Monday, December 14, 2009



Ross McDonnell - co-director of Colony – meets me in Dublin fresh from the Toronto International Film Festival, where the buzz around his debut feature was great.

"Colony may be one of the most aesthetically beautiful documentaries of the season, as well as one of the more urgent and intelligent,” wrote Variety.

“The movie constitutes a satisfying addition to the blooming, buzzing field of social issue documentary,” wrote the New York Times.

In addition to the compliments of the newspapers at Toronto, McDonnell has recently heard that his debut film will also play at IDFA, one of the world’s most important documentary festivals. But, despite these successes, his biggest concern at present is that he is smashed broke - welcome to the world of documentary filmmaking.

One hopes, though, that the financial challenges of making documentaries won’t discourage McDonnell and his co-director, Carter Gunn, from pursuing future projects in the medium. This is a mature, intelligent, informed piece of work from two young filmmakers who clearly have more to give.

Colony is one of a number of bee movies that are emerging at present. These documentaries are prompted by the clear and present danger facing bees as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) leaves landscapes of empty beehives across America and beyond.

Now, those of you who spent your primary school education getting stung by bees and falling asleep in biology class might be surprised to hear that honeybees are actually quite important. Because they pollinate our plant-life, these noble, industrious creatures are central to our own survival on Earth. Einstein reputedly said that if the honeybee became extinct then man would only have four years left to live.

“It was actually falsely attributed to him,” McDonnell tells me. “It turns out that a bunch of disgruntled French beekeepers made it up and credited to him. Anyway, I read that and it’s a pretty powerful statement and I read all the statistics about the American beekeepers who ship bees back and forward across the US to pollinate every third bite you eat and I thought it was interesting material for a film.”

While the film interviews numerous beekeepers, it concentrates mostly on veteran beekeeper, David Mendes, and Lance and Victor Seppi, two young broth­ers starting out as beekeepers in tough economic times. As Mendes campaigns on behalf of all beekeepers, the Seppi’s try to keep their own business afloat.

The Seppi family is very much the emotional epicentre of this film. The observational footage of the family’s struggles is enthralling and one of the strongest aspects of the documentary. The story of their collapsing business, affected both by the struggles of the bees and the world economy allows the filmmakers to subtly get across the message that perhaps we have more in common with bees than we realise.

“When we met the Seppis they had seven children, they’re a home-school family and they’re actually really natural environmentalists - they live in the middle of the country, they grow their own food and they eat an almost entirely raw vegan diet. We started to think that they were a colony in their own right. We went with the thought that they were a colony, the United States was a colony and that the bees were a colony and we then looked at ways of interweaving these stories.”

One of the strengths of the film is its openness to all sides of the story. While CCD could have catastrophic effects on nature and society, nobody is fully sure what has caused the problem. Rather than standing back and pointing the finger at pesticide manufacturers, the filmmakers patiently pursued access to the corporation and let them put forward their side of the story. It turns out they might not be to blame.

Perhaps we are all to blame. One is left with the feeling that bees are more important than we realise, that our cavalier attitude towards them might lead to their demise and that our tendency to undervalue their importance might lead to a reduction in the beekeepers that look after them.

Colony is a tribute to what can be done with time, talent and a little money. Gunn and McDonnell spent the guts of two years immersed in the project, with McDonnell on camera and Gunn taking care of the edit. The film is stunningly shot and the two-man team clearly made the effort to develop the relationships and access necessary to tell the story well.

“If I can draw a parallel with feature filmmaking, what we wanted was to see the change come from within our characters. We were very lucky that we were given the time and the support to be able to see the change over time in our subjects and in the story. We were fortunate that the Irish Film Board and our producers at Fastnet Films gave us the support to do that. They never said, ‘where are you going with this.’ They were with us the whole way along.”

They all should be proud of this clever, powerful film.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


IFB Funded Shorts Win at Irish Film Festivals Over the Weekend

IFB funded short films have had a successful weekend picking up a total of seven awards and honorable mentions at the Cork and Kerry film festivals.

The 54th Corona Cork Film Festival saw wins for Bye Bye Now and Moore Street Masala and two honorable mentions for A Film From My Parish - 6 Farms, a short which also won at the Kerry Film Festival along with The Man Inside and The Wednesdays.

The Reality Bites BYE BYE NOW directed by Ross Whitaker and Aideen O'Sullivan picked up the Audience Award for Best Irish Short Film at the Corona Cork Film Festival after its premiere in the Opera House on Saturday. The short documentary looks at how the phone box has gone from the centre of Irish life to the verge of extinction through the stories of those who remember it fondly.
David O'Sullivan's MOORE STREET MASALA picked up the Audience Award for Best International Short Film. The musical love story was filmed in Dublin earlier this year and mixes the colour of Bollywood with the diversity of modern Irish culture. The film was produced as part of the Short Shorts scheme which premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in July.

The Framework short A FILM FROM MY PARISH - 6 FARMS directed by Tony Donoghue received two Honorable Mentions at the Cork Film Festival in the Best Irish Short Film and Best International Short Film categories for its imaginative and emphatic look at a rapidly disappearing rural world. The film also picked up the Best Documentary Short award at the Kerry Film Festival.

Meanwhile Rory Bresnihan's Signature short film THE MAN INSIDE was awarded the Best Film title in Kerry. The short film has had a successful year having been named Best European Dramatic Short at the European Independent Film Festival in Paris in March and winning the Best Live Action Short Under 15 Minutes Award, 2nd place at the renowned Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The short comedy THE WEDNESDAYS directed by Conor Ferguson picked up the Best Irish Short Film award at the festival. The film has already won acclaim and awards at prestigious festivals such as Clermont Ferrand and the Aspen Shortfest in the US.


Bye Bye Now! is an amusing, poignant documentary about the fate of the Irish phone box which has gone from the centre of society to the verge of extinction.

We Irish are known for the having the gift of the gab. As a nation we love to talk, But until the 1980s most houses in Ireland were without telephones. Until this time, the humble phone box was our chosen method of instant communication. It was at the heart of our lives.

Now, however, the phone box is on the way out. First came the house phones, then the e-mails, then cell phones and texts - evolving technology which led the way for the demise of the phone box.

This short documentary intertwines wonderful anecdotes with the warmest of characters as they recount their memories of the small concrete structure that was so important in rural Ireland.

Bye Bye Now! is a bitter sweet tribute to the phone box, a historical document and a barometer of how much we've changed with the times. Light-hearted, sensitive, engaging and entertaining, each character tells a different story.

