Producers of Irish Feature ‘Bog Bodies’ Paul Valentine and Joe Condren talk to IFTN on their US distribution deal for the film, stunts and their upcoming roles on the new feature to be shot in Ireland ‘Easter Sixteen’.
‘Bog Bodies’ tells the story of what happens when a 2,000 year old murder victim's body is disturbed with gruelling consequences. Starring Vinnie Jones (Strength and Honour), Jason Barry (Titanic), Nora-Jane Noone (Speed Dating) and Amy Huberman (The Clinic), the film is directed by Brendan Foley (The Riddle).
Paul Valentine and Joe Condren are probably best known as stunt co-ordinators in the Irish film industry and here they chat to IFTN on producing ‘Bog Bodies’ and their work on the forthcoming big budget feature ‘Easter Sixteen’.
IFTN: Paul, tell us about ‘Bog Bodies’ upcoming release in the US?
Paul Valentine: We have done a deal with Grindstone Entertainment Group who are releasing ‘Bog Bodies’ through Lionsgate in early 2009. Grindstone bought North American rights and it’s a fairly big US deal we did with them. It’s a move in the right direction for our project. The dates that we have might change slightly, they have a slot for us to got out with their five horror films. Lionsgate have bought all rights for the film in North America so they can do what they want with it really, whether it is going to cinema release or straight to DVD we are not sure yet.
PD: One of the biggest differences is that you don’t have a dialogue track that was recorded by actors on location on an animated film. Everything is ADR or looped for the actors so all the dialogue is very clean without background on it which means you have to create everything from scratch. You had to build up all your ambiances of each scene, from the wind to the water trickle of a little creek. There is nothing there on the track that you have got and consequently everything that you do is very focused.
Can you tell me a bit about the shoot. When did you begin filming?
Joe Condren: ‘Bog Bodies’ was basically based on a very small script that myself and a cousin of mine, John Sheridan, had. We took it to Brendan Foley with whom we had produced ‘The Riddle’ and he added the elements of the ancient bog bodies into the story, as well as some contents to what makes it a very home grown Irish movie. You know we never set out to make it a mainstream horror movie. It was supposed to be mild horror with humour which is basically what we have done.
Could you maybe give me a brief synopsis of the film?
JC: We have different cast members. Some of them are American, some Irish and some English. They all have hidden secrets which basically they have all been responsible for - not directly like going out to murder someone - but hidden secrets; where they have caused the deaths of people; they were involved in people being injured and chose to leave them to die rather than owing up. So effectively what happened is that they all, through different means, have met with misfortune - driving off the road, cars breaking down etc and have been drawn to the most desolate areas of the Dublin Mountains. They sort of go wandering and they all meet up at this very destitute hunter’s log cabin. The hunter’s log cabin belongs to Vinny Jones. He plays the character called Mr Hunter and he himself has a hidden past where he shot someone before and left that person to die.
What happens then is the bog body is dug up by a greedy real estate person. She tells the workmen to dump it and of course they dump it in a fresh running water stream which by legend will revitalise the bog body, bringing it back to life after 2000 years as a very big healthy warrior. He tracks down the people and one by one they are trapped in this hunter’s log cabin at night and they try and escape, they get lost in the wood and one-by-one he picks them all off. Then there is a big dual between him and Mr Hunter at the end of it.
Vinny Jones in Bog Bodies
How did Vinny Jones become involved in the project?
JC: Myself and Paul first met Vinny when I was a stunt coordinator on ‘Johnny Was’ in Belfast and we hit it off with him very quickly. Vinny wants to do a film that myself and Paul are setting out to make it very soon. It’s called ‘Soldiers’ and is based on the life story of Francis Hughes the second hunger striker that died. Vinny was also in ‘The Riddler’, the film that we produced in London with Brendan Foley who is also the writer of ‘Bog Bodies’ and ‘Johnny Was’. Vinny became a very good friend of ours. We gave him an opportunity as he was looking not to play the stereotypical tough guy. It gave him a different character to play and, not being biased, but I really think his performance in ‘Bog Bodies’ really shows that Vinny has better acting potential than just playing the tough guy.
What was the filming schedule for ‘Bog Bodies’?
JC: We started in 2006 and shot it over four weeks actually. We had to fit it into that time frame because Vinny was filming ‘Strength & Honour’ in Cork. He gave us two weeks but we knew to shoot the whole film because of other artists availability. The other actresses we had in the film were Nora Jane Noon and Amy Huberman who were attached to other projects but liked the story and other stuff that we had done. We made it for $1.6m, for the size of the movie it is was a very tight budget. We shot it from October 1st to October 31st.
It was Stephen Murphy’s (Tart) first big job as a DOP and I have to say he came on board late and I don’t believe the job he did could be bettered by anybody. I really think that this is going to send him up there. When people see it, the imagery on some of the shots he got and the colours and the mixes and textures.
Nora Jane Noone
Joe, you have been the stunt coordinator on some of the biggest films to shoot in Ireland, is producing something you have always wanted to do?
JC: My biggest desire is to actually direct movies. I have been assistant director and stunt co-ordinator for twenty four years and have done two hundred and forty productions. I really wanted the opportunity to make our own type films. All the time, I am working on stunts and what screenwriters write in as stunts. Every director is different and you know you are biting your lips, tearing your hair out because you want to do it your own way. With ‘Bog Bodies’, I left my younger brother Brendan Condren as stunt co-ordinator. Obviously any stunts and the actions were written in and designed by us, but my younger brother Brendan came on board for the stunts. With the upcoming ‘Easter Sixteen’ movie this will probably be the first chance I have had since ‘King Arthur’ to really do proper stunts and in a proper scale.
Yes, moving on to the upcoming ‘Easter Sixteen’, can you tell us how you got involved in that project?
PV: Jason Barry, the director of ‘Easter Sixteen’, starred in ‘Bog Bodies’. The script for the film has a Gold Medal Award from Australia and has won a total of four awards at different competitions. It’s a big scale take on the 1916 Rising and is based around the James Connolly character.
So you are going to be involved on the stunts on that?
JC: On ‘Easter Sixteen’ yes, myself and Paul are doing it. What I am looking forward to mostly is that for the first time in a proper action movie, I have complete free reign and will have great input, I have complete confidence in Jason Barry from working with him on ‘Bog Bodies’. I do believe that ‘Easter Sixteen’ will be one of the greatest movies ever out of this country and am just really happy to be doing it because of the level of action. Even when I see films like ‘The Wind that Shake the Barley’, I do understand it was a very small budget film, but you can really relate to the best of action in it. It looked very small scale but this to me is going to be something closer to ‘Michael Collins’ but again with better action in it.
Are you working on any projects at the moment?
JC: The ‘Soldiers’ movie is something I worked on for a long, long time and I think it is going to be one of the most memorable Irish movies because Francis Hughes himself was probably one of the bravest, unselfish human beings to have ever lived.
But obviously to the other side the British Army he was the most wanted man and at the same time the British Soldiers themselves actually took off their berets and saluted his coffin when he was being buried.
They recognised him as an actual soldier himself and that’s why the film has appealed to so many people. It shows the life and times of Francis Hughes and at the same time anybody from any tradition can walk out of the picture house and say they have a genuine understanding and empathy for the other side as well. The ‘Soldier’ story very, very much does that.
PV: We are just back from filming the drama ‘Occupation’ with Jimmy Nesbit which we have been working on over the past two months in Morocco.