Jun 14 2011

Interview – Ian Power (Director – The Runway)

Published by at 01:14 under Articles,English

SOURCE: http://www.clickonline.com

CLICK: The project is an Irish-Luxembourg-Swedish co-production. How did that come about?
IP: Macdara, the Irish producer, had a relationship with the Swedish co-producer, they had made a film together in the past and he liked the script. Bernard, the Luxembourgish producer was a ‘Producer on the Move’ in Cannes (a scheme they run each year with top producers from Europe) the same year that Macdara was the Irish producer on the move. I was in Cannes meeting Demián Bichir who plays the pilot and we went out one evening and I ended up talking to Bernard. At the end of Cannes he told Mac he liked the story and would like to try to raise some finance – four months later he delivered. It sounds easier than it was, but that’s the essence of it.

CLICK: You shot part of the film in Luxembourg? How did you find shooting in another country as opposed to Ireland?
IP: Logistically it’s difficult but the film literally would not have been made if it wasn’t a co-production. So it’s a compromise for sure. But we built sets in Luxembourg and their set builders and painters are second to none. There are cultural differences in terms of an approach when you get to a different country but Luxembourg was great and crew from both countries complimented each other. European crews are more open to sharing the set with other nationalities because co-productions have been a part of their fabric forever. I think Irish crews will feel the same when they realize the principals of reciprocity so this month it’s an Irish film in Luxembourg but next month it might be a Luxembourg film in Ireland.

CLICK: Can you set up the story for The Runway?
IP: The Runway is inspired by the true story of a South American pilot who made an emergency landing in Mallow, Co Cork in 1983. Against all odds the locals came together to build a runway and get him home. It’s a feel-good comedy.

CLICK: What made you want to do a film about the real life story?
IP: I had seen some news footage on TV. It’s a story that really captured people’s imaginations and it has its own iconography – a plane in the middle of a racecourse, a handsome Latin American in the middle of Cork in the eighties, and it was the imagery that captured my attention. But the story – the idea that the locals got together and did this incredible thing, that’s what captured my imagination.
I wanted to make an uplifting film. There’s no reason why Ireland can’t do a feel good movie as well as anywhere else, and I think people welcome a bit of a lift. Something about doing it felt different and rebellious. I think if I grew up in Hollywood I’d have made a very serious film out of the gates!
I wrote the film before there was any change in the economy. In ways it was always meant to be a celebration of the things that Irish people were always famous for – a sense of community, and welcome, and tenacity.

CLICK: Did you ever consider making the story a little closer to the truth?
IP: I think people go to the cinema to see stories and my job is to make the story as good as it can be. But people like to know that the essence of a ‘true story’ is true, so the thing that inspired me to write the film – the generosity of spirit of people who had very little doing this fantastic thing – is something that the film is very true to. Thematically, I think it is a true story, and everyone from the real pilot’s daughter to the man who followed him around with a video camera in 1983 seem to agree that it captures the essence of their story.
I think this happened because I never forgot what it was about the original news story that inspired me to write the film. That’s how stories work. Like you can frame a love story on the Titanic and it will feel true so long as the ship doesn’t swerve to avoid the iceberg!

CLICK: How long did the whole process take – from having the idea and writing the script to now getting the film into theatres?
IP: I wrote the film in 2007 and we’re in theatres now so about four years, which feels like the going rate for a first feature. I wrote five feature films before that, which will give you an idea of the kind of thick skin and tenacity required.