Friday, September 4, 2009


An article I did for Film Ireland on the new film Swansong.

Swansong, Story of Occi Byrne director Conor McDermottroe’s debut feature, premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh earlier this year to great acclaim and the runner-up prize in the best feature category.

Screening Swansong in Galway was the satisfying completion of a journey full circle for McDermottroe - he had performed the same narrative himself as a one man play almost exactly five years before in the same Town Hall venue.

I speak to McDermottroe on the phone from London, where he is based. It was there that the play was originally written as a monologue in just seven weeks back in 2003. Also called Swansong, the one man show was acclaimed from the start and the audience reaction to it prompted McDermottroe to see the possibilities for the story beyond the stage

“The lead character, Occi Byrne, was really touching people,” he tells me. “People loved the character. In the play he was an older character, feeding the swans and telling his life story. People told me that the play was very picturesque, very cinematic, so I decided to write a screenplay of the story.”

Around that time, McDermottroe was working as an actor on a TV series and he invited the German producer of the series to come along to see the play.

“It was an achievement in itself to get a TV producer to come to a play,” he says with a chuckle. “Sometimes those worlds just don’t mix but Herman Florin came and watched the show and really loved it. He asked me afterwards if I’d considered making a film on the same subject. I reached into my bag and took out the screenplay.”

Before Swansong, McDermottroe had made three successful short films and he appears to have moved smoothly and confidently on to the longer form. The film is atmospheric and very moving with fine performances from the cast and it is easy to imagine the film finding an audience internationally.

The film was made as a German/Irish co-production, funded by the Irish Film Board, ARTE, RTE, Eurimages and Kinowelt, with The Little Film Company taking care of sales. It was filmed on the unusual format of 16mm Cinemascope in Sligo for six weeks with a cast of 47 actors and over 50 crew and the locals were delighted with the economic boost the film brought and how the area was captured on film.

Swansong is the story of Occi Byrne, a boy born to a single mother in an uncompromising garrison town in the 1970s. His fatherless beginning is the worst start possible in this conservative landscape and Byrne travels a road of misfortune from a young age.

In a world where any difference is ruthlessly exploited, Occi is mercilessly bullied by schoolmates, culminating in him being rolled down a sand dune in a barrel and sustaining minor brain damage that makes him prone to violent outbursts when angered.

McDermottroe’s script draws from his memories of growing up in Sligo where he observed how children in his school without both parents were immediately treated differently and ultimately marginalized. Later, when McDermottroe lived in London, he came across one such child, now grown-up.

“I was working on a Frank McGuinness play in the Royal National Theatre and I was walking to the theatre along Bayswater road when I saw someone wrapped in blanket on the side of the street. We both froze for a second and I realized that each of us recognized the other. He used to sit beside me in school. It was he that turned away, I’m sure out of shame. I walked on and I thought about it for the day. Later, I went back to the street and he was gone.”

Having lived with his lead character for so long, it is no surprise that Occi is so well achieved in the way he is written and directed by McDermottroe. Martin McCann is thoroughly convincing as Occi, truly inhabiting the role and capturing skillfully the vulnerability and violence of the young man.

“Doing the one man play first was a luxury as a writer because I got to know the character so well. I had a deep, three-dimensional treatment in my head and I knew how the character would react to each situation. I could ask myself, ‘What would Occi say here? What would his attitude here be?’ All of that information was readily available to me, which was great.”

“Martin brings his own energy to it, his own performance and persona. It’s miles away from the actors that played Occi on the stage. He brought amazing qualities to it and his instincts are bang on. We went on the journey together and he trusted me and I think that shows in the end result. He and the camera signed some deal with the devil. He’s an instinctual actor. He really feels what Occi feels. It was inspiring for me and I learned from it.”

McDermottroe hopes to use the lessons learned in making Swansong as soon as possible and is moving on to his next film. He is one of a seemingly endless line of burgeoning Irish talents that has directed one or two films and he hopes to direct many more. He is frustrated, however, by the current threats to indigenous film funding.

McDermottroe was forced to leave Ireland for Australia in the early 1980s when funding was cut to the theatre company he was working with and he lived and worked there for over ten years. Considering the benefits of Swansong, Story of Occi Byrne – in terms of culture, economics and the physical depiction of the west of Ireland – one hopes he, and others, won’t be cast adrift again.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Went to see the new Alan Gilsenan directed documentary about Liam Clancy last night. The full title is The Yellow Bittern - The Life And Times of Liam Clancy. It's a really beautiful film. It was well shot by the always brilliant DOP Richard Kendrick and looked great. The visuals and the editing style create a really rich, layered aesthetic that gave a great sense of the man and also the times he lived in.

Gilsenan chose to interview Liam Clancy in Ardmore Studios and used the large space for wider shots that allowed him to bring in archive footage on screens behind Clancy. It made the film an enjoyable visual experience but also gave a variety to the film and maintained the context. For example, when Clancy would be talking about coming to New York in the 60s there were iconic images from that period taking place in the empty frame behind him (I'm not sure if that exactly happened but that was the general idea).

The use of archive on a variety of formats and the texturing of photographs gave the film a lovely feeling that has become quite fashionable in recent times and I'm very fond of this style. The use of screens and backgrounds, too, wasn't reinventing the wheel but I still enjoyed it and it was appropriate.

Overall, a wonderful film that opened my eyes to a great story and a great character and very cinematic. The film was chronologically structured and quite traditionally paced and it took me a while to leave the outside world behind and really get into it but by the end I was disappointed it wasn't longer. Go and see it soon because it might not be around for long.

One, small, criticism was that a vox pop archive interview with Bob Dylan seemed as if it was shoehorned in a little. It was the only such interview in the film and seemed like an attempt to bring Dylan's star power into the production. Dylan was a giant admirer of Clancy, so it makes sense to try to get him into the film but it still seemed funny. Having said that, I think most filmmakers would have done exactly the same thing, myself incuded.

The film was produced by Crossing the Line and funded by RTE and the Irish Film Board. It's another success for the Board in a year of many notable achievements - over 20 films in production, seven films in Toronto, record-breaking documentary Waveriders and numerous international awards for Irish films.
Check out the trailer:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

AV Sector a Key Growth Area

I remember filling out this survey last year and the results have since been published. It's good news if you work in TV and film because this area has great potential for growth - that's what we want to hear in these straightened times.

Shame then that Bord Snip are talking about canning the IFB, which provides something additional to our TV channels. The IFB, uninfluenced by the need to bring in advertising, fullfils a truly crucial cultural remit in my view. Hopefully the government will think so too.

