Erik Nelson, Director of ‘The Cold Blue’

The Cold Blue is a new feature-length film, digitally restored, constructed from the material of 34 reels of raw, colour, footage shot during bombing missions in Germany.

Captured by William Wyler, it was originally shot for the 1944 documentary The Memphis Belle: A story of a Flying Fortress. This extraordinary, never-before-seen colour footage puts you 30,000 feet over Nazi Germany, battling killer flak, enemy fighters, and minus 60-degree temperatures. 

Director Erik Nelson, who was in Dublin recently, talked to Paul Farren about the making of the documentary. 


How did this project come about?

It came from a long-term passion of mine for World War II history and aviation and I had a friend who worked with Paul Allen, the reclusive billionaire, who also shared a passion for World War II aviation. They gave me some money to go and look for colour footage of WWII airplanes just because it would be interesting for historical purposes. That’s when we discovered William Wyler’s outtakes – and intakes actually – from Memphis Belle and the moment I saw that collection I realised that there was a feature film in here and pretty much this whole project crystallized instantly.

It’s a very beautiful, very sombre depiction of the B-17 bomber crews coming from England to Germany at the end of the war. How would you describe it?

The film is, in essence,  a time portal that immerses you in the world of 1943 and the men who flew over Germany from England and the strategic bombing campaign.  It catapults the viewer into a B-17, 25,000 feet over Germany with flak enemy fighters in unbelievable cold and strenuous conditions.

The transformation job on the footage was astounding.  I couldn’t get over the beauty of it.

Originally I thought of this as an art film, not an historical documentary, maybe influenced by my work with Werner Herzog.  So I tried to create something that wasn’t a traditional documentary but which was much more of an immersive experience, not unlike the Peter Jackson film [They Shall Not Grow Old, 2018] or Apollo 11 [Todd Douglas, 2019].

It’s interesting seeing this kind of restoration because it does have a most unusual and emotional impact, it certainly did for me.  Some people might find it controversial in the way that it touches on certain aspects of the violence of the war and where people might see the voice it gives. But I thought it more profound than that because you did talk about the effect the war had on the citizens of Germany and the whole madness of that and so the story is there for people to go and check for themselves.

That’s it. This points you…  it opens up the door if you want to walk into it and learn more. But you can’t tell the story without discussing the people on the ground. They often get dismissed in traditional World War II documentaries. It’s very much an unflinching, cold-blooded presentation of the realities of the time and viewers can find in it what they want.

I agree. It was a story is a bunch of 20-year-old men who were put in a terrible situation and made the best of it.

Terrified 20-year-old boys really, who were following the moral dictates of the time and found themselves in this insane position, day after day, mission after mission.

You were very lucky in being able to have anyone left to be able to talk to and give you that narrative. Tell me about that process going about meeting all these 90 year old men who’d been part of that.

We cast them – we worked with someone who knew who the survivors were and we created a composite crew: one guy for each section and we drove cross-country myself and the producer got in a car and paid house calls because that’s where you’ll find them – you go to them; they don’t go to you – and we spent an hour an hour and a half with each of them across the country: 9 guys, 9 different places. I knew they had to speak to the footage. I knew what was in the footage so I focused the interviews to compliment the footage I knew I had.

It was a highly charged emotional thing for these guys to look at themselves after all these years. 

Yes. This  trauma has never left them and this film opened up that door again for them and my questions opened it up for them, so it was a kind of therapy for them in some ways.


What were the biggest challenges for you once the project really heated up and began.  Technically it must have been huge.

No, it pretty much went together very simply. There’s probably 7 active creative participants, 2 people on restoration, 1 person, David Hughes, whose previous film was Black Panther, on sound design, and Richard Thompson, who composed the extraordinary soundtrack.

It was an amazing soundtrack – very evocative and it crept up on you in terms of how it dealt with the emotional moments and how it tried not to be over-melodramatic, I suppose avoiding a propaganda-esque feel.

Exactly. It’s melancholy. That’s something about Richard’s music. He’s always had that kind of melancholy streak, very realistic, cynical streak. I’ve worked with him in the past – he scored my film Grizzly Man and a couple of other films with me. 

What was his way into it? How did you discuss it with him?

He did what he wanted. I’d given him a copy of the finished film with what I thought were the appropriate music choices and he pretty much threw out my choices and did what he wanted, which is  kind of what I was expecting him to do. And he made it far better than I could have dreamed.

Which is part of the joy of that collaborative process when you meet somebody you totally trust.

I do 

And the sound design deserves extra mention as well because that is a huge task to do justice to do something that…  not that it was a case of guessing what it was like, but more to evoke that memory. 

Well the good news is that we didn’t have to guess because  we had access to a real B-17 and state-of-the-art audio recording and we knew where the cameras were placed because we had the footage – so it was probably the opposite of guesswork; it was more duplicate, it was more put the microphone at the right angle and record it exactly how it was. We had to create the sounds of Flak. I worked with the veterans who described what Flak sounded like so we did our best to duplicate that sound.


How’s the response been so far at the screenings for the piece?

It’s been terrific. It  seems to be really striking a chord in people. With the success of the Jackson film and  Apollo 11 and now my film, there seems to be a real interest in immersive bigscreen history and for some reason people are looking to escape into “the past”.

I couldn’t get over how huge the missions were from England.

Literally thousands of planes. That will never happen again. You’ll never see 1,000 airplanes in the sky at one time ever again in human history – that was once in human history and William Wyler happened to capture those images in colour film in 1943 and the raw footage that  he captured has managed to survive for 75 years so that’s pretty extraordinary all around.

The work is phenomenal. Just to say again, I’ve never felt such an emotional touchstone to that time and place, in as much as you can have –  it’s a bit of a time machine. 

Thank you – that was the intention, to connect you to the past through the footage of men who were there.


In cinemas one night only July 4th

Dublin screening at IFI



Alan Mulligan, Writer/Director of ‘The Limit Of’

James Allen (Laurence O’Fuarain) is a successful, controlling, thirty-something banker living alone and working in Dublin city at the tail-end of the recession. When a family tragedy occurs at the hands of his employer he decides to take action which forces him to face a terrible childhood secret. Meanwhile, his mysterious co-worker Alison (IFTA-nominated Sarah Carroll) has her own agenda, which puts her on a collision course with James, triggering a dark spiral of deceit, revenge, and murder.

Gemma Creagh met up with writer/director Alan Mulligan to talk about his look at modern-day greed and desire, and society’s ever-growing need for control.

The Limit Of was released in cinemas on 5th April 2019 and is still playing in The Eye Galway and Mayo Movie World.


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Frank Shouldice, Director of ‘The Man Who Wanted To Fly’

Bobby Coote left school at 13 and spends most of his time in his back shed fixing clocks and making violins, but he has never lost sight of a lifelong dream to fly. He has cut a runway in a neighbour’s field and even built a hangar. And now he’s using his life savings to buy a plane! He gets no encouragement from his brother Ernie – another octogenarian in the Coote household, who thinks the whole thing is mad. But Bobby is determined to get airborne, even if it’s the last thing he does.

Director Frank Shouldice spoke to Film Ireland about his film, which is released in cinemas 29th March.

Dave Perry, the cinematographer, and myself have worked on a number of current affairs related programmes and we were looking for something outside of current affairs as a project of our own. Dave is very much into flying. He lives up near Bailieborough in County Cavan and was out flying one day in his paramotor. When he was flying he noticed this white dot in a couple of places underneath him. Later that same day, at home there was a ring of the doorbell. When he opened it,  there was an elderly man with a baseball cap standing there. He saw behind the man was this Suzuki IQ, a white one and he figures that’s the white dot. It turns out this man was Bobby and he said “was that you up there in the sky?” and he said yes and asked why. Bobby said “I want to do that”. That was his answer and that was the introduction to Bobby Coote.

The idea that this man in his late 70s at that point was having harbouring this ambition to do something that most people would deem was too late for him – it was something that got us thinking… could this be the story that we’re looking for. The premise was strong, the pursuit of a dream is always a romance in itself. But what really turned it for me was when I learnt that Bobby lived at home with his older brother, Ernie, and that the two were unmarried lads who lived in the same family house but had completely separate lives and separate front doors. That to me, if Ernie would come aboard and if Bobby was aboard, would open up a much richer vein that would be beyond the story of pursuing the flight, which would come off for not come off. It would open up into a lot of other more profound themes about isolation, ageing, love, family.

It was very much a generosity of spirit on their part that they were open to this and shared so much with us over such a long time. We ended up on a journey that from the first day of filming to the last day of the edit was five and a half years. It was inspiring getting to know these men now in their 80s – they have a full lived life experience. There’s a kind of wisdom and humour in the experience they’ve had of life. I think it is really key to the film that’s what’s there is real. It’s absolutely real. Some things just happened as they happened. When Bobby gets a very devastating phone call that brings home to him that his dream is finished… that literally happened as it happened. There was no rehearsal or preparation. It happened and actually it was quite difficult for myself and Dave to witness and almost not intervene – to throw an arm over shoulder and say don’t worry we’ll find a way around this or something. That was hard. We were literally watching someone’s dreams evaporating in front of their eyes. We had to remind ourselves we were there to make a film and not just simply to be friend.  

Five and a half years is a long time and before we showed the final cut to anybody, we showed it to Bobby and Ernie. We were a little bit apprehensive that they’d be comfortable in what they shared. Thankfully they were. They felt it represented them. If it hadn’t it would have been very uncomfortable for us because as true and close to the bone as it was, you’d like them to feel that that it does represent them rather than me exposing themselves emotionally in a way that they wouldn’t be happy with. It’s a credit to them for being so generous and it takes a lot of courage to open up and reveal the things that matter to them.

The film hangs on it being real, being genuine. We’ve just been in festivals so far but people are engaging with us. They feel that they get to know the brothers. From the outset, the ambition for me was that the audience would enter into their world for the next hour and a half. Let’s go into that world and stay in the world at that tempo, their tempo, their pace of life. It means slowing down, things don’t happen in a hurry. I hope that we have achieved this with the film. So far it seems to be happening. People accept the life and the community they see and they go with them and engage with it and support it. Maybe it’s an antidote to what else is on offer. This is the world we actually live in. It’s not a make-believe world. It’s out there… maybe we just didn’t notice it before.


The Man Who Wanted to Fly has a preview screening at the Odeon Cinema in Cavan Town on 26th March and opens in cinemas in Dublin, Galway, Cork and Cavan on the 29th March.


Director / Co-Writer Lee Cronin & Actor Seána Kerslake, ‘The Hole in the Ground’

One night, Sarah’s young son disappears into the woods behind their rural home. When he returns, he looks the same, but his behavior grows increasingly disturbing. Sarah begins to believe that the boy who returned may not be her son at all.

David Prendeville chats to director / co-writer Lee Cronin and actor Seána Kerslake about their horror The Hole in the Ground.


Lee, can we start with where the idea for the film came from?

Lee: It wasn’t a lightbulb moment. It was a combination of things. The first little scene of it all was a news story I read about a man sitting in his armchair in Florida. A sinkhole emerged and took him in and he died. I thought that was terrifying, to have the rug pulled in such a fantastical way. That spawned the title The Hole in the Ground which was then rolling around and around in my mind.

At the same time I was developing a story about a mother and a son and a situation of doubt between them after a trauma in their lives –  it was more a concept. The combination of these things over a number of months came together. It felt like the sinkhole that was rolling around my mind would be a great metaphor for the situation that this mother and son found themselves in. The actual development of the film was kind of a slow. Sometimes you have these lightbulb moments when an idea comes fully formed. With this one, it was more a kind of slow creep of different things coming together.


Seána, what was it that attracted you to the role?

Seana: I think the challenge of being in a horror movie but to make it feel real to me and real to the character – that challenge was attractive and one I thought that we could rise to. As well, a lot of the physical stuff was a huge draw, like having to be physically ready to go underground and do the fight scenes… They were huge pulls for me. And, of course, the story. I was always interested in that kind of concept of somebody you know not being who you think they are, or slightly off. There’s the idea there – do you ever really know people fully.


Were there other horror films you were looking at as reference points – either directorially or performance-based?

Seana: Lee had given me a list of some stuff to watch, but I did steer clear of it because there was some female performances that I knew if I watched then I’d feel maybe I’m going to take from those performances. For me, I just had to be totally emerged in this script rather than other ones.

Lee: We had our  influences and we discussed them, but we didn’t do a deep dive where we were trying to necessarily analyse other work in any way and emulate that. We were trying to be as fresh as we could be in our own way. The reason I wanted Seána in the role was because she was very different to what I had imagined this character would actually be from the get-go. I wasn’t trying to impress upon her or anybody else’s performance necessarily. It’s a case of what I saw in Seána I thought was going to challenge me and challenge the character on the page. That was the way to go about it. We just jumped in and went for it.


How did the casting of James [Quinn Markey] come about?

Lee: When I met Seána, she was the first performer that I met for the role, we just stopped the hunt right away. We sat down, had a coffee and decided it was right and offered her the role. But when you’re working with young performances you have to do a greater due diligence. You’re not just getting to know them, you’re trying to understand them a little more, meet their parents, get a sense of how this will all work. Especially you have a sudden responsibility when you’re making a horror film and you’re bringing an 8 year-old out on set to be part of that and to be an object of fear in the movie. So the process was a slower one. You have a casting agent that goes out and looks at a lot of different performers and then makes shortlists. You’ll see someone on the shortlist you’ll like and make mental notes. You might dig back into the longlist and look at someone else. You build these little groups and you’re always analysing and looking at what it is you want. What’s really interesting about James is that he’s not in any way a creepy kid at all. He has this ability to just step into different subtle places. But yeah, it was a long process. We did chemistry tests with Seána with a couple of different young actors. We definitely went through it. It’s the one decision, when you’re casting someone that young, that you can only make with so much confidence until you turnover and roll camera on the first day – despite all the rehearsals, because it’s a different environment once you’re on the set, so you are kind of slightly crossing your fingers. Thankfully it worked out great – he’s a little superstar.


Seana, the physicality of the role that you mentioned earlier, how did it compare in reality to what you imagined it to be like?

Seana: It was pretty spot on! It was tough. Brendan [Byrne – sfx coordinator] and his whole team were so amazing. It was exciting to be part of that, but tough work.

Lee: I had said to Seána in advance that it was going to be tough. We didn’t pretend that it wasn’t going to be very physically challenging – that it would be something very different for her to do. Seána had to dive in and do some pretty serious stuff. I don’t want give away any spoilers but later on in the film there are certain physical challenges that are done for real. There’s no hiding.

Seána: I think in hindsight I go “yeh, that was fine” but in the doing off it there were certain moments where I was like ‘suck it up and do it’ or else there’s moments where I’m feeling a little wary –  not so much scared – I’d never say it because I knew Lee wanted me to be scared in parts of it!

Lee: Show no weakness.

Seána: Yeh. I’m like, I’m not giving him that! So in my head, I’m thinking ‘go for it!’ But it was a lot of fun – hard work, but a lot of fun.

Lee: Good hard work.