CLICK: The recreation of 80s rural Ireland is very evocative, is it something you were familiar with growing up?
IP: I grew up in Wexford. My family moved there from Templeogue in Dublin when I was 6. Wexford in 1983 was hard hit by unemployment and light years away from where it is now. I remember it as a bit of a culture shock, trying to fit in at a new school, but I think it gave me a perspective on the time and place that I mightn’t have if I was born there. Rural Ireland is a funny thing to a kid. I remember my parent’s friends used to come and visit and talk about the amazing views but to me it was just boring countryside. I mean I go home now and I see the beauty but I never lingered on it growing up. So I didn’t want to linger on it making the film either, shots have to tell the story or it’s just a Bord Failte ad. Like there was this old fruit van with grass growing out of the bonnet in the middle of the town where we shot the movie and when we picked the location I added the caveat that if the van moved we wouldn’t shoot there. Because the first thing people do when they know the film cameras are coming is to clean the place up and I didn’t want that. The 80s was a tough time, but they’re important to remember because we pulled through, like we’ll pull through now.
Shooting the film, I didn’t want to do a pastiche of the 80s, with people going around in shoulder pads and jackets with the sleeves rolled up. Rural Ireland wasn’t like that in the 80s. Lots of rural Ireland hasn’t changed for a long time in any drastic way thank God. When I designed the look of the film I came up with the idea of making it look like an 80s film as opposed to a film set in the 80s. I mean that I wanted to realize the film the way the Scott brothers were shooting in the 80s, or Spielberg – any of those sort of iconic movies like Top Gun, or The Goonies. Aesthetically then, it’s more similar to films from the 80s and we had a lot of fun with that. PJ, our cameraman, sourced a set of antique lenses from the 80s and had the embarrassing task of requesting a bunch of camera filters that are so out of fashion now but they all worked brilliantly and gave us the look. He ended up with an IFTA for his troubles.
The same applied to the music track, which contains a lot of rock and roll, and seems like an odd addition to a film set in the 80s. But the filmmakers in the 80s all grew up in the 50s so rock and roll was what they knew. It just fit with everything else we’d done.

CLICK: The parallels to a movie like ET are quite clear, an alien who suddenly enters a young boys life and even asks for a telephone! Was that an inspiration you had in mind? Were there any other movies you took cues from?
IP: Like I said in 1983 I had just moved to Wexford. I started in a primary school in the town and just never fit in. I moved to a different school in the country side a year later and that was a lot better. But you’re always different if you arrive late to a school – the baggage of the new kid is always there. Being an outsider is a good thing as a writer though. Around that time, I saw ET for the first time. I can remember a strong feeling watching that film that the idea of having a friend drop out of the sky was so much more attractive than the daunting task of making a complete set of new friends. So ET had a resonance with me that I came back when I was considering whose story it would be in ‘The Runway’. There’s a naive optimism that you need to pull off any insurmountable task and I always thought that a kid would be the best way to present this optimism truthfully. Adults are cynical that there is such a thing as a selfless act. And to an extent all the other characters are helping the pilot for their own reasons, but the kid starts everything out of a sense of altruism. This always felt closest to what jumped out at me about the real story – people helping someone when they had nothing themselves.

CLICK: The child actors are fantastic, was it a difficult process casting them?
IP: Yes is the short answer. Difficult to find them, but they were both cast very quickly when we did find them. We saw over 4,000 boys – pretty much every national school in Cork. Jamie Kierans who played Paco, the lead – was 8. He was just really bright and had something off the bat. He also did some breakdancing in the first audition so I instinctively knew he’d get the 80s. John Carpenter, who plays Paco’s friend Frogs, didn’t even want to audition. He came to the audition with his friend because he heard they were going to Mc Donald’s afterward. Then his friend started to tell this story and John took over completely, acting it out and everything and he stole the show. They are great guys.

CLICK: This may seem like a slightly random one, but lead actor Jamie Kierans really reminded me of Danny Corkhill (Turtle) from the 1985 film DARYL – is that a complete coincidence?!
IP: Yes. Although I do remember DARYL. I had a funny conversation a few weeks ago with a filmmaker friend who also grew up in the 80’s who never heard of DARYL. I started to tell him the plot and he was convinced I had made the film up in my head!

CLICK: You made the decision to subtitle the speech of the traveller characters in the film – was that with an eye to international audiences?
IP: Yes. Our first screening of the finished film was at the Director’s Guild of America’s headquarters in LA. It was a huge honour and a great opportunity for the film – so we had to orient toward that which, thankfully, was a great success and sowed the seed for our American distribution deal.

CLICK: This is your first feature film as writer and director – how did you find the transition from short films to the longer form?
IP: I think the difference is the canvas of the story. A short is usually short enough for any scene to work, if it’s a good scene, but a feature is a singular thing – and one scene can upset the balance of pace over the course of the entire film, even if it’s a good scene. In a strange way, features are simpler as a result but that’s not to say that they are easier. There’s a greater burden on performance, but you have the time for that performance to evolve, and I love that about the long form.
In terms of practicalities, The Runway is an incredibly ambitious film. We broke all the rules for a low budget feature – kids, a bull, an airplane, no weather coverage, CGI effects, two country shoot all on location, sets, practical effects – you name it. But the film is about people doing a fantastic thing and I think that inspired me to push the limits.

