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IFTA Q&A Series: Kris Kelly on Directing Animation
16 Apr 2024 : Luke Shanahan
Kris Kelly
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.

Wind and the Shadow, directed by Kris Kelly, is IFTA-nominated for Best Animated Short Film. The animated short stars IFTA Winners Niamh Algar (Calm with Horses) and Catherine Clinch (An Cailín Ciúin). Wind and the Shadow was produced by Vicki Rock for EnterYes and Brian J. Falconer for Out of Orbit.

IFTN: How did this project first come about?

KRIS: “I witnessed some close family members undergo some incredibly challenging experiences that demanded immense courage and strength. Inspired by their stories, I wanted to use my experience as a filmmaker to explore the subject and ultimately bring subjects and people that I think deserve respect to the fore. I believe that these are the people we should champion and respect in society and I was in awe of their courage and strength. As a film it was a difficult task to approach, as I was careful not to sensationalize the subject for the sake of drama or conforming to typical story arcs, also, I didn't want to provide a definitive outcome, as for many experiencing similar situations, the journey ahead is uncertain.”

“The BFI and producers Brian J. Falconer and Vicki Rock were instrumental in respecting my vision, giving me the space, time and confidence to follow my instincts. They also respected my wishes and supported me when choosing to cast all Irish talent as I wanted the film to remain true to my family and the culture and tone of those that had inspired the story.”

“Through-out the production I constantly reminded myself of how much of a privilege it is to be a filmmaker and what honor it is to highlight the stories of those experiencing moments like this. When the family members who inspired the film finally watched Wind and the Shadow, I was incredibly nervous about its impact and the need to avoid contrivance or over-dramatization. Their overwhelmingly positive response was a profound relief for me, and I was deeply moved by what it meant to them. My primary concern and objective has always been to approach this subject with sensitivity, and with their approval, I hope the rest of the world can now appreciate what we have created.”

“This film has shaped me as a writer-director, and I will carry this profound experience and learning into my next project.”

IFTN: This project took 3.5 years to complete, what was your favorite moment during production?

KRIS: “Script writing is my favorite part of any production. During the first draft of a script, you can very clearly see who shares your vision and excitement for a project, as it's raw and full of the human flaws you bring to a story. If a production is going to last 3.5 years, there has to be a passion for the subject and a solid foundation.”

“However, on Wind and the Shadow, the voice recording session was my most favorite moment. Working with Niamh Algar and Catherine Clinch felt like a new chapter in my career, and I am very grateful for their generosity towards me as an emerging filmmaker and the energy they brought to our film. Both artists cared immensely for the subject and the ambitions of the film.”

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

KRIS: “Screen Ireland funded my first short film called Here to Fall which was nominated for a BAFTA and won one of the awards at the Galway Film Fleadh. It was an incredible experience and I am forever grateful that they gave me my first opportunity in the industry and allowed me to create my first film.”

“Over the years, my experiences moving between animation and live-action have influenced my animation process. My animation has become more traditional, filmic in its structure and approach, and less visually abstract. This transition brings certain challenges to an animation production, as quirky playful animation is often a sought-after quality appreciated in the genre. However, in contrast, I think the approach opens the genre to a different type of writing and subject matter that the filmmaker can explore.”

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

KRIS: “It's very difficult to pin it down to just one, but if I had to choose, it would possibly be Andrei Tarkovsky. When I need inspiration, I watch a film by him. I also really appreciate the timelessness and emotional range of Terrence Malick's films, both the popular and unpopular ones. Within animation, I admire the maturity of a Hayao Miyazaki film. He is one of the few that merges the quirky and playful with the profound with such skill.”

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

KRIS: “Ross White left me beyond impressed and inspired by both his filmmaking skills and his inclusiveness within the filmmaking community. Additionally, I've found the film work of visual artist Ailbhe Ní Bhriain truly inspiring, and it has undoubtedly influenced my work as a filmmaker.”

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

KRIS: “The best advice I received was from script editors Rob Richie and Marilyn Milgrom. They encouraged me to constantly check that throughout every step of my filmmaking and writing process that I confirm my actions adhere to the original artistic statement/premise.”

“I believe you can tell when a film or artist loses sight of this, and I am grateful to have received this advice early in my career.”
 





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