The Hole in the Ground is in cinemas from 1st March 2019.



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Robbie Walsh, Writer/Director of ‘Eden’

Adam is a man left homeless in the wake of the Irish financial crisis. In Eden we follow him throughout one day of his life living on the streets of Dublin. We share in Adams living experiences and sometimes heartbreaking encounters with the different people from every walk of life he has while living rough.

Writer/director Robbie Walsh tells Film Ireland about his film.

“The idea of Eden was inspired in part from a very personal experience I had when I left the military – and which I won’t delve into. When I first began to put Eden together I had seen it as a short film and wrote short two people, talking-head scenes. I was originally to play the lead role of Adam but realized I couldn’t do it, along with directing and producing.

Donnacha Coffey suggested Johnny Elliott for the role, so I contacted, met him and knew he was perfect to play the part. I reached out to some of the most underused and underrated talent around to feature in smaller but very significant roles, Sarah Carroll as a former successful mum forced to “work” the streets, Chris Newman as an obnoxious posh guy, David Alexander as a heavy, Kellie Blaise and Nicci St George Smith in short but great scenes, Stuart Foran and Kevin O’Brien almost steal the film separately.

As myself, Donnacha Coffey and Francois Grey – both on camera and DOP duties – began filming around my hometown, we knew we could get more. So I began asking Johnny to improvise mundane things Adam might do to pass time as we walked between locations. To his phenomenal credit, I didn’t have to ask often as he would improvise as we moved – washing in a river on one of the coldest days of the year still gives me shivers to this day.

We filmed for 2 days and I got a call from my editor Richard Geraghty saying “we need another scene and a bit more footage and we’ll have the feature”. So I wrote what turned out to be the best scene in the film and we filmed an extra day. After a few months edit we had a stunning little film, it hit the festival circuit and was well received – honorable mention in international excellence LA Movie Awards – and was accepted to numerous international festivals over the years, but we couldn’t get any distribution.

A while passed and some re-shoots were required, which improved the film and it became better received than before. Unfortunately, and it saddens me to say, Eden has become far more relevant today and sadder still, a more common occurrence in Irish society. It is not an easy watch and shows the darkest side to homelessness but I’m very proud of the film.

Odeon Cinemas viewed it after they released Split and agreed to show Eden so we could raise money on behalf of the Dublin Simon Community. I’d hoped I was wrong about this situation when making the film in 2012.

Eden shows on Tuesday, 5th of march in Odeon Point Village at 7pm. All proceeds and donations go directly to the Dublin Simon Community

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Ross Killeen, Director of ’99 Problems’


The colourful and cartoonish ice cream vans across Ireland are synonymous with childhood delight, hot summers and their unmistakable chimes – but the person behind the cone is a character often forgotten about. 99 Problems is a short documentary which delves into the humorous, charming but often murky world of the Irish ice cream van trade. The unassuming ice-cream van business on the surface seems harmless, but has in fact quite a dark undertone, where turf wars are fierce. The self declared ‘king of the ice-cream men’, Pinky, works in the community where he lives. Competition is stiff, but he manages to make a decent living from it despite the challenges he faces. Through Pinky’s one liners, observational footage and animation, 99 Problems unearths unsung toils and troubles associated with this unconventional, yet humble profession.

Ahead of its screening at this year’s Dublin Film Festival, director Ross Killeen talked to Film Ireland about how his short film came to life.


99 Problems was something I’d had in my head for years. It all started when my wife was taking driving lessons with a guy called Ken. He was a bit of an hilarious character and turned out he was an ice cream man. So he has loads of stories about his profession and how it actually is quite violent. That there are loads of fights with other rival ice cream men. He told her how he used to be attacked and had to carry a baseball bat in the back of the van. She’d come home and tell me all these stories and we were thinking this is crazy, this would make a great little film. I don’t think people are aware that this goes on – these territorial spats between rival ice cream men. I’m a massive hip hop fan, so it was like ‘OK I’ve got the name of the film’… and then everything just kind of fell into place.

I started trying to meet as many ice-cream men as I could. It’s not something you expect to be doing –  you’re around the pub with the lads and they ask you what you’re at and I’d be saying I was out with Mr Softee or I was with Mr Jingles.

My wife’s driving instructor Ken was Mr Jingles and he introduced me to Mr Pinky (Mark Jenkinson), the subject of the film. Initially, I had this Reservoir Dogs Tarantinoesque type scenario in my head. The metaphors are all there – a man driving around getting the kids addicted to his produce; being territorial about his area and driving other dealers out of it. That was 4 years ago. After a break from production I returned and realised I needed to streamline the focus and settle on one driver and tell that story well. And after listening to Mark’s stories it was clear that the film just needed to be about him.

We focused on Mr Pinky and his route and spent some days observing him. He’s a great character and I really enjoyed hanging out with him. It also made me realise how hard drivers work and the pressure they face every day, including that of other drivers coming on their territory – there are no regulations to stop anyone from doing that. So you’re always looking over your shoulder. But they are enterprising. That appealed to me. I’ve my own company and my father was an entrepreneur before me and I’ve always admired people with a good work ethic who are out there doing their thing. That’s one of the things that drew me to Mark was how hard he worked. It struck me that being an ice cream man was just like any entrepreneur. Work hard, be tenacious and look for new opportunities. In spite of all the challenges Mark’s work ethic was always strong. As he says himself, “I could give you a list of things you’ve to put up with in the ice cream business but I go by what my ma’s philosophy was and my da’s philosophy was…. everybody has a right to make a living.”

We finally shot the film last summer. Did a few interviews with Mark. Got a really talented animator, Jonathan Irwinto bring Mark’s back-stories to life, which really works well. The whole idea was to keep the visuals quite colourful and although there’s some serious stuff there I think the film overall is quite fun.



99 Problems screens on Monday, 25th February at at the Light House as part of the DIFF Shorts 3 programme at the Dublin International Film Festival 2019 (20 February – 3 March 2019).

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Preview of Irish Films @ Dublin International Film Festival 2019


Shane J. Collins, Writer/Director of ‘Dub Daze’

Dub Daze is a comedy/drama set in the north, south, and centre of Dublin city. Get to know Dan and Baz, two friends looking for kicks on their last day of school; Cork medical students Jack and Seán who arrive in the capital to find their way amongst Ireland’s affluent youth; and songwriter Fi who struggles to break through on the cut-throat Dublin music scene.

Shane J. Collins talks to Film Ireland about his comedy-drama feature, “a passion project for all involved, a celebration of our love for Dublin City. I wanted to make a film that explores the different perspectives of Irish youth living in Ireland with classic themes of music, friendship and love re-examined to reflect an updated perspective of modern Dublin.

The film came about from my time in IADT. I had previously written a Northside Story. I met Leah Moore and wrote a Central story based on her. Mark O’Connor, one of my screenwriting tutors, gave me some advice that triple narratives usually work well so I thought I should really try write a Southside story and put them all together. Writing the story, I found passion and inspiration from some of Dublin’s best films, including Adam & Paul, Intermission, Kisses, The Commitments, and The Last Of The High Kings.”

Designed by street artists “Subset”

Self-financed on a shoestring budget, Shane is no stranger to taking on the various departments involved in making a film, “I had a good few jobs. I honestly think a massive challenge was doing the art department myself – that was a nightmare at times. But he insists that is not important “because when the film plays on the screen nobody cares who did all the jobs. They just care does this story work, is the acting good, am I engaged in this film – that’s the bottom line.”

The film’s soundtrack features a wealth of Irish musicians and it was important for Shane to get it right as “music plays a central role with a coming-of-age story, like Dazed & Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, American Graffiti.” Musicians include Brame & Hamo, Bantum, Laurie Shaw, Majestic Bears, Makings, Noel O’Brien, Indian, Rhob Cunningham, Sammy Dozens and This Side Up, “who all gave their music so generously.”

The film features a cast of 44 new acting talent and Shane describes it as a showcase for new and upcoming Irish actors. “I was really lucky, I tapped into the acting community in Ireland and they really knocked it out of the park. We all banded together knowing what this film could potentially be for everyone.”

Talking about the film’s upcoming screening, Shane takes a deep breath. “It’s nearly 20 months since I started this. It’s taken a lot out of me physically and mentally. I think I’ve aged 10 years! But to find out that this film was getting to play is an amazing opportunity. Grainne Humphreys [Dublin International Film Festival Director] has been so kind to give us a great spot on Saturday to screen the film. It really means a lot going forward as I’m very passionate about the future of Irish film and I really want to be able to showcase so much new talent.”


Dub Daze screens on Saturday, 23rd February at 2pm at Cineworld as part of the Dublin International Film Festival 2019 (20 February – 3 March 2019).

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Preview of Irish Films @ Dublin International Film Festival 2019


Richard Waters, Director of ‘In A Stranger’s House’

Richard Waters explains his journey to making the found-footage horror In A Stranger’s House.

The dreaded sophomore effort. Uff… No matter how well prepared you are, you just can’t ever really be ready.

My journey started off strong in 2010, with the feature film I co-produced with Alison Scarff for director Michael McCudden, called Sodium Party. Just two years later, Alison and I were making the romcom The O’Briens with Sodium star Slaine Kelly, which was my debut as a feature film director (unless you count the terrible feature I made as a teenager). Released in 2013, that little film achieved far beyond its station.

Sodium Party

Those first two features were ultra low-budget, and absolute challenges to make, but our entire team had the passion to make them, and nothing could stop that desire. When we were making Sodium Party, I thought ‘that’s it. After this, we won’t have to struggle to make our next feature’. Then on a very slightly higher budgeted The O’Briens, I thought ‘that’s it. This shows we aren’t a one-hit wonder. People will definitely help us make our next feature’.

Oh boy, was I wrong…

The following years were like a record stuck in a groove. We never had a look in with funding bodies. We found ourselves meeting with more and more people who swore up and down that they could definitely get this or that film made, only to go silent after months or years of time wasted working with them. I made a huge mistake of signing on to a ‘big budget’ crime feature that was ‘funded and ready to shoot in six months’, but of course had no money and no chance of shooting. Ever. But by the point I realised this was dead on arrival, the momentum from The O’Briens had slowed, and I was back in the cycle of trying to get scripts through application phases and meeting people who could “definitely” make the film happen. I never stopped chasing making my next feature, but the excitement of filmmaking became the drudgery of trying to be a salesman of my own ideas and failing miserably. I wouldn’t say I ever lost my passion, but my energy became redirected into my work as an editor for TV and trying to make a living, only peppering my cinematic passions with short films, music videos, the odd skit, and lots of writing that we could never get off the ground.

The O’Briens

My lowest point though, was last year, in 2017, when Alison and I helped make a teaser episode of a TV show we were pitching with some friends, and I clashed quite dramatically – for me, at least – with one of the heads of departments. Feeling compromised beyond reason, the project ended up being disappointing for me, and the experience was a sour one that knocked my usually unwavering resolve and confidence. So I locked myself away from the film world to lick my wounds.

Or at least I tried to. With about a week’s notice, Alison and I were surprised with an invite to attend the inaugural New Blood pitch/workshop at the massively popular Frightfest in London – one of my all-time favourite festivals. The refreshingly candid conversations with passionate filmmakers spurred Alison and myself on to one of our most creative periods, in which we are still in to this day. We continued our conversations and pitches, all the while making secret plans of how to turn a budgetarily realistic idea into a film off our own backs. We could and would figure this out.

Not a month later, I found myself house-sitting in the family home. With the creative spark sizzling, I decided to try something… different. With Alison’s Canon 7D and a creepy porcelain doll I still have no clue why we have in the house, I filmed myself in a found footage-style sequence that involved some camera and editing trickery to bring the supernaturally-tinged scene to life. And it worked.

Definitely not spooky

Bolstered by this, I figured out an entire narrative and began doing research to help fill in the holes needed to make the story fulfilling for a viewer. Drawing inspiration from some of my favourite found footage films and a fascination with creepy internet videos, I went for a raw shooting style to try emulate that feeling of watching something real. The influences of the likes of the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Creep are pretty clear, but it’s Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek and the 1963 version of The Haunting that I drew on most, to drive home the realism and bring a more palpable terror than just jump scares.

Surprisingly, shooting the film by myself with zero budget wasn’t all that cumbersome. Beyond some logistical planning for the more ghostly sequences, and editing as I went along to make sure the pace and story were on track, the biggest challenges were losing my camera knowledge to make the footage more amateur, and delivering lines in a less coherent yet more realistic way. Basically the antithesis of a typical film. Not one to usually consider myself an actor, my choice to step in front of – or primarily behind, I suppose – the camera became part of the thrill of the challenge for me.

I had to deliver as realistic a film by myself, starring myself, using techniques I had to pull off alone. And bar the involvement of a few actors for a few seconds of screen time, everything to do with In A Stranger’s House is me. I don’t say that to be boastful. I’d much prefer to be back in my team with Alison, Michael and Slaine, but after the disheartening experience the previous year, and before that, a long stretch of rejection, being able to get back on the horse, on my own terms, was empowering. The stakes felt low, and the rewards high. If I couldn’t pull it off, who else would really know? At the very least, I could look and tell myself I made something without compromise.

Beyond the production, I cut the film, made the music, did the sound design – I could write a whole essay on that nightmare – created the poster, transcribed and timed the subtitles, QCed the film, and I am reaching out to any and everyone I can to share what has proven to be a much bigger endeavour than I expected 14 months ago when I decided to try a little experiment.

I made a genuine passion film using all the skills I could, to try captivate and terrify the audience, and most importantly, not to bore them. The reactions so far have been so much more positive than I expected, with people connecting to the story and being able to tell that this film isn’t something that was rushed together in a weekend but born out of a genuine love for horror and creepy stories.

My ultimate lesson from this whole experience has to be that having money makes filmmaking easier, but in lieu of that, passion and a stubbornness not to quit definitely make up a lot of ground.


In A Stranger’s House is available via VOD to buy/rent from Amazon and worldwide now.




Interview with Miwako van Weyenberg

Gabrielle Ulubay introduces Belgium filmmaker Miwako van Weyenberg and talks to her about her film Summer Rain, which screened at the 2018 Cork Film Festival.

Miwako van Weyenberg is a filmmaker from Belgium who has so far produced three masterful shorts: Hitorikko (2014), Il Faisait Noir (2015), and Zomerregen (2017). Her protagonists find themselves in emotionally challenging situations which often lead to personal growth, greater emotional intelligence, or an altered sense of identity. Having grown up at the crux of multiple cultures, van Weyenberg has a particularly astute sensitivity to these issues and to the minute details of life that often change our relationships, our outlooks, and even the way we see ourselves. Hitorikko (or Only Child) , for instance, gives audiences insight into the psyche of a young boy who discovers that his divorced father has since taken up a new girlfriend, re-situating the boy as an older brother rather than the only child he has always been. Il Faisait Noir (or It Was Still Dark), on the other hand, explores the world of two twin brothers, along with the psychological effects on one twin when tragedy strikes them.