Here's the survey...

Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (IFB) and PWC carried out a survey in 2008 which reveals that the Irish audio visual sector is valued at over €557.3 million, employs over 6,000 individuals and represents 0.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The survey is the first of its kind to represent such a broad range of disciplines in this sector, ranging from film and television through to animation, commercials, corporate video and online digital content. The survey identifies the people working in content production whether individually, in a company or in a broadcasting organization, the resources employed in the making of content and the total value of audio visual activity.

The results illustrate that the audio visual industry is a dynamic, highly educated and flexible sector, capable of demonstrating significant growth and value in the future. The results of this survey also played an important part in making the case to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism to introduce new improvements to the tax incentive for film and television Section 481.
Key findings in the survey show that this growing sector employs over 6,905 individuals, 85% in the independent sector and 15% in broadcasting, which equates to 5,440 full-time equivalents (FTEs). The results also testify that this sector is vibrant with strong growth activity, with over 47% of companies interviewed in the survey established in the last 5 years.

The survey indicated high levels of convergence within the sector comprising of production companies, post-production companies and service providers, many of whom demonstrate a high crossover of activities. This particular report has gone beyond a normal sample level with very significant levels of response from companies and individuals and as a result the information is very significant.

This is the first time that a survey like this has looked beyond the annual production statistics, at the companies and individuals who are responsible for producing all the content, in order to understand the dynamics and significant trends in the sector itself. Interviews with freelancers working in the industry reveal that practitioners working in this area are very well educated, with over 59% of freelancers interviewed educated to degree level or higher and only 2% have no formal qualification at all.

Findings also show that funding from the domestic broadcasters is hugely important to the sector and is an essential component of the financial underpinning of the sector as a whole.
With the completion of this survey the IFB will now be looking to facilitate a sector wide Strategic Forum to assist the sector to produce a blueprint for the future policy in this industry for the next five years.

Review of Stranger Than Fiction Doc Festival


Stranger Than Fiction had a ‘Best Of Fest’ feel to it this year with all of the international films having previously screened at major festivals and most of them having shown at probably the world’s top doc festival, Hot Docs in Toronto.

The outstanding programme opened with The Yes Men Fix The World, a doc following the stunts of the Yes Men, two giddy political activists who pose as corporate spokesmen to create bizarre situations that make us question the ethics of the corporate world. It’s fun stuff, with an edge, and does exactly what many modern documentaries seek to do: please the crowd while making them think.

The international programme proved diverse and fascinating, both in subject material and tone. There were films about a heavy-drinking 53-year-old's attempt to swim the Amazon, the oldest newspaper columnist in the world, the export of Indian Hair, Pop Idol Afghani style and the story of the worst film ever made. And much much more.

But the stand-out film for me, and the one I’m still thinking about many weeks later, was Dear Zachary: A letter To A Son About His Father. In many ways I don’t want to say a thing about it other than, ‘find a way of seeing this amazing film.’ There are so many twists and turns in this enthralling plot that it is hard to say much without giving the game away. Essentially, it’s a filmmaker making a film about his murdered best friend to give to his unborn son when he arrives to tell him what a great guy his dad was. But it’s much more than that. The audience were gobsmacked. Buy the DVD.

While there were no Irish feature-length documentaries in the festival this year, there were a number of shorts. The Liberties – a programme of 14 shorts about the Liberties area of Dublin – sold out twice, proving there’s a definite hunger for Irish content among the festival-going crowd and it was certainly popular with the audience (for podcast with directors, see Film Ireland website). The festival also showed three short documentaries from the past about Irish communities abroad

In the shorts programme, the highly entertaining and perfectly judged Forty Foot proved you don’t need a giant budget to make a beautiful and engaging film and it was the favourite with both the audience and the judges.

Overall, a festival with many great stories told in a variety of ways and all very enjoyable.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What Albert Said

Writing about The Tudors reminded me of something that Albert Maysles said. The documentary maker is not a director or controller - more an author or observer.

I checked out his website

On it, he talks about what it is to be a documentary maker. I hope they don't mind if I quote below. May I clearly state that this is from the website dedicated to one of the greatest documentary makers of all time and if you're into documentary you should check it out.


As a documentarian I happily place my fate and faith in reality. It is my caretaker, the provider of subjects, themes, experiences—all endowed with the power of truth and the romance of discovery. And the closer I adhere to reality the more honest and authentic my tales. After all, knowledge of the real world is exactly what we need to better understand and therefore possibly to love one another. It’s my way of making the world a better place.


1. Distance oneself from a point of view.
2. Love your subjects.
3. Film events, scenes, sequences; avoid interviews, narration, a host.
4. Work with the best talent.
5. Make it experiential, film experience directly, unstaged, uncontrolled.
6.There is a connection between reality and truth. Remain faithful to both.

Some Do's and Dont's

• Hold it steady.
• Use manual zoom, not the electronic.
• Read as much of the PD 170 manual as you can.
• Read book or chapter in a photography book on how to compose shots.
• Use the steady device that’s in the camera.
• Never use a tripod (exception: filming photographs, for example).
• You’ll get a steadier picture the more wide-angle the shot. In a walking shot go very wide angle.• Hold the beginning and end of each shot. The editor will need that.• Use no lights. The available light is more authentic.
• Learn the technique but equally important keep your eye open to watch the significant moment. Orson Welles: “The cameraman’s camera should have behind its lens the eye of a poet.”
• Remember, as a documentarian you are an observer, an author but not a director, a discoverer, not a controller.
• Don’t worry that your presence with the camera will change things. Not if you’re confident you belong there and understand that in your favor is that of the two instincts, to disclose or to keep a secret, the stronger is to disclose.
• It’s not “fly-on-the-wall”. That would be mindless. You need to establish rapport even without saying so but through eye contact and empathy.

A Day on The Tudors

A Day Following The Director on The Tudors
When exec producer Morgan O’Sullivan calmly leads me on to the set of The Tudors I’m immediately struck by the scale of things. It’s more people than I’ve ever seen on a set. But then, as somebody who devotes most of his time to documentaries, I haven’t been on that many sets.

I’m told it’s not the biggest production you’ll see but I’m still impressed by the number of people around and the amount of organization that goes into making the production run like a well oiled machine.

‘Machine’ is a word I hear frequently throughout my day on The Tudors - most of this team have been through a few series of the Tudors and a feature film together and they know very well what it takes to keeping the production moving. There’s a great atmosphere on set and people are immensely friendly, going out of their way to make me feel at home.

