question 1: The Secret of Kells has been a project on the go since your college days, how have you kept yourself motivated throughout the project?
Well,to be honest, very often I thought it would never be in production,but we would get some little nudge of encouragment, and keep going. Basically once we had Les Armateurs and Vivifilm on board as co-producers we felt we would be in production fairly quickly but the funding took along time to come together from so many sources.
We had sort of bursts of development every few months where we would work on the script with FabriceZiolkowski the French screenwriter and do some new designs or whatever based on that. Then it would fade into the background again as we went about the business of the studio.It was always there ticking away as we had three producers invested in getting it off the ground and each market or festival they attended would bring some forward movement.
I was basically hanging all my hopes on it for the whole time between 2003 and 2005 when we found ourselves with an unexpected situation where both Skunk Fu and Kells were lining up to start at the same time. It was basically just the project I kept coming back to between other projects until October 2005 when it got going. By then I felt we sort of owed it to ourselves and everyone who had commited to it to get it off the ground.
question 2: How much support did you need/get from friends and family to start and complete this film?
Well it started as an idea I developed primarily with Aidan Harte who went on to direct Skunk Fu. When he decided to focus only on Skunk Fu I realised I would like to continue with the project on my own but to pretty much reimagine it. Two of my longest term collabrators and friends Nora Twomey and Ross Stewart who were both founding members of the studio and had gone to Ballyfermot with me were a constant source of encouragement andinspiration. Nora ending up taking the role of “co-director” and Ross was the “art director” from the very earliest days.
As well as those two, many of my friends from college were involved, Jeremy Purcell was the SFXdesigner and supervisor, Barry Reynolds had done early designs with us but ended up taking my visual development designs and creating the final designs and model packs , he had worked with us in the early years and later went off to other studios, but he brought that experience back to the Saloon in 2005 when Kells finally kicked off.
Another major bonus for me was having Fabian Erlinghauser another long time Salooner return as Animation Supervisor, he was in Hungary for 8 months supervising the teams there and I had many late nights on Skype with him keeping each others spirits up during that long haul!Paul Young the producer and indeed all the crew in the Saloon were so supportive and that meant a lot. I felt a lot more secure delving into such a big production with so many old friends and reliable colleagues on board.We got a lot of support in the early days from Mike Kelly of Young IrishFilmmakers, a few us had been members and our studio was based on their premises for quite a few years.
I guess the main supporters however were my wife Liselott and son Ben who had to put up with a lot of late nights and times when I had to be abroad during the production. My son Ben was 10 years old when I began and ap erfect test audience but now he is taller than me!
Question 3: How did you find the role of directing your own feature film?As a first time Director of a feature film what was the most valuable thing you learnt?
I found the role intimidating at first, but was reassured by having so many old friends involved. Also we had some very experienced people in key roles and that helped alot, Remi Chaye joined us from France in the role as assistant director and we tried to find a balance between the experienced people who were willing to try something new and a bit experimental and younger turks who brought alot of enthusaism and talent to the production. On the music side I had Bruno Coulais and Kila and we had Brendan Gleeson and Mick Lally doing voices so I felt my “first time” ness was balanced by such experience and talent in each department.
I guess I learnt that even though its an enormously team based endeavour its important to take the role of Director seriously and make strong decisions even if they are tough. A good example of this was the editing process , I worked with FabienneGiro , an experienced live action editor
during the last months of the production. We ended up cutting 10 minutes , of completed coloured animation. It was painful but I believe the film is better for it.
question 4: Brendan is getting great reviews and nominatiions world wide. I’m sure you’re over the moon by this but is it effecting you in anyother way and are you being looked at differently by peers from the animation industry than before?
Getting good reviews is great , but getting bums on seats will be even better! I really hope the Irish public go out and see the film and enjoy it. That will mean a lot. Trish and the team in Disney Ireland are giving it a great push and Brendan Gleeson has been fantastic for supporting it in the media so we have high hopes we will find the audience we feel the film deserves.Its far too early to say if its effecting the way my peers look at us, but I hope it will give us more opportunities and show what we can do.
question 5: Are there any exciting projects in the near future for yourself or Cartoon Saloon that you can tell us about?
My new project is a feature film called “Song of the Sea” about the last selkie child in Ireland and we have several other projects in development. However I am particularly excited about “Old Fangs” a short film that is being directed by Adrien Merigeau one of the Background supervisors from Kells. He is a real talent and I think it will be a beautiful film.