Frank Kelly – Part 2

September 10, 2013

Last month I posted part one of an interview with Irish writer and filmmaker Frank Kelly. Several of his films are Derelict and 140. Today I follow up with part two: Kelly’s thoughts on the new wave of filmmaking in Ireland.

Photo Frank Kelly

Frank Kelly

Ireland has long been known for its strong tradition in writing and theatre. I asked Kelly if Irish filmmaking is finding its own place in that tradition. “Yes, I think so,” he says, “especially right now. There are a bunch of new filmmakers emerging, who are making great work, powerful work that’s rattling some cages. I definitely think that Ireland is in the middle of a new wave. There has never been a huge tradition of filmmaking in Ireland, not like in the UK, for example. There are great films that have come out of Ireland, and great filmmakers, but there have just never been the resources or finances here for sustaining an industry of a comparable scale.

“However, we’re always at the Oscars for technical ability. There’s always an Irish guy in the SFX awards, always an Irish short film in there. The animation industry is world class, and right now, the films that are coming out are outstanding, unique and coming from strong young voices.”

A Darker Tone

“Strangely though, there is a darker tone to most of these films. I think Derelict sits well among them for tone. I mentioned before that my story telling comes out of my environment, what is and what’s going on, around me. I think that could be said for most filmmakers actually.

“And in Ireland, among the corruption, the bad politics, the thieving bankers and greedy developers who raped our country, we filmmakers watched it, felt it, lived it and are now telling it. You have Terry McMahon’s Charlie Casanova, Ciaran Foy’s Citadel, Conor Horgan’s One Hundred Mornings, Brendan Muldowney’s Savage, Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did… the list goes on. Brilliant filmmakers, making outstanding films that hold a mirror up to what’s happening in Ireland.

Commenting on his own place in Irish film, Kelly says, “I’m not sure I’d put myself up there with those guys, no. I’m not being modest, just truthful. I think I have a ways to go, some work to do. Not yet, would be my answer to that. But I’m hopeful.”

A Mirror To Society

Asked if there is a unique sensibility in Irish film, Kelly comments, “It’s really interesting at the moment. Many of the filmmakers coming up now are writer/directors, they’re young, thirties, and they’re pissed off. Pissed off with the system, with how things have gone for them, with the government – and it’s coming out in their films, in our films. I’m no different. Many of the films in the last couple of years have been extremely dark, violent and angry pieces. It really is an expression of what Ireland as a country is feeling beneath it all.

“But these are not depression pieces of self-indulgent, gratuitous slaughter. They’re honest work, truly cinematic, confrontational pieces. I think cinema has to be confrontational at times. I think I’ve said before it’s a mirror to society, and that what we’re doing at the moment, we’re holding up the mirror, and maybe what’s looking back is an ugly sight.”

Making Movies in Ireland

The filmmaking environment is difficult in Ireland. “It’s tough here,” Kelly says. “Ireland is like a small town. Everyone knows everyone. Which is good on one hand, but bad on the other, because everyone’s going after the same money, and there’s not a lot of it.

“But you build your own reputation, your own crew, and if you write a good story people will be a part of it. There are a lot of very talented people, good crew, brilliant cinematographers, writers, directors, make-up artists… across the board we’re world class.

“There are good schools. I attended Ballyfermot College of Further Education, where I studied animation. There’s the national film school – they have an excellent degree course and always turn out outstanding filmmakers.”

“As for films, there are the ones I mentioned above. You also have Grabbers, a fun Tremors-style comedy/horror; The Runway, which is the one bright, happy and life-affirming film I’ve seen! Lance Daly’s Kisses; getting back to the dark stuff there’s Rewind by PJ Dillon; Kirsten Sheridan’s Dollhouse; Lenny Abraham’s two previous films Adam & Paul and Garage, both written with Mark O’Halloran.

“And going back a few years there is of course Once by John Carney, which I think turned the spotlight back on Irish films. I think Once probably gave us indies a better chance to make our smaller films. We could say, ‘hey, maybe we can’t do it big, but we can do it well’. Among them you have the bigger filmmakers, Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan working away, and Dundalk man John Moore taking Hollywood by storm.

“There is also a lot happening with television in Ireland right now, with the likes of Love/Hate and the BBC show Ripper Street filming here. A lot of these actors are getting the opportunity to show their worth on the small screen.”

Irish Actors Shine

I asked Kelly if Ireland has strong actors coming up through the system. “In Dublin there are numerous acting schools,” he says. “Dublin is awash with ridiculously good actors. When making an indie film in Ireland you’re at least guaranteed brilliant performances.

“Most of the actors I’ve worked with have a theatre background and move across film and theatre, seemingly with ease. Not being biased, but if you look at the cast of my last film Derelict you will see a strong and talented group of actors. It’s why I cast them.”

Finding New Ground

“I’m immigrating soon,” says Kelly, “and looking at what to do next. I’m writing something that’s about an adventure, about people getting out of the depth, and being afraid. So I guess that makes sense. It will be interesting to see what happens in my new environment, what comes out.”

Irish filmmaker Frank Kelly has what he terms ‘the gift of the gab’ and will continue to tell stories. “It’s who we are and I think Irish film is all about who we are.”


See part one of Frank Kelly’s interview.


Frank Kelly’s blog.

Interview with Frank Kelly in

Check out the Irish Film Board and Ireland’s Filmmakers Network.