In the driving seat of the machine on this particular day is Ciaran Donnelly, the easy-going director of George Gently, Stardust, Proof and numerous other TV dramas. As I arrive, they’re picking up a scene from the previous evening. I immediately show my naivety by asking Ciaran if there’s much of a light difference overnight. He gives me a tour a few minutes later and I realise that the lovely natural light coming from outside is all lights and the trees outside the windows are blowing in the wind due to a fan.

In my own defence, drama is entirely new to me. My background is documentary and my preference is for observational documentary. Sometimes when making a documentary the best approach is to cede control, to let the action proceed naturally and not intervene in anyway. The notion of ‘direction’ is almost counter-intuitive - sometimes it is better not to direct at all.

I recently shot a three-minute short and a massive amount of prep went into it. I couldn’t help thinking that you have to have a completely different approach to how you control things in drama. When I say this to Ciaran, he says, “control is everything.”

Before each scene, Donnelly does a rehearsal with only the actors where they quietly work through the scene and the elements that concern them, then the first team (heads of department) will watch what he has in mind before communicating that through the ranks.

The mood is relaxed but this is presumably only the case because of all of the structures that are in place. A lot of preparation has gone into this and it very much feels like a team are working through a prearranged plan. Donnelly tells me that he will prepare three or four ways that a scene might work in advance before arriving on set.

Having said that, it is clear to see the creativity and collaboration unfold as the first team rehearses the scene. In a scene that involves a fight that breaks out during a card game, little elements are added every time they work through it. In this case, the suggestions add tremendously to the scene but it must be difficult sometimes to know which suggestions to listen to and which to ignore.

Two cameras are rolling simultaneously on each scene. The purpose of this is to pick off little story beats where available and Donnelly is on the lookout for little details that add to the story.

The second camera is used first to get reaction shots from a major character in a crowded scene. In another scene it’s used as a steadicam to give another option and in a third scene it’s a wider view of the tighter main camera. Donnelly watches them all carefully and chooses the ones he likes.

The Tudors is part-funded with Canadian money and Donnelly explains to me that the footage goes to Toronto for the edit. As I understand it, by the time he gets to the edit, it’s about 60-70 percent cut. He then does a cut for story and one for character and works out the best solution.

After spending the day on The Tudors, I have a much better understanding of the work that goes into a major drama like this. So much of it is preparation but a director must also be open to the little bits of magic that happen on the day.

Thanks to all on The Tudors and the folks at SDGI for making this available. It’s definitely an experience that helps you understand TV drama better.

Abolishing the Irish Film Board

Bord Snip has suggested abolishing the Film Board. I have a vested interest, yes, but I still feel that it is possible to put forward a pretty objective argument in favour of maintaining it.

I'll write about this more in the future but some of the reasons for keeping it are:

1. I think it brings in more money than it spends - tourists, jobs, foreign productions etc

2. In the long term, I feel that some of the young filmmakers breaking through now will go on to bigger things, which will lead to a stronger industry that provides more and more jobs.

3. It's important to our identity at home and abroad. Who are we? Who do we want to be? Do we want to live in a country shorn of all culture?

4. It doesn't actually cost us that much.

5. I went to Bruges recently. It was fantastic (not a shithole at all, Colin). Never would have gone if I hadn't seen the film. Lots of the locals have noticed a big increase of tourists since the film. My point is, movies make people go to countries and more than ever we need people to come to ours.

Anyway, here's an article from this weeks Sunday Tribune by Ferdia MacAnna - a wise and massively cultured head if ever there was one:

Ferdia MacAnna - "Abolishing the Irish Film Board would be a backward step and deeply impact on an industry that needs more time to find its identity"

Recently, a funny, quite scathing short film appeared on YouTube. Entitled 'Irish Film Board Parody', the clip roundly lampoons the Irish Film Board and its policies. It accuses the IFB of making plotless, meandering films about Dublin that contain tons of dialogue.

The parody savages the board's perceived obsession with winning awards at meaningless festivals such as 'The Backslapping Festival', 'The Vaingloria Festival' and 'The Milk Festival' (all obviously imaginary).

However, as George Bernard Shaw noted, "truth is the funniest joke of all". Anyone who has been turned down for film funding or who just doesn't like recent Irish movies may find much to savour in the 2.28 minutes of vitriol, at the end of which comes the following disclaimer:
"This video has been produced by a disgruntled Film Board rejectee and therefore all his opinions valid or otherwise can safely be discounted out of hand because he's just bitter".

At the moment the Irish Film Board has much more to worry about than some talented begrudger having a tilt on YouTube. The recent Bord Snip report recommends the abolition of the board, the winding-up of its investment funds and the transfer of its funds to Enterprise Ireland. If Bord Snip has its way, then the government will save about €19m and Ireland will lose a film board.

But the IFB is fighting back. Two weeks ago, it released a strong, passionate statement quoting a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers that valued Ireland's audiovisual industry at over half a billion euro per annum and indicated that it "offers permanent employment to over 6,000 people". The statement warns of the cultural consequences for the image of Ireland abroad should we abolish our film board:
"The projection of an image of a country, its people and its way of life onto the screens of the world pays direct dividends in terms of inward investment, trade in goods and services, and tourism. Almost one in two US tourists to Ireland now state that their decision to come was triggered by seeing Ireland in the movies."

Hang on. Let's rewind. "Almost" half of North American visitors to these shores come because of the portrayal of Ireland in movies? Says who? And which movies 'triggered' the decision? US releases for Irish films such as Once or Intermission? Or Americans who loved The Quiet Man or Darby O'Gill and the Little People and come seeking an Ireland that may only have existed in Hollywood? It couldn't have been Martin McDonagh's brilliant In Bruges (2007) which was set almost entirely in Belgium and apparently boosted tourism in Bruges by up to 20%.

Why don't more people know about this statistic? This country needs all the help it can get. If Irish movies can positively influence tourism, then surely we would be foolish to mess with the present system for the sake of a measly €20m.

Last week I emailed the IFB to find out the answers to these questions. I was surprised to receive no reply. So I followed up with a phone message. Again, no reply. Perhaps the person concerned was on holiday or maybe the board does not enter into discussions about its statements.

Or perhaps, it was more personal. After all, the present board has rejected two of my movie projects, possibly on the grounds that any feature film made by myself would be likely to put tourists off ever coming to this country.

Or maybe the IFB suspects that I am responsible for the YouTube parody. I am flattered but I swear I had nothing to do with it.