CLICK: The cinematography is gorgeous, how did the collaboration on shots work between yourself and DP PJ Dillon work? Did you storyboard scenes at all?
IP: I do a lot of prep. I storyboarded all the set pieces, car chases, the plane sequences, pretty much everything without dialogue. When I started making the film, I was storyboarding dialogue stuff too, which is ridiculous in a way – and I felt it was restricting the cast so I threw them away and just focussed on recording performance. I like to know how everything will cut together but filmmaking is collaborative so I like the cinematographer to have room to see opportunity. So a lot of prep is done so that you can adjust.
Working with PJ there were the very practical limitations of time and money which meant we needed to move quickly. So we came up with this great way of working – I’d ask him which direction would need the least amount of lighting set ups – then I’d block out the scenes and shots so that we were pointed that direction most of the time. It came out of practical necessity, but it also meant that we could realize great lighting without the time expenditure. PJ tends to look for the light in a scene rather than to bang up a load of lights anyway, which is the best way to work.
It was my first time working with PJ but we clicked very quickly – nothing wastes time on a film set like a communication problem and we had great short hand. The necessity of how we worked brought a great flow, was super quick, and it meant that PJ could really get the best out of the pictures. As a cameraman he’s instinctive which makes him totally adaptable to the elements. The Runway couldn’t have been realized in any other frame of mind to be honest. Like we’re knee deep in the middle of a complex dialogue scene one evening and there’s this jaw dropping sunset and PJ and I just looked at each other, picked up the cameras, and ran around the runway, getting shots of the plane in the setting sun.

CLICK: There is a surprising amount of CG in the film – from small elements like cigarette smoke to plane crashes, props and bovine encounters – did you find it was simply harder (or impossible) to shoot these things practically?
IP: Most of the CG is elements that we couldn’t afford – specifically the landing and the take off. We built a full sized replica of the plane which couldn’t fly although it was so convincing a few of the locals were taking bets. We also built a 1km runway. Cigarette smoke was added to the scene with John Kavanagh at the petrol pumps because the 1st AD was afraid John would go up in flames if he smoked for real! The bull was shot for real but we couldn’t have the actor in the same shot so there was some compositing. You always want to shoot things for real, and if you can’t you want to try to make the picture up in plates, shooting real elements before you resort to 3D. But it’s all about what you can afford in terms of time and money. Like everything else on The Runway, we pushed the limits on the CG front.

CLICK: Are there any shots that you felt could have been done better practically or anything you’d like to tweak with a bigger budget?
IP: Yes. I’m a perfectionist so I’d tweak forever. With CG the possibilities are endless so they can always get better on a bigger budget. I was freaking out about our effects not looking real enough and then I watched Salt and The A-Team and I thought – ‘we’re fine’.

CLICK: The Runway is a very ambitious film, shot in multiple countries with a large cast and plenty of effects. Did you ever feel like you’d taken on too much for your first feature?
IP: One of our hardest days was the scene where the engine backfires on the fabricators. We were a small unit that got very big for a few days to get the important shots. The field where we built the runway was part bog and there was torrential rain so people were waist deep in mud. We had a stunt, failing light, special fx, two cameras, 15 cast, 50 crew, and it looked like we weren’t going to get the shot. In the middle of the mayhem I noticed James Cosmo standing in the rain. A veteran of the likes of ‘Braveheart’ I walked over to him to apologize for keeping him in the rain. Before I could open my mouth, he smiled and in his great Scottish accent asked ‘are you living the dream?’ And I was. Directing is a tough job but it’s also an excellent job. The harder it gets the more fulfilling it is and I loved the ambition of the film both in terms of vista and production. If you don’t handle stress well it’s not for you.
A lot of these are what I would call positive obstacles. Often if you embrace them, the film improves. There are negative obstacles too, which just erode the film, and you try to avoid them like the plague. Like you hear horror stories of people trying to make a Hollywood film with 15 men in suits over their shoulder and its death by a thousand cuts. I have a saying that the only thing you can’t direct is apathy.
Making The Runway I found that I enjoyed working with actors more than anything, and I would love to make a film on a smaller scale where it’s all about the performance, where technical requirement is not so all-encompassing.

