18 April 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTA Q&A Series: Conor McMahon on Directing
02 May 2023 : Luke Shanahan
Conor McMahon directing Let The Wrong One In
To mark the 20th anniversary of the IFTA awards, we are showcasing Irish talent who are blazing a trail across our industry, working in front of and behind the camera.

Hosted in association with IFTA, this Q&A Series connects with Irish talent who represent a range of disciplines across our industry. 

We find out what they look out for in the projects they take on, what their approach is to filmmaking and collaboration; what inspires them; and what recent work in the industry they most admire.

Conor McMahon is nominated for Best Director and Best Script for his film Let The Wrong One In, a fast-paced comedy horror set on the northside of Dublin. McMahon has an established career in horror filmmaking, having previously written and directed films such as Dead Meat, The Disturbed, Stitches, and From The Dark.

IFTN: What was your approach to making this film, and where did you take inspiration from during the process?

CONOR: “Because I had some complicated blocking and special effects to consider I had to plan the film very meticulously. I had it storyboarded and acted out various people in advance so that most of the technical decisions were made by the time we came to set. Yes, there is a version of the film with me acting out some of the scenes which will hopefully never see the light of day.”

IFTN: Tell me about your experience on set, and your favourite moment during production?

CONOR: “As a Buffy fan, hearing Anthony Head say ‘He’s a vampire!’. That got me giddy.”

IFTN: How do you approach working with actors, and what advice would you give to aspiring directors on this front?

CONOR: “For me it was making the set a fun and creative space to be in which would allow the actors to bring their best work. We also did a lot of improvisation in rehearsal so that the actors were able to contribute to their part and make it their own. My advice for aspiring directors would be to take an acting class.”

IFTN: What was your first role as a director (feature/short), and how has your style changed over the years?

CONOR: “My graduate film from IADT was called the Braineater which had a monster chasing people around a forest. In my new film I have a monster chasing people around a house... so some things never change. I think the main evolution for me is the emotional dimension to the stories. There was a time when I was quite happy to dispatch a bunch of zombies in imaginative ways, now I'm a little more interested in how that affects the characters and what it means to me on a personal level.”

IFTN: What filmmaker or director’s work has influenced or inspired you the most?

CONOR: “For me the early work of Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi had the biggest influence in terms of the horror comedy aspect. Also Steven Spielberg and the way he blocks scenes and moves the camera still leaves me in awe.”

IFTN: What other Irish filmmakers have you been most impressed by recently?

CONOR:I’m so impressed with what Lee Cronin did with the new Evil Dead film. For an Irish filmmaker to take on a franchise of that scale and deliver is incredible. Also the fact that he really pushed the horror and didn’t pull his punches is something that was very exciting to see.”  

IFTN: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?

CONOR: “When something goes wrong accept it as if you had chosen it. Think of it as an opportunity for something better to happen.”

The 20th anniversary of the IFTA Awards Ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 7th.

IFTA Q&A Series: Eleanor Bowman on Cinematography
IFTA Q&A Series: Kev Cahill on VFX
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