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IFTN Chat with Award-Winning Director Frank Berry
18 May 2018 : Nathan Griffin
IFTN caught up with Frank Berry to find out about his upcoming projects, who he has been most impressed with in the Irish industry, and what he would be doing had he not become a director.

Irish writer/director Frank Berry has established himself as one of Ireland’s most exciting and innovating directors following the critical success of his sobering prison drama, ‘Michael Inside’. Debuting at the Galway Film Fleadh last summer, the feature has enjoyed incredible national success both at the box office and by critics’ alike, picking up a number of major awards in the process.

The film, which stars a fantastic cast that includes Dafhyd Flynn, Moe Dunford, Lalor Roddy, and Ryan Lincoln, tells the story of Michael McCrea, an impressionable 18-year-old living with his grandfather Francis in a Dublin housing estate, who gets caught holding a bag of drugs for his friend's older brother and is sentenced to three months in prison.

‘Michael Inside’ has enjoyed a fantastic festival run since its release picking up the top honours at a number of festivals including the ‘Best Irish Feature Film’ award at the Galway Film Fleadh, the ‘Audience Award’ at the Cork International Film Festival, the IFTA for ‘Best Film’ at the 2018 IFTA Film & Drama Awards, and most recently it picked up two jury awards for ‘Best Director’ & ‘Best Cinematography’ at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Frank Berry’s previous projects include the TV series ‘Teenage Cics’ (2006), his 2011 documentary ‘Ballymun Lullaby’, and ‘I Use to Live Here’ (2014), which saw Berry claim the ‘Best Irish First Feature’ award at the Galway Film Fleadh and in turn discovered the talented IFTA Rising Star nominee, Dafhyd Flynn.

Having spoken to IFTN ahead of the release of his second feature film ‘Michael Inside’, the site caught up with Berry to find out about his upcoming projects, who he has been most impressed with in the Irish industry, and what he would be doing had he not become a director.

IFTN: What are the best and worst aspects of your work?

Frank: There are many aspects I enjoy so it’s difficult to choose. I really like the first few months of research, when I’m in a new environment and meeting new people. Some of the primary emotions the films deal with can hit you early on. Even before you’ve found solid footing with the story there’s a shared conviction from everyone at the start that’s exciting.
“My least favourite part of the process is the very end! The week or two after completing the film can be tough, because for so long it has been developing on the page, coming to life, getting better in post, and then the day arrives when your online editor clicks the export-to-DCP command, and that’s it! No more opportunities to improve. It can be quite brutal, saying goodbye.”

IFTN: What career do you think you would have if you weren’t in the film/TV industry, and why?

Frank: “I was a full-time tutor in Coláiste Dhúlaigh for five years, and went part-time when the pull of filmmaking became quite strong. If that hadn't happened, I would still be teaching full-time. I studied at Coláiste Dhúlaigh myself after a fairly miserable secondary-school experience and it turned my life around, leading to more educational opportunities.”

IFTN: When did you last cry watching a film? (Or come close)

Frank: A few weeks ago to the best of my memory! I was recommended the Bill Douglas ‘childhood trilogy’, which is available on Vimeo. In the first film there’s a scene involving a young boy’s pet cat that would break the most hardened of hearts! I had a bit of a deep-sigh type moment which would definitely qualify.”

IFTN: What are you most excited about for 2018?

Frank: “If this is not too obvious I’m looking forward to working on my next film, which is a love story set in Direct Provision. I’m currently researching, and writing the script.”

IFTN: Who has really impressed you in the last 12 months in the Irish industry? 

Frank: “I think Mia Mullarkey is a standout new Irish filmmaker. Her films are very much her own, but in terms of rigour and integrity, she makes me think about what Mary Raftery must have been like when she was young. I saw Mia's latest short documentary ‘Mother & Baby’ when it premiered at the Cork Film Festival last year. The film depicts the horror of Ireland’s mother and baby homes and is a really important piece of work. When the credits rolled, I remember feeling a palpable sense of appreciation from the audience for the warmth and maturity of Mia's storytelling.

‘Mother & Baby’ by Mia Mullarkey

“Although I met him first a couple of years ago, I’d like to mention filmmaker/musician Dave Balfe who is part of a creative collective from Coolock called ‘Burnt Out’. Nialler9 just named Dave’s video for their song ‘Dear James’ the second best Irish music video ever made. Listening to Dave speak, a fine-art graduate and the most articulate twenty-something you’re likely to meet, I honestly can’t help but feel that as an artist he will be a future national treasure. Dave’s best mate, the much loved spoken-word poet and ‘Burnt Out’ singer Paul Curran died in January. It’s the most devastating and painful of losses. The upcoming ‘Burnt Out’ album will be a tribute to Paul, and I hope the whole country discovers this music, along with more accompanying films from Dave Balfe. Nations should treasure the young.”

‘Dear James’ by Burnt Out

‘Michael Inside’ recently picked up two awards at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

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