9 July 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Filmmaker Ciarín Scott talks “career-changing” IFTA win
29 May 2015 : Seán Brosnan
Ciarín Scott and her team accepting the George Morrison Feature Documentary IFTA Award for ‘In A House That Ceased To Be’
On a night filled with loud applause at the recent IFTA Film & Drama Awards, one of the biggest cheers rang out when ‘In A House That Ceased To Be’ was announced the winner of the George Morrison Feature Documentary IFTA.

Directed by Ciarín Scott (‘Michael Scott: A Changing Man’) – the film was five years in the making. It documents Irish humanitarian and children's rights activist Christina Noble, juxtaposing shots of her fantastic work with children in Vietnam and Mongolia with interviews where she talks very openly about her own childhood, one that saw her separated from her three younger siblings at the age of 12, with all four going on to suffer greatly in various institutions around the country.

Here, Scott talks the labour of love that was ‘In A House That Ceased To Be’, as well as the doors that have opened since she took to the IFTA podium on May 24.

IFTN: You were visibly elated and moved when ‘In A House That Ceased To Be’ was announced the winner of the IFTA - what does it mean to you to have won this award?

Ciarín Scott: ‘I was very, very surprised and moved when I heard it won. I heard people saying there was a loud cheer when it was announced but I kind of went deaf actually after the announcement! So I didn’t hear it all but it’s terrifically gratifying that people did cheer. We really did not expect to win because we were against such strong competition but we are absolutely delighted!’

The George Morrison Award is recognized and has been cited as the biggest prize for a documentary feature in Ireland – its’ early days but have you found any doors opening since you took to the Mansion House podium?

‘There is no question of the reaction that one gets upon winning this award – I mean people’s reaction to it is certainly a terrific help moving forward. But I am also so pleased that not only does this award recognize the film and my work but also the fantastic work done by producer Paul Duane, DoP Steve O’Reilly and the editor Tony Cranstoun. Film is a collaborative process and we had a wonderful team.’

Did you have any inkling or have any visions way back in 2009 the success that ‘In A House That Ceased To Be’ would garner, going all the way to the IFTA Awards?

‘No! [laughs]. It was so concentrated and such a long process. We had to find the material, get the spine of the film together and then make it all coherent. But this award really means a lot to me personally because George Morrison was my mentor and winning his award was especially wonderful.’

You achieved all of this with quite a small crew, a lot of the filming was done with just you and DOP Steve O’Reilly and using a very modest Sony EX1 camera I believe?

‘Yes, and he got the most beautiful images with that camera - it was just great work. Not only was Steve doing the wonderful camera work but he had to do the sound as well and sometimes under the most extreme conditions – I mean, conditions like 40 degrees below in the Gobi Desert and then 40 degrees above in Mekong Delta. And of course having to deal with emotional conditions too while doing two jobs and still maintaining the visual and audio quality – he was just brilliant. The advantage of having a small crew however is that the subjects forget about the camera so you get some really terrific and truthful material.’

Was this small crew down to the budget? What can you tell us about the financing behind the film?

‘What budget? No budget! Most of this film was sweat equity. The Irish Film Board was great - they came in early with some development funding. RTÉ then got involved and gave us some development funding too and then we managed to secure some private finance to keep going. And that was really how we bumped along until the IFB and RTÉ came in to help us finish the film - which was really great of both of them.

Those beginnings must have been extremely uncertain then – as to where the film would go or if you would even get it finished?

‘We never knew. It was hand to mouth the whole way. But look at the result and that’s what matters!’

When did producers Paul Duane and Rex Bloomstein come on board?

‘Well they are both very good friends. Rex is an extremely distinguished documentarian and he came in about three years ago to offer support and because he thought the material he had seen was terrific. Paul Duane, an exceptionally creative and supportive producer, and I had been showing each other our work for many years and he also thought the material was very strong. So, he came in a few years ago to get us over the line, secure more financing and get us to where we are now. Their contributions were vital – I don’t think I would have got the film made without them’

It was evident at the IFTA Awards that yourself and Christina Noble have built a strong friendship on the back of this documentary. Do you have any plans to work with her again in the future? I am sure she has stories wherever she goes….

‘The bravery Christina and her family showed was exceptional and it was a lot to ask them to go through that. I would love to do more about Christina’s work now because what she does is just extraordinary, as well as her philosophy on life. So, yes if I could find a way to work with her again, I definitely would.’

And of course another Christina Noble project – Stephen Bradley’s ‘Noble’ - won IFTA Awards for Deirdre O’Kane and Sarah Greene for their portrayals of Christina…

‘Isn’t that great for her? It was very much her night and very well-deserved.’

You mentioned the low-budget of ‘In A House That Ceased To Be’ – winning the IFTA out of such an esteemed category (‘Blood Fruit’, ‘One Million Dubliners’, ‘Road’ and ‘Unbreakable’) puts you veritably into the spotlight – are there any dream projects that you have had shelved for the past number of years that the IFTA Award momentum might help propel to our screens?

‘There are indeed! And because of the IFTA it looks like they will now come to fruition. One project is something I have been working on for over 10 years – I followed three children growing up until they became adults – that project was in London. The other project is closer to home but I think I have a great chance now of one being completed and the other being made. And it is absolutely and directly because of this award. Winning the IFTA was career-changing and life-changing for me.’

The ‘IFTA Film and Drama Awards Special’ will air this Bank Holiday Monday 1st June, at 9pm on TV3.

Alan Maher on Producing
Fiona Graham on Cinematography
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