CLICK: The film is set for release in American cinemas later in the year and around the world over the next couple of months – is that exciting?
IP: Yes. Very exciting. We've played in the US a few times now and, outside of Ireland, The Runway gets the best reaction there. I think it feeds into that American optimism. People triumphing in the face of adversity. But it's sold to places like China and the Middle East too, which is sort of bizarre.

CLICK: You’ve played at international festivals and markets – how has the film gone down with audiences in other parts of the world?
IP: I always felt the film would play well in Ireland and maybe strike a chord in America. I didn't think too hard about anywhere else. The film festival experience has been surprising in that regard. Our US premiere was at the Rome film festival and the Italians just ate it up. Everyone gets the ET references but films like Felini's Amacord and Tornatorre's Cinema Paradiso were big influences. I love the mob mentality of small towns in European films, particularly in Italy. Everyone's the same and everyone's different. The Simpsons do the small town mob really well also.
We had an amazing experience in Doha, Qatar. The screening was on a beach beside a hotel over the water. About four people showed up because Qatar is 80% humidity so nobody wants to be anywhere that isn't air conditioned. To make it worse there was a party going on in the hotel beside the beach with a few hundred people so there was a ton of noise. Depressed – Macdara and I went for a beer as soon as the film began. A few beers later we returned for the end of the film to do the Q and A to find that all the people from the party had started to watch the film and had come down to the beach which was now full. The Runway has a big ending and it was totally surreal to arrive back to a crowd whooping it up. But it was a real moment.
I suppose I'm more surprised by the welcome we've received from film festivals given that The Runway is a commercial film. We've even won awards - Best Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, the Boston Irish Film Festival, and the Celtic Film & TV Festival and were selected as Best of Fest at Palm Springs with the biggest ticket sales (which sealed the deal on the distribution front). I think it resonates because festivals get a sense that it is commercial without being cynical. And that it is honest and heartfelt, which is nice.

CLICK: Have you got any new projects planned?
IP: Have a few scripts I'm working on. One's a thriller, one's a sports movie. I'm also getting some offers to direct other people’s scripts, which is nice. Who knows – I'm just happy to have momentum and really looking forward to the opportunity to make another film.

The Runway is in cinemas from the 10th of June. Check out our review.

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SOURCE: http://www.clickonline.com

CLICK: The project is an Irish-Luxembourg-Swedish co-production. How did that come about?
IP: Macdara, the Irish producer, had a relationship with the Swedish co-producer, they had made a film together in the past and he liked the script. Bernard, the Luxembourgish producer was a ‘Producer on the Move’ in Cannes (a scheme they run each year with top producers from Europe) the same year that Macdara was the Irish producer on the move. I was in Cannes meeting Demián Bichir who plays the pilot and we went out one evening and I ended up talking to Bernard. At the end of Cannes he told Mac he liked the story and would like to try to raise some finance – four months later he delivered. It sounds easier than it was, but that’s the essence of it.

CLICK: You shot part of the film in Luxembourg? How did you find shooting in another country as opposed to Ireland?
IP: Logistically it’s difficult but the film literally would not have been made if it wasn’t a co-production. So it’s a compromise for sure. But we built sets in Luxembourg and their set builders and painters are second to none. There are cultural differences in terms of an approach when you get to a different country but Luxembourg was great and crew from both countries complimented each other. European crews are more open to sharing the set with other nationalities because co-productions have been a part of their fabric forever. I think Irish crews will feel the same when they realize the principals of reciprocity so this month it’s an Irish film in Luxembourg but next month it might be a Luxembourg film in Ireland.

CLICK: Can you set up the story for The Runway?
IP: The Runway is inspired by the true story of a South American pilot who made an emergency landing in Mallow, Co Cork in 1983. Against all odds the locals came together to build a runway and get him home. It’s a feel-good comedy.

CLICK: What made you want to do a film about the real life story?
IP: I had seen some news footage on TV. It’s a story that really captured people’s imaginations and it has its own iconography – a plane in the middle of a racecourse, a handsome Latin American in the middle of Cork in the eighties, and it was the imagery that captured my attention. But the story – the idea that the locals got together and did this incredible thing, that’s what captured my imagination.
I wanted to make an uplifting film. There’s no reason why Ireland can’t do a feel good movie as well as anywhere else, and I think people welcome a bit of a lift. Something about doing it felt different and rebellious. I think if I grew up in Hollywood I’d have made a very serious film out of the gates!
I wrote the film before there was any change in the economy. In ways it was always meant to be a celebration of the things that Irish people were always famous for – a sense of community, and welcome, and tenacity.