Zomerregen (Summer Rain), van Weyenberg’s most recent film, focuses on a ten-day period of time in which a young boy with mixed-race identity stays with his grandparents. The grandfather is faced with his own prejudices, and this tension heightens when the two are left alone for a length of the child’s stay. After seeing this film at the Cork International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to speak with van Weyenberg about her film.


Your film Summer Rain addresses all sorts of relevant issues like prejudice, multiculturalism within families, and diversity. Could you talk about your process in making the film.

So first of all, while I wouldn’t say Summer Rain is an autobiographical film, of course many elements of it come from a personal space – like the main character, I am half Japanese and half Belgian myself. I wanted to make something that’s really personal, but I also think that the subject is something that’s really universal.”


Would you be able to expand on that subject?

The subject is identity, and the search for identity in many different ways. I think that on one hand, it’s in a family, but on the other hand it’s in the idea of double nationality, where people have this ideas about what you are and what you should be.I think that’s something that can complicate the search for identity, and the search for identity in a family is complicated anyway. You have your father and your mother, and you came out of those two people, but you always look for yourself in that mix. I think when you also have that aspect of culture, that also complicates the search.



Speaking of the parents, and the idea that each of us are half of each, a choice in the film that I found really interesting is that the audience never sees the parents. We hear the father’s voice, but there isn’t much elaborated on in terms of the mother and father. I appreciated that detail, and have my own thoughts about why that’s a fitting and appropriate choice, but could you expand on what your intentions were in leaving those characters so vague?

For me, the story is just about the relationship between the child and his grandfather, so that is what I focused on. I think that in short film, it’s tempting to want to say everything, but it’s impossible because it’s a short film. So I really wanted to focus on that relationship. Also, he’s dropped there for ten days, nearly two weeks, so he doesn’t have access to his parents. His mom is in Japan, so he can only talk to her on the phone, but then there is still a time difference. So he’s really isolated in this countryside environment in Belgium, which he’s not used to because he’s from Brussels. I wanted him to be really out of his comfort zone, and I think that his parents are the comfort that he has, so I wanted to eliminate that. The grandmother is also a source of comfort, but then she ends up being taken out of the picture. So I really wanted to focus on the relationship between the grandfather and the grandson, and what happens when they are forced to live together and have no other option.


I appreciated that, and I also really enjoyed how you used the claustrophobic, isolated space of the home, along with the symbolism of planes in the film. I am glad that there were planes chosen specifically in the film for the child to fold, because there’s that stereotype around Japanese children that they will be folding paper cranes.



I think the choice of planes really subverts those problematic expectations. On the one hand, the little boy also likes planes because that’s a very normal thing for a child to be preoccupied with, but I also think that in the context of Summer Rain, the planes symbolize freedom. Could you talk about the choice of using planes in the film, and what that symbol meant to you?

It started from a point of planes being an obsession of a typical little boy, but it has more meaning when he finds himself stuck in a really isolated place. Also, his grandfather being a retired pilot, and discovering that connection, adds symbolism. So for me, the planes have a lot of meaning in a lot of different ways, but it starts from a really innocent obsession with things on wheels, and can fly, and go fast.


Right, and I feel like we go on that journey as we’re watching the film: It starts out as an adorable obsession of a little boy, and then the grandmother says, ‘look, he likes planes just like his grandfather,” and it becomes loaded with all this familial significance. It’s not just a plane, just this thing that flies and goes fast, anymore.

It’s not just the object anymore, by the end. I think the plane is the symbol of that relationship between the child and his grandfather.


I definitely appreciated that. Could you also talk about the process of casting the film? The little boy was excellent, and it can be very difficult to find child actors, yet you discovered this young boy who demonstrates such depth. Children are inclined to pantomime rather dramatically when they think of acting, but his performance was marked by incredible subtlety.

Right. I always work with children as main characters – this is my third short with children as main characters. For me, the acting process for a child is something that I’m used to. I did casting in Belgium, and I prefer working with children that have no acting experience at all. I did castings for half Japanese, half Belgian kids, and it was a difficult process because they needed to be able to speak Japanese but also French or Dutch, or they needed to at least be bilingual. But the boy, whose name is Kazuki, walked into the room and I knew after one second that he was the boy. And I did second rounds and the whole casting process to be sure, but I was convinced from the moment I saw him. It was an interesting process, because he brought so much to the character, and he became the character.


He really did. Did he understand the issues that the film was touching on? Because I think that children are exposed to those daily microaggressions and understand that they are being treated differently on a certain level, but on the other hand, you and I were talking earlier about how children who experience discrimination don’t necessarily understand why they are being treated badly or differently. So did that prompt any conversations with the boy? How do you think his age impacted the language and behavior used around these issues on set?

I think that children don’t really understand discrimination, because it makes no sense, but they do understand that it happens. They understand the concept of it, and of course him being half Japanese, and living in Brussels -that’s how I grow up. A lot of the scenes and the comments made in the film are also things that he gets on a daily basis, because I worked based on what I experienced. He’s an incredibly smart kid, and I never had to explain anything. Actually, I never give the screenplay to actors in advance. We just do it on set. But I read the screenplay together with him, we talked about the story, but we didn’t read the entire script as a dialogue. So we talked about the subject and how he experiences living in Belgium as a half-Japanese kid, but I didn’t have to explain anything. He felt a bit like a small version of myself, wherein he just understood what I wanted to say. He’s an amazing kid.


Yes, I can tell. That’s something that we can see an as audience: He embodies this duality between innocence and quiet, knowing observation. Every time someone is subject to discrimination or some microaggression, it’s like the incident is noted and filed away. It adds to this bank of somewhat unfortunate wisdom, and we can see this happening with the child in Summer Rain. Considering the rise of right-wingism, particularly in Western Europe, and the idea of being able to say whatever one wants to minorities without those words mattering, what has the reception been like for the film so far?

It’s really interesting, and a huge compliment, that what I hear a lot is that this film is something we need right now, and that this film needed to be made right now. Obviously it’s a compliment, but it’s not just something that’s needed right now. It’s been my story for my entire life, and it’s been other people’s story for their entire lives. So I think it feels more universal at this point, because people can relate it to what’s happening in the world right now.


Right, because it’s just that right now there’s a lot of visibility around those issues.

Yes. There’s more of a clear link between the film and things that are happening right now. It’s nice to hear that people link the story to themselves or things that they’ve heard, because it’s such a personal story for me and it’s nice to hear that such a personal story has resonated. It’s a personal story, but a universal impact.


I like the way you put that. I mean, there was a really interesting moment in the beginning when his grandparents think they’re doing something nice by giving him a pair of chopsticks. It was a great moment, because it’s so relatable. As a Latina, I can relate that to people presenting me with something like maracas and saying, ‘Here you go. This is your thing, isn’t it?’ And when the boy asks for a fork instead of chopsticks, the parents clearly think he’s being rude or ungrateful, though in reality it’s just that they don’t understand. So yes, it’s a film that we need now, but that’s because we’ve always needed it.

Yes, exactly.


So what made you use chopsticks for that moment in the film? It was such a subtle, poignant image.

Yes, because I think that the moments when I experienced that strangely naive racism – because I do like to call it naive racism – I get it through those small moments. It’s not people screaming at me on the streets like, ‘You’re Asian,’ it’s more like, ‘Here are some chopsticks. I’m sorry we don’t have rice. Is it okay if you have bread?’ [laughs], It’s more of those subtle things that are so naively racist, because it’s such a misconception but so funny at the same time. It’s just absurd, and to them it’s a nice gesture, even though it makes no sense. That’s why I chose the chopsticks, because it’s so racist yet so funny at the same time.


I also like that about the film, because it’s not too serious all of the time. That’s not to say that serious films are invalid, because in truth they can be excellent, but sometimes films about racism can be so heart-wrenching and emotionally traumatic that they’re largely inaccessible. This film, on the other hand, has comedy built into it, and it’s also very touching and hopeful, whereas many shorts tend to end violently.”

Yes, yes.


There’s also that movement within the filmmaking community that happy endings in films are overrated, but I like that Summer Rain ends on a note of hope. Of course it’s not that traditional, classical Hollywood, Singin’ in the Rain type of ending, but it’s still a positive one. What led you to end the film in that the way?

For me, it was important to have some kind of closure, because those two weeks at his grandparents’ house do something to him, of course. But I also didn’t want to make a full circle, and for me it was important for the audience to know that this was the end of those two weeks at house, but it was the beginning of a whole new relationship with his grandfather that would be even more complex. Then, of course, the hospitalization of the grandmother isn’t explained, and you know that will be a big part of his life from that point on. So, for me it was important to end on the beginning of a new thing.


Right, because there was a moment I really liked with the actress who played the grandmother, in which the child asks if she’s going to be home soon and she says yes, but there’s a hesitation in her voice that adults can certainly pick up on. And then the doctor is so kind to the child, but then asks the grandfather to step outside. It’s very jarring for a child to be in a hospital and see tubes spilling out of someone he cares for, but the grandmother tries her best to comfort him very subtly. Is that someone that you directed the actress to do?


Yes, for me, in the script and in the way I directed it, it’s very clear that it’s not going well with the grandmother in the film, and I think that’s the habit of adults trying to save a child from the truth. But a child is smart, and they sense these things.


Right. I love the line where he says, ‘I’m not stupid.’

Yes [laughs]. I think it’s just that adults like to believe they know more than children, and they may have more knowledge but children sense things in a purer way than adults, I think, because they’re not relying on all of the facts and information. They just sense what’s happening.


Exactly. So to start to wrap things up, I think that the medium of short film is overlooked within the realm of film-going. Filmmakers often seem to appreciate and seek out shorts, because they’ve often made them before, but shorts are not promulgated to the rest of society to the same degree that feature are. So, having made three short films, could you talk about the medium of short film and why you find it valuable and more appropriate for certain stories? It’d be great if you could talk about that within the context of your past work and any projects you’re working on moving forward.

I love the short film medium. I think that you can be very direct and that you can get to the point in shorts, because you don’t have the time to go around the story. You just show what’s happening, and you have all the backstory that you need within those 15 minutes.


Right, it needs to be very tight.

Yes, and that’s what I love about short films. But of course, like I said, I want to believe that I am make very personal and intimate stories that can reach a universal audience, and to reach a universal audience, short film is a difficult medium. That is why now I’m writing my first feature film, and I feel that it’s just a different form of art, so it doesn’t feel like a feature film is a long short film and short film is a short feature film. It’s just two different things and two different ways of expressing something.


It’s like the difference between a novel and a short story – completely different mediums and ways of telling stories. People accept that, but I do think it’s an indication that audiences have yet to fully take film art seriously. Film has been considered art for a long time, of course, but I think many people are stuck in the mindset that films are mindless entertainment, as opposed to writing. So people are less inclined to see divisions within the medium of film art, and are more likely to see shorts and features simply as variations of each other.”

Yes, exactly.


Finally, what’s the common thread that runs through your work? What do you tend to focus on?

For me, it’s the search for identity, in many different ways. Of course, they are all coming of age, but I don’t really like the term ‘coming of age,’ because I don’t think it fits. In a way, the search for identity is a coming of age story, but I think that a search for identity can happen in so many different ways, and then it will just so happen to be the story of a child, or a child who grew up in different cultures. I do keep coming back to those search for identity stories.

Summer Rain (Zomerregen)
Miwako Van Weyenberg / Belgium / 2017 / 20 mins / Subtitled
Keita, an 8-year-old boy from a Belgian-Japanese family, has a difficult relationship with his grandfather.
Producer: Antonino Lombardo

Summer Rain screened on 12th November, 2018 as part of the International Shorts 3 programme at the Cork Film Festival.





Viko Nikci, Writer/Director of ‘Cellar Door’

Cellar Door tells the story of young lover Aidie as she searches for her son while in the grip of the Church. But as she gets closer to the truth, she suffers uncontrollable shifts in time and place that send her spiralling.

Gemma Creagh sat down with writer/director Viko Nikci to open up the Cellar Door and find out more about his moving mystery thriller.

Cellar Door is showing at Cineworld, Eye Cinema, IMC Dun Laoghaire, The Gate and Movies@Dundrum.


Follow Cellar Door on Facebook



Film Ireland Podcasts


Kate Dolan

Filmmaker Kate Dolan was recently named in the Irish Times Top 50 people to watch in 2019: Ireland’s hottest young talent. Gemma Creagh sat down to talk to Kate about her career to-date and what we can look forward to in 2019. 

Kate graduated with an Honours Degree in Film & Television Production from the National Film School, IADT in 2012. There, she majored in Directing and minored in Editing. Her graduate short Breathe In (2012) was selected for a number of Irish and international film festivals. She then worked as a Broadcast Producer in TBWA Dublin for almost 2 years after graduating.

In 2014, Kate attended Berlinale Talents to develop a short called Little Doll at the Short Film Script Station. The film depicts the first same-sex crush of a young girl. The short then premiered as part of Generation Kplus at Berlinale 2016. For her work with Little Doll, Kate was included in the British Council’s fiveFilms4freedom 2016 Global List – 33 inspiring people from around the world promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights every day.

In 2016 Kate was chosen to take part in the Guiding Lights, the UK’s leading mentoring scheme for filmmakers and was paired with director Alice Lowe (Prevenge, Sightseers)

In 2017, Kate was funded by Screen Ireland to make Catcalls, an irreverent horror about a sexual predator who gets what’s coming to him. The film won Best Short Film at the YDA Ireland in 2018 and has played at many festivals all over the world since its premiere at the Cork Film Festival in 2017.

Recently, Kate was selected for Screen Ireland to take part in their inaugural POV scheme. The selected projects will enter a development and mentorship phase before three will be greenlit, with a budget of up to €400,000 each – the money has been ring-fenced from Screen Ireland’s overall production budget. They will be aiming to enter production in late 2019/early 2020. You Are Not My Mother is a horror feature to be written and directed by Kate and produced by Deirdre Levins (Nails) for Fantastic Films.

In the world of music videos, Kate has gained praise for her work with Bitch Falcon and Maria Kelly as well as her recently critically acclaimed video for Pillow Queens’ ‘Gay Girls’.








Kate Dolan: Little Doll



Film Ireland Podcasts


Rebecca Daly, Director/Co-writer of ‘Good Favour’

In Rebecca Daly’s Good Favour, a wounded teenage stranger who stumbles into an isolated village of devout Christians gradually reveals his motives. David Prendeville met Rebecca to discover more about the film.


Can we talk about the inspirations behind the film?

There were a couple of ways that we were inspired to make this film. I’m not sure which came first, but one was when Glenn (Montgomery, co-writer) found an article online about this young guy who walked out of the woods into Berlin. He claimed to have been in a car accident with his parents and said that he had no memory of anything before that. We followed the story online for about a year and it ends in a bit of of a banal way. But we liked the set up. The idea of somebody arriving somewhere and not having a memory of where they came from. We were interested in what the possibilities of that were, especially in terms of what they could mean to the people they encountered. There were lots of theories online about this guy – who was he? They didn’t release a photo until quite late as they weren’t sure that that he was over 17. There was a lot of speculation about who he was. We thought that was quite interesting. What can someone be if they say they don’t know who they are?


