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Seven Irish creatives selected for Screen International's Stars of Tomorrow 2020
28 Sep 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Dónall Ó Héalai in Arracht.
Screen International has revealed the selected alumni for its Stars of Tomorrow 2020, which includes three Irish actors: Helen Behan (The Virtues), Paul Mescal (Normal People), and Dónall Ó Héalai (Arracht); Northern Irish writer-director duo Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson (The Salisbury Poisinings) and writer-director Colum Eastwood (Black Medicine); Costume Designer Sinéad Kidao (This Way Up); and Cinematographer Kate McCullough (Arracht, Blood, Normal People).

The annual talent showcase highlights the most exciting actors, writers, directors, producers, and heads of department emerging across the UK and Ireland.

The selected participants of this year’s Stars of Tomorrow will take part in an online event on October 5th, which will consist of live conversations hosted by Screen’s editor Matt Mueller alongside Fionnuala Halligan, curator of Stars of Tomorrow and Screen’s chief film critic and reviews editor.

Helen Behan (actor)

Actor Helen Behan has blazed an incredible trail over the past decade, transitioning from a full time nurse to a BAFTA and IFTA nominated actor over the space of nine years. From a chance encounter with Shane Meadows in an Irish pub, the British writer-director and Behan have since struck up a fruitful relationship, which has seen Helen feature prominently in three of Meadow last projects.

Behan first came to prominence when cast by Meadow’s production company Warp Films for a role as a nurse opposite Vicky McClure in drama series This Is England ’88. This was followed by other notable roles in This Is England ’90 in 2015 and RTÉ drama Taken Down, from the creators of Love/Hate, in which she played the role of a pathologist.

However, 2019 was most certainly Behan’s breakout year firstly with hit TV drama Elizabeth Is Missing, which was directed by Irish director Aisling Walsh, followed by a purpose written role in Meadow’s led Channel 4 drama The Virtues, which earned her both BAFTA and IFTA nominations this year. Behan can next be seen in Cathy Brady’s feature debut Wildfire, which recently world premiered at TIFF, and features at the BFI London Film Festival shortly.

Paul Mescal (actor)

In a year of uncertainty and frustration, actor Paul Mescal has experienced a 2020 unrivalled to most. The Lir graduate, who had established himself a promising theatre actor following a string of acclaimed performances in London’s Lyric Hammersmith’s The Plough And The Stars, Asking For It at the Abbey Theatre in Cork, and Dublin’s Rough Magic Theatre Company’s production of A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man.

Off the back of this, Mescal secured an agent with Curtis Brown and from there was given the opportunity to audition for the role, that once secured, has subsequently culminated in the Irish actor being nominated in the best actor category at the 2020 Emmy Awards. This role was Connell Waldron in Element Picture’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel Normal People. The BBC Three/Hulu production, directed by Lenny Abrahamson became an international phenomena over lockdown and it is no surprise that both Mescal and lead actress Daisy Edgar-Jones have been selected as Stars of Tomorrow.

Mescal also recently featured in Lisa McGee’s Channel 5/Virgin Media Television drama The Deceived, and will make his big screen debut in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter.

Dónall Ó Héalai (actor)

Actor Dónall Ó Héalaí is the star of the highly acclaimed, Irish-language feature Arracht. The film from writer/director Tom Sullivan leads the way with 11 IFTA nominations this year, and previously won the prestigious Audience Award at Glasgow Film Festival 2020, as well as Best Irish Film at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020. Ó Héalaí was also awarded the Aer Lingus Discovery Award at DIFF in March and has achieved significant critical acclaim for his committed performance in the film, including an IFTA nomination for Lead Actor.

“When you look at the individuals that have come through Stars of tomorrow from Jessie Buckley to Benedict Cumberbatch the talent is undeniable,” said Ó Héalai when speaking with IFTN. “To be in any way a part of the Screen Stars lineage is a total honour and personally hugely inspiring.”

“The fact that it was my work on Arracht that got me on this list is profoundly gratifying. Much is owed to the incredible work of Kate Mccollough, Tom Sullivan, and all the Arracht team. I’m thankful to ScreenDaily for recognizing actors from cultural cross-sections of Ireland and the UK. To have 7 Irish people selected on this year’s program is indicative of the calibre of work coming from Ireland at this time. I feel very lucky to be amongst the 2020 Stars of tomorrow”

Originally from Connemara and a native Irish speaker, Ó Héalaí is a graduate of the Bow Street Academy of screen acting. The Irish actor is also a graduate of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, where he was awarded the Dr. H.H Stewart Literary prize during his studies. In 2018 he gave a TedxBerkeley talk on the Irish Language and Beauty.