CLICK: Did you ever consider making the story a little closer to the truth?
IP: I think people go to the cinema to see stories and my job is to make the story as good as it can be. But people like to know that the essence of a ‘true story’ is true, so the thing that inspired me to write the film – the generosity of spirit of people who had very little doing this fantastic thing – is something that the film is very true to. Thematically, I think it is a true story, and everyone from the real pilot’s daughter to the man who followed him around with a video camera in 1983 seem to agree that it captures the essence of their story.
I think this happened because I never forgot what it was about the original news story that inspired me to write the film. That’s how stories work. Like you can frame a love story on the Titanic and it will feel true so long as the ship doesn’t swerve to avoid the iceberg!

CLICK: How long did the whole process take – from having the idea and writing the script to now getting the film into theatres?
IP: I wrote the film in 2007 and we’re in theatres now so about four years, which feels like the going rate for a first feature. I wrote five feature films before that, which will give you an idea of the kind of thick skin and tenacity required.

CLICK: The recreation of 80s rural Ireland is very evocative, is it something you were familiar with growing up?
IP: I grew up in Wexford. My family moved there from Templeogue in Dublin when I was 6. Wexford in 1983 was hard hit by unemployment and light years away from where it is now. I remember it as a bit of a culture shock, trying to fit in at a new school, but I think it gave me a perspective on the time and place that I mightn’t have if I was born there. Rural Ireland is a funny thing to a kid. I remember my parent’s friends used to come and visit and talk about the amazing views but to me it was just boring countryside. I mean I go home now and I see the beauty but I never lingered on it growing up. So I didn’t want to linger on it making the film either, shots have to tell the story or it’s just a Bord Failte ad. Like there was this old fruit van with grass growing out of the bonnet in the middle of the town where we shot the movie and when we picked the location I added the caveat that if the van moved we wouldn’t shoot there. Because the first thing people do when they know the film cameras are coming is to clean the place up and I didn’t want that. The 80s was a tough time, but they’re important to remember because we pulled through, like we’ll pull through now.
Shooting the film, I didn’t want to do a pastiche of the 80s, with people going around in shoulder pads and jackets with the sleeves rolled up. Rural Ireland wasn’t like that in the 80s. Lots of rural Ireland hasn’t changed for a long time in any drastic way thank God. When I designed the look of the film I came up with the idea of making it look like an 80s film as opposed to a film set in the 80s. I mean that I wanted to realize the film the way the Scott brothers were shooting in the 80s, or Spielberg – any of those sort of iconic movies like Top Gun, or The Goonies. Aesthetically then, it’s more similar to films from the 80s and we had a lot of fun with that. PJ, our cameraman, sourced a set of antique lenses from the 80s and had the embarrassing task of requesting a bunch of camera filters that are so out of fashion now but they all worked brilliantly and gave us the look. He ended up with an IFTA for his troubles.
The same applied to the music track, which contains a lot of rock and roll, and seems like an odd addition to a film set in the 80s. But the filmmakers in the 80s all grew up in the 50s so rock and roll was what they knew. It just fit with everything else we’d done.

CLICK: The parallels to a movie like ET are quite clear, an alien who suddenly enters a young boys life and even asks for a telephone! Was that an inspiration you had in mind? Were there any other movies you took cues from?
IP: Like I said in 1983 I had just moved to Wexford. I started in a primary school in the town and just never fit in. I moved to a different school in the country side a year later and that was a lot better. But you’re always different if you arrive late to a school – the baggage of the new kid is always there. Being an outsider is a good thing as a writer though. Around that time, I saw ET for the first time. I can remember a strong feeling watching that film that the idea of having a friend drop out of the sky was so much more attractive than the daunting task of making a complete set of new friends. So ET had a resonance with me that I came back when I was considering whose story it would be in ‘The Runway’. There’s a naive optimism that you need to pull off any insurmountable task and I always thought that a kid would be the best way to present this optimism truthfully. Adults are cynical that there is such a thing as a selfless act. And to an extent all the other characters are helping the pilot for their own reasons, but the kid starts everything out of a sense of altruism. This always felt closest to what jumped out at me about the real story – people helping someone when they had nothing themselves.

