Carl Finnegan Interview
IFM: Jumping straight in Carl, tell us about yourself and your background in filmmaking.
I’m originally from Limerick but have resided in Dublin most of life. I’m artistic director of Pack A Punch Theatre. I was cast in a CBBC show many years ago which got me started in filmmaking and got me my first agent. I then landed day player roles on RTE shows and then moved my focus to theatre.
IFM: You studied in both IADT Dun Laoghaire and the Gaiety School of Acting. Give us an idea what you studied there, and how has it helped you when it came to writing/directing and acting.
I trained as an actor at the Gaiety School of Acting. I started in the Youth Theatre Company progressing to the Performance Course. At IADT I completed a Degree in E-Business while also running the Drama Soc there for 4 years. From these experiences I learned how to produce/direct shows annually at IADT and form a group of collaborators. My business degree taught me how to manage budgets and accounts for the college. This led to me setting up my own theatre company Pack A Punch Theatre in the following years. I’m now beginning as a filmmaker and although I was headed into uncharted territory making ‘Two Gallants’, I was able to draw on skills I’d picked up from these experiences along the way. Writing has been a new process for me this year. I have a lot of experience in Improv which helps.
IFM: How did you get into acting, and what’s your first memory of wanting to act, and perform?
I excelled at art at school and I was beginning to get exposed to the great 70’s era of American cinema in my teens. I knew I wanted to be a part of film. I felt at the time that an actor could be a great social commentator. I decided to join the youth theatre at the Gaiety and I asked my best friend to come along for some support. He was reluctant to go but I convinced him it might be a good place to meet girls. Once I got to my first class my interest continued to grow in theatre & film.
IFM: Let’s move on to your short film ‘Two Gallants’. It’s an adaptation of the James Joyce short story. What made you choose this particular story, and how did you go about adapting it?
I felt the ‘Dubliners’ collection of short stories had a mythic quality and I was looking for a story within it that we could update to a contemporary setting. The story is about Irish con men and I had always enjoyed heist films and felt it was the kind of story I would like to see. I wrote a 1st draft which was very similar to the original short story and met with my co-writer Darren McGrath. At the time we had our initial discussion on the project we both talked about how disenfranchised we were with Ireland since the recession took its grip. In my case I had lost a job and a career path in corporate banking prior. We felt that people in Ireland “are always trying to get in front or ahead of one another” as the Lenehan character says in our version. We also wanted to show the Corley & Lenehan’s relationship as tenuous. We went through 6 drafts of the script. We would meet for coffee and write as well as work from home and communicate through Skype sending each other amendments. I put a lot of the structure in place and Darren was great at improving dialogue.
IFM: You serve as the co-writer, actor, producer and Director on ‘Two Gallants’. How did you prepare to take on the multiple roles, and which did you find most taxing?
Writing requires a lot of research and patience. I was lucky to be able to get advice on the screenplay from industry professionals which was invaluable. It was a separate process and Darren and I took our time with it. I was then producing, directing and acting. The next thing I did was hire my project manager/assistant director Patrick Rooks. Patrick has qualifications in logistics and managed every area of the production. Patrick has worked directly with me making the film through every process and created an environment that was relaxed yet moved with a pace. I had directed theatre before and understood how to work with actors and technicians. It was not a challenge directing it and acting because I had co-written it. I knew the reason for every moment we needed to capture and the answer to every question. I’m proud that the film lives up to the vision we had for it and that I made very few compromises.
IFM: Tell us a bit about how the film was shot, and how long was the process from the first day of shooting to going into post-production?
The film was shot initially in 3 days September in Artane, Swords and Dublin city centre. We had an additional 2 days of pick up shots in Dun Laoghaire & Dublin city during October. We were also reviewing footage ahead of the edit. We are now working towards a rough cut this month with our editor James Halford ahead of a final cut, sound mix and grading.
IFM: Give us an idea how big the film crew was, and how do you feel they performed?
Our DoP Stuart Duff who I had worked with before is a key member of the team. He is a relaxed problem solver with a great eye for light and understanding of the camera. Simon Murphy on sound was again key to the project and taught me a lot about sound. Make-up artist Niamh O’Malley, head of lighting Mark Birney and production assistant Ciaran Doran rounded out the crew. Everyone worked as a team and took on their role with a high level of commitment. It was a collaborative environment. My fellow lead cast members John Carey & Alicja Ayres are from my agent Philippa Stapleton’s books. They both bring a wealth of experience to the project and it was great working with two accomplished performers. They are supported by cast members George Bracebridge, Mary T. McCormack, Niamh Hogan, Aaron Jenner and Amanda Coakley. It’s a great ensemble and showcase of emerging Irish talent I believe.
IFM: How hard do you push yourself when working? And what would you say keeps you motivated?
I’m always looking for ways to improve my approach to acting. I self-tape a lot and like to review the footage to see how I can improve. I think staying focused and listening to others at all times on set is important. I’m big into health and fitness and I find that a motivating force. Similarly in that area I think if you track your progress and keep improving, the results motivate you to set new goals.
IFM: Where and when can people get to see your adaptation of ‘Two Gallants’?
2014. The centenary of the ‘Dubliners’ book on which the story is based is next year and it will be ready in time for the celebration. The film will be submitted to festivals worldwide throughout the year as well as being screened at James Joyce festivals. A good idea would be to follow our twitter and ‘like’ our facebook where we will announce the events.
IFM: And finally, when ‘Two Gallants’ is finished, what are your plans for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
Darren and I are currently working on another two scripts. One will be another adaptation of a James Joyce piece. The other will be a semi-autobiographical story from my own life. We aim to shoot our next film in 2014.