22 February 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
DOP Cian de Buitléar speaks to IFTN about shooting ‘An Bronntanas’
23 Oct 2014 : Seán Brosnan
Five-part series ‘An Bronntanas’ will air on Thursday, October 23rd on TG4, with the feature film version being chosen as Ireland’s submission for the 2015 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film as well as garnering good reviews from screenings at Clifden and the Galway Film Fleadh. A lot of these plaudits have been geared towards the cinematography of challenging water scenes which permeate the film – sequences which feature a local independent life crew on a distress call on a tempestuous night off the Connemara shore.

One of the main men responsible for this praise is the DOP Cian de Buitléar. A cinematographer for over 30 years, de Buitléar feels it was this wealth of experience, as well as the support he received from producers and crew, that allowed him to expertly shoot the stimulating storm and rescue sequences.

I have been in the business so long now, said de Buitléar, who has an IFTA Award nomination to his name for the 2004 comedy ‘Man About Dog’. I have done an awful lot of DOP water work over the years and have been on the second unit for water scenes on television shows like ‘Vikings’ and movies like ‘Saving Private Ryan, both of which were filmed here in Ireland.

De Buitléar shot the entire film with an Arri Alexa camera, stating that this product is utilised 99 times out of 100 these days, as he feels it has far surpassed all other cameras. The whole movie was shot in 8 weeks in places like Ros A Mhil, Roundstone and An Cheathru Rua in Galway, with 2 weeks being spent on the storm sequences, which were all shot in Oughterard in Lough Corrib.

The main lighting used was 18k HMI Arri Maxs from long distances and created an effect of reflection from the moon. A 4k HMI Mole Beam was brought in to create the lighthouse effect. The crew also had a full complement of HMI, Tungsten, LED and Kinoflo fixtures.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the shoot on the sea is that it was shot entirely day to night. I really have to commend director Tom Collins for his preparation for those shoots, said de Buitléar, who operates out of his own lighting company called Teach Solais.He spent 2 weeks before shooting trying to get the look right. He was always going back and forth on location grading with the technician, shooting and shooting again and I think the preparation showed in the film.

A number of days to night looks were selected for the final grade of the film. These looks were then applied during shooting. A REC709 system was utilized with a LOGC raw format.

De Buitléar claims the main difficulty on the day to night shoot was not being able to show the sky, as showing the sky would reveal the correct time of day. You can imagine the difficulties. You’re holding a camera on a rocky boat with wind and rain coming at you and you can’t at any-time show the sky. But these are the difficulties you face so you can get into a situation where you’re shooting at 12 midday but you go into the director’s tent to look at the monitor and it looks like 12 midnight.

Every scene was handheld in the storm shoot, with the cinematographers filming from a boat. Two wind machines were applied giving off winds of over 50 miles an hour, and de Buitléar ascertains that it again was his vast experience that prevailed over the man-made elements.

You know, things like that is just experience from doing water shoots. You just learn to keep yourself steady. Same with encasing the camera, you can cover a camera as much as you like but it ultimately comes down to learning how to direct the rain and wind so you don’t get covered in water. You get all this with experience. We also had a fantastic grip, a man by the name of Karl Roche who built great rigs to keep the rain off.

There were 2 cameras used for the water scenes, de Buitléar on the main camera, with fellow cinematographer Seamus Deasy operating the other. Each camera had a four man crew including an assistant camera operator, a focus puller, a camera loader and a trainee. Three boats were used for the shoot. The main exterior shots featured a real boat, bought second hand and repainted for the film. A boat was then built in order to be destroyed by a fire in a scene in the film. All the interior storm scenes were shot in a specially built cabin by local ship builder Michael Mc’Donagh. The cabin was then suspended from an excavator into a barn and de Buitléar had high praise for the work of the ship builder.

He had to build the interior to exactly replicate the actual boat we bought but everything obviously had to be bigger for the cameras. So he did fantastic work to do this, just by his own eye, to get the cabin identical while also still being three feet longer and wider to accommodate us.

De Buitléar also had high praise for director Tom Collins and producer Ciaran Ó’ Coifaigh for not going for the stereotypical shots of Galway, like so many other productions.

Normally when you shoot in Galway, it always seems to be Spiddal because it’s cheaper to shoot there. This means however that you are seeing a lot of the same shots in films and shows. Tom Collins wanted to shoot anywhere but Spiddal and so we ended up in places like Ros A Mhil and An Cheathru Rua. I have to commend Ciarán Ó’ Cofaigh also for putting the money forward and allowing us to leave our comfort zone and shoot in different places. I think the result is completely different landscapes which makes the film visually a lot more interesting.

‘An Bronntanas’ is directed by Tom Collins and produced by Ciarán Ó Cofaigh and Tom Collins for ROSG and De Facto Films. Finance on the film came from TG4, The Broadcast Authority of Ireland, Bord Scannán na hÉireann. The Irish Language Broadcast Fund and The Irish Republics Film Tax Incentive scheme.

The film had a theatrical release in Clifden from the 10th September to the 16th September and is due to air on TG4 as a five part series on Thursdays from October 23rd.

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