24 April 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
#IFTA17 Best Animation Nominee Vincent Gallagher of ‘Second to None’ chats to IFTN
07 Apr 2017 : Katie McNeice
As perhaps one of the most competitive and rapidly developing fields in the Irish film industry, the category honouring the very best of Irish Animation is becoming more highly contested with each year’s nominees.

One such nominee is ‘Second to None’ writer/director Vincent Gallagher, whose stop motion project follows Frederick Butterfield’s journey with jealousy and ambition, when his twin brother becomes the oldest man in the world.

The project is produced by Damian Farrell, with production design from Aoife Noonan and the vocal talents of Morgan C. Jones.

Other projects nominated for Best Animation are ‘The Lost Letter’ (Kealan O'Rourke), ‘Don't Forget the Bread’ (Gary Gill) and ‘Define Intervention’ (Sean Cunningham).

IFTN: Firstly talk us through your own introduction to animation; when did you know you wanted to work in this field and where did you study?

“My background is in Live Action, I studied at The National Film School in IADT. When I applied there I was 50/50 on doing film or animation, but in the end I decided to focus on film, but always retained a keen interest in animation, the industry and the different processes involved in it. I see myself now as a storyteller, and I work within whichever medium best tells the story.”

IFTN: Your ambition seems to match Frederick’s in your director’s statement: ‘It was my idea to show that ambition can drive a person to desperation if all they crave is fame and success. I also wanted to show how the simplest approach can often be the best, but I wanted to show it by choosing the most complicated way to animate a film.’ Can you tell us firstly how you became drawn to this theme and secondly what attracted you to stop motion?

“Working in any creative industry there will always be a certain amount of competition. It's easy to get caught up in what other people are doing and you can end up measuring yourself by their successes. I'm sure we've all been on both sides of that at one point or another, and I found that fascinating. I had read an article about someone becoming the world's oldest man and it struck me that there could be a dark competitive element to even that accolade. 

“The moral of the film is to follow your own path. Success and accolades are great and all, but you need to focus on what you are doing, carve your own path. Sometimes you're a Frederick and sometimes you're a Herman, but if you just focus on doing good work and not on what others are doing, that's the best way to be happy.

“I've always loved stop-motion, one of my earliest memories of film was watching Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Ray Harryhausen and Tim Burton were big influences on me growing up, so it's been a lifelong dream to get to work in the medium I fell in love with as a kid. I was just waiting for the right project, and Second to None suited stop motion perfectly.” 

IFTN: How and when did the Irish Film Board get involved?
“The Irish Film Board has been a huge support with ‘Second to None’. The frame works scheme is responsible for giving a great platform for emerging filmmakers, and I'm delighted to be a part of that. Because I hadn't really produced an animated film before I did a lot of testing before we brought the project to the board. I worked closely with my designer Pierre Butler and shot some tests with earlier versions of the characters. I then approached Damian Farrell in Caboom and we basically had a team in place and enough preproduction done that we were ready to make the film, so when we sought funding it made it easier for them to say yes.” 

IFTN: Given how meticulous the project is, how did you break down your time in terms of creating each element, filming and then working through elements such as sound in post-production?
“One of the most important elements in animation is the animatic; it's your blueprint for the film. We storyboarded everything and then I cut the boards and added sound effects, which allowed me to shape the film and really hone the pacing and comedy beats. Because of my live action background there were a couple of times where I rewrote a scene as we were going. In stop motion, doing this means you have to physically make anything new you think of. Luckily I was working with a great production designer, Aoife Noonan of Bowsie Workshop, and she was incredibly quick but equally meticulous. 

“As much as possible we shot with a conveyer belt mentality. Aoife would build a set and props, we would then shoot all the scenes on that set with our fantastic animator Jason Watts, while Aoife would build the next one. This worked out very well. If there were any delays it allowed us a bit of freedom to try new things. In one case we even shot an alternative ending, which ended up being the one in the film. (Sorry Jason!)

“We shot for 6 months, but the incredible thing about stop motion is that you can cut it along the way. After we would complete a shot I would get it sent to my phone and that's where I cut the film. The entire film was initially edited on my iPhone. I had the animatic, and would just replace storyboards with finished shots. Once we had finished shooting we only spent two weeks in post to tighten the edit, grade and sound mix.” 

IFTN: What is the next Vincent Gallagher project we can expect to see and how do you feel this IFTA nomination will impact your career, going forward?
“My main focus now is features. I'm currently developing my previous live action short, IFTA nominated Love is a Sting, with Ben Cleary and Fail Safe. The IFTA nomination is great, it's a really well recognised honour and that really helps when you are looking towards the next project.” 

For a full list of #IFTA17 Nominees visit the Official IFTA Website 

2024 IFTA Award winners announced
IFTA Q&A Series: Joanne O’Brien on Costume Design
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