CLICK: The child actors are fantastic, was it a difficult process casting them?
IP: Yes is the short answer. Difficult to find them, but they were both cast very quickly when we did find them. We saw over 4,000 boys – pretty much every national school in Cork. Jamie Kierans who played Paco, the lead – was 8. He was just really bright and had something off the bat. He also did some breakdancing in the first audition so I instinctively knew he’d get the 80s. John Carpenter, who plays Paco’s friend Frogs, didn’t even want to audition. He came to the audition with his friend because he heard they were going to Mc Donald’s afterward. Then his friend started to tell this story and John took over completely, acting it out and everything and he stole the show. They are great guys.

CLICK: This may seem like a slightly random one, but lead actor Jamie Kierans really reminded me of Danny Corkhill (Turtle) from the 1985 film DARYL – is that a complete coincidence?!
IP: Yes. Although I do remember DARYL. I had a funny conversation a few weeks ago with a filmmaker friend who also grew up in the 80’s who never heard of DARYL. I started to tell him the plot and he was convinced I had made the film up in my head!

CLICK: You made the decision to subtitle the speech of the traveller characters in the film – was that with an eye to international audiences?
IP: Yes. Our first screening of the finished film was at the Director’s Guild of America’s headquarters in LA. It was a huge honour and a great opportunity for the film – so we had to orient toward that which, thankfully, was a great success and sowed the seed for our American distribution deal.

CLICK: This is your first feature film as writer and director – how did you find the transition from short films to the longer form?
IP: I think the difference is the canvas of the story. A short is usually short enough for any scene to work, if it’s a good scene, but a feature is a singular thing – and one scene can upset the balance of pace over the course of the entire film, even if it’s a good scene. In a strange way, features are simpler as a result but that’s not to say that they are easier. There’s a greater burden on performance, but you have the time for that performance to evolve, and I love that about the long form.
In terms of practicalities, The Runway is an incredibly ambitious film. We broke all the rules for a low budget feature – kids, a bull, an airplane, no weather coverage, CGI effects, two country shoot all on location, sets, practical effects – you name it. But the film is about people doing a fantastic thing and I think that inspired me to push the limits.

CLICK: The cinematography is gorgeous, how did the collaboration on shots work between yourself and DP PJ Dillon work? Did you storyboard scenes at all?
IP: I do a lot of prep. I storyboarded all the set pieces, car chases, the plane sequences, pretty much everything without dialogue. When I started making the film, I was storyboarding dialogue stuff too, which is ridiculous in a way – and I felt it was restricting the cast so I threw them away and just focussed on recording performance. I like to know how everything will cut together but filmmaking is collaborative so I like the cinematographer to have room to see opportunity. So a lot of prep is done so that you can adjust.
Working with PJ there were the very practical limitations of time and money which meant we needed to move quickly. So we came up with this great way of working – I’d ask him which direction would need the least amount of lighting set ups – then I’d block out the scenes and shots so that we were pointed that direction most of the time. It came out of practical necessity, but it also meant that we could realize great lighting without the time expenditure. PJ tends to look for the light in a scene rather than to bang up a load of lights anyway, which is the best way to work.
It was my first time working with PJ but we clicked very quickly – nothing wastes time on a film set like a communication problem and we had great short hand. The necessity of how we worked brought a great flow, was super quick, and it meant that PJ could really get the best out of the pictures. As a cameraman he’s instinctive which makes him totally adaptable to the elements. The Runway couldn’t have been realized in any other frame of mind to be honest. Like we’re knee deep in the middle of a complex dialogue scene one evening and there’s this jaw dropping sunset and PJ and I just looked at each other, picked up the cameras, and ran around the runway, getting shots of the plane in the setting sun.

CLICK: There is a surprising amount of CG in the film – from small elements like cigarette smoke to plane crashes, props and bovine encounters – did you find it was simply harder (or impossible) to shoot these things practically?
IP: Most of the CG is elements that we couldn’t afford – specifically the landing and the take off. We built a full sized replica of the plane which couldn’t fly although it was so convincing a few of the locals were taking bets. We also built a 1km runway. Cigarette smoke was added to the scene with John Kavanagh at the petrol pumps because the 1st AD was afraid John would go up in flames if he smoked for real! The bull was shot for real but we couldn’t have the actor in the same shot so there was some compositing. You always want to shoot things for real, and if you can’t you want to try to make the picture up in plates, shooting real elements before you resort to 3D. But it’s all about what you can afford in terms of time and money. Like everything else on The Runway, we pushed the limits on the CG front.