And the religious aspect?

That was the other inspiration. My grandmother had this really strong faith, despite the fact that she understood that there had been various abuses in the church. But still, her faith was so strong that she could hold and contain all of this and still endure and persevere with it. So, I was interested in that – how much can people take an preserve their way of life and maintain the belief systems that they hold really dear. That was an interesting thing for us to explore, this microcosm of an organised religion really.


This film calls to mind European art house. Is there anything in particular that influences you formally? Are there other filmmakers you keep in mind?

No, not really. I watch a lot of films and I love a lot of different filmmakers’ work. But I wouldn’t say I have any conscious sense of being influenced. Of course, there are filmmakers I admire, like Haneke. I would be a big fan of his work. And Lynne Ramsay, or Paolo Sorrentino – who is completely different. These are all kind of filmmakers whose work I love. But I wouldn’t say I was influenced. I’m always trying to find the part of the film itself. Also, looking at my other films, I think you can see that they’re made by the same person yet still they are not the same necessarily in terms of tone and form. I think the story, and what we’re trying to get across in terms of theme, really influence how the film is made, the form of the film, the tone of the film – and this film needed to be a mystery for the central story to work; for this central character to be quite mysterious and for there to be lots of possibilities about him. That is the nature of faith itself.


There is a mystery at the heart of all your work. How important is it for you as an artist to challenge the audience? Your films are demanding in a very positive way.

I feel that audiences don’t always want to have a passive relationship with what they’re watching. I think they get that a lot in cinema and it’s satisfying to a point. But that’s not what people always want. Sometimes people do want to be challenged and they do want to see that the filmmaker is thinking about the world we live in. Maybe they’re considering our place in it. I want to have a relationship with the audience which, in a way, invites them to be the last piece of the meaning of the film. Of course, the film is itself. It’s a piece of work. It’s finished – but they are the last piece. Until the audience is in front of it, the film doesn’t have the full meaning.

Also, audiences differ. People talk about films as being different from theatre – that they are fixed and they are unchanging. But I think, depending on the audience, they can change quite a lot. I’m interested in the audience being the last piece of the puzzle and part of that dialogue. I found traveling with this film really interesting. People have based a reading of what they think is happening in the film quite often on their own belief systems and their own ideas about faith.  


There are very strong performances in the film. Can you talk a little bit about the casting process for this film and also your approach to directing that cast.

Quite a lot of the key cast are Danish actors. We have one German actress and several Belgium actors. We had a casting director, Dan Hopper, based in London working across all of it. And then we had a casting director in Belgium. She actually ended up finding Vincent [Romeo] who plays Tom. It was extensive. A lot of self tapes were sent before I would get in a room with people.I had a particular idea in my head that I wanted to work with Danish actors. They have such a fantastic reputation.

With Tom, he’s so extraordinary looking. We’d seen lot of tapes with a lot of young guys the right age. But there’s just something about him that was so striking, even though he didn’t have a lot of experience. I just knew this has to work. I did work with him quite intensely in prep and we did a lot of casting sessions with him that were about getting him to the place where he was would be ready for the role. We organised the filming schedule so that the most difficult scenes for him were at the end of the shoot. He really grew as an actor through the shoot, because the filming process often will give actors who aren’t experienced a lot of confidence. That really happened for him, which was a really interesting thing to watch.


I know on this film you had to build the village – what was that experience like for you?

It was such a pleasure to build a set. I’ve never had a film that had a built set before, for something like that to come out of your imagination really faithfully. When you shoot on location, as I have with other films, you get everything as close as you can to what you can imagine. Some locations will be really suitable and some may be better than you’d imagined. Others will fall short and you make the best of what you’ve got. But this was amazing. I could sit with the designer and the cinematographer, who came on early, and we would plan together. We designed and built this village together. Not only in terms of the aesthetics of it, but also how it would work for shooting and moving walls and things like that. That was an incredible pleasure. Of course, it puts a lot of pressure on a film that’s on a small budget because it’s expensive to build things. But the innovation of the designer was phenomenal, which really helped.


Sound is very important in your films. It’s very evocative always and seems like it’s a very important aspect to your style.

I remember when I was studying film, I had a lecturer who said that sound is nearly more important than picture so that it feels right. If the picture is a bit rough but the sound is good, the audience can still feel immersed in the world. Whereas if the sound is really bad and the picture’s great, it’s really jarring. I think it’s because we read visuals in a more conscious way. Whereas sound affects us subliminally. That’s why I think it’s so important as it taps onto our subconscious, into our dreaming states and all these areas of the mind that we’re not conscious of. I’ve been really lucky to work with really strong sound designers. There’s been different ones on each of the there films, which is part of the co-production model, that they come from different countries. I’ve been really lucky that they’ve been really responsive to a very creative approach to the sound and also a detailed approach because I am really particular about it. Or if I feel like that there’s not enough nuance in a moment, I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who go back to those moments and get it right.


Good Favour is currently in cinemas.






Irish Film Review: Good Favour


Natasha Waugh, Director of ‘Mother’

Natasha Waugh’s latest short film, Mother, screens at this year’s Cork Film Festival. In the film, hardworking mam Grace, played by Hilary Rose, has the perfect happy family: a loving husband and two wonderful children. But when her husband arrives home one day with a brand new kitchen appliance, she slowly starts to realize that there might not be room for both of them in this house.

Gemma Creagh sat down with Natasha to find out more about her quirky short, her journey into film and her IFTA-nominated 2016 film Terminal.



Mother screens at Cork Film Festival 2018 as part of Irish Shorts 2 – Flesh and Blood at 14:45 on 11th November 2018 at The Gate Cinema.







Natasha Waugh co-founded Fight Back Films in 2013, and has, to date, directed four short films (Food Fight, Running Commentary, Lag, and Terminal) and co-directed another (The Betrayal) with filmmaker Kamila Dydyna. The films have enjoyed success on the festival circuit.

Terminal, inspired by the women affected by the 8th amendment, has gone on to critical acclaim, winning Best Short Film at Indie Cork 2016, Director’s Choice Short Film at the 2017 Irish Film Festival, Boston, the Writers Guild of Ireland Zebbie Award for Best Short Film Script, 2017, and Best Irish Short Film at the 2017 Dub Web Fest.

Terminal has received other nominations for Best Short Film at the Dublin Feminist Film Festival, Irish Film Festival London, Fort Worth Indie Showcase, and played in competition at Manchester International Film Festival 2017. Terminal picked up other prestigious nominations for Best Short film at the 37th London Film Critics’ Circle Awards, and at the 2017 Irish Film & Television Academy Awards (IFTAs).

Natasha’s latest film, Mother, premiered at the 30th Galway Film Fleadh 2018 and screens at Cork Film Festival 2018.


Running Commentary



Film Ireland Podcasts


Treasa O’Brien, Writer/Director of ‘Town of Strangers’ 

Writer/Director Treasa O’Brien takes us behind the story of Town of Strangers, a film about a stranger who comes to make a film in the small town of Gort in the West of Ireland, and the people she meets when she holds auditions. Together, they go on a cinematic journey to explore their waking and dreaming lives. Featuring a cast of migrant workers, hippies, Travellers, blow-ins and newly arrived refugees, we are ushered into the private worlds of people living between two cultures, sharing their desires of longing and belonging.


When I started making Town of Strangers, the town of Gort boasted two remarkable statistics: it was the town with the most nationalities in Ireland, relative to its small population; and it was the town ‘worst hit by austerity’. I had been visiting Gort with the idea to make a film there when the Goethe Institute, after seeing my film Eat Your Children, commissioned me to make a short film based on the theme of home.  The project Europoly matched filmmakers around Europe, and that is how I got to work with Catalan DoP Gina Ferrer.  It was a kind of blind date – she came and worked with me for a week-long shoot that became the short film called The Blow-in.  I used a day of the shooting schedule and budget for that film to shoot auditions for Town of Strangers, a film script I was developing. I did not yet know what form that film would take, but I knew it would not be a ‘straight’ documentary nor a fiction.  I was searching for a cinematic language that would transcend the binary of documentary and fiction and find a way to express the lived experiences of people with hybrid cultural identities.  I wanted to incorporate stories from the town and potentially cast first-time actors as themselves.

The auditions, however, irrevocably changed the course of the film, due to the particularity of the encounters that occurred. I was astonished and honoured by the stories divulged to me.  People showed me their strengths and vulnerabilities in a way that moved me. The more I got to know the people from the auditions, the more I adapted and improvised the film.  I soon left the script far behind and together with some of the people I met, we went on a cinematic journey to explore their waking and dreaming lives.

I asked people in the auditions to tell me ‘a dream, a lie, a memory, a story or a piece of gossip”. The resulting scenes are not re-enactments, but rather performative enactments improvised together. By inviting the participants to enact their dreams or memories, I was documenting the process of this imagining, rather than trying to create a product based on the content of the story itself.  Sometimes it is the making-of the scenes that were more interesting than the scenes themselves and these form part of the film’s story.

I was doing a PhD in Film Practice at the same time, with Joshua Oppenheimer, director of The Act of Killing, as my supervisor. Joshua has developed a way of working that has expanded the documentary genre that includes filming the process of making scenes with protagonists acting as themselves.  Joshua became my chief mentor and creative advisor on the process of making Town of Strangers over the three years of its making.  I made a first cut and a trailer with Julian Triandafyllou, a London filmmaker, mainly using the audition material and some extra material I had shot.  Martha O’Neill of Wildfire Films came on board as a co-producer based on that cut. We kept developing the film, even though we had no budget, and we invested our own funds and a lot of time.  Later, the Arts Council of Ireland came on board and supported the main production with a Project Award.  We also got some smaller funds from Clare County Council and Faroe Islands supported a sound designer to work on the post.  I worked on and off for over a year with editor Mirjam Strugalla, to build the narrative arc of the film, filming more material with people in between editing sessions.  Gina Ferrer came back for two more shoots and I shot a lot of the footage on my own, gaining confidence as a cinematographer as well as a director. The editing process was an intense collaboration as we tried out several different structures before we decided how the interlocking stories and characters could resonate and have the feeling of a developing narrative.

I constructed a character loosely based on myself, and performed by me, whom I call T, who appears alongside the other characters in the film. She is living in her van, and trying to find a place to live in the town.  She is seen in the van, parked up by a petrol station, sleeping, reading, making breakfast, doing yoga.  My own emplacement as director is semi-fictionalised within the film, inventing a poetic truth of my engagement with the people and place in the film, that is nevertheless based on my real lived experiences.

On another level, Town of Strangers is a human rights film about migration and identity in our times.  It is a cinematic and philosophical exploration of the lived experiences of ‘the other’, people who make their home in a small town in the west of Ireland, in the age of austerity politics, the refugee ‘crisis’, and the rise of nationalism and right-wing politics in Europe and the USA.  I spent time working in refugee camps in Greece while making this film, where I made several short films about the journeys people were making, working with them as co-makers. Town of Strangers explores the aftermath – the shifting sand between our shared human experiences of longing for home, and our search for belonging.


Town of Strangers screens at Cork Film Festival 2018 at 14:45 on Tuesday, 13th November 2018 at Triskel Arts Centre.

Tickets here

Town of Strangers premiered at Galway Film Fleadh in July 2018 and is nominated for Best Cinematic Documentary at Cork Film Festival. 



Town of Strangers – Official Website

Written and directed by Treasa O’Brien

Executive Producer: Joshua Oppenheimer

Producers: Martha O’Neill and Treasa O’Brien

Cinematography: Gina Ferrer & Treasa O’Brien

Editor: Mirjam Strugalla


Town of Strangers – Facebook Page

Director’s Website


Paul Bushe & Brian O’Neill, Directors of ‘Killers Within’

Horror fans might be forgiven for thinking they are at the wrong screening when they settle in to watch Killers Within at this year’s IFI annual film celebration of all things horror. Brian O’Neill and Paul Bushe’s feature bursts onto the screen with a gritty opening that seemingly provides the set-up for a crime thriller. A mother is violently attacked and her son taken away from her by a criminal gang. From here the films takes another turn into home invasion territory, as getting him back involves a group of friends and family plotting a tiger kidnapping. Their plan is to get their hands on enough cash to pay for the son’s release. Just when the audience settle in, there’s a seismic shift; things go somewhat haywire as we enter a world of mythological monsters and here is where the horror really kicks in, applied liberally with a double dose of action. It’s not your typical horror and to say much more would take away from the delirious fun that ensues.

Paul explains to Film Ireland that Killers Within is a genre-bashing film. “We initially set out to make a pure horror and it evolved and evolved again as we wrote and rewrote it. It became more thriller and then more action, with touches of sci-fi in there. Then we introduce a different type of villain that is not as prevalent in horror films.”

The bulk of the film takes place in Springfield Castle, Limerick, the home of a wealthy banker and his la-di-da family, who are set upon by Amanda Doyle, together with her ex-husband and three unlikely allies. The cast and crew lived in the Castle for the 10 days of the initial shoot. Brian says, “It was like Evil Dead stuff – where we live; where we shoot. We had a very bizarre existence there. There was no phone signal in the castle and you had to walk around 500 metres down the driveway to get a phone signal. In a way, it was like we were in an alternative reality living in this castle.” In this particular alternative reality, the band of ragtag amateur kidnappers and uppercrust elite family come together with catastrophic results as opposites clash, worlds collide and divides are crossed.

Leading the way is Sue Walsh, who plays Amanda, the Mother of the captive son. Her journey as a character is the stand-out role in the film, from victim to empowerment; she certainly is no damsel in distress, blazing her way through the film with a nutribullet blend of maternal love, unyielding determination and a ready-for-battle steely grit. “She was someone we hadn’t worked with before,” Paul says. “We didn’t know her at all. We did a big casting job and met some really extraordinary actors. It was such a hard thing to cast that lead female role because there’s so many things she has to embody more than anybody else in the film.” Brian explains how “as the protagonist, there was a lot of elements we wanted to hit. And Sue totally pulls that off.”

That’s the good, but what about the bad and the ugly? The monsters that comes to life are certainly impressive creatures but this element wasn’t all plain sailing according to Brian. “Creating the monsters for the film provided one of the biggest challenges. We ended up re-shooting a lot of scenes. We hadn’t anticipated how long it would take. By the time we got actors on set and even though the make-up was great, everyone was just fatigued and they were shot really badly. That’s on us.” Paul adds,”It’s that logistical thing. First time doing a feature like that. Brian had done How to be Happy and myself and Brian had made loads of shorts together and proofs of concept  – but just this kind of animal of a film, with prosthetics, stunts, then it’s raining and finally we had trouble with lighting and logistics on the night. So when we got to the edit, we knew we needed to go back and redo scenes. Thankfully the producer said yes, which was great. We had the opportunity to really rethink how we did it. Really liaise better with our stunt team. Think about make-up more. Just pure logistics really. Like how can we get a stunt actor into the scene? How can we get this done in 20 minutes rather than 8 hours.”