The whole business made me think about Irish cinema, and why a seemingly productive industry is now under threat.

Like most Irish people, I love movies. I still regularly go to the cinema and buy or rent DVDs. And I feel guilty for rarely getting much of a thrill out of Irish movies. We have excellent directors, crews and actors. But I can't recall the last time I got excited about going to see an Irish film. Irish films, by and large, seem to be aimed at the arthouse rather than a wide audience. If there were any recent Irish flicks aimed at children for example, then they didn't register with me or my kids. Ditto with regard to comedies or romcoms. In Bruges, my favourite comedy-thriller, didn't appear to have major IFB involvement.

We have talented writers, but often our movies seem more like visualised theatre plays – lots of talking heads and dialogue and not enough visual storytelling (maybe the IFB parody is spot on, after all). Richard Curtis, writer of the smash hit Four Weddings and a Funeral, has stated that it took over 14 drafts to get the screenplay right. Screenwriting is difficult and it needs time plus a lot of faith, as well as a bigger financial investment than perhaps the IFB is financially equipped to give.

Creating movies is expensive and time-consuming. I have no doubt that the IFB is doing a sincere and worthwhile job, though its recent output seems more appreciated abroad than at home. As a IFB rejectee, I should rejoice in its present difficulties. However, I believe that abolishing the present set-up would be a backward step and deeply impact on an industry that needs more time to find its identity, as well as an audience.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bye Bye Now - We're in the Edit

The phonebox project continues. Having travelled thousands of miles covering stories all over the country, we returned to Dublin to edit the film. From the many hours of footage and over 20 interviews we were to make a 12-minute documentary. Not easy at all.

We plunged headlong into the footage (well, Andrew our editor did) and picked out the best bits before deciding on a roadtrip jigsaw kindof structure to piece our stories together. So far, not bad. We're happy with how it's coming together and we got rough cut approval from the Irish Film Board, so now it's down to tweaking it as close to perfection as possible.

It has been an amazing experience making this film - we've had an amazing response from over 100 people and we've heard some great stories. It's been a challenge and sometimes a wrench choosing the stories that we're going to include and we hope people won't be disappointed. Hopefully it will go down well.

See you in Cork in November for the premiere!

Two New Podcasts

Here's two podcasts I did recently:

Ross Whitaker talks to Niall McKay, director of narrative documentary A Song for Dad, which airs on RTÉ 1 on Tuesday 4th August at 10.20pm. The film, which premiered in February at the Dublin International Film Festival, explores Niall’s relationship with his Jazz musician father, Jim, who in the 1970s raised his two young sons on his own in Dublin.
In this Film Ireland Web Exclusive, Niall talks about making a film which follows a very personal journey from the depths of suicide and depression to the heights of new beginnings, marriage proposals, and homecomings.

Ross Whitaker talks to Areaman Production’s Shane Hogan and Tom Burke about their documentary 'The Liberties' which premiered at the Stranger than Fiction documentary festival at the IFI on Sunday 21st June 2009. 'The Liberties' is a series of 15 short films showing the history, everyday life and the sense of community in this historical area of Dublin. Shane and Tom talk about how the original idea came about, the equipment used on the shoot, the reaction of the people involved to the screening and future projects. 'The Liberties' will be screened in the IFI on Sunday 2nd August at 1pm and the makers hope to have a 52-minute version broadcast on television in the future.

Ken Wardrop's Feature Debut

Ken Wardrop - director of the award-winning short Undressing My Mother - has completed his first feature-length film. It's called His & Hers and has already received an award at the Galway Film Fleadh. I met Ken before Galway to talk about the experience of making a longer film after creating numerous shorter films...

Short is Sweet, Feature is Sweeter
Spotlight on His and Hers

When I meet Ken Wardrop to discuss his new film I find him to be refreshingly honest, unassuming, intelligent and very likeable. He is, indeed, very much like his films.

Until now, Wardrop has made a habit of creating award-winning short documentaries that combine incredibly candid interviews with sumptuous visuals. He’s best known, of course, for Undressing My Mother, the hugely successful short film in which his mother explores her feelings about her body and her relationship with her late husband.

It is not even five years since Undressing My Mother debuted at the Cork Film Festival in 2004 where it screened along with six other films by Wardrop. I remember hearing at the time that the festival had given him a special programme because he had submitted seven films of rare quality. Back then it seemed unusual but having seen most of those films in the meantime it seems more than justified.

Now, five years on, and several short films later, Wardrop is embarking on a new stage in his filmmaking career with his first feature-length film, His and Hers. For anyone that has seen the bulk of Wardrop’s work to date, the style will be recognisable - Wardrop has taken what he has done before and applied it to the longer form. Like his shorts, the film has a wonderful honesty, a sense of fun and a touch of class.

Produced by Andrew Freedman, His and Hers explores woman’s relationship with man by visiting moments from the lives of 70 female characters. Shot in the hallways, living rooms and kitchens of the Irish Midlands, the story moves sequentially from young to old to deliver a unique and touching insight into sharing life’s journey. Where previously Wardrop undressed his mother, now he’s undressing the entire midlands.

I would call it ‘a confident debut’ if I hadn’t met Wardrop to discuss the film. He’s nervous. Who wouldn’t be? It’s only normal to be anxious when you are about to enter the less forgiving world of feature filmmaking. Where a short can hide amongst a programme of peers, a feature must survive on its own. Swim or sink. It would be very surprising if this film doesn’t stay afloat.

“As a filmmaker, I want to be taking risks. But I want them to be baby risks. So the idea was to try to use my style in the feature format, which I think is a risk in itself because it could be that the short film particularly suits me. I think a short filmmaker who has had success might start to think, ‘is this what I’m good at? Why is that this particular format suits me?’”

“It’s a new chapter and we want to learn as we go. The film has already far exceeded my expectations. We’ve had a good reaction from the people that have seen it so far. It’s my first feature and a low budget project, so it’s important to learn from it.”

The film is another tribute to the Catalyst Project in that Wardrop and his producer, Andrew Freedman, had originally tried to make the project through the scheme but decided to go ahead anyway when they weren’t selected for funding.

“Catalyst brought all of the people together who probably should have been making features but hadn’t for whatever reason and maybe because they didn’t have a specific deadline. It brought all of these people together and gave them a deadline, gave them training and encouragement to just go for it. They were offering 250k and they were open-minded to whatever kind of film you wanted to make.”

