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IFTN Interviews Darach Mac Con Iomaire
27 Nov 2014 : Deirdre Molumby
Irish language TV drama ‘Corp isAnam’ makes its highly anticipated return to the small screen tonight. The series follows crime correspondent Cathal Mac Iarnain as he uncovers the corruption in Ireland’s crime and legal systems. The 4x1 hour series is produced by Magamedia for TG4.

Below, IFTN talks with director/writer Darach Mac con Iomaire about the cast, the series’ dark plot and themes, and the production of the series:

What can you tell our readers about the plot for the new series?

“The second series is darker and more intense. It deals with the official lies the state tells us, taking on arguably the main three pillars in society at the moment – the media, the Church and the legal profession. It follows our main character Cathal and his quest to find out the truth at all costs, even if those costs include his own family.

“‘Corp is Anam’ sets out to tell the victim’s story through the victim’s eyes, which at times does not always make for a very comfortable story. Though they are fictionalised, all the events that we talk about and deal with in the show are based on a conglomeration of true events and the audience will recognise the stories and the truth in them. We set out in ‘Corp is Anam’ to hold up a mirror to Irish society as it stands and to shine a light into the darker corners of the corrupt little country.

“I’m really proud of the second series. I think it’s stronger, it’s more ambitious and that’s a credit to the crew as well and to Paddy Hayes, the producer. He’s a joy to work with a director’s and a writer’s producer and he’ll fight your corner, being nothing but supportive to me since we began so I’m incredibly grateful to him. A really welcome addition to the crew this time was Colm Hogan, the DoP, whose integrity as an artist with his eye and attention to detail, and his work ethic are something else. We had a wonderful designer as well called Nicola Moroney, who created the look we have, which is fabulous. There was also costume designer Aisling Wallace Byrne. Everyone who was involved really had a hand in it and they should all be incredibly proud because it’s definitely a collective effort. When you’re working with people with that commitment, grace and determination to the project, and when you’ve written it yourself, it’s humbling and incredibly exciting.”

What was your experience of working with the cast, most notably the leads Diarmuid de Faoite and Maria Doyle Kennedy?

“The cast are brilliant. Paddy Hayes and I spent a lot of time and effort on both scripting and casting. After writing the series myself, seeing the vast number of people who wanted to be a part of the series come forward to audition, and then commit to the roles throughout the rehearsals and in the shoot, I felt very humbled.

“There were over seventy speaking roles in the series and only ten repeat parts that rolled over for series one. But every one of the cast, I could hand on heart say, worked exceptionally hard in preparing for the roles and went so deep into their characters. What they brought to the roles really shows their talent and professionalism. People will see the quality of the cast when they see the show.

“Diarmuid is pretty much in every scene so it took a lot of commitment for him, physically and emotionally, because his character goes on a very dark journey. Maria is also a constant professional. It was a joy to direct them – they got the subtext and added to it. I really am grateful to each and every member of the cast. I hope to get another crack at directing them!”

How does directing in the Irish language affect your directing style as well as the production itself?

“I suppose I have been really lucky in that all the work I have done to date is in the Irish language. It’s my first language. How people feel about the Irish language, be it good or bad, isn’t my interest at all. My interest is in storytelling. What I’m really consciously doing here is telling stories about Ireland and contemporary Irish society. It just so happens that this is through the medium of Irish.

“In order to get away from the politics of the language, one conscious decision we made was every character in ‘Corp is Anam’ speaks Irish fluently, regardless of where they’re from, their socio-economic background or their character background – it’s the universe of ‘Corp is Anam’ that speaks Irish. Like when Germans in old war movies speak English, you just accept that reality. A part of writing that I really enjoy is creating this world that exists and makes sense in itself.

“When it comes to directing through the medium of Irish, it just makes sense, though casting is a longer process as a result because you need to go looking for the cast actively, whereas there’d be a lot more actors coming forward, naturally, for productions in the English language, through casting agencies, etc. You have to be fluent in Irish to even be considered, and then the person needs to be suitable for the role on top of that. I think it stand to the series though that we took so long and were so thorough with the casting process.”

What were some of the challenges you found, particularly given the subject matter the series addresses, themes like clerical abuse?

“It’s always really difficult to tell the truth in Ireland. We’re also telling the truth about the legal profession so that’s difficult to do in a way that doesn’t expose you legally. That was a challenge but Paddy was great with that and he never lost focus of what’s important, which is the story.

“The subject matter is challenging and I’ve been very lucky. I was in touch with Paddy Doyle, an abuse survivor, and he put me in touch with Mark Vincent Healy, another abuse survivor. I was in touch with them constantly over the last number of weeks, sending them the programs so that they could respond to them.

“One of the main storylines going through this series is the re-abuse of the state of clerical sex abuse survivors. The state imposes gagging orders on victims after they seek and receive compensation from the state for the abuse they suffered as children at the hands of clerical institutions. The gaging orders are reprehensible and not many people know about them and those who do know about them cannot, of course speak about it because they have signed secrecy contracts. My job as a writer is to try to expose this injustice in spite of the constraints of legal issues, and hopefully to raise awareness of this fact. Dealing with that subject matter is also difficult for the cast, because they have to go deep into that trauma to honestly portray the story.

“Our priority is to deliver high-quality drama that is there to entertain first and foremost with a breakneck speed and along the way we are reminded of the uncomfortable truths about the underbelly of the society in which we live. It’s dark but truthful.”

You both write and direct – would you have a preference for one or the other?

“I’m always surprised at how few writers direct their own work. Going through the process as a director, 90% of the research is done by virtue of the fact that you’ve written it. As a writer, you spend a year or two imaging in great detail and reimagining in greater detail every single nook and cranny of the universe of the story you have created. You can direct the production team because you know what it’s supposed to look like. You have a God-like knowledge of the material so when it comes to the directing, it’s fundamentally an exercise in communication because you’re trying to communicate your vision and how you imagined the universe of the story to your creative team and to your cast so they can realise it. That’s all the director does really is talk, everyone else does most of the work! “In that way, for directing, the cast as well as the choice of crew are crucial so that when it comes down to those long, challenging days, and you have that solid, cohesive, enthusiastic group of creative people working around you, nothing can hold you back. “I think now I’d find it very difficult to write something and not direct it or to direct something I didn’t write because that would be a totally new experience for me. I think it would take me a long time to take that material and find my understanding of that universe.”

Anything in the pipeline?

“We have a feature film in the mix at the moment called ‘Olagón’, which is a thriller that follows a father-daughter relationship as it crumbles. We have a third series of ‘Corp is Anam’ in development with TG4 so we’ll know shortly about that being green lit. We also have another four-part drama series in development with TG4 called ‘Créacht’, which means ‘wound’. That is based on a clerical sex abuse scandal in north-west Donegal, and tells the story of how the community stayed silent over a period of thirty years while the abuse of two paedophiles - a priest called Eugene Green and a primarily school teacher Dennis McGinnley - was going on.”

‘Corp is Anam’ will broadcast tonight on TG4 at 9.30pm.






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