Patrick McKenna Interview
Patrick McKenna has not only acted, directed, written, but he also managed to find time to compose a soundtrack. IFM caught up with the rising talent.
IFM: First off Patrick, give us a bit of background information about yourself.
I am 32 years old and live in west Dublin. I work in a full-time job unrelated to filmmaking so the aspect of independent filmmaking is more a hobby for me than a profession that I took up about 4 years ago. Prior to that I acted in a couple of independent short films for my good friend, Ray Hyland, from Red Kremlin Films. Ray inspired me to take up filmmaking myself so I started out with writing my own script material at first. After I wrote a few draft scripts, I spent about a year researching on how to start making an independent film such as recommended equipment like cameras, audio, etc., shot types, cinematography, castings, post-production, etc. However, I would very much consider myself a novice or beginner in both acting and filmmaking. I haven’t had any kind of training so I’m always learning new things with each project that I’m currently, or have been involved in.
IFM: You’ve acted in a number of short films. Do you feel it has prepared you to move onto TV and film?
It definitely has, but when I started acting at first I didn’t initially realise the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes into making a film. I find the aspect of acting really enjoyable. It’s great to read a script when playing a particular character, and to create my own vision of that character, such as how he walks, talks or his general appearance as long as the director allows it. However, I had so many ideas of my own for story lines and characters that I then began writing my own material which then eventually lead me to actually wanting to make these story lines and characters a reality on the screen so I started filmmaking.
IFM: How did you get into acting, and what’s your first memory of wanting to act, and perform?
At a young age, I always idolised the actors in the Hollywood blockbusters, and the thought of becoming a rich movie star was my childhood dream. However, as I grew older that kind of fizzled out as I became more interested in sports. It wasn’t until my late teens/early adulthood that I got back into acting. My biggest regret now is that I never went to acting classes or received proper training but that’s something I plan to do when I get around to it.
IFM: How hard do you push yourself when working?
With the short films that I have been involved in, the crew size has been very small. In most cases, it could be just one person on camera and another on audio. With less people in the crew, it means more work when on set. As a result, I find that my mind is racing at 100 miles an hour. I could be trying to direct the actors while also trying to set up a shot while also trying to keep an eye on continuity and other issues all at the same time. I am always very appreciative of the time and effort that actors give to an independent project, especially when it is unpaid work, so I try my best to get things done with them as soon as possible. As a result, I find that I am going non-stop when on set to try and get things done as quickly and efficiently as I can.
IFM: What have you worked on that you’re most proud of?
I think that my first short film, “The Blaggettes“, is what I’m most proud of so far. I wrote it in about a month or so, and the filming and post-production was spread over a 9 month period, which is quite long for a short film. It was quite a relief when I eventually got it finished. I did a screening for the cast with all their family and friends, and the feedback I got was positive, especially due to the fact that it was my first effort as a filmmaker. As I try and gain more experience as a filmmaker in the future, I’m sure that there will be other proud moments for me to come.
IFM: You’re not only involved in acting, you also direct, and compose music for film. Is there any one area you’re looking to focus on?
At the moment, I think that I’d like to concentrate on gaining more experience as an actor. As I mentioned earlier, I plan to get some proper acting training but I am currently writing a short film that I not only plan to direct but also plan to act in. It’ll be hard work, but I think that acting and directing in a low-budget independent production will be a personal achievement for me. As for composing, I only do it because I have the equipment to be able to do it myself. It rules out having to hire a composer which is an extra cost, especially when making a self-financed independent production. I am in no way a talented or experienced musician. I just have a good understanding of sound production and how to make it work for me. If I had a big enough budget, I’d probably be more inclined to hire a music composer than doing it myself because composing by myself is a lot of work, that just adds more time to the post-production process.
IFM: Every filmmaker has their heroes of cinema, who first inspired you?
I always admired the work of Michael Mann, particularly when he made Heat, which is one of my favorite films. I think that it’s a brilliant story that was well made with an outstanding cast. In the more recent years, I really like the work of Christopher Nolan, particularly his work on the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and The Prestige. I like the fact that he is very “hands on”, so much so that he never uses a second unit because he wants to be directly involved in all aspects of his films when making them.
IFM: Tell us a bit about your short film “The Blaggettes”.
I came up with the idea for The Blaggettes while I was researching on how to get started in filmmaking. I initially came up with the story of two cons owing a local crime boss money, but I wanted to add something else to it to make it unique so I came up with the idea of a gang of female armed robbers. I told Ray Hyland from Red Kremlin Films about the idea and he really liked the story so he came onboard as the producer. With it being my first short film, I was very much inexperienced as to where to begin but Ray gave me great guidance in all aspects of the film from writing it, to pre-production, to filming it, and finally to post-production. It is currently in the process of being submitted into the festival circuit so fingers crossed it’ll get selected for screening at one or two of them.
IFM: You’ve just completed working on another short film. What was that experience like?
It was the first time that I went out to work on a film with an entirely new group of people that I never knew or met before. Prior to that, for example with The Blaggettes or the Red Kremlin films that I acted in, I personally knew a lot of the people involved in them. This time around it was great to get out and meet new people in the filmmaking community. It was very much a learning experience for me too. It was amazing to work with the talented actors involved in it, particularly Laura Canavan-Hayes, Lynseyann Mulvey, and of course Des Daly from Troubadour Productions, who are all dedicated actors committed to their craft on a full-time basis. Just to see their commitment, professionalism and talent was an inspiration and an education for me. As for the film itself, it’s still in the post-production stage so hopefully we’ll see completed in a few months.
IFM: Do you think you’ve grown as a filmmaker in between the two projects? And if so how?
Yes, very much so. With The Blaggettes being my first short film, I had all these great ideas and notions during the filming of it, but it wasn’t until the editing process that I realised what actually worked for me, and what didn’t work. This time around I was a lot more aware of my own capabilities and the capabilities of the equipment that I had. As well as that, the pre-production stage was a lot better planned than when I made The Blaggettes. Filming was completed within a 6 week period compared to a 9 month period with The Blaggettes. As well as that, I have began to expand my filming equipment and camera setup so I can achieve better shots and try make the footage look more cinematic. Above all, the art of filmmaking is continual learning process for me and I like to think that I’m always growing as a filmmaker with each project that I’m involved in.
IFM: With these recent film shorts behind you, what’s your next goal as a filmmaker?
As I said before, filmmaking is always a learning process for me as I still consider myself as a beginner. My main overall goal is to gain more experience and improve as a filmmaker. I’d also like to meet more filmmakers in the Irish filmmaking community. I think that with the exception of film festivals or filmmaking forums online, there isn’t really a platform for like minded filmmakers to meet and share ideas and experiences, whereas actors, on the other hand, might meet frequently whether it be at auditions or on the set of a production or at classes or courses. I have also completed writing two draft screenplays and I’m half way through my third, so I hope to maybe get started on making one or two of them into short films at some stage in the near future, and I would ideally like to have one or two of them screened at some of the film festivals around the country. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds.