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Interview with Mick Mahon – editor of ‘The Queen of Ireland’ and double IFTA nominee
19 Oct 2015 : Seán Brosnan
With the critically acclaimed ‘The Queen of Ireland’ in cinemas on October 21st, we talk to editor Mick Mahon about his work on the film.

This week will be a busy one for Mahon who is also up for not one but two IFTA Awards at the IFTA Gala Awards ceremony on Thursday, October 22nd for his work on ‘After Braveheart’ and ‘Rough Rider’.

IFTN: Have you had any time to come out of the cutting room over the past couple of years – you seem to have had a lot of big projects on your slate – such as ‘The Queen of Ireland’, ‘Rough Rider’ and ‘After Braveheart’ – with the latter two landing you IFTA nominations….

Mick Mahon: ‘Time off has been rare, It's been pretty relentless for the last ten years, but I've no complaints.’

‘In an ideal world I'd take a week or two between each project, but it hasn't worked out that way. The variety of subject, genre and style keeps me energised. The three films you mentioned couldn't be more different, each with their own challenges and demands, but I thrive on that. Every job has a new director who is fresh and enthusiastic and raring to go, I just need to put the previous job away and move on. I've also been lucky to have worked with certain directors on several projects, Liam McGrath, Maurice Sweeney & Garry Keane come to mind. It makes that transition easier when you have an established relationship; you can skip the 'getting to know you" part.’

I would say well done on being a double nominee but you were of course a triple nominee in 2013 ….

‘Yes, it's bizarre! It's very gratifying to have my work acknowledged by my peers. There are many editors working today who I admire greatly, so to be counted amongst them is an honour, irrespective of winning awards or not. Awards are never the goal, rather the cherry on the cake and an excuse for a night out.’

I am sure ‘The Queen of Ireland’ will also get recognized when the Film & Drama Awards swing around next year – how does it feel to have been part of something as big as this Panti Bliss phenomenon?

‘It's been a thrill. I'm in London at the moment, so I'm a bit disconnected from the buzz. Having said that, I was back in Dublin for the weekend and couldn't believe the amount of posters and advertising on sides of buses - it's getting a great push and deservedly so. This really was a labour of love for Conor Horgan, and the stars aligned perfectly for him in the last 18 months. This was a story that needed to be told, and the timing was perfect. The events since Pantigate, culminating with the referendum gave the film its’ emotional heart and I think it raises it to a different level, more than merely being a portrait of a drag performer and accidental activist.’

Director Conor Horgan said he was shooting Panti since 2010 and there is archive footage looking at his childhood – was this a nightmare editing or did the referendum in May of this year give you and Conor a clear path and narrative?

‘Far from being a nightmare, it was essential that we had as much material to work with as possible. In fact, the childhood super 8 footage came to the edit quite late, and it was like a golden nugget falling in our laps, along with Rory's college portfolio which gave a great insight into the evolution of Panti. At no point did we feel overwhelmed by the material. The trick was finding a structure that was both artful and playful, and the finished film is unrecognisable from the first cut. Thankfully! The first viewing is always the worst, and it just got better with each pass. The narrative path revealed itself to us.’

There were a few devices used to great effect in ‘The Queen of Ireland’ such as the jumping back and forward in the timeline in a few scenes – particularly beginning the film after the result of the May referendum and jumping back to show his life?

‘It's all about structure. Linear storytelling can be quite bland, but we did have to adhere to a certain chronology particularly in the post-Pantigate section. I love fracturing the timeline where possible. I like to surprise the viewer. Myself and Conor were in tune with each other throughout and it was quite a smooth collaboration, a great director to work with. There was trust, which is essential.’

How long were you working on Queen of Ireland for?

‘We were editing for fourteen weeks. You need to know when to stop and set it free.’

Finally, what are you working on at the minute?

‘Currently editing an episode of a drama for History Channel US. It's called ‘Barbarians Rising’, and each episode is a stand-alone film. I'm working on the "Spartacus" episode, so it's action packed and very dynamic. It's for a UK based company October Films, so it's good to step out of my comfort zone and take on a new challenge. I would like to cut more drama, so it is a perfect step in that direction. It's directed by my great friend Maurice Sweeney, so there's a pair of us in it.’

‘So, men in skirts and high drama but that is where the similarities with ‘The Queen of Ireland’ begin and end!’

The IFTA Gala Television Awards take place on Thursday, October 22nd with Mick Mahon nominated for two awards for the projects ‘After Braveheart’ and 'Rough Rider'.

In the meantime, the critically acclaimed documentary ‘The Queen of Ireland’ hits cinemas on October 21st – check out the trailer below:




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