“The whole process really got us thinking and, of course, I’m shy about writing drama anyway, and I came up with the idea for His and Hers. And Andrew really pushed me to do it. We were shortlisted and got great feedback and that really put the wind under our wings, so to speak. Then we didn’t get it and we were really disappointed because we thought we’d done a really good pitch. ”

After Catalyst, Wardrop and Freedman continued to talk to the Irish Film Board about possible funding and are very complimentary about the support they received from the IFB and production executive Alan Maher. In the end, they decided to go for micro budget funding and went into production with 100k to make the film.

Because of the success of Wardop’s short films, one imagines that there will be great international interest in his new feature but the director feels that the nature of the film might militate against some festivals taking it on.

“One of the things about the film is that it’s a very wordy film and that might affect it in terms of international festivals. You can’t escape the fact that there are a lot of Irish people in the film who are speaking incredibly quickly. I was thinking of subtitling the film in English but a lot of the time there would be three lines of subtitles on screen and I was thinking, ‘nobody can read that fast’.”

His and Hers is yet to have a public screening but it has already received a stamp of approval. Just days before we meet the film won the SDGI Directors Finders Series, which will provide Wardrop with the opportunity to showcase His and Hers in Los Angeles in front of an invited audience of American distributors, filmmakers, and key industry personnel, with the aim of securing a US distribution deal.

But first, it’s off to Galway, where His and Hers will premiere in July.

Monday, June 22, 2009

More On Kim Longinotto

I must admit, I'm a big fan. I'd love to work with her but she often works with all-female crews, which is understandable considering the nature of much of her subject material.

I think any filmmaker can learn a lot from Longinotto. Here are some interview links:

Bye Bye Now - Update

The phonebox project continues... We've been on the road for two weeks now and it has been brilliant. Who could have know that this project would capture people's imagination like it has. At first, we were old school, scouring the villages of Ireland for phoneboxes and related stories. Then it just seemed to catch on. The Irish Times did an article on us and then tonnes of other media outlets followed. Funnily enough, we had contacted a load of radio stations already and many of them ignored us... then suddenly they all wanted to talk to us. Unfortunately for some of them, Tubridy got us first and we had to disappoint a few nice people.

Here's what the Irish Times said:

And IFTN did a bit too:

We're taking a week off this week (and we also need time to call everyone back) and then we'll be back on the road next week.

The film is due to premiere in Cork in November.

Rough Aunties by Kim Longinotto

Meant to mention this a long time ago - I saw a wonderful film at Hot Docs that I think everyone should see. The documentary was called Rough Aunties and it was by the filmmaker Kim Longinotto. I saw another great film by Longinotto last year at the Britspotting Festival in Berlin where Saviours was also playing. It was called Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go and it really impressed me. Longinotto is one of those incredibly courageous filmmakers that bravely makes films about tough subjects and, equally bravely, sticks to her stylistic guns. Longinotto is an observational filmmaker and a brilliant one.

Here's how it's described on the website:

"Fearless, feisty and resolute, the 'Rough Aunties' are a remarkable group of women unwavering in their stand to protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa. This newest documentary by internationally acclaimed director Kim Longinotto (Sisters in Law, Divorce Iranian Style) follows the outspoken, multiracial cadre of Thuli, Mildred, Sdudla, Eureka and Jackie, as they wage a daily battle against systemic apathy, corruption and greed to help the most vulnerable and disenfranchised of their communities. Neither politics, nor social or racial divisions stand a chance against the united force of the women. Once again Longinotto has managed to bring us an intimate portrait of change from Africa, this time from the new post-apartheid South Africa, a nation being transformed with hope and energy into a new democracy."

I couldn't have said it better myself. It's a wonderful film and I highly recommend it.

Their website is:

I can't wait to see Longinotto's next film. For now I'll have to make do with two films of hers that I just bought on the internet - Divorce Iranian Style & Runaway.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hot Docs Report

Just a quick one.

I'm back from Hot Docs for about a week now and it was brilliant.

Anyone that is interested in documentary should go to check out this festival. Audiences will find some of the best documentaries in the workd playing in some of the nicest settings. Filmmakers will find just about every funder worth talking too for feature-length documentaries. The whole thing is so well organised and friendly. The Canadians are always friendly.

One particular highlight was the Toronto Documentary Forum. It's a filmmakers pitching forum watched by a room full of producers, filmmakers, funders and press. The room itself is magnificent - like an academic auditorium in University of Toronto. It all sounds so daunting writing this but it's so well set up that I could imagine pitching there wouldn't be too bad. And what an opportunity!

They have all sorts of video and reports on the Hot Docs website if you want to learn more.


Right, I've never surfed in my life but I seem to be talking about surfing a lot these days and in the last two weeks I saw two surfing related things that blew my mind in.

The first:

I think it's from a BBC Documentary Series called South Pacific and it show some of the incredible things that can be done with HD Cinematography. The underwater shots are incredible and the shot of Dylan Longbottom surfing through a 12 foot monster barrell in slow-mo is just astonishing. There have been a lot of surf documentaries and I've seen a few of them - this is undoubtedly the best footage I've seen.

The second:

Is a movie called SurfWise that was on More4 last week. It was incredibly compelling. The film is about Dorian Paskowitz - it starts out telling the story of him as a young doctor who tries out a few lifestyles before deciding that the best life for him and his family is to live aboard a 24-foot campervan driving along gorgeous coastlines and surfing.

It chronicles how he has nine kids in total, none of whom go to school but all of whom become fantastic surfers and live a life as far from ordinary as you can get. The film reveals the impact of this seemingly idylic lifestyle on his kids - the ups and the consierable downs. I don't want to say too much because if you like documentaries, you just have to see this film. You need to. It is a fascinating story that reveals a lot about the human condition.

Along with Riding Giants, it just about closes the book on surfing documentaries for me. I can't imagine there will be anything to match them but you never know.

Here's the trailer:

And the website:

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I don’t mind telling you that I was a little worried when Film Ireland asked me to put the spotlight on Savage, the debut feature film by Brendan Muldowney (Director) and Conor Barry (Producer).

With low-budget Irish films you just never know what you’re going to get and I hadn’t seen the film yet. In fact, nobody had seen it. Ever. So, I was concerned that I was going to end up interviewing the makers of Savage having not enjoyed their film...

They sent me over a screener. I watched it. I loved it. I was the first person to watch the final cut of the film and now the makers of Savage have a 100% record. One viewer, one fan.

Savage is an exploration of violence and masculinity - a story of obsession and revenge, as a man tries to come to terms with a brutal, random attack and its consequences.

