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IFTA Focus: Q&A With ‘Lorg na gCos - Súil Siar ar Mise Éire’ DoP Fergal O’Hanlon
31 Jan 2013 : Fergal O'Hanlon was in conversation with Eva Hall
Fergal O'Hanlon
Nominated in the Director of Photography TV category

What camera did you use to shoot ‘Lorg na gCos - Súil Siar ar Mise Éire’?
We ended up using the Panasonic AF101 with a variety of stills lenses, mainly a 20mm prime which my director Colm Bairead fell in love with. If I’m to be honest, I didn’t totally enjoy the camera system for various reasons, but ironically enough, it took me out of my comfort zone to another place, which ended up here…you have to laugh.

What do you prefer to use, digital or film? And why?
Digital. For control, and its ability to be quickly manipulated. I like to adjust settings, alter colours and get as close to the finished image as possible. I like to push buttons!

Can you give an example where your cinematography alone was used to tell a part of the story in ‘Lorg na gCos’?
Well, as a documentary, your interpretation of a moment that’s unfolding in front of you, in accordance with how you and your director have decided to try and approach the film, will regularly end up telling a part of the story. Obviously it’s harder to plan every frame and you generally don’t want to stop and confer mid moment for fear of ruining something, so your choice of shot/coverage on an answer or a reaction to an answer can speak volumes.

A particular instance on ‘Lorg na gCos’, probably not exactly the correct answer to your question, but the opening interview setup in the chair with George, just one of those moments when you’re rolling early and you catch something interesting. But I’d have to be honest and say Colm saw the moment coming as well and nodded at me to make sure we were rolling, so I can’t claim it all.

Can you tell us one trick of the trade that only cinematographers might know of that you used on the ‘Lorg na gCos’ shoot?
Mmm sort of. I got down on my hands and knees and begged Colm and our producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi for the time to do it right, but they were way ahead of me.

The documentary is based on the first ever Irish language feature film. Working in 2013, in an age of technological advances, did you take anything from working on the film – how to create a project in a simpler fashion etc?
It was funny actually. George is an excellent filmmaker with a long career, stretching back many years, and he complimented me a couple of times on my lighting and shot choices, but used totally different terminology to describe It; terminology from his era. It just goes to show that all these years later we’re still doing the same things the same way, just calling it something else.

Many people refer to cinematography as being an art form. What does that reference mean to you and do you agree with it?
Absolutely. If you look at the work of the likes of Gordon Willis, Roger Deakins and Emmanuel Lubezki to name but a few, it’s nothing short of beautiful stunning art.

What new technological developments are you looking forward to in the field of cinematography, and what new developments would you like to see?
New technological developments I’m looking forward to? The continuing growth in the quality of digital cameras. New developments I would like to see? Hmm…full colour holographic science fiction style displays, hover cameras, quickly followed by hover cars…finally!

What other profession in the film & TV industry would you like to try?
I’m pretty happy and addicted to my role, but production designer maybe ?

What would winning the IFTA Award for Best Cinematography mean to you?
Any time any of your peers even admit to watching your work let alone liking it, is great, so to get an award from them in recognition of it, good Lord, I might retire.


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