22 July 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network

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IFTA Q&A Series: Kate Dolan on Directing
15 Apr 2024 : Luke Shanahan
Kate Dolan
To mark the 21st 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 about their approach to craft, working on the projects they’ve been nominated for, and the best piece of advice they’ve been given in their career.

Kate Dolan is IFTA-nominated for Best Director - Drama for Kin. She has previously been nominated for Best Director - Film and Best Script - Film for her feature debut You Are Not My Mother. Dolan was featured on Variety's ‘10 Rising Irish Stars Behind the Camera’ earlier this year.

IFTN: How did this project, and your involvement as director, first come about?

KATE: “I had just made my debut feature film You Are Not My Mother and my agent got an email from an executive at Bron saying that they were looking for directors for KIN Season 2. I thought the first season was such a unique piece of television, and so cinematic, so I jumped at the chance for a meeting. Although I hadn't done any television before the team seemed interested in my pitch. After another meeting with Peter Mc Kenna, the writer/showrunner, I had the job. I'm so grateful that the executives at Bron and Peter invited me in as it was a great production to work on.”

IFTN: Tell me about your experience on set. What was your favourite moment during production?

KATE: “Television can have much tighter schedules than film, but on my debut feature we only had 21 days, so I was somewhat used to that. It means you need to go in extremely prepared. In my episodes, 5 and 6, we had really pivotal scenes between key characters. I think one of my favourite scenes was an argument between Jimmy (Emmet Scanlon) and Amanda (Clare Dunne). We were in the middle of a week of night shoots so everyone was a bit delirious but I had rehearsed the scene with the two actors in prep so felt really good about it. It was a real joy to see two great actors like that give it their all and not leave anything on the floor. I remember just being blown away by both of their performances.”

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

KATE: “When starting out in film or TV I think people assume there's one ‘right’ way to direct actors but that's just not the case. Every actor is unique and has different needs. As the director it's your job to figure out what you can give to that actor to aid them in delivering a great performance.”

“Unfortunately there's no guide book for that, a lot of it is about instinct and getting to know people. Most important of all it's about trust. You need to trust your actors and they need to trust you. It's a leap of faith and you need to take the plunge together. On KIN, the ensemble cast are all so strong, and they are all on top of their game on set, so that was a real gift as a director.”

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

KATE: “I made a film when I was thirteen on a hi-8 camera called The Rogue Wig which was about a sentient wig that possessed people. I assume my style has changed since (well I hope so). While my passion for horror continues to influence my work, my directing style has evolved organically, guided by intuition rather than a predetermined aesthetic. The pursuit of what feels authentic remains at the forefront of my process I think.”

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

KATE: “There's so much Irish talent now. There's a good few up-and-comers currently making shorts and music videos that I'm really excited for. I watched Sinead O’Loughlin's short film Lamb recently. I really loved that. Rioghnach Ni Ghrioghair has been making some really cool shorts for years so I'm looking forward to what she does next.”

“I know Jeda De Bri and Suri Grennell are in this year's Focus Shorts line-up and I always love their work. Lochlainn McKenna and Natasha Waugh also make great shorts. Derek Ugochukwu was my shadow director on the set of KIN, I think his stuff is really interesting too. Bob Gallagher has a feature in development and I have admired his music videos for years so really looking forward to seeing more about that.”

“As a horror fan I have to say of course Lee Cronin and Stephen Shields, it's great to see them representing Ireland on such an international scale. Bottom line is the future is really bright for Irish film!”

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

KATE: “Always get an exterior shot even if you think you won't use it.”

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