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IFTN talks to FilmOffaly Bursary Winner David O’Reilly
27 Oct 2016 : Katie McNeice
David O'Reilly
O’Reilly is the Writer behind ‘Kubrick by Candelight’, the recent winner of the bursary from FilmOffaly which is part of a wider initiative to encourage filmmaking in the midlands.

We talk through the real-life inspiration behind his project, which is a creative exploration of Kubrick’s own time filming in Ireland while making ‘Barry Lydon’ in the 1970s.  

This comes at a time when the decentralisation of Dublin as the film and television hub has never been more active, with the launch of Troy Studios in Limerick and initiatives such as the South East Creative Corridor.

O’Reilly is best known for his work as a location scout, and explains the huge appeal of shooting in the midlands, from its pool of local talent to the illimitable support available to filmmakers through organisations such as FilmOffally.

Talk us through how you learned about Stanley Kubrick’s film and how it came to be the basis of your own project?

Like many people I've been a lifelong fan of Stanley Kubrick. His attention to detail, stunning cinematography and his masterful storytelling have shaped the course of the last 60 years of cinema so it's impossible to ignore him, impossible not to be a fan. I've been a fan of all of his films but kept coming back to ‘Barry Lyndon’ which until this year at least (with the re-release to celebrate 40 years) was often forgotten amongst all of the other incredible films Stanley gave us. 

Aside from a love of the film I also loved the backstory - a gang of English filmmakers decamping to 70s Ireland, dressing Irish reserves up in British Redcoats and of course the "myth and legend" of how Stanley came to leave Ireland so suddenly. Was it a threat from the IRA, a disgruntled extra? I've spoken to a number of Kubrick's crew and everyone has a different story and that's where my idea for the short formulated.

So from there I created a Romeo and Juliet style love story between an Irish extra and a film crew member and how their burgeoning love story impacts on Kubrick's eventual departure... As a long term film industry crew member I'm also interested in the dichotomy of the beauty of the filmed image and the fag smoking, shorts wearing, bacon butty eating reality of the travelling circus of a film crew.

So the challenge was and will be in a few weeks to recreate some scenes from Barry Lyndon whilst creating the world of the 1970s film crew - VW campers, cigarettes, Parka jackets and lots of moustaches. On a limited budget it's going to be an interesting challenge but with the help of my tenacious producer, Vinnie Jassal, and my super talented DOP, Stil Williams, whose film 'Gone Too Far' recently played at Offline in Birr. I think we're going to have a good crack at it.

Who are the cast involved in the project so far?

We're helped also by an amazing cast - Darragh O'Toole, a Tullamore native, who is doing amazing things in ‘Red Rock’ and soon to be released feature film ‘South’, is our lead and Amy Hughes, so great in ‘We're Doomed: The Dad's Army Story’, is our female lead. Adding to that we have the inimitable Phelim Drew playing a small part and a whole host of great actors to announce as well as an a-list actor playing our Narrator.

Add some amazing locations in Offaly, beautiful costumes and some incredible camera equipment and more importantly tremendous support from FilmOffaly and the people of Tullamore - how can I go wrong! 

Offaly has become somewhat of a hub for filmmaking in Ireland in recent times. Can you talk us through what drew you to the project?

FilmOffaly, Sinead O'Reilly initially and more recently Clare Dunne, have been fantastic support so far and it's a real testament to the county and their support of filmmakers that not only does this bursary exist in the first place but the commitment to promoting filming in the county far outshines film commissions I've encountered around the world.

There's such amazing filmmaking talent in Offaly with the likes of Paddy Slattery, Darragh of course, Sam Keeley, Eugene O'Brien, Declan Recks, Carla Mooney and her brother Delwyn that I'm incredibly proud to say that I come from the county but also incredibly excited to be shooting this short film entirely in Tullamore and the environs. Beautiful locations are the obvious draw but that is backed up by local talent, be it actors or cast, as well as the expertise and enthusiasm of FilmOffaly. 

What in particular drew you locations, above other elements of filmmaking?

My day job is a feature film location scout which sounds like one of those dream jobs and I'll be honest it is. For the last 15 years or so I've been lucky to work on some amazing films with amazing talents - directors, producers, designers - so I hope at the very least I've absorbed some of the good and witnessed enough of the bad that my own filmmaking is better for it.

I started in locations by chance, having done a literature degree and then working for the London Film Commission, now Film London. From there I set out on my own and my first real film job was on ‘Tomb Raider’ and since then I've worked on the likes of ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, ‘Inception’, ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’, ‘V For Vendetta’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘X Men’, ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’, ‘Fast & Furious 6’ and most recently ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.’ 

You have an incredible list of credits to your name already. Can you share a little with us about what your process was on these projects?

I've been privileged to work with some of my all-time heroes - three times with Tim Burton, twice with Chris Nolan and in particular closely with Michael Mann in Malaysia and Hong Kong - the common denominator amongst all of them, apart from immense talent, is an ultra-clear concept of what they want, something that I'm sure they share with Stanley Kubrick.

The process almost always starts the same - a brief from the director and/or the designer - but from there can go in weird and wonderful ways and often to weird and wonderful countries. I've scouted mainly in the UK but in recent years have worked in Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico, Spain, Georgia, Norway, Malaysia, Morocco, Hong Kong, the Maldives and Croydon, South London...where we recreated Gotham City for the 'Dark Knight Rises'! 

Recently I scouted for 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' and as you'll have seen on the posters and in the film the Home is a very important part of the film - almost a character. I started scouting on the project and searched throughout the UK looking for the right kind of house but everything I saw was too English, too big, too normal. On following up a lead about the house in Belgium that Ranson Riggs, the writer of the book, had used in a promotional video I discovered a rich seam of gorgeous, slightly dilapidated mansions and one afternoon turned the corner to find Torenhof in the outskirts of Antwerp. I knew instantly that I'd found it and ultimately that Tim would respond. He took one look at the photograph on my return to London and the rest is history (although nothing is ever easy and the house was actually up for auction etc etc). 

When working with Michael Mann, who is as precise and meticulous as you would hope and imagine, I needed to find a "safehouse" in Hong Kong. I hit the streets day and night, scouted 49 different buildings and spaces and eventually we found the right look - although as before nothing is ever easy, the eventual location was a fully operational "massage parlour" so we had to pay the workers to move out and take a holiday whilst we gutted the location to turn it into our set. I still have a map of Hong Kong with almost all the streets crossed out having walked through them for 6 weeks. In Malaysia, on the same film, I took to the air and spent over 50 hours (not in one go!) in a helicopter looking for a key location which was every bit as fun as it sounds. 

On ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’... actually I can't tell you anything about that one. You'll have to wait and see in December. 

If you could give some brief advice to the readers of IFTN who are trying to break into this area, what would that be?

My advice to anyone wanting to get in to locations is try and get to work with good people, work hard and stay positive and those good people will take you with them or they'll have to because you make them look good! For scouting watching a lot of films is the obvious homework, but also interest in architecture, architects, travelling and foreign cultures as well as photography all goes towards moulding a good, creative, lateral thinking location scout. 

When can we hope to announce filming dates and a call for the likes of extras for your project?

Filming of Kubrick By Candlelight is looking like the first weekend of December in and around Tullamore. We're still putting the crew together so anyone is interested please feel free to get in touch. Equally we're always interested in anyone who wants to be a supporting artist and help us fill out some of our major scenes.

My email is kubrickbycandlelight @ gmail.com. And of course, if anyone is interested in helping us in any way, be it equipment, old 70s costumes or vehicles, or indeed finance then get in touch, we'd love to hear from you. 

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