Talking to Paul and Brian it’s obvious they are passionate about film and how horror affords them to a chance to mix it up. Paul speaks about it as being a genre “with the most subgenres… Everything mixes with it and people accept that. They’ll take comedy in their horror, romance, action, whatever it is people will take it with horror.  That’s why Horror is such a broad topic. A lot of the films we like, like Dog Soldiers, From Dusk till Dawn,  they’re all genre-blending horror films. I love my pure horror as well but I love those blending of things. That’s what this film is – taking all these things we love, or are interested in, or find curious and sticking them all in one film together. And horror lets you do that.”

For an Irish horror, Killers Within could be a story told anywhere. “We didn’t want the film to be typical Irish film but there is some Irish in there, particularly in the dialogue,” Brian says. “But yes, the film could be set anywhere in the world. That was important for us making a genre film, not to be too colloquial. Paul goes on, “that’s part of how we write in general. Our influences are international and we write the story we want to see. It’s not specific to a location. This could be in the London, the Hamptons. It could be anywhere. It just happens just happens to be set in Ireland. If you look at English break-out films like Shaun of the Dead, yes they’re set in London or where ever but again that story is universal. The themes are universal.The characters are universal. The monsters are universal. That’s what we wanted to do here.”

If there was ever a PSA against tiger kidnappings, this would be it. Avoid those monsters, buy a lottery ticket, and join us in the IFI for a horrorful bank holiday screaming… I mean screening.


Killers Within screens Sunday, 28th October 2018 at 23.10 at the IFI as part of Horrorthon 2018 (25-29 October)


Aislinn Clarke, Director of ‘The Devil’s Doorway’


In the autumn of 1960, Father Thomas Riley and Father John Thornton were sent by the Vatican to investigate a miraculous event in an Irish home for “fallen women”, They uncovered something much more horrific however, as their attention turned to a 16-year-old pregnant girl exhibiting signs of demonic possession.

Ahead of its screening at this year’s IFI Horrorthon, David Prendeville spoke to director Aislinn Clarke about her debut feature, The Devil’s Doorway.


How did the idea come about to make a film set in the Magdalene laundries and then how did it come about that it would be a found footage film?

In the initial stage the producer came to me. There was no script or anything at that point. He had an idea and he gave me a page-long pitch which was to do a modern-day horror partly set in an abandoned Magdalene laundry and shot on mostly GoPro so it would have been more like something like Grave Encounters. My feeling was that I didn’t think that was the film that I wanted to make but I felt there was something interesting to be done with the Magdalene laundries. I thought if you’re going to do a film about the Magdalene laundries you should go back to the ’60s, when there was the most people there and get into the heart of the human drama of those places rather than having the girls as spectres now as a kind of afterthought. I think all good horror has in its heart real human drama. I think it shouldn’t come afterwards, it should be the primary concern. If you look at something like Hereditary, it started out like a family drama and then came in the horror elements, not the other way around so I felt that would be the strongest way to do it. I’m a big horror fan, I watch everything. I know how much found footage there is out there and I know how much of it is really bad. Some of it is really good but even the really good stuff gets lost because there’s so much of it and so much of it so similar. I felt if you’re going to do one it needs to feel totally different. It needs to be bringing something new to that subgenre. So I thought you do something that found footage films don’t normally do, which is make it about something. It’s not just about how scary it is. I enjoy films like those too, I enjoyed Grave Encounters, Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity. I enjoyed those films but I felt this needed to be about something and I felt it was very obvious what it needs to be about. Then if we set it in the 1960s then we have to shoot on 16mm film because that’s how they would’ve done it.


How difficult was it to convince people that it needed to be shot on 16mm?

Really hard. Myself and the DoP Ryan Kernaghan had both shot on film previously together and separately so we’re both pretty used to that process. We shot some test stuff on different formats to illustrate how aesthetically different they were. To illustrate how much a film filter doesn’t trick you into feeling like its real film and if you’re selling something as found footage it needs to feel like an authentic document. You can’t just put a filter on top because they’re repetitive. They’re not organic. Subconsciously you can tell it doesn’t feel right. It will have repetitive flaws that would never happen on real film so we were able to convince them that this has such a nice aesthetic that was separate to everything else that we should do that. The concession we had in the end was that we would shoot anything that needed VFX digitally and match it up in the grade. That was in case there might be flaws on the film that would prevent us doing the VFX or that certainly would’ve made it harder and much more expensive to do. So that’s what we did. Ryan also got a good deal. He got a bunch of stock somewhere, really cheap. Some of the stock we used was expired. We used that for stuff we knew we didn’t need for the story but that was nice scene setting stuff. Some of it made into the finished film and it actually looks really good.


Did you feel as director that working within the found footage genre allowed in some ways for more creativity in how you approached certain scenes? I’m thinking of the birthing scene in particular here. It really stands out as being very powerful in the way that it utilises the found footage element to render the scene differently to the way it would be in other films.

It’s funny because it’s simultaneously limiting and freeing to have the constraints of found footage. You’ve only got a single camera so you can’t do things like get coverage for a scene. For the birthing scene in particular that suited me because I always knew how I wanted to do that scene. I always wanted it to be just her face. I was thinking of Dreyer’s Joan of Arc or Godard’s Vivre sa Vie. I was thinking also that there’s a tendency in modern films to show too much and there’s a weirdly prosaic effect. People are so used to being shown everything when it comes to gore and violence and all the rest that it has no effect. It just kind of washes over. But there’s something very uncomfortable about just watching a human face for an extended period of time. Also, what you do in your mind is going to be a lot more powerful than what you are seeing. There were conversations about coverage but I was adamant that that was how I wanted to shoot it. It also wouldn’t make sense within the story for it to be shot as if the priests were shooting it, as neither of them would do that. Neither of them could be in this room while that’s happening. This was the best way to do it. It’s my favourite scene in the film and I had to fight for it. I think it works. So yes, in a way found footage does have that thing that there are constraints but that the constraints are weirdly freeing. We also have conversations that are like monologues to camera with Father Thomas in particular. If that was shot in a more conventional way you would have reverses and show the other character and that takes a lot longer to film so that helped us film more quickly, as well as having done a lot of rehearsals before stepping on set. I think there’s a lot to be said for just a still camera. People move around a lot these days and there’s a lot of frenetic editing that’s fashionable. I like to just let a performance happen.


I understand you had three locations for the film? I also heard that the roof fell down in one of them the day after filming?

(Laughs) Yeah, that’s right. So the location we used for the church was actually the dining hall in a lovely mansion house in Belfast, formerly belonging to Lord Craigavon. Nobody had lived in it since the ’30s though it had been used as a hospital during the war. The day after we left the roof fell in. The house was kind of falling apart anyway. But it was kind of strange, if you wanted to read into things. People ask me about ghosts but I don’t really believe in ghosts. I wish I did, I think it’s a lot fun but I don’t. I think there was something else about one of the insurance documents had 666 engraved in it or something like that. There were theories flying around about a curse but, touch wood, I don’t think so.


The film has excellent performances in it as well. Could you tell me a bit about the casting process?

We auditioned everybody, particularly because the two executive producers were in LA. They wanted to see tapes. Helena, who plays the Mother Superior, I already knew and had my eye on. My husband and I both work in the theatre and he had worked with Helena there. I’d seen her in a few things. I had my eye on her but we did audition other people as well. Ciaran, who plays Father John, again I had my eye on him from theatre. We auditioned very widely. In the first round the producers were unsure about him but I knew he was right for the role. I think his first audition was a self-tape because he was in London or somewhere at the time. When I finally got him to come into the room with me, he nailed it. Then Lalor fell slightly outside of the age group that the casting director, Carla Strong, had for the role. Just you know you pick an age range and he happened to be slightly out of it. So he wasn’t in the first net we hauled in. But he heard about the project from a friend of his. He got in touch with me saying he’d really like to audition for this. It just struck something. So he came on down to my office. Again we had seen loads of people for that role and nobody was quite right. We had seen loads of people that were really good but not quite right. Lalor came down and just knocked it out of the park instantly. He was brilliant. Then in relation to Lauren who plays Kathleen, we had a different actor cast originally but due to scheduling problems she had to drop out during the shoot. We were literally already shooting when Lauren came down to audition. She auditioned on the set and that’s how she got the role. We shot the whole thing in 16 days and shot Lauren’s stuff in the second week.

Are there any films that particularly influenced you for the project?

Yeah that’s an interesting one. People assume that I’d be looking at stuff like The Blair Witch Project for something like this because it’s found footage but actually that’s not how I approach films anyway. Then you’re just repeating yourself or repeating somebody else. This is not really like that. It’s found footage but it’s no more like it than any other genre film. I was really thinking about the time, the mode of shooting, those sort of things so I was looking at a lot of documentaries from the early ’60s. In particular I was looking at The Maysles Brothers, cinema verite documentaries, stuff like Salesman because even the way you handle the camera, all of that, is going to effect the aesthetic of a film like this and it’s going to be totally different to how they handle the camera in Blair Witch. Its different equipment and of course they have the audio equipment too. Father John in the film doesn’t know he’s making a found-footage horror film, he thinks he’s making a documentary so that was the style I was trying to emulate.


What do you plan for your next film?

I have a couple of things in the works so, with different producers, so it’s just about seeing what comes together first in terms of financing. I’m working on a film with Fantastic Films so we’ll see where that goes. It’s in the horror genre again, I tend to gravitate toward horror or if it’s not horror, thriller or something dark. I’m attached also to direct a story that I haven’t written that’s a Bloody Mary origin story. I also have a folk-horror in development with a producer in London.

The Devils Doorway screens Friday, 26th October 2018 at 18.20 at the IFI as part of Horrorthon 2018 (25-29 October) 


Cathal Kenna, Director of ‘For Molly’


Ahead of its release in selected cinemas this weekend we caught up with Cathal Kenna director of For Molly to chat about his feature which deals with the subject of a young Irish couple coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis. 


Tell us about For Molly and where the inspiration for the movie come from?

For Molly is a tale about a young father to be who starts recording a series of home-movie messages for his soon-to-be born daughter after receiving a shock cancer diagnosis. It was a concept that I had in my head for some time but it was when I sat down and discussed it with a long-time acquaintance, Kieran O’Reilly, that the concept really started to develop. Kieran went on to write the screenplay and also be lead actor in the role of Evan.

We sat down with our producer Vincent Moran, a highly accomplished actor in his own right, who runs his own touring theatre company ‘Wilde Shamrock Touring Theatre’, and quickly set about assembling a cast and crew and getting everything in place for our tight shooting schedule.

With the team in place, we set about scouting a suitable location for the film. Through our research in Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross we came into contact with the Copperthwaite family who allowed us take over their home for 5 days. A more generous host family you could not wish to meet.


Where would we have seen the cast before?

Kieran – Vikings, Love Hate –  in addition to producing a fine script and being heavily involved in production brought in a host of extraordinarily gifted actors including Maura Foley – Love Hate, Acceptable Risk – Tony Doyle  – 11th Hour, Michael Inside, Kissing Candice – Stephen O’Brien – Love Hate, Rebellion – Ally Ni Chiarain – Black 47, The Drummer and The Keeper, My Name is Emily – Nuala Kelly  – The Laws of Attraction, Angela’s Ashes – and Ceara Carney  –Vertex, Indelible.

One of the special unexpected treats working on the film was the passion and commitment displayed by some of our lesser experienced actors, including Steve Vincent, Jennifer Walsh, Paul Copperthwaite and Caroline Kiernan. They brought energy to proceedings that lifted everyone. Finally the youngest members of our cast Emma Ward (2 weeks old) and Sarah Gallagher (6 months old) may have just stolen the show at the very end with their cameo performances.


You mentioned the shooting schedule was tight but I don’t think that tells the whole story?

With only 5 days available to film we had no option but to throw the actors in at the deep end. The opening shots we took with Maura Foley and Tony Doyle on the first morning of principal photography will forever be etched in my mind. The quality of performances they delivered from the off was stunning. From there it only went from strength to strength with Kieran O’Reilly delivering a masterful performance with his character Evan. There were several hairs standing on the back of your neck moments over the course of the next few days. Having witnessed these performances at close quarters I’m so excited to see what comes next from these actors and I feel very luck to have gotten the chance to work with them before they move onto very big things, which I’m certain they will do.


How do you shoot a feature film in five days on a shoestring budget?

It’s simple – surround yourself with highly talented and committed people, chart a course, get out of their way and let them do their jobs. And keep everybody well fed!


You mentioned your crew. Tell us about them?

On the set of, I was fortunate enough to encounter as talented and committed a group of people as one could wish for. Marco Griffini on camera, assisted by Oisin Carney, Caimin Agnew on sound, Colm Sexton on lighting, Ceara Carney on costume and production design and Niamh Matthews and Marty J Byrne on hair and make up.

Post-production kicked in and Dave Thorpe played a critical role in supervising this segment of the process at times coordinating deliverables between Canada, Dublin and Waterford. We are deeply appreciative of some support we received from Peter Brady, Windmill Lane Limited, Eugene Tobin in SGC Dungarvan and also David Lawlor at BrandNew Creative during this time.

Music was provided courtesy of White McKenzie (Kieran O’Reilly), Stand and original compositions were delivered by Gareth Ebbs. The film website was designed and delivered by Paul Lynch.

A lot of favours were pulled in including some assistance from Colin and his team at Film Equipment Hire which was managed by our DoP Marco Griffini. A shot listing was drawn up and we were ready to begin shooting.


What has this experience taught you?

Is making a feature film in 5 days a good idea? Probably not if you can avoid it but I wouldn’t change a thing about the experience and the special group of people we somehow managed to assemble for this project. Most importantly, I’m extremely proud of the results we produced on screen and I firmly believe our film will make a positive contribution in creating further awareness about cancer care and prevention measures particularly among younger sections of the population. For that reason alone it was more than a worthwhile endeavour.



For Molly screens in select Movies@ and Omniplex theatres from Friday 5th October. For screening and film details go to:







Brian Lally, Director of ‘The Curious Works of Roger Doyle’


Brian Lally tells us about his retrospective look at five decades of celebrated composer and the “godfather of Irish electronic music” Roger Doyle and observes him presenting one of his most ambitious musical projects to the general public – his first electronic opera.


I met Roger Doyle at the Fleadh way back in 2004. I had been aware of his work and the music he had done for films like Pigs and for Joe Comerford’s short experimental films, both of which feature in the documentary.

I met him at a retrospective on the work of Bob Quinn. Bob was showing Budawanny and he pointed out Roger Doyle in the audience. I ended up chatting to him afterwards. At the time, I was making Aftermath, an experimental film and he gave me some of his music to use in the film. It was something very new that he was working on and was very otherworldly. It had an enormous impact on the actual film. The film went around the world playing at festivals and seemed to have an enormous impact on the audience. Half of it was down to his music.

I started thinking maybe I should make a documentary about his work. I started filming Roger’s concerts with a view to using them in a documentary at some point. But nobody seemed interested. I got rejected everywhere.

