3 December 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Interview: Fiadhnait McCann Sounds Out 'Essential Killing'
31 Mar 2011 : By Aileen Moon
Essential Killing
To mark the theatrical release of Jerzy Skolimowski’s ‘Essential Killing’ on Friday, April 1st, IFTN spoke with the film’s Supervising Sound Editor, Fiadhnait McCann who received an IFTA nomination for her work on the film.

Directed by veteran Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski (Moonlighting), ‘Essential Killing’ tells the story of an Afghan man, played by Vincent Gallo (Buffalo ‘66) who captured by American forces in Kabul, who finds himself transported to a nameless European country. He manages to escape into the vast frozen woodland and is forced into extreme survival mode where he must kill anyone who strays into his path.

The IFTA nominated film has already enjoyed much success having won the special jury award and best actor award for Vincent Gallo at the 2010 Venice Film Festival. The film is being distributed across Ireland by Element Pictures Distribution and Tribeca Film, the distribution branch of the Tribeca Film Festival has signed on to distribute the feature in the U.S., making ‘Essential Killing’ the 13th title to have been taken on by the distribution group.

Fiadhnait McCann worked as the supervising sound editor on the feature in Ardmore Sound and tells us that it proved equally as difficult as previous credit, Irish atmospheric thriller ‘Savage’ in terms of sound effects. “Like ‘Savage’, ‘Essential Killing’ has sparse dialogue,”she starts. “I mean, after the first fifteen minutes there is no dialogue at all. So I had a good bit of experience in that respect from ‘Savage’ where there is a lot going on internally in the guy’s head and it calls for a strong use of sound effects and music.”

The film charts the lone journey of Vincent Gallo’s character across an immense, seemingly endless, snowy wood that is the setting for most of the film. Unlike dialogue driven pieces, or even features set in noisy environments, every single sound counted for the entirety of the feature and the almost silence meant that any sounds would be highlighted. So how did Fiadhnait approach such a task? ”With a film like ‘Essential Killing there is never a moment where you pull back on the effects,” she tells us. “So it makes it that much more challenging, but that much more satisfying in the end. I did ‘Essential Killing’ in February/ March 2010 when we had a lot of snow. So I went out and recorded snowfall, wind and footsteps in the Wicklow Mountains, because I like to record a lot of sound effects for each project.”

Fiadhnait received IFTA nominations for her work on both ‘Essential Killing’ and ‘Savage’ at this year’s Awards and says she was pleased to have been recognised for those projects in particular: “I think they were both strong sound projects,” she explains. “And what they had in common was that both Brendan Muldowney, the director of ‘Savage’ and Jerzy really had a good idea of the kind of soundtrack they wanted for their films. You can only really develop a good soundtrack if you’re working in collaboration with the film’s director.”

Asked whether it helps to be a ‘jack of all trades’ in the Irish sound industry, Fiadhnait replies that it is essential. “Sound Design and Effects Editor are really the same in my mind,” she notes. “And then in Ireland, unless you are on a big project, when you are a sound supervisor you are also either editing, be it as a dialogue editor or an effects editor.” An exception to this rule is Parallel Films’ recent large scale feature for Sky, ‘Neverland’ for which Fiadhnait worked at cutting dialogue alongside a large crew boasting four sound editors, a supervisor, a mixer and a small foley team.

Fiadhnait is currently putting the finishing touches to ‘Neverland’ and is also cutting effects on the second series of ‘Love/ Hate’ until May. “I like to try to get involved a few weeks before or a month before projects start to shoot,”she says of her involvement with the series. “I like to get a script and do a lot of my own tailor-made effects records, because there is nothing nicer than using your own unique sound effects for a project. With the ‘Love/Hate scripts’ at the moment, I am going through them to see what I can record.” Hopefully the series’ plotlines will allow Fiadhnait’s imagination to run wild!

The script of the Irish/Polish/Norwegian/Hungarian co-production, ‘Essential Killing’, was written by Jerzy Skolimowski and Ewa Piaskowska, and produced by Skopia Film in co-production with Element Pictures. The co-production was partly funded by the Irish Film Board and was shot in Israel, Poland and Norway with the sound post-production carried out in Ireland. Element Picture’s Andrew Lowe (Five Minutes of Heaven) and Ed Guiney are both Executive Producers on the film with Adam Sikora (Angelus) as the director of photography.

The film will receive a theatrical release on Friday, April 1st in Dublin’s Cineworld and the IFI. Element Pictures Distribution tells us the film will also be released in Cork, Galway and Sligo in the coming weeks. For film times please see local press.

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