Darren Healy plays Paul Graynor, a shy, mild-mannered press photographer who is set upon in an alley by two lads on his way home from a night out. In a hugely powerful scene, Muldowney brilliantly captures the intimidating “Look at me! Look at me! Watcha lookin at!” patter that will be all too familiar to anyone who has been caught in that frightening position. It’s an uncomfortable, harrowing scene that will have you squirming in your seat and the gentlemen in the audience crossing their legs. But you won’t be able to look away.

The violent assault leaves Graynor a shadow of his former self, at first cowed but later very, very angry. Muldowney is clearly influenced by films like Taxi Driver and Straw Dogs in depicting a man who is pushed to the edge and contemplates taking the next step.

The film takes you on a visceral, violent journey that is utterly compelling. It’s not for the faint-hearted but then it’s not aimed at the faint-hearted. Indeed, probably the most pleasing element of this film is its unflinching desire to not let the audience off the hook. It is uncompromising but all the better for that. It puts the audience in an uncomfortable but fascinating place, leaving you wondering whether revenge could be acceptable if the initial crime is heinous enough.

“I wanted to make people feel something and then they could make up their own minds about it,” says Muldowney. “I wanted the audience to understand this character and to almost feel sorry for him despite the violent acts that he carries out. It’s a bit twisted. The whole point was to put the audience in this grey area, so they could see both sides of the story. I was happy to not be didactic.”

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact budget of Savage, it seems to me that they received less cash in hand than is often wasted on an hour of primetime reality TV. They had just four weeks to shoot the film and ended up with less coverage than they would have liked, though I must admit that I didn’t notice. Barry and Muldowney are also quick to point out that their low budget brought benefits as well as drawbacks.

“If we’d had more money, I probably would have used CGI to help me depict the violence and bloodshed in certain scenes but in hindsight it became more about performance and using the length of the scene to get me there. I think it works just as well and that it’s just as disturbing and if we’d been more explicit it might not have been as good,” says Muldowney. Barry adds a crucial point, “the other thing about low budget filmmaking is that it gave us the freedom to make the film we wanted to make.”

Barry and Muldowney originally aimed to make Savage as part of the Catalyst Project - the IFB, BCI, TV3 and Arts Council scheme that aimed to get three low budget features made – but when it wasn’t picked as one of the final projects, they decided to make it anyway.

“We didn’t get Catalyst but we had put so much work into it at that point and that reinforced the fact that we really wanted to make it,” explains Barry. “Funnily enough, all of the work you put into trying to get a Catalyst application together, all of the encouragement and meetings and so on bring you on the road towards making your film. It all became a weird, natural progression towards achieving funding for Savage.”

They make no secret of their gratitude to the Film Board, who strongly backed the project, “they put together the model that allowed us to get the film made,” says Barry. And they commend Filmbase, which was also very supportive. In addition, the team raised money outside of the normal channels by sending an investment proposal to family, friends and, well, everyone they could. It worked.

It’s quite remarkable what they’ve achieved with the budget they accumulated and there are films out there with ten times the budget that don’t look half as good. Using the Red One, cinematographers Michael O’Donovan and Tom Comerford have created a stark, monochrome Dublin that is gritty without appearing in any way cheap. Muldowney is clearly adept at using sound and it is employed to great effect throughout the film and, in particular, to build the internal journey of Graynor.

It’s a tribute to the Irish Film Board’s ‘yes I can’ attitude that so many small, high-quality films are making their way to audiences. But the flipside is that there is increasing competition for berths at festivals even within Ireland. The makers of Savage hope to debut the film at Galway and take it from there.

Beyond Savage, Barry and Muldowney have two more films loaded up and ready to go and they’re just waiting to finalise funding before pulling the trigger. I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what they do next.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hot Docs

Next week I'll be at Hot Docs. For once it's not with the film SAVIOURS that we've been bringing to festivals all over the place for the last 18 months.

This time I'm going with the intention of meeting people in the industry and improving my knowledge of how the industry works. Raising money for documentaries certainly isn't easy and next week I'll hopefully learn more about how to ease that process.

I'll post next week about my experiences. Hopefully it'll be a good week.

Seoige Show Ends

Over the last 6 months or so I've been working away on the Seoige Show. It was a different kind of challenge to what I've been doing until now and I enjoyed it a lot.

It was announced last week that this will be the last series (nothing to do with me, I hope!) and we had our wrap party on Friday. Despite the inherent sadness of the show ending, I think the team were generally in good form and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I certainly did.

It was a fun show to work on and everyone who worked on it was great, with special mention to Bernie and all of the nice people called Claire.

Thanks to Tyrone Productions too for making it all happen.

Here are some of the videos I did for them:

Phone Boxes Are Go!

So we've started preproduction on a new documentary called ByeByeNow. ('We' is the lovely Aideen O'Sullivan and, of course, me). The film is to be a tribute the humble phone box - it was so central to Irish life and now it is to be consigned to the scrapheap.

The film is to be an anecdotal history - we're going to weave together stories from ordinary people to give a sense of the history and to show how important they were in Irish life. The film is to be a celebration... and not a criticism of the strategy of out national phone provider. I, for one, haven't used a phone box for years myself but I still think it's fascinating the part they played in Irish life.

For years there would be lines of people down the street on Christmas Day as everyone in turn rang their relatives in Australia or America.

We've already come across some good stories - like the one about the sportscaster doing his commentary from a phone box - but we're on the look out for many more stories.

The film will be 12-minutes long and was funded by the Irish Film Board. I think it's going to turn out great.

Friday, April 17, 2009

One Day In September

This weekend I'm hopefully going to be having a chat with the director of the new Russell Crowe movie 'State of Play'. I saw the press screening last week and was really impressed. I can't resist those journalist-as-detective movies.

The director is Kevin MacDonald and in preparation for meeting him I've been looking back at some of his previous work (I also watched the TV Series, 'State of Play' on which the film is based - really good). Most people know MacDonald for his powerful documentary 'Touching The Void' - the story of two mountain climbers and how they deal with disastrous circumstances - or the recent movie 'Last King of Scotland' with James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker.

I still think his best film is the 1999 documentary 'One Day In September', which one an Oscar. It's the incredibly moving account of the kidnap and murder of Israeli Olympians by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics. MacDonald adeptly tells both sides of the story, delivering a nuanced, complex film that stays with you for days.

'One Day In September' came along before the documentary boom and it stands up well against any of the films that have emerged in the last ten years. MacDonald uses music brilliantly, which he has done in all his films.

Definitely a filmmaker worth watching.