Then in 2015, Roger told me his opera had been funded. This was his first electronic opera, Heresy, a big 2-hour production about the Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno. I’d seen a short version of it, which was a work in progress, a few years earlier and I knew it would be good. That was kind of what I needed because the one thing the documentary lacked was a solid structure but I knew I could build a future documentary about the preparations for the Opera, leading up to the opening night, which would be the climax of the documentary.

I set the documentary up so that you’re introduced to Roger leading a quiet life in Bray. Here’s a guy who has brought out 27 albums but, outside of the Dublin art scene, there’s not that many people who know Roger Doyle – so it was a great subject for a documentary. Someone said that the purpose of a documentary is to make the unseen seen, or in this case to make the unheard heard.

Roger has had an amazing career spanning 50 years. He has an incredible work ethic. He composes every single day. He is highly disciplined and highly focused. Plus, he’s one of those people who has that rare quality that as he gets older he’s actually getting better. I’ve looked back at all his work, I’ve listened to every single one of those 27 albums and I think, as a single piece of work, the Opera is his finest achievement, particularly when you see it live.

I didn’t want to make a documentary about an obscure talent who remains obscure. The Opera allowed me to make a story about an obscure talent who has this big career-defining moment quite late in life. There’s a theme in the documentary of an artist in search of an audience and the payoff at the end is a mind-blowing performance in front of that audience.

And so the structure took shape – a fly-on-the-wall style documentary following the preparations for Roger’s first electronic opera and along the way a look back at Roger’s 50 year-long career in music, avant garde theatre and film.

By the time we came to 2016 I’d been filming Roger on and off for about 10 years so I had a wealth of archive from about 2005 onwards. Plus the remarkable work he’s done has attracted other filmmakers beforehand, so there was very rich material for me to draw on when it came to putting the actual feature documentary together.

As for the fly-on-the-wall footage, I attended about half the rehearsals for Heresy, picked the very best moments from that and filmed the Opera itself. Thankfully, it proved to be spectacular, visually striking and just a treat overall.

I hope I’ve captured the spectacle of his opera and done justice to his remarkable career.


From an interview conducted by Gemma Creagh


The Curious Works of Roger Doyle screens on Thursday, 27th September 2018 at 20.20 as part of the IFI Documentary Festival 2018, which runs from the 26th – 30th of September. Full details here


Maurice Sweeney, Director of ‘I, Dolours’


I, Dolours presents one woman’s story of life and death in the IRA, for whom the Good Friday Agreement brought no peace of mind. A member of a crack, secret IRA unit run by Gerry Adams, Dolours Price led the first team to bomb the centre of London in 1973. Before this, she was a central figure in one of the most notorious and controversial IRA operations of The Troubles: the murder and dumping into unmarked graves of people whose violent deaths the IRA wished to keep secret – the so-called ‘disappeared’.

Gemma Creagh talks to Maurice Sweeney about his documentary, based on lengthy interviews with Dolours Price and extensive reconstructions.  I Dolours tells the anguished story of one of the few women who dedicated her life to the IRA only to be haunted by memories of what she had done and the realisation that it had all been for naught.


There have been a number of feature documentaries recently focusing on The Troubles. Is it getting easier to deal with living history?

Yes. I think it’s getting easier. It’s no accident that this year and last year we’ve had No Stone Unturned, I Dolours, A Mother Brings Her Son to be Shot, Bobby Sands: 66 Days. These are screening and being understood by Irish and international audiences. It’s not the usual Prime Time Investigates – these films are about bigger stories and bigger themes. Maybe we’re achieving that distance where we are being able to talk about it.

For me, I, Dolours felt very timely, because it was a great analogy of the North. I think filmmakers in Ireland and the new generation want to tackle those subjects on the bigger screen. Also, I would argue that there has been amazing work that hasn’t been given prominence because it was on TV. There has been an element of snobbishness to a certain extent with films released on the bigger screen garnishing more praise. These are things that have been explored on TV but they are being treated as themes and stories rather than political investigations, which I think is important. I think also it’s a sign of a generation of Irish filmmakers maturing.


Regardless of that snobbery though the shift in distribution platforms and the international hunger that there is for these true life stories – that’s the future, is it not?

It is and they are coming around to it. The demand for content has never been so high. Maybe 7 years ago we were all worried that with all the content production, values were going to go down. People got that wrong. So there’s a call for really well produced, intelligent content. Obviously, there’s a lot of bad true life stuff out there – but that’s the nature of the beast.

Structure is changing. Filmmakers are also thinking about something in four parts now. It doesn’t  have to be contained within 90 minutes. It’s going to be interesting for documentary filmmakers in particular as to how they choose to tell a story and what type of stories they decide tell – there’s scope to think bigger and still get those nuggets of human experience in those films.


It’s interesting you say that because after watching this film I was imagining it as series – there’s a  strong female anti-hero who’s been pushed to the edge and pressured into extreme actionBreaking Bad meets The Americans.

As a drama, certainly you could imagine that – thanks – I’ll go back and write that now and I’ll use that tagline!


I noted that you had been trying to get the project together for a while. How did it eventually come into fruition?

It came on the back of a failure in getting of another project off the ground with Ed Moloney, the journalist. We were trying to do a programme on the collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane with producer Nuala Cunningham.  It didn’t happen. After it never came to fruition, we spoke about the possibility of using Ed’s 2010 interview with Dolours Price. So I read part of the transcript. I was amazed and enthralled by the story. I thought this is really powerful. I knew that this inside-story of uncomfortable truths was something special.

We got development money of the Film Board and eventually got to the phase where we had production funding before we asked ourselves what we were going to do with it.From my background, I was treating it as an historical doc. I had never met the woman. I had that removal which served the end product well because I could see it from a bird’s eye, from a different angle, from my point of view as a director. To be honest, we actually struggled a lot deciding how to make it initially. We had discussed different ways and I had even thought about shooting the interview again with an actress. I almost thought you could do this as a full drama from an interview given by the woman who was in the IRA.  I kept thinking about how to do that. In fairness, Mick Mahon, the editor, kept saying – “look you have the interview, use it.” I don’t why I was reluctant initially to be honest with you, it was a form I had always wanted to try. So then I sat down with Mick and looked at the interview. We saw how brilliant and really powerful it was and from then on we decided that we were just using her voice. The film became more glued into shape then. It took shape in our minds.


That shape is quite interesting in the different forms you use to tell the story and achieve the overall effect.

It was about using three forms of filmmaking: archive, straight sit-down interviews and enactments, which is what I would see as her visual memory, they would interweave together. The enactments were important because we knew wanted to tell a strong visual story, and they add that sense of drama alongside the archive footage and interviews.

It was clear in my head when we went to shoot eventually. There was a lot of time to plan so we almost had the film edited to a certain extent in our heads to where the important points from the interview were.


And timewise?

The shoot itself was about 11 or 12 days. The edit was 15 weeks.


The film is an emotional rollercoaster and Dolours is such a complex character for the audience – how was it for you as a filmmaker?

The audience has to go through the same thing we went through. We were conflicted by listening to her and how we felt about her. There are certain scenes that really bring about that conflict and show this young woman who made decisions but who would ultimately suffered for them. We didn’t want to be too apologetic. You couldn’t agree with what she did, but I think you could understand. Also we didn’t want to shy away from showing the damage that she caused. You’re treading that line.


I thought Lorna Larkin was amazing as Dolours in the reenactments. She brings a real gutsiness to the role.  How did she come on board?

I had other actors lined up who were great and one in particular who I think got scared of the project about doing something about the IRA and other reasons, so things were getting quite tight. I came across Lorna and I thought she had that sparkle in her eye and would really own Dolours. When we met, she was just so up for it – she wasn’t phased about it at all. We’re dealing with very tricky issues here IRA, killings, Hunger strikes… very contentious stuff. She was very brave in her approach. We did some tests with her in costume and she was great and she’s able to pull off different looks. I think having an unknown was important – she becomes more Dolours.


How was the film received and did you get any kind of feedback from people who were involved?

We did – and there were certain people who were saying we shouldn’t be making this film. Some people are surprised when they see it that it’s not a ‘Let’s Get Sinn Fein’ job. It’s not about that. When we showed it in Canada at Hot Docs, people got the emotional story of it. When we showed it in Britain, it was all  about the political. Then when we showed it in Belfast, which is almost like returning to the scene of the crime, I was very nervous about that. It was a packed cinema with ex-IRA members in the audience. They questioned certain things but a lot of them were very positive about it. They thought it showed that this is what it was like. This is what the committed part of the IRA does and also the cruelty of it. A lot of the time when I see the film with audiences, it’s amazing, they are just silent at the end – I’ll take that as a compliment!



I, Dolours is currently in cinemas







Alan Gilsenan, Writer / Director of ‘Unless’ & ‘The Meeting’


Stephen Porzio met up with filmmaker Alan Gilsenan to chat about his two films set for Irish cinemas this year.

Imagine being a director and getting trapped by snow at home, the day your new film will premiere. This happened to Irish filmmaker Alan Gilsenan, leading him to walk from the Wicklow Mountains all the way to Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema.

“I kind of enjoyed it. It was like a strange pilgrimage”, he remarks. His story reminds me of fellow filmmaker Werner Herzog, who famously walked from Munich to Paris to visit a dying friend. Gilsenan jokes: “Jesus, I’d say that’s where the likeness ends but if we could even approach old Herzog that’d be fine for me”.

Following last year’s acclaimed documentary Meetings with Ivor, Gilsenan is here at the Filmbase office to promote the first of two dramas he directed being released this year. Out on the 16th March is the Canadian-set Unless, starring Catherine Keener as an author whose daughter (Hannah Gross, Netflix’s Mindhunter) decides to drop out of college and live on the streets.

Attending the press screening of Unless was the first time I left my house after the Beast from the East. What am I presented with but a cold, drippy, snowy Ontario setting.

“I’d always pride myself as someone who doesn’t really feel the cold. But I was in Toronto and thought ‘this is just unbearable’ … I heard some of the sparks and the grips talking about how it was the coldest Winter in Toronto in 150 years the March we shot,” Gilsenan laughs.

Continuing he says: “I’d go into the catering truck just to be warm for five minutes. The other thing is I envisaged a Toronto covered in snow but when it gets to those temperatures, the snow doesn’t fall. It’s just ice. We were putting in fake snow even though it was -35 degrees.”

Adapted from a novel from Pulitzer Prize-Winner Carol Shields, writer-director Gilsenan translates the stream-of-consciousness prose of the source to the screen. While the book is about a mother’s reaction to her child wanting to live on the street, the film centres on the mystery of why the heroine’s daughter, Norah, acts in such a manner.

On adapting the novel, Gilsenan says: “[The film] is a meditation. The source was Carol Shields’ book … Sometimes I’d go back to [it] to check something and think ‘what was I thinking’. It’s the most unlikely film. The book is like Virginia Woolf. It all happens in her head.”

Many of Shields’ themes remain, the cynicism of the modern world and a desire to subvert common depictions of the ‘dysfunctional’ middle-class family. However, a key aspect of the book was excised in the transition to the big screen.

“I think partly the book is a reflection about being a woman in the world. I probably didn’t emphasise it quite as much. I’m also aware that with an extraordinary female cast and Emer Reynolds editing the film and Celiana Cárdenas as the DOP, I’m the only weak link.” He adds thoughtfully: “Probably should have been a woman who made it”.

Unless provides a realistic depiction of homelessness. I ask Gilsenan if the rise of people living on the streets in Ireland led him to choose the subject matter: “Maybe at some subliminal level … It did really bring home the reality of homelessness. The bitter cold … We were in Toronto when quite a few homeless people froze to death. We’ve started to see that in Dublin.”

I note that the scenes where Norah is living on the street felt authentic. “Some of the stuff we shot with Hannah on long lenses is on active streets. In the scene where the frat boys are hassling her – a young woman – it’s actually in the film – got very upset. That was real,” Gilsenan replies.

Gilsenan’s second film in 2018 The Meeting also feels eerily topical, focusing on the true story of a young rape victim confronting her attacker. Scheduled for a September release, the drama premiered at ADIFF last month. Before this interview, I couldn’t find who starred in the movie.

“Alva Griffith, the woman [it is based on] plays herself. It was a deliberate decision by ADIFF not to put the cast in. We felt the film will always be talked about in terms of Alva playing herself. We thought it would be nice to have a screening where that isn’t the issue.” He adds: “A lot people said to me after, ‘Who’s the actress. She’s great.’”

Clint Eastwood made a similar casting decision in his 2018 film The 15:17 to Paris. “Clint copies me in everything. I keep saying to him ‘Clint, stop’”, Gilsenan laughs.

Playing the assailant in The Meeting is Terry O’Neill, an actor who recently appeared in IFTA-winner Michael Inside. Between this and Hannah Gross recently working with David Fincher on Mindhunter, Gilsenan has a knack for discovering great talent. “Well you hope … I think Hannah’s wonderful and Terry is a real star.”

Next, Gilsenan plans a ‘strange experimental film inspired by Joyce’s Ulysses’. He is elusive when I ask if he will return to documentaries: “I quite like the documentary area, I like the drama. I like the more experimental stuff too.” A bit like Werner Herzog.


Unless is in Irish cinemas from 16th March 2018

The Meeting will open in Irish cinemas later this year



Grainne Humphreys, ADIFF Festival Director

Stephen Porzio caught up with festival director Grainne Humphreys to get a heads-up on this year’s Audi Dublin International Film Festival. 

With the prestigious Berlin Film Festival in full swing, what better time is there to shine a spotlight on Dublin’s own annual celebration of cinema, ADIFF 2018. From February 21 until March 4, over 100 movies from across the world will screen and A-listers will be in attendance. Yet, while many presume the life of a film festival organiser must be one of glamour, ADIFF director Grainne Humphreys wants to set the record straight.

“The common perception if you meet civilians, which occasionally you do [Humphreys jokes], is that they think your life is basically a yacht at Cannes and you walk on a red carpet and have dinner in very expensive restaurants. That’s not the case. I was on my first yacht in 25 years last year by complete accident”. She adds, “for anyone who thinks it’s a glamourous lifestyle… I really want to sit them in a small darkened room with a laptop and put them in front of four hours of really terrible film”

Humphreys has been running the festival for 11 years. Warm and genial, she is the opposite of what one would expect from a film festival director. One tends to think of professional cinefiles as culture snobs. While this was the case at Cannes, a festival which turned women away from screenings for not wearing high-heels and has banned Netflix movies from competing for awards, Humphreys believes the key to ADIFF’s success is down to its more ‘calm’ and ‘informal’ vibe.

“We’ve tried to shy away from the celebrity element. The festival never becomes a segregated VIP only event. [Guests] like that. They come as filmmakers.”

As if to prove her point, the festival director seems less interested in discussing the bigger names appearing at the festival, such as Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara and Cillian Murphy. Instead, the acclaimed directors and character actors scheduled to give Q&As excite her more, particularly Lynne Ramsey (We Need to Talk About Kevin) premiering her latest, You Were Never Really Here.

Phoenix, appearing at ADIFF for another premiere (Mary Magdalene), stars in Ramsey’s film as a war veteran turned contract killer. He uncovers a web of corruption while trying to save a kidnapped teen from prostitution.

