitaker talks to Galway-based filmmaker Dieter Auner about his breathtakingly beautiful documentary Off the Beaten Track.

Steven Galvin talks to the people behind Young Irish Film Makers on its 20th birthday.

Maeve Clancy explores the role of the assistant director in Film Ireland’s comic page.

Gavin Burke bemoans our summer blockbusters’ lack of originality.

Plus all our usual Regulars


Out Now! Issue 137 – The Summer Issue

Summer’s here and the time is right for reading Film Ireland in the streets. Our cover features Gabriel Byrne, who talks to us about his role as first Cultural Ambassador for Ireland. There’s a gallic flavour to this issue as Cannes is upon us once again. We have an exclusive interview with Agnès Varda, and Rebecca Daly talks about her debut feature, The Other Side of Sleep, which is screening as part of the Directors Fortnight at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. There’s also a survival guide to Cannes for those fortunate enough to be attending. We investigate the thriving co-production industry between Ireland & France. We also focus on Ireland in two special articles – featuring some of our emerging creative talent and a selection of the wonderful locations we have to offer film. Also in this issue we remember Michael Dwyer and Peter Lennon. And as Filmbase celebrates 25 years supporting Irish film, we take a look back over its history. Plus lots, lots more…

Get into Film – Get into Film Ireland


Issue 136 – Film Ireland – The Spring Issue

Film Ireland Spring Issue 136

Get a spring in your step with the current Film Ireland Spring Issue out now. Enter the world of Hammer Horror with our exlusive interview with Aidan Gillen about his latest feature Wake Wood , the first Hammer horror film to be shot in Ireland. Say goodbye to the departing chief executive of the Irish Film Board Simon Perry in his revealing interview. Find out what our neighbours think of the Irish Film Industry. Learn what the web can do to help filmmakers. Get into the bowels of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival with this issue’s focus on Ireland’s biggest festival. This and so much more in a bulging issue of Film Ireland.


Hammer Time
Robert Simpson talks to Aidan Gillen about his latest feature Wake Wood.

Ross Whitaker talks to the departing chief executive of the Irish Film Board, Simon Perry.

What Do the Neighbours Think?
Gemma Creagh asks those in the know how Irish film is perceived abroad

What Can the Web Do for You?
Ross Whitaker on how to make the most from the web when it comes to funding your film.

Catching the Wave
David O Mahony explores the birth of the Romanian ‘New Wave’.

Sound and Vision
Felim Mac Dermott talks to director Pat Collins about his new documentary, Tim Robinson: Connemara.

Talking Documentary: Finance, Form and… the Future
Vanessa Gildea reports from the Talking Documentary seminar.

The Weather Station
Niamh Creely caught up with Johnny O’Reilly, the Irish director of the Russian thriller premiering at JDIFF .

Play As You Go
Classical pianist Elaine Brennan on the challenges of creating a film’s soundtrack whilst watching it for the first time – live, with an audience.

And The Winner Is…

Jamie Hannigan talks to Aine Moriarty, CEO and founder of the Irish Film & Television Academy.

Best of Both Worlds
Luke McManus talks to some Irish directors who are forging ahead with Irish-Scottish co-productions.

Maeve Clancy explores the problems of continuity in Film Irelands comic page.

Sounding Off
Recognition rather than reward should be the mandate of award ceremonies, according to Steven Galvin.

Plus our usual regulars

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Writers Guild
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