7 December 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Inspired From Within
10 Feb 2000 :
When Gary Quinn set out to visit the Nerve Centre in Derry he didn’t plan for Director Wim Wenders swooping his interviewee off to his latest premiere in Berlin. ‘But,’ explained the Nerve Centre’s Helena Hasson calmly, ‘that’s just the kind of thing that happens around here. It’s not so strange.’

U2’s the Edge popped in on Friday. He had decided to take a low profile tour of the city at the invitation of local politician John Hume. Given only a few days notice, Helena took the surprise in her stride. “Its dream project after dream project here. It’s never a hard sell. The atmosphere is so good that you come in here dying to get at it. Famous people drop in all the time now,” she says laughing.

Taking a tour of what must be Ireland’s premier digital media and film centre is a bit like stepping onto a roller-coaster. Situated just inside the famous walls of Derry, the twists and turns in the architecture of the building echo the dynamism and pace of work unfolding within the centre’s many purpose-built studios and edit suites. Initially built around a vision of a new music scene for the North West, the Nerve Centre has matured to take Oscar nominations, Better Ireland Awards, Palm Springs International Film Festival wins and Celtic Film and Television Awards in its stride.

The new premises opened to the public on November 19th. An impressive resource, the building is designed to live and breathe digital production. A top floor live performance venue is linked to a series of live-rooms and a 24-track digital recording studio and AVID edit suite, allowing for the simultaneous recording or live broadcast of performances in-house. A 56-seater cinema with surround sound is available for presentations and private screenings and is currently being updated to allow 35 mm presentation. The Nerve Centre also programs the Orchard Cinema in Derry, which allows even greater scope for its screening potential.

Garnering attention from producers and directors from all corners of the globe, the centre with a musical heart has built itself an international reputation which has seen Julie Christie, Kenneth Branagh, Bono and Ralph Fiennes add their names to the very public group of notables ready to do business there.

“…the only festival in Ireland to have secured this recognition…”

Comfortably standing as the figurehead of the Nerve Centre is the Foyle Film Festival, now twelve years since its first launch party. Having quickly earned a national identity, this once local event has also achieved an international appeal. In response to its recent introduction of the Light in Motion awards for Best Film, Best Short, Best Animation and Best Irish Animation, the Academy of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles now includes the Foyle Festival on its official festival list. This fact becomes more significant when it is realised that Foyle is the only film festival in Ireland to have secured this recognition in the film exhibition sector.

In a region renowned for its friendly welcome the Academy is, naturally, no stranger. The Nerve Centre is best known for its Oscar Nomination in 1998 for the live action drama short Dance Lexie Dance, produced by Pearse Moore and directed by Tim Loane. Moore remains at the heart of the Nerve Centre activities where he is Chief Executive as well as continuing to produce. This multi-skilling crossover is reflected throughout the centre’s staffing body. Primary and secondary level teachers who also happen to be musicians or filmmakers mix creatively and actively with managers who are also artists and writers. No-ones role is static and according to Helena Hasson “None of us have or seek a traditional nine to five job. They wouldn’t survive if they had.” she said, referring to the pace of activity in the centre. “That’s why everyone loves it.”

“…a 26 minute gothic nightmare…”

In two weeks the Nerve Centre’s latest protégé, The Last Wake, premieres at the 2nd London-Irish Film Festival. Programmed for the first time from the Nerve Centre all eyes are on the 26-minute ‘gothic nightmare,’ which is based upon the Ulster Cycle of Myths and Legends. “It is the first of what will become a trilogy,” explained Helena as she opened the door to the strangely silent studio where animator John McCloskey has spent two years with his team producing the film. Developed on the powerful SoftImage platform and combining traditional hand-drawn animation, the film incorporates both 3D and 2D techniques to bring the world of Celtic mythology to life “Having watched the film and believe me, when you do see it, it will blow your mind, it’s amazing to think that this is where it all happened,” Helena said beaming with pride.

A few doors further on are a team of multi-media producers working on a new project entitled Symbols. Designed to grab the fast moving eye of teenagers and their Northern Ireland educators, as well as the general public, this is an award winning multi-media presentation on CD-ROM, which has been two years in the making. It is themed around the history of conflict in Ireland and the rich variety of symbols through which unionists and nationalists express their culture and identity today. It also has the honour of taking centre stage in the Millennium Dome next month when the now famous London venue focuses on Northern Ireland. Another feather in the Nerve Centre’s cap, they have been invited to help theme the event which will last for seven days around the week of St. Patrick’s Day, 17th March.

“It was originally intended to be only one CD but has expanded to include the contributions of additional historians and politicians and has grown into a much larger project. It would have been completely impossible without the Nerve Centre. Even to go in with an idea on paper, which was how basic it was, it was so important to build on the name of the Nerve Centre.” John, a member of the creative team explained. Helena continued, “Everything that comes out of the Nerve Centre has been inspired from within, the creative freedom is very important.”

Anyone with an eye on accountancy knows that although you can’t measure creativity with banknotes, ‘bankability’ is quickly communicated by checking which funding bodies have been willing to stand behind a given project. Take a deep breath then - The Nerve Centre reads like a handbook of how to find a grant. The EU, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Film Institute, Sony, Bank of Ireland, LEDU, The Irish Film Board, Derry City Council, Guinness, Budweiser and Fanta are only a few of the funding bodies willing to back this innovative centre.

The Nerve Centre’s success is linked directly to its ability to open its doors to the local community and answer the calls they offer. With a record as vibrant and successful as theirs, their only problem will be finding the time to harness the talent which strides through their building every day. No doubt they are already working on it.

For further information visit the Nerve Centre’s Website at www.nerve-centre.org.uk
Or email Helena Hasson at helena@nerve-centre.org.uk

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