14 April 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTN Festive Q&A with Oscar-winning directors Ross White and Tom Berkeley
19 Dec 2023 : Luke Shanahan
Ross White & Tom Berkeley on set of The Golden West.
In the run up to Christmas, we have invited some of Ireland’s leading Film & TV talents to take part in IFTN’s festive Q&A.

Hot on the heels of their Oscar win earlier this year for their second short film An Irish Goodbye, Ross White and Tom Berkeley have been on the festival circuit this year with their latest short The Golden West. The film stars Aoife Duffin and Eileen Walsh as feuding sisters that have fled the famine to seek their fortunes in the gold rush. 

Following the short film’s World Premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh, it has gone on to receive many accolades already, including the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film at Raindance Film Festival, Aesthetica Film Festival, and Norwich Film Festival. The Golden West is eligible for the Best Live Action Short Film category at the 96th Academy Awards.

IFTN:  What was your highlight of 2023?

ROSS & TOM: “We've been very fortunate in these last twelve months to make so many brilliant memories. It would be hard, though, to look beyond the night of the 95th Oscars back in March where we won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short for our film An Irish Goodbye. The incredible journey we went on with that film is a highlight that I think will transcend the year of 2023.”

IFTN: What are you most looking forward to working on in the New Year?

ROSS & TOM: “Our third short film, The Golden West, is out playing festivals and currently under consideration for the Academy Awards, the IFTAs and the BAFTAs. Whatever happens, we look forward to continuing to share the film, a project very tonally different to our other works, with audiences in Ireland and further afield. We're also currently writing a debut feature and we're really looking forward to getting that screenplay finished early in the New Year.”

IFTN: What were your favourite films of 2023?

TOM: “We saw The Holdovers back in September at the Telluride Film Festival and it immediately stood out, a near perfect script and a performance to match from Paul Giamatti.”

ROSS: “I, too, adored The Holdovers, but in the interest of variety, I'll go with something completely different and pick Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest. It is an entirely unique and harrowing examination of the holocaust as experienced through the eyes of a Nazi concentration camp commandant and his family. But yes, if you're looking for a Christmas watch, maybe stick with The Holdovers.”

IFTN: What Irish talent have you been impressed with over the past 12 months?

ROSS: “There are so many wonderful filmmakers in Ireland also looking to make that jump from shorts to features, it's such an exciting time. We particularly love the short films of Laura O'Shea and Derek Ugochukwu. We're also incredibly inspired by the thriving animation scene in Ireland. We recently caught the world premiere of animated short Wind And The Shadow by Kris Kelly and look forward to seeing where that film goes next.”

“And not to state the obvious, but we've so loved watching the incredible journey Colm Bairead and Cleona Ní Chrualaoí have been on with An Cailín Ciúin. It's become an instant Irish all-timer, breaking box office records and becoming a proper cultural moment. A gorgeous film, deserving of every accolade it's received. We can't wait to see what they do next!”

IFTN: What International talent would you most like to work with?

ROSS: “There are so many wonderful actors that we would love to get the chance to work with, but I'm actually going to go with the cinematographer Linus Sandgren. I've been a fan of his since I saw his work in American Hustle. His films since then, La La Land, No Time To Die, Saltburn (and more), have all been remarkable and varied in their style. A proper storyteller with a camera.”

TOM: “One of the things we bonded over when we first began writing together was a shared love and passion for the work of Pixar. We are, first and foremost, story lovers, in whatever form it takes, so the story science and narrative care that Pixar takes in their work has been a huge inspiration to us across all of our projects. We’d love to dabble in feature animation down the line, so it would be a dream come true to get to spend some time in that inspiring incubator of culture-defining films.”

IFTN: What two film/television personalities would you most like to have dinner with and why?

TOM: “Stephen Sondheim and Martin Scorsese. I think these two would complement each other well. It would be a peaceful, well-mannered but hugely inspiring dinner alongside two geniuses and masters of their craft. I don’t think there’s anything you couldn’t learn about story, character, form, audience, or the artistic pursuit in general from these two men.”

ROSS: “I'd also go for Martin Scorsese, for all of the obvious cinematic legend reasons Tom has listed, but also because I get the impression he's a great cook and would bring some delicious Italian-inspired plates with him. Then I'll pick Doris Day who can serenade us with carols and spill the tea on the golden age of Hollywood. Also, my Mum is a huge Calamity Jane fan so she'd be well chuffed.”

IFTN: What are your favourite movies to watch on Christmas day?

TOM: “It won’t feel like Christmas if I haven’t heard John Williams’ score for Home Alone. Although I think if push came to shove, Home Alone 2 is my favourite of the franchise. The animated film of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman is also a yearly tradition, and like all the great Christmas films it retains its charm year on year. Love Actually usually gets at least three watches over the holiday period. Oh, and Muppets Christmas Carol, of course, for the soundtrack that had absolutely no right being as good as it was.”

ROSS: “I love a classic on Christmas afternoon. The Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music, so cosy. The Polar Express came out at a perfect age for me, so it holds a special Christmassy feeling too. Oh, and I'm a sucker for any and all versions of A Christmas Carol: Muppets, Jim Carrey/Robert Zemeckis, George C. Scott. It's just a perfect story.”

IFTA Q&A Series: Patricia Kelly on Directing
IFTA Q&A Series: Damien Lynch on Sound Design
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