CLICK: Are there any shots that you felt could have been done better practically or anything you’d like to tweak with a bigger budget?
IP: Yes. I’m a perfectionist so I’d tweak forever. With CG the possibilities are endless so they can always get better on a bigger budget. I was freaking out about our effects not looking real enough and then I watched Salt and The A-Team and I thought – ‘we’re fine’.

CLICK: The Runway is a very ambitious film, shot in multiple countries with a large cast and plenty of effects. Did you ever feel like you’d taken on too much for your first feature?
IP: One of our hardest days was the scene where the engine backfires on the fabricators. We were a small unit that got very big for a few days to get the important shots. The field where we built the runway was part bog and there was torrential rain so people were waist deep in mud. We had a stunt, failing light, special fx, two cameras, 15 cast, 50 crew, and it looked like we weren’t going to get the shot. In the middle of the mayhem I noticed James Cosmo standing in the rain. A veteran of the likes of ‘Braveheart’ I walked over to him to apologize for keeping him in the rain. Before I could open my mouth, he smiled and in his great Scottish accent asked ‘are you living the dream?’ And I was. Directing is a tough job but it’s also an excellent job. The harder it gets the more fulfilling it is and I loved the ambition of the film both in terms of vista and production. If you don’t handle stress well it’s not for you.
A lot of these are what I would call positive obstacles. Often if you embrace them, the film improves. There are negative obstacles too, which just erode the film, and you try to avoid them like the plague. Like you hear horror stories of people trying to make a Hollywood film with 15 men in suits over their shoulder and its death by a thousand cuts. I have a saying that the only thing you can’t direct is apathy.
Making The Runway I found that I enjoyed working with actors more than anything, and I would love to make a film on a smaller scale where it’s all about the performance, where technical requirement is not so all-encompassing.

CLICK: The film is set for release in American cinemas later in the year and around the world over the next couple of months – is that exciting?
IP: Yes. Very exciting. We've played in the US a few times now and, outside of Ireland, The Runway gets the best reaction there. I think it feeds into that American optimism. People triumphing in the face of adversity. But it's sold to places like China and the Middle East too, which is sort of bizarre.

CLICK: You’ve played at international festivals and markets – how has the film gone down with audiences in other parts of the world?
IP: I always felt the film would play well in Ireland and maybe strike a chord in America. I didn't think too hard about anywhere else. The film festival experience has been surprising in that regard. Our US premiere was at the Rome film festival and the Italians just ate it up. Everyone gets the ET references but films like Felini's Amacord and Tornatorre's Cinema Paradiso were big influences. I love the mob mentality of small towns in European films, particularly in Italy. Everyone's the same and everyone's different. The Simpsons do the small town mob really well also.
We had an amazing experience in Doha, Qatar. The screening was on a beach beside a hotel over the water. About four people showed up because Qatar is 80% humidity so nobody wants to be anywhere that isn't air conditioned. To make it worse there was a party going on in the hotel beside the beach with a few hundred people so there was a ton of noise. Depressed – Macdara and I went for a beer as soon as the film began. A few beers later we returned for the end of the film to do the Q and A to find that all the people from the party had started to watch the film and had come down to the beach which was now full. The Runway has a big ending and it was totally surreal to arrive back to a crowd whooping it up. But it was a real moment.
I suppose I'm more surprised by the welcome we've received from film festivals given that The Runway is a commercial film. We've even won awards - Best Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, the Boston Irish Film Festival, and the Celtic Film & TV Festival and were selected as Best of Fest at Palm Springs with the biggest ticket sales (which sealed the deal on the distribution front). I think it resonates because festivals get a sense that it is commercial without being cynical. And that it is honest and heartfelt, which is nice.

CLICK: Have you got any new projects planned?
IP: Have a few scripts I'm working on. One's a thriller, one's a sports movie. I'm also getting some offers to direct other people’s scripts, which is nice. Who knows – I'm just happy to have momentum and really looking forward to the opportunity to make another film.

The Runway is in cinemas from the 10th of June. Check out our review.

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