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Making the Cut

Making The Cut: ‘An Bronntanas’ writer/director/producer Tom Collins on getting into the industry
04 Nov 2016 : Seán Brosnan
Tom Collins (left), pictured here with Shawn Ryan, showrunner of ‘The Shield’
Tom Collins is an IFTA-nominated writer/director/producer who last directed ‘An Bronntanas’ – an acclaimed Irish language Celtic Noir drama series that aired on TG4 in late 2014 and has since been acquired by French distributor Lagardère Entertainment (LE) Rights for worldwide distribution.

Collins is also well-known in Ireland for directing, co-writing and co-producing ‘Kings’, a 2007 comedy drama starring Colm Meaney which centred on a group of old friends re-uniting for a funeral, which won various international festival awards before receiving 14 IFTA nominations and winning four in 2008.

Here, Collins tells us how he got his start in the industry.

IFTN: First off, tell us a little about what you are working on at the minute?

Tom Collins: ‘I am in pre-production on a feature film called ‘Penance’, which explores political violence and the Irish fascination with commemorating it.’

What training/education did you receive to become a filmmaker?

‘I received no training but I always liked taking photos and I got my first 35mm stills camera at around eight or nine. Although, over the years I have attended good Screen Training Ireland courses that weren’t available back then. I have a bit of dyslexia so you'll never hear me claim I can write.’

And what was your first job in the industry?

‘My first engagement with moving film was persuading Director Karl Francis to take me on as a trainee director in Wales in the mid-eighties. However, within a few days they sacked the clapper loader so I had to shift into becoming 'a loader'. It was a nightmare. I dropped the spool in the bag. I then shot ‘Mother Ireland’ for Channel 4.. That got banned. So I shot the 16mm pilot for 'Hush A Bye Baby' in Derry, Brendan Galvin was the assistant, wherever he is now! After that experience, I realised producing was for me. Brendan Galvin was the assistant, wherever he is now! After that experience. I realised producing was for me. I put together a play which a Commissioning editor for ZDF read. She commissioned me to direct it and it turned into ‘Bogwoman’. It’s all been down-hill since then!’

What was the best piece of advice you have been given in the industry?

‘Shut up and listen.’

And what advice would you give?

‘Be prepared to begin at the bottom rung and...listen a bit.’

Check out our interview with Collins last year where he talks about show-running and the future of Irish TV.

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