Claiming You Were Never Really Here feels as immersive as the virtual reality conference ADIFF is running this year. Humphreys says excitingly about Ramsey, “That’s somebody who is really a story teller. That’s a film where I was gripped, I was moved, I was shocked and when I came out I literally was still moving around, trembling for a couple of hours after.”

Another high-profile guest is Independence Day star Bill Pullman, premiering the Western, The Ballad of Lefty Brown. Humphreys sites this as an example of ADIFF’s reputation as being less celebrity-focused paying dividends.

“It’s a small passion project. [Pullman] knows film festivals and the kind of energy and support that a festival audience can give. A lot of the time you are sending invitations out but a lot of the time [filmmakers] are looking towards film festivals to give their projects a kind of profile or positioning. They get a sense they will connect with audiences”.

What hidden gems should audiences seek out at the festival? Humphreys praises Irish documentary The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid, Belgian crime thrillers Above the Law and The Racer and the Jailbird and Indonesian film, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts. She also thinks opening-night film Black 47, a Western set during the famine, starring Hugo Weaving and Barry Keoghan, could be this year’s most successful Irish film.

However, the movie she seems most enthusiastic about is Thirst Street, an American indie from director Nathan Silver. “Nathan has been around 15 years and makes these low-budget but really clever melodramas. Thirst Street is about a female air hostess who is dumped by her boyfriend and goes to Paris. It has this wonderful whimsical aspect to it but a witty voiceover from Anjelica Houston spins it in another direction”.

To prepare for ADIFF, Humphreys watches over 30 movies a week, culminating in around 12,000 per year. This experience has left her with plenty of feedback for filmmakers.

“So often it strikes me that a lot of filmmakers don’t go to the cinema enough. If they went to the cinema, they would realise there are standards for telling a story. A lot of the time people think long, slow, boring serious movies about the weight of the world make people feel important. No. They don’t. They make them feel terrible. If you have something that makes an audience feel happy or makes them view their world differently, that’s a plus and something you mark as special”.

Talking about the current health of Irish film, Humphreys says that the quality and quantity of Irish movies has ‘doubled’ since she began as ADIFF director. She believes Irish actors and directors happy to work both internationally and domestically helps bring money into the industry, that the rise of TV has given filmmakers the ability between movies to ‘hone their craft’ and that Ireland’s four film studios keep important professionals constantly working.

Ending the interview, Humphreys states, “It used to be quite lonely going to festivals a few years ago. You’d say, ‘oh, we have a great Irish cinema’ but nobody ever knew anyone. Now we have a well-known, well-structured industry”. Perhaps, if things progress, Dublin could compete with Berlin or Cannes someday.


The 2018 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place from 21 February – 4 March 2018.



Preview of Irish Film @ ADIFF 2018




Paul Power, Director of ‘For When I Die’


The short documentary For When I Die is screening at the 2018 Audi Dublin Film Festival and Dingle Film Festival. The film explores Jennifer Sleeman’s outlook on the one thing that will happen to each of us: death. It comes for us all, but we don’t have to be afraid of it. For her, it’s something to talk about and plan. This documentary explores Jennifer’s outlook on what a good life and a good death means to her. Filmed at her home, in her adopted hometown of Clonakilty, Cork. 

Director Paul Power chats to Film Ireland about his film.


What can you tell us about For When I Die?

My Grandmother, Jennifer, did a podcast with a local radio station in Clonakilty. She talked about her death and being prepared for dying. It’s a refreshingly accepting perspective. I’ve always known she was open about her own death, she had her coffin built a few years ago, but to hear her speak so beautifully and sincerely on the subject inspired this film project.

Death is a bit of a taboo subject; people don’t like to talk about it. I hope people watching this film will come out thinking and talking about it more. Personally, what struck me was the question ‘How would you like to die?’ Would you fight to the bitter end, or want a comfortable departure at home?


How did the project come about?

For me, filmmaking can be a way to help others, both the audience and the subject. It gives a voice to those we rarely hear or subjects we are reticent to broach.

I’ve always admired Jennifer’s outspoken and honest nature, and after the podcast, I approached her about a short film on the subject of her death. She was very keen, always up for talking about subjects that she’s passionate about.


Jennifer’s outlook is very affirmative, talking about death – controlling and embracing it. What was the narrative process – was it a series of interviews / conversations? Did you have a specific direction in mind?

While the film is about Jennifer’s death, I also wanted to celebrate her life. She still lives on her own, still gardens and is still learning. She’s also well able to speak her own mind, so it was clear that letting her tell the story in her own words would be the strongest narrative. Given her age, I didn’t want to intrude too much into her life, which is why we decided to shoot her day as it happened.

After a brief personal conversation about the subject, Jennifer agreed to an audio interview first. The following month, after emails and research notes, we spoke for an hour in her home. It provided me with the base work for the main interview and gave me a guide for where I wanted to go.

For the main film, we carried out two interviews over a weekend, each about an hour in total. Louise and I had previously agreed that the film would be a combination of her talking about death and life, and her daily routine and details of her life in her home. This meant the schedule was fairly relaxed, and we could just capture Jennifer living her life.


What did you shoot on?

We shot on an A7smk2 on a tripod, using all natural light.


It’s beautifully shot. What did Louise Gaffney [DoP] bring to the project?  

She’s an amazingly talented filmmaker in her own right, and it was pleasure to work with her on the film. We’ve both come from the lone videographer filmmaking method, which meant we could share and discuss the film much more openly than if the roles had been more rigid. Louise was keen to capture the natural beauty of Jennifer’s home and personality. She’s a great eye for the quiet moments and small details.


Ken McCabe’s score is ethereal. What can you tell us about that collaboration?

Ken and Louise are in terrific band Come On Live Long, and she recommended I get in contact about the film. His inspiration came from Jenifer’s original podcast in which she had played songs she would love played at her funeral. A tape-loop method helped him create these soundscapes using the music Jennifer loves. It’s a strong, almost physical underscore that helps heighten the emotion of Jennifer’s language and Louise’s beautiful images.


What’s it like to be screening at ADIFF?  

It’s a great honour to be selected alongside the likes of Mia Mularkey and Feargal Ward. I’m looking forward to seeing the other shorts and films at the festival. I’ve always played around with videos, and this is my first film festival screen, so it’s a very exciting new step for me in my career.


For When I Die is being shown as part of ADIFF Shorts 1 on Saturday, 24th February at 2pm in the Lighthouse Cinema. 

The 2018 Audi Dublin Film Festival takes place  21 February – 4 March.



Watch Irish Short Film: Staccato

Staccato centres around Thomas Croydon who is busy rehearsing for his debut piano recital. His attention, however, is divided elsewhere – to the young gardener out in the grounds, whom he so desperately wants to keep.

Director Eoghan McQuinn gives us the low-down on how the film came together.


When I get an idea for a film, it usually comes from a couple of practical sources. I think of the locations I could use, local places that could evoke an emotion on screen. I’ve always been drawn to period dramas. I’d not seen too many stories portraying gay relationships in a period context, and I wanted to use that subject to explore themes of repression, delusion, social expectation, and exploitation of the working class.

People responded to the emotion of the story and the potential for arresting imagery in pastoral and stately settings – particularly cinematographer Miguel Angel Viñas, he pushed to shoot on the Arri Alexa with an extensive lighting kit giving the film a grand and timeless look that would evoke the era we wanted to depict.

I also met with several potential producers who expressed an interest, and in January 2014 came to Caroline Kealy, who really understood what I was aiming for with the project, and the many components that would need to be coordinated to pull it off. She was also someone who I felt was capable of pulling together several strands of a relatively complicated production working with a restricted budget, so I felt very fortunate to get her on board.

Everyone was so professional and committed themselves to really putting in the time to collaborate and elevate what was on the page. We had some incredible actors. It was very important to me to have the cast as prepared as possible for their scenes – working with accents and getting the rhythm and timing of the scenes right, while also exploring the chemistry between Craig and Kevin – working hard to build up an intimacy and rapport between them. If I couldn’t sell the intensity of feeling between the two young men, the drama of the film would be non-existent.

Getting the locations was an interesting challenge. Luckily we did find three locations willing to open their doors to us, Ardgillan Castle in North Dublin (interiors), and Killruddery House (exteriors) and Tinakilly Hotel in Co. Wicklow.

Wardrobe was obviously another key component of this production and finding costumes that were both visually appealing and accurate for the period was a big hurdle. We then found out about a place called Nomac Productions in Co. Waterford,their beautiful intricate gowns and waistcoats that really took the audience into the world we were trying to evoke.

For a film centred around a young pianist, the actual piano he plays was a pretty vital prop. Caroline had the unenviable task of sourcing a Grand Piano on a budget of zero, with only weeks to go until the shoot. Having this as the centerpiece for the recital scene was absolutely essential, and I’m so grateful we managed to nab one against the odds.


Watch Staccato



Staccato stars Craig Grainger, Kevin O’Malley, Marian Rose, Sophie Merry, Pauline O’Driscoll, Sarah Gallagher, Elijah Egan, Muireann Toibin, Victor Feldman, George Bracebridge

It had Official Selection at the Washington DC Independent Film Festival, Kashish Mumbai International Film Festival, QFlix Philadelphia International Film Festival

Staccato is a self-financed short film written and directed by Eoghan McQuinn and produced by Caroline Kealy. Principal photography was completed in 2014 with cinematographer Miguel Ángel Viñas on the Arri Alexa, provided by Panavision Ireland and lights by Cine Electric and Con Dempsey. The film was shot on location in stately homes in North Co. Dublin and Co. Wicklow. Production & Costume Design by Sorcha Dianamh. The film features classical piano performed by pianist David O’Shea. The film was edited by Dylan Knapp.



Actor Barry Ward, ‘Maze’

Maze is based on the true story of the 1983 mass breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP Maze high-security prison in Northern Ireland.  As Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), the chief architect of the escape, schemes his way towards pulling off this feat, he comes into contact with prison warder, Gordon Close (Barry Ward). Initially Larry and Gordon are confirmed enemies, born on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political divide, but when Larry realises that Gordon may be unwittingly useful for his escape plan, a slow seduction begins. Larry intends to use and manipulate Gordon in order to get closer to his goal but what follows is a tense, and intriguing drama in which an unlikely relationship is forged between two enemies that will have far reaching consequences for both of them.

Gemma Creagh caught up with Barry Ward ahead of the film’s release on DVD.


How did you get involved with Maze.

I had worked with Jane Doolan, the producer and we made an Italian film together [L’accabadora (2015)] in Cagliari, Sardinia in Italian. It was around that time she said her husband Stephen Burke had a script and that there would be something in it for me. At that stage, I think they had me in mind for one of the inmates. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor was already attached. As time went by, availability issues and production issues rose and then, while talking to Stephen and Jane, they said that they wanted me to play Gordon, the warden, in the film opposite Tom, who plays a Republican prisoner. It’s a really brilliant part and I was thrilled to do it – plus Jane and Stephen being friends made it all the more sweeter.


Gordon is a real meaty character with maybe some views the people don’t agree with. But you really empathize with the pressure he’s under. It’s very easy to vilify a prison guard but you brought so much to the role to create a three-dimensional character. How did you approach him as a character.  

I think that on the page it was really obvious immediately that the warden was a really a terrific part – really meaty as you say. And the fact that traditionally prison-breakout movies involve the escapee as the hero and the warden as a one-dimensional baddy whereas this film put a twist on that made it really interesting. It’s really appealing for anybody reading it and particularly the role of Gordon. So in the approach most of it was on the page and it was hard to go wrong. My own research on it was about the context of the time – the North in the ’70s and early ’80s. I was reading a lot of books on that time, which was really at the height of it all. It made for really grim but terrific reading. The wardens had a bad reputation – and probably well founded. They were legitimate targets and they were being murdered during that period. It was a highly dangerous job and required great courage to see it through and to do it. I was thinking of Gordon as quite simply as a jobsworth… but he really took pride in what he was doing and deemed it a very important job. It was something of a vocation or a mission that he got up and out everyday. And he wasn’t going to cow down to anyone in the face of threats. He believed what he was doing was right – and that he was on the right side of the war.

Whatever side the character is on, whatever the politics, they are coming from a similar mindset, I think. I read a lot about not only the historical context of the time but also the professional context of being a prison warden. They wasn’t that much to go on but there were more studies more recently – particularly in the States – on the effects of that profession on the mental well-being of wardens. It makes for harsh reading. It’s an extremely challenging job and leads to all sorts of social and personal problems. I had all that in mind… but as an actor approaching your character you have to trust that the research you’ve done is there and will be present during a scene but you kind of have to park it at the door and just concentrate on the scene in hand, what the character’s individual objectives are and what obstacles they are faced with. Both Tom and my characters were so well drawn that it was kind of easy – and a joy – to play. Plus me and Tom get on brilliantly and were bouncing ideas of each other. So when action is shouted you draw on all the work you’ve done and hopefully get the scene.


Produced by Jane Doolan and Brendan J Byrne, Maze is released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK on the 15th January (EST) and 22nd January (DVD), and was financed by The Irish Film Board, RTE, BAI, Film Vast, Windmill Lane, Cork regional funding and Irish tax incentives for the film industry.



Stephen Burke, Writer/Director of ‘Maze’


‘The Limit Of…’ Director Alan Mulligan & Actor Laurence O’Fuarain


Ahead of an IFTA screening, Gemma Creagh chatted to the writer/director of The Limit Of… Alan Mulligan and actor Laurence O’Fuarain, who plays James Allen, a man pushed to his limits, and beyond, in a tense thriller set against the backdrop of Ireland’s banking sector.


How did the project come about?

Alan: I studied Commerce at NUIG and from there went into banking and finance as an accountant but I became very unhappy. That went on for a few years before I decided to look for something else. I’m from a small town in the west of Ireland and a creative career never really occurred to me. Then, for some reason, I did a 6-week course in the IFA and fell in love with filmmaking. I went out and made a short film that got into a couple of festivals, made another short film while I was still in the bank that got aired on RTÉ – which was amazing. I had an idea for a feature and started to write. That’s when I came to Filmbase and did a writing course with Stephen Walsh. I decided to leave the bank and focus on writing the feature. I thought I’d make it in 2 years. 5 years later here we are with an IFTA screening!


How long was the writing process?

Alan: The writing took 18 months in total. People say they write drafts. In my process, because I was new to the craft, I was writing drafts of scenes all the time. So I was drafting certain scenes over and over whereas some others just worked the first time. There was 100 drafts of some parts of it in with 5 draft of others.

We didn’t make many changes once we all sat down – some dialogue here and there. It was more that we dropped parts…


Laurence: The first three weeks we just went over the script over and over again. And we just kind of trimmed the fat and cut it down to what it needed to be.


Alan: The dialogue is quite sparse in it. The character James Allen is a very controlled silent type of guy. When he does say something it means something – in the style of Drive and Shame.