Fan trailer for the film:

Of course, the film 'Munich' was based on the same events:

If you like Waveriders

Check out this clip of the 'making of' the AIB surfing ad:


Waveriders is out in the cinema. It's made by Margo Harkin and Joel Conroy and tells the story of Irish big wave surfing.

I did a little interview with Joel for Film Ireland magazine:

'Riding The Wave'
Interview with Joel Conroy, director of Waveriders

Joel Conroy is running on empty. When we meet for coffee in Filmbase it soon becomes clear that he really needs one. He is slap bang in the middle of one of the busiest weeks in the life of his new movie Waveriders.

He has just returned from the US Premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California where thousands of punters came to view his film at its three sell-out screenings. From there, he jetted back to Dublin just in time to pick up the IFTA for Best Feature Documentary and after this interview he was getting ready to jump back on a plane to present the film at another American festival.

Conroy is responsible for what Donald Clarke of the Irish Times described as an ‘overpowering picture’ after its first screening at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival last year, where Waveriders proved a real crowd pleaser and picked up the audience award.

The documentary is a visually stunning piece of cinema that combines breathtaking surfing footage with imaginatively presented archive and tells the previously untold story of the unlikely Irish roots of the worldwide surfing phenomenon and today’s pioneers of Irish big wave surfing.

In 2003, Conroy, a surfer himself, made his first surf doc, Eye Of The Storm, which proved the perfect training ground for a film of greater magnitude. He had aspirations to make a more ambitious surf film and when he came across an Irish connection to the rebirth of surfing in Hawaii, he found a story that would help him do that.

“I was reading the sports section of 'The Times' and there was a question to the editor which caught my attention: 'Is it true it was an Irishman who invented surfing?' The answer was: 'You are partly correct. It was an Irishman who re-invented the sport of surfing - his name was Freeth'. From that moment I was captivated. My imagination went into overdrive. I needed to know more about this Irish character called Freeth.”

Freeth’s story became the foundation on which Conroy could build his narrative.
Traditionally surfing films have been a heady mix of pretty pictures and banging tunes with not much more than a nod to narrative cinema. Then along came Stacy Peralta’s brilliant 2004 documentary, Riding Giants, and changed all that. It set a new standard for surfing documentaries, combining the best qualities of earlier surf films with a strong narrative arc.

Like Peralta, Conroy aims to infuse a solid storyline into an exhilarating surf odyssey and does so by linking the pioneering spirit of Hawaiian-Irishman George Freeth - who was responsible for the rebirth of surfing in Hawaii in the early twentieth century - with a host of contemporary pioneers who are seeking out and riding massive waves off the coast of Ireland.

“Story is king,” says Conroy. “You can shoot lots of beautiful visuals and I had lots of ideas about how to do that with film but it would be nothing without a story. So, I read the George Freeth story and then I started identifying the contemporary elements that I could use and finding the characters who would be part of the story.”

But making a film like of this scale is a huge enterprise and requires big money. Conroy teamed up with the highly respected, award-winning documentary producer Margo Harkin and they have forged a strong bond.

“I got stuck on the financing and Margo injected a new energy into the project. She brought so much creativity and expertise to the production. There were so many elements for us to consider - extreme characters participating in an extreme sport, extreme locations, extreme logistics, extreme health and safety risks of both cliff and ocean filming and extreme weather dependency… we were doing something very niche.”
Conroy put together an expert crew and filmed Waveriders in four blocks for ten weeks in total. They shot on super-16mm rather than digital and he was happy with the results.

“When I saw the first set of rushes coming back, I thought it was totally justified. The footage was really beautiful.”

The edit took place in Screen Scene with Nathan Nugent cutting but after the first block of editing, Conroy wasn’t sure that he had quite nailed the film that he wanted.

“We had shot the last scene in April and started cutting in May and by October we had a rough cut and I started thinking, ‘is this it?’ I just felt it was lacking the killer punch to really move the audience before they left the cinema. I was playing for time but then I was told that December 1st was to be the absolute final date to complete the edit.”

Then 72 hours before his deadline, Conroy noticed the stirring of some promising weather patterns off the west coast of Ireland. And on December 1st he found himself dug into the side of a cliff filming the biggest waves ever surfed in Ireland. A bit of divine intervention had given him the ending he wanted.

“There were a lot of weird things going on and a lot of things just seemed to come together miraculously. It was perfect. It couldn’t have been more perfect. It rocked the world, and when the still photos went out, people in Hawaii were freaking out because they never rate the waves anywhere else in the world.”

Waveriders will be released by Element Pictures in April and despite the dismal performance of many Irish films at the box office in recent times, Conroy is hopeful that his film will find an audience.

“I have high hopes for it. It’s a recession, the odds are stacked against us but you have to have faith. We made a surf film in Ireland! If we didn’t have faith, we would have stopped ages ago and got a real job somewhere.”

Big Time

Big Time was on TV a couple of weeks ago. It's a documentary about Bernard Dunne who is now World Champion. Well done Bernard! It was a Liberty Films production supported by the Irish Film Board, BCI and RTE Sport.

It's a funny one really, the film finishes before the climax of Bernard winning his World Title... if only we had known! But you never know... there might be another ending on the way.

I've noticed that the documentary has been uploaded to youtube, so you can find clips here...

I also got to do the promo for the World Title Fight, so I had my own part to play in the historic night... that's my friend Dave Moore doing the VO... that man can talk fast!!

You'd be forgiven for thinking that I'm some kind of boxing nut but you'd be wrong. I actually find it quite tough to watch but there are amazing stories in the area. I have an idea for another boxing film to complete the trilogy, so to speak... if only I can find someone to fund it!


This is my first post, so I should start at the start but I won't. I'll start at the top... so it's all downhill from here.

The biggest thing to happen to me in the last few years was the film Saviours. I made it with another documentary guy called Liam Nolan and it has played at festivals around the world, winning a few awards and generally getting some very kind and generous responses. Thanks to everyone who went to see it.

Here's the trailer:

The film was released in Irish Cinemas in October 2008 by the lovely Siobhan Farrell in Eclipse Pictures and some people gave us some very pleasant reviews. My personal favourite was the Sunday Tribune. Actually, at the end of the year they also declared the film 'Best Irish Film Of 2008'. So, basically, I think the Sunday Tribune is great!

Here's the review they gave us:

Finally, and most importantly, the film could not have happened without the incredible support of the Irish Film Board and the encouragement of Alan Maher and Patrick O'Neill. Thanks fellas.