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Robert Quinn Turns ‘Primeval’
08 Jun 2010 : by Aileen Moon
Hannah Spearritt and Andrew Lee Potts in Primeval
Robert Quinn, the only Irish director involved with the fourth season of the sci-fi caper, ‘Primeval’ currently in production in Ireland recently spoke with IFTN from the set of the popular sci-fi series. Award winning director of programmes such as ‘Na Cloigne’, ‘Seacht’ and ‘Rasai na Gaillimhe’, Robert is currently in the process of shooting the 5th and 6th episode of the show’s fourth series.

Robert is one of the large Irish crew working on the series alongside new Irish cast members including IFTA nominee Ciarán McMenamin (Any Time Now, Hunger), Ruth Kearney (Shark City, Hard Boiled Eggs), Peter Hanley (Braveheart), Rory Keenan (The Guard) and Briain Gleeson (Single Handed).

The Irish cast members have joined the show’s established staff members Hannah Spearritt (Seed of Chucky), Ben Miller (Johnny English), Andrew Lee-Potts (1408), and Ben Mansfield (Mr. Nobody) alongside fellow newcomer Alexander Siddig (Clash of the Titans).

The new series will return to the ARC after the government loses faith in Lester’s (Ben Miller) ability to run such a dangerous and expensive operation on his own. The anomaly operation is now a public/private partnership, part-owned by the government, and partly by charismatic scientist Philip Burton, played by Alexander Siddig.

IFTN caught up with Robert Quinn to talk about becoming involved with a show that comes hand-in-hand with diehard fans, prehistoric creatures and the terrorism of seaside towns.

IFTN: Hi Robert, when did you start shooting your episodes?

Robert Quinn (RQ): We started shooting two weeks ago. Altogether this block is going to take about six months to shoot.

IFTN: How long do you have left in your block?

RQ: I’m shooting for another four weeks. And then we continue on until September with post.

IFTN: Were you a big fan of the series prior to becoming involved with the production?

RQ: I was actually, yes. I’d only seen a bit of it – I wasn’t the kind of person who would watch it religiously every week but I certainly tuned-in every now and then. I was delighted when I heard it was coming here, it’s great to get shows like this which have a track record.

IFTN: ‘Primeval’ has such a cult following, was that daunting at all?

RQ: Yes, it has a very broad range. It appeals to seven year olds and 47 year olds. And I think that’s down to the storylines and the scientific aspects of it – they mix up the science with good quality entertainment which is a good formula.

I try not to feel pressure doing any show because you’d just drive yourself mad. When I was meeting with the producers in London the walls of the office were covered with fan mail from people of all ages – children, teenagers and adults all loving the show and I realised that this is something with a reputation that I need to maintain.

IFTN: Your involvement with the series marks a very different project to what you usually work on . . .

RQ: This is true. There were very few prehistoric creatures running around in ‘The Clinic’ for instance. It was a thrill to be asked to be involved because I’ve always wanted to be involved with a big CGI shoot and lots of other things that you just don’t get the opportunity to do over here really. And there’s a huge Irish contingent involved here which is fantastic and very exciting!

IFTN: And are the British cast and crew members having a good time here?

RQ: Of course, sure why wouldn’t they – the sun is shining! We were on silver strand the other day with the sun out and I thought to myself ‘This is a good a place to be working as any!’ They’re a very nice and professional cast and crew and the cast know their characters inside out – they know definitively what their respective characters would do in any given situation so all I have to do is work with that and around that. There’s very little that I can tell them about their roles that they don’t already know so you move into nuance then.

IFTN: Is it proving difficult to put your own individual stamp on your episodes whilst also respecting the established format of the show?

RQ: You try and bring something of yourself to everything that you do. That said there is, I wouldn’t say formulaic, but a Primeval promise that you have to adhere to. The formula has been set up by the opening key director, Mark Everest and he set up the style of the show. DOP Donal Gilligan has a specific style of shooting as well which I feed into too. It would look very odd if I tried to set a new style or approach to telling the story, so you keep to the set style but you try to make your scenes as fun as possible too - there’s a great deal of humour in this show, it’s not just about creatures running around biting the heads of various people, there’s a brilliant tongue-in-cheek element to it. And if there’s an Irish humour or sensibility that I can bring to it, I will.

We’ve got great actors here like Ben [Miller], Andrew [Lee-Potts] and Hannah [Spearritt] – and they know comedy and how best to use it in their parts. And then of course we have brilliant Irish actors involved too like Ruth Kearney and Ciaran McMenamin and we’re going to be working with Peter Hanley who’s a great comic. And of course Rory Keenan is coming on board and Briain Gleeson so I’m really pleased that the Irish crew, and particularly the Irish cast members, can feed into this predominantly English production and make it work as best as they possibly can – and I don’t think the audiences will skip a beat when they see the Irish actors working within it.

IFTN: Can you let us know what’s happening in you episodes at all, without giving anything too major away?

RQ: Well, without wanting to give the show’s away I can tell you that in one episode the creatures terrorises a lovely seaside village and in the other one they attack a beautiful castle which means, of course, that there’s lots of fun to be had in both those episodes. We’ll be using Luttrelstown castle and we’ve been shooting in Wicklow for the seaside-town episode.

Shooting of the new series began on March 22nd in Dublin and Wicklow and will continue until November 2010. Robert is joined by Mark Everest (Torchwood) and Cilla Ware (Double Act) in directing the work. Production design is by Michael Ralph (Silent Witness) with costumes designed by Irish designer Gaby Rooney (Wardrobe Assistant, My Boy Jack). The show’s Irish director of photography is Donal Gilligan (Omagh, Dead Bodies) and CFC will continue their collaboration on special effects with Richard Cox editing the series in-house.

’Primeval’ will return to television screens for two new series from 2011, as a result of a ground-breaking deal between ITV, multichannel broadcaster, UKTV, and producers Impossible Pictures.



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