I remember sending Laurence a scene and he rang me saying that his character didn’t need to say this and this and this. And I said I know. This is what I want the character to be thinking but I haven’t figured that out yet. We needed to sit down and figure out what he has to say. That’s how we worked together. I was writing everything the character would say as if it was a very heavy dialogue film and he was a very open type of person. Then Laurence would say right I only need to say this line and this…


Laurence: He was doing my job for me really. Thanks for that!


Sounds like it was quite a collaborative process then.

Laurence: Yeh. We worked on it for a long time before we got to shoot – 9 months. It was great because when it came time to shoot we were totally prepared when our feet hit the floor.


Alan: And it meant that because it’s made for 30,000 euro and we shot it for about 16,000 we didn’t have time to redo things. It was very intense, so it was a lot easier to get the takes. Even if we changed something on set, Laurence knew the character so well he could adapt. We weren’t learning the character as we went along. Once we got into shooting everyone knew their characters because they had been meeting with me for so long and they ‘d been doing so much work by themselves.


And how long was the shoot?

Alan: 17 days. It was tight. Great fun though and everyone did really put in the hard work, which was amazing. I guess me not being from a film background it was a real experience to see everyone working late and long hours and putting everything into creating this stuff. It gave me real inner joy to see everyone working for that creative common goal. I remember banking and if you said to someone, I’m doing a financial plan, everyone come over to the house and we’ll work on it through the night… it doesn’t happen, I guess, this level of commitment.


Laurence, tell us a little bit about James Allen, and what it takes to embody a character like that.

Laurence: For me, with James, I just found he was more a boy than a man. What interests me with characters is their connection to everybody else in their life,  their connection to the environment and how they see it. James is very controlling. He’s very regimented. In a way, that’s the kind of key to his headspace – that he doesn’t tip over… but he’s not in control. The connection he has most with anybody is his mother, which I can relate to – well Irish men and their mammies… y’know! I tried to integrate that into him as well. I tried to find James within me and then bring that out and then obviously work with the direction from Alan, what his visions were of the character and then go on set and try to be open to anything that happens within the take.


Sarah Carroll, who plays Alison, was excellent. How did she come on board?

Laurence: I remember, once I’d been cast, Alan asked me to help him out with a couple of the other characters that he wanted to cast. He showed me Sarah in Trust, a short he’d done with her. She was fantastic. She fit. I remember we did a couple of readings and it was pretty much straight away. She was amazing to work with.


There was a great chemistry and she had a certain intensity herself that she brought to the role., That was interesting to watch and good for a female character. They can sometimes be written quite flat.

Alan: The same thing again. There’s not much dialogue so the performance of seeing this person is lost and hurt and isolated and feeling a lot of the same things James is – but she’s in touch more with her emotional side. I always say in my head that she’s the heart of the film for me. I think that she is capable of saving herself. I don’t think James is. He’s capable of controlling himself and continuing forward but in terms of saving himself and being happy, he relies on someone else to do that for him, which would have been his mother. And then maybe Alison replaces his mother.


What can you tell us about your influences and the style you brought to bear on The Limit Of…?

Alan: I enjoy European cinema, so it would have influenced me a lot. The Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn… Drive is one of my favourite films. I love the style of the visuals and music. And that precise framing and colour scheme he uses to match characters. I wanted that with The Limit of… Like with Alison wearing a green cardigan throughout the film at different stages – it’s an earthed colour and green is a dominant colour in the house which makes her feel like she belongs.

The cinematographer Daniel Balteanu, who I worked with on Trust, was heavily involved in the style of the film. He was sending me pictures of paintings and that influenced certain framing, certain colours and the lighting we used to create particular moods. Again, that was intense prepping for a few months before shooting.

And, I was saying this all through rehearsal, James Allen has to be still. The camera movement has to be controlled and reflect the whole vibe and tone  of the film – and James Allen is the film, so they have to connect with each other. There are only 2 or 3 hand held shots in the film. I wanted that controlled feel to it.



The Limit of… screens on Monday, 18th December as part of IFTA Academy Members VIEWING SEASON Screening  

The Limit of… is submitted in the following categories:

Best Film
Best Director: Alan Mulligan
Best Scriptwriter: Alan Mulligan
Best Lead Actor: Laurence O’Fuarain 
Best Supporting Actress: Sarah Carroll
Best Original Music: Stuart Gray 
Best Cinematography: Daniel Balteanu 
Best Costume Design: Paula Fajardo 
Best Editing: Alan Mulligan
Best Production Design: Lilla Nurie
Best Sound: Nikki Moss, Ian McIntyre, Barry Reid



Use of recurring imagery within the film to tell story:




Alan Maher, producer of ‘Song of Granite’

Gemma Creagh sat down with Alan Maher of Marcie Films to discuss the ins and outs of producing Pat Collins’ Song of Granite, the life story of traditional Sean-nós singer Joe Heaney, from County Galway.



Song of Granite is in cinemas from 8th December




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Bharat Nalluri, Director of ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’


An Irish-Canadian co-production, The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the story of how Charles Dickens wrote his classic book Christmas Carol and how he dreamed up the character of Scrooge. In 1843, Dickens was a literary rock star, but struggling financially after the slow sales of his previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit. Seized with the vision of a story that would fire the hearts of humanity, Dickens pitched his publishers Christmas Carol, but they passed. Desperate, Dickens declared he would publish it himself. Slipping into the world of his novel, he spent the next six weeks laughing and arguing with his characters, acting out scenes like a madman on the streets of London for hours on end.  His family and friends were worried he was going insane, but Dickens prevailed and finished just before Christmas, creating a masterpiece which gave birth to the Christmas we know and love today.

Director Bharat Nalluri talked to Film Ireland about reinventing a classic tale for a modern audience. He began by explaining the evolution of the process of getting from script to screen. “It’s classic independent filmmaking – the project’s been in the works for 9 years with different iterations and I came on board about 4 years ago and worked on the script for a couple of years. Things were put on hold for a while for finances to be put in place… and then I got a call saying it was back on again and I was back on the project in the summer of 2016. I was on holiday on a beach somewhere when I got a phone call asking “do you fancy going to snowy Victorian England, via Dublin! 2 days later I’m flying out to meet Dan Stevens and things are in motion.”

Bharat worked with Susan Coyne on developing the script, which is based on the book by Les Standiford. “The script was quite complicated and we were really just trying to simplify it. It needed a bit of love. And we finally cracked it. You can always tell when you crack it because then you can get any actor you want. As soon as you have a good script it’s really easy to cast. Great actors know when that script is singing.”

Talking about what attracts him to projects, Bharat says, “I’m quite a commercial film director. I like making movies for audiences – the bigger audience, the better. The secondary thing I’m looking for is that it entertains you. But at the end if you can find some subtext to it, that’s great. In truth, that’s what Charles Dickens is. He was a great melodrama king really. He made you laugh and made you cry with stories full of humour and pathos – but at the end of it he always gives it some subtext. He changed the world. He changed the way we think about poverty, the dichotomy of the haves and have nots – so that’s what I was looking to do with this script. I’m also a huge fan of Christmas Carol.

“I’d been trying to work on Christmas Carol for maybe 10 years, trying to work another way into it. Many people have done it brilliantly. Most Christmas stories – the great ones –  usually have Christmas Carol at the heart of them. It’s a Wonderful Life is Christmas Carol backwards. It’s a good man shown how bad the world would be if he didn’t exist. Whereas Scrooge is a bad man who’s shown how good the world would be if he changed. Other movies that aren’t even Christmas movies – Groundhog Day – it’s a man who keeps revisiting himself until he becomes a better man – it’s pure Christmas Carol really. So some very clever filmmakers have already done it. To try and crack another way into Christmas Carol was very difficult. But then this script came along and we discovered this 6 weeks of Dickens’ life where he went into this feverish momentum and wrote this world-changing book. This was a moment in his life when he was a literary rock star. He’d had success with Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby but the flip side of that was he’d had 3 flops in a row. He saw himself as a failure, was suffering from writer’s block, wasn’t making any money. All his books were being pirated and bootlegged. He was living in debt. He was a bit of a champagne socialist – enjoying the finer things in life. But he had witnessed a lot of poverty in his life and was driven by this idea of having some change. The great thing about this is that through that 6 weeks in Dickens life we revisit the things that made him believe in social justice. He endured poverty himself as a child. there’s little stories there that are not well known. His parents ended up in debtor’s prison. He ended up in a shoe polish factory as the bread earner and it completely changed him. By exploring that in the film while having him writing Christmas Carol and having this wonderful idea of the characters from the book appearing in front of him and goading him and almost being his psychotherapist, you get this wonderful way of using  Christmas Carol to reflect on a Charles Dickens’ biopic that is entertaining and full of joy – but at the end, hopefully in a Dickensian style, it says something about the human spirit.”

The film fizzes with the central performance from Dan Stevens as Dickens who brings a vigour to a role that blends a Gene Wilder-like zaniness with a foppish, exasperated fever and soul-searching. “We were both very keen on not doing a period drama – after being on the world’s biggest period drama for 2 years [Downton Abbey], Dan very bravely killed himself off. We were desperate to do something that was very modern in its take and I think we were looking for a modernity in how Dickens was and is – and Dan brought that. He brings this energy – and Dickens had that – he was a bit of a fire brand. The other great thing was that this is Dickens when he is 31. We’re used to seeing him as the curmudgeonly 50 year old man with the strange beard. He was a handsome young man in his 30s when you look at the portraiture of him. Dan was a really good fit. And then it was just about energising it. And it’s a very brave performance, it could have easily fallen off the tightrope. It’s quite a big, dynamic performance and we had to marry that with the film’s style, otherwise I think it would have stood out by itself  and that was Dan’s genius how he managed to pull that through.”

Dan’s performance takes you to darker places than you might expect as he wrestles with the demons of his failure, his childhood and his relationship with his father, played by Jonathan Pryce. “The script allowed you to do that”, explains Bharat, “and because you believe the darkness and you believe the depths of his dark night of the soul then your suspension of disbelief is with you and then you can go out on a limb and have great fun. There’s some big moments of comedy, which you mightn’t expect from a Dickens’ movie.”

Complimenting Stevens are a number of celebrated actors – Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Callow and Miriam Margolyes. What was it like to direct them? “Like all very successful actors, they want direction. They want to know they’re doing the right thing. They don’t take it for granted and if you give them something they’ll give it back you.” Working with Plummer was a particular joy for Bharat as he recalls, “all my conversations with Plummer were about The Man Who Would Be King, which is one of my favourite movies.”


The Man Who Invented Christmas is currently in cinemas.

An Irish/Canadian co-production, produced by Parallel Film and Rhombus Media with support from the Irish Film Board, The Man Who Invented Christmas was filmed around Dublin and Wicklow, which were transformed into 1840’s Victorian England.

Bleecker Street has acquired the US rights to the film.




Mark Noonan: Director of Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect

Mark Noonan’s documentary introduces audiences to the Pritzker Prize-winning, Irish-American architect Kevin Roche. Responsible for over 300 major buildings around the world, Roche has designed museums, corporate headquarters, research facilities, performing arts centres, theatres, and campus buildings for universities. Some of his best known work includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the revolutionary Oakland Museum of California, the Ford Foundation and United Nations Plaza in Manhattan, A Centre For the Arts at the Wesleyan University, corporate campuses for Bouygues in Paris and Banco Santander in Madrid.

Noonan’s film Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect shines a light on a true Irish visionary, whose architectural philosophy is that ‘the responsibility of the modern architect is to create a community for a modern society’ and has emphasised the importance for peoples well-being to bring nature into the buildings they inhabit.

Noonan describes how the film came into being.”It began when I was approached by my producer, who had an idea about doing a movie about this architect called Kevin Roche, whom I had never actually heard of, even though I studied architecture. So I did a bit of research on him and discovered that he was quite a fascinating individual with a huge body of work, all over the world. He was born in Ireland, educated in Ireland and then left in his mid 20s to go to America. That all got me quite excited and so I started to develop the idea with the producer.

“Quite early on I approached Kate McCullough [DoP], whom I’d always wanted to work with – she was very excited about bringing her visual sensibility to some of Roche’s buildings.. We shot a short promo and started to map out the visual language that we wanted to use, which was very much trying to put the viewer inside and outside – so, if we were inside the building it was very elegant tracking shots as if they were moving through the building and then for some of his more large-scale work we talked about helicopters and drones, to give life to the buildings from above – a God’s eye view almost.

We also talked about tilt-shift lenses and using focus to actually draw the eye to different diagonals of the buildings – some of his buildings look like they’ve been created by a mad genius. They are very particular, very impressionistic. It was very important to film the buildings and describe them visually.”

Noonan started making the film without having actually met Roche, which he admits was a huge gamble, “when you’re making a film about a subject and you’re not sure what is this guy going to be like both in person and on camera. But very quickly I saw similarities between him and his work. Walking around his buildings you get this sense of calmness, this sense of stoicism… an elegant unfolding of spaces, and in person he is this very philosophical, poetic, grounded individual. So we were able to make that connection between his personality and his buildings. At some stage though in the film we try to let the buildings speak for themselves. Kevin’s so tied up in his work as you see in the film, his whole life has become his work almost that we feel like we’re describing large chunks of his personality with some of the buildings. So rather than it just be him, or other people telling us about him, we give you the buildings and let them tell the story as well.”

A major reason Noonan is able to achieve this so well in the film is because of Kate McCullough’s glistening cinematography which douses the buildings with a lofty and roaming, revealing eye. Mark is quick to praise McCullough, explaining what she brought to the project. “She’s got an amazing eye. She’d be walking around a building and suggesting shots that I would never have thought about. She has a unique way of looking at things. Plus, she’s not afraid to push the visual aesthetic, to get me and the producer to give the time and get the money to hire helicopters and get drones so that we were able to get the amazing shots that we ended up with in the film. And always not to compromise on lenses – we had this idea of doing a lot of the interviews extremely wide angled but with a soft focus in the background. We had to hire extremely expensive lenses in London that allowed us to give our interview subjects this wide angled feel that we were using in the building to connect the interviews with the building. These kinds of ways of linking the story to the people and pushing the visual aesthetic were some of her greatest gifts.”

Reflecting on his time with Kevin Roche himself, Noonan notes the parallels between Kevin and filmmakers like himself. “You live through your work. Kevin’s obsessed with architecture and I’m obsessed with cinema and filmmaking,” and how he learnt from the experience seeing “how satisfied he [Roche] was by devoting most of his life to his work. He has no regrets. Never looks back. Never questions any decisions. Trusts his instincts… but also then remains philosophical and hopeful about humans as well, even though maybe now is not the most hopeful time we’ve lived through, but still feels that what he’s doing is important and that he’s bringing joy to people. Its great to be around someone like that.”





Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect is in cinemas from  13th October 2017








Nick Kelly, Writer/Director of ‘The Drummer and the Keeper’


Paul Farren talks to Nick Kelly, whose film The Drummer and the Keeper is in cinemas now. In his film, the drummer of a rock band recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder strikes up an unusual friendship with an institutionalized teen who is suffering from Asperger’s syndrome.

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Irish Film Review: The Drummer and the Keeper