Ó Héalaí can be seen as the lead in US thriller Impossible Monsters alongside Tony winner, Santino Fontana. The Irish actor has also wrapped on the Irish film Foscadh - a screen adaptation of the man booker prize shortlisted novel The Thing about December by the Irish writer Donal Ryan, produced by IFTA winner, Paddy Hayes. Ó Héalaí plays the lead role in the film which is currently in postproduction.

Read our recent interview with actor Dónall Ó Héalai.

Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson (writer-directors)

Former journalists - one a former photographer one as a reporter, Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson came to prominence following their debut four-part series The Salisbury Poisonings, which debuted on BBC One in June.

The Northern Irish writing and directing duo were approached by Toby Bruce of Dancing Ledge Productions to develop a dramatization of the 2018 Novichok poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in the English town.

Their debut short film Rough premiered at the online Belfast Film Festival back in April and the Galway Film Fleadh in July. Other writing credits include Peter Kosminsky’s six-part cyber warfare drama The Undeclared War, and Chasing Agent Freegard, a script from Captain Phillips co-producer Michael Bronner, which stars James Norton.

Colum Eastwood (writer-director)

“I’m really delighted to be selected as part of Screen Stars this year with so many talented people,” said Eastwood when speaking with IFTN. “I’ve been following it for some years now and many of the previous Stars have gone on to do fantastic work.”

The Belfast based writer-director is in currently in post on his Northern Ireland Screen-supported debut feature Black Medicine starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Amybeth McNulty, Orla Brady and John Connors.

“My debut feature Black Medicine has just been completed and should be embarking on its festival run,” Eastwood continued. “Outside of that I’m busy developing my second feature with a view to shooting in 2021, covid allowing!”

A member of the BAFTA Crew x BFI Network program, he was selected for mentorship with writer-director Gareth Tunley (The Ghoul). Colum was also given a John Brabourne Award to help with development on his feature slate.

 His horror short The Morrigan enjoyed an extensively festival run featuring at international festivals including BAFTA® and Academy Award® qualifiers Palm Springs Shortfest, Galway Film Fleadh, Flickers: Rhode Island International Short Film Festival, Austin Film Festival and London Short Film Festival while his graduation film Here was awarded runner up for Best Student Short at Palm Springs in 2014.

Sinéad Kidao (costume designer)

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Kidao was put in contact with Jacqueline Durran following a conversation with director Mike Leigh at a Q&A event in London. From there, the Kildare native was taken on as a costume assistant and since worked on nine feature films including Anna Karenina.

Kidao’s other credits include working with Lindy Hemming on The Dark Knight Rises and Wonder Women 1984.

More recently, Sinéad has worked as the costume designer for two chapters of Steve McQueen’s five-part anthology series for the BBC, Small Axe. Kidao is also currently working on Emily Mortimer’s three-part adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love for the BBC and Amazon, which is due to wrap in mid-October.

Kate McCullough (Cinematographer)

One of Ireland’s leading cinematographers, McCullough was recently nominated for an IFTA in the Best Cinematography category for her work on Tom Sullivan’s Cine4 Famine Epic, Arracht. One of many recent projects that have helped McCullough garner well-deserved attention from the industry following her transition into drama in recent years.  

Aside from Arracht, McCullough has developed a rich and diverse catalogue of screen work through other recent projects such as Virgin Media Television’s original drama Blood (2019) and Maurice Sweeney’s Troubles feature documentary about Dolours Price, which have also both been nominated for Best Drama and Best Feature Documentary at the IFTA Film & Drama Awards.

Separate to working on these projects, Kate featured as DoP on six episodes of Element Pictures’ internationally acclaimed drama Normal People, which aired earlier this summer, and her previous work includes Emer Reynold’s News & Documentary Emmy-winning documentary, The Farthest (2017), for which she was nominated for Outstanding Lighting Direction and Scenic Design.

Read our recent interview with cinematographer Kate McCullough.





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