Winner! Now the hard work begins...

The email drops. I’ve won! I have been selected out of several hundred projects to receive the Film Offaly/ Filmbase Bursary 2016. Holy shit – now we’ll have to make it. How are we going to make it? Can we make it for €8000? (Quick answer – not by a long shot) 

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Stipulations: to work on the love story aspect in the script. Film Offaly very graciously set me up with Eugene O’Brien who selflessly gives his time to read and review the current version. His notes are spot on.

 

Next it’s time for a sit down with Vinnie Jassal - location manager extraordinaire and producer in the making. We have to raise some cash and soon. Some very generous people came on board straight away – Dan O’Toole from Above the Line, Steve Harvey and Charlie Pigram from SP Locations. We’re forever in their debt (spiritual and not financial) and can’t wait for them to see the film. 

Producer Vinnie Jassal being strangled by Al Foran, a la Goodfellas

Producer Vinnie Jassal being strangled by Al Foran, a la Goodfellas

The immensely talented Stil Williams was my first port of call for DOP. Just this year he has had a film at Sundance, a film at the London Film Festival and, of course, a film at Encounters (our one!). He is a master of his art form, knows exactly what I need, what story or emotional beat needs light and shade. Now we all have a lot to live up to in emulating Barry Lyndon but Stil has to step in to John Alcott’s (DOP of Barry Lyndon) shoes and try and give us a “hot Lyndon”… We head to see Barry Lyndon at the BFI in London. It’s stunning as ever but especially on the big screen. 

Director of Photography Stil Williams and me at the BFI

Director of Photography Stil Williams and me at the BFI

We started a Kickstarter campaign and were both humbled by the support from friends and family. In particular the amazing contribution from Georgette Turner helped us get past our total and secure the money. I’m still mildly disappointed no one chose to invest £5000 and become an Executive Producer as I offered not only a T Shirt but also a chance to sleep with me. Which I think is rather a good deal. 

The offer still stands. Who wants a piece?

The offer still stands. Who wants a piece?

Another great supporter was the director Michael Mann but not in a way you’d guess and certainly not in a way I can tell. Suffice to say Michael Mann, director of Heat, Manhunter, Miami Vice and The Insider ended up one of the major financial investors in Kubrick by Candlelight… Cheers MM.

Me and Michael Mann on set in Kuala Lumpur discussing terms

Me and Michael Mann on set in Kuala Lumpur discussing terms

Influences

Aside from the very obvious influences – primarily the characters, mise en scene, cinematography and subject matter of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon – I drew on many other Kubrick films during the writing and during the planning for the shoot of KBC. You’ll see subtle and not so subtle influences and references to 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, The Killing, Killer’s Kiss, Eyes Wide Shut, Lolita and The Shining.

 

But you’ll also see a strong influence from my comedy heroes. There are several nods to Mel Brooks movies. 

Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles

The films that informed the comedy style were as diverse as the charming Hear My Song, Local Hero and Withnail & I. We have a fight that I drew inspiration from the epic 10 minute fight from The Quiet Man as well as from the two magnificently “bad” fights in the first two Bridget Jones films. 

John Wayne lays a haymaker in The Quiet Man

John Wayne lays a haymaker in The Quiet Man

For the Film Crew on tour I drew on my own experiences of course but also some truly brilliant films that have brought us behind the scenes... 

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– Sweet Liberty and State and Main for costume dramas taking over a small town, After the Fox with Peter Sellers, Extras from Ricky Gervais, Tropic Thunder, Day for Night, Hellzapoppin, Ed Wood, Bowfinger, The Player, Living in Oblivion, Singing in the Rain and last but by no means least Tristam Shandy A Cock and Bull Story with the comedy partnership of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. 

Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan in Tristam Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan in Tristam Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

I should also talk about the inspiration from conversations I had with those who worked with Kubrick. Namely Nick Daubeny, BAFTA Award winning location manager who worked with Stanley on Eyes Wide Shut and the legendary Michael Stevenson who worked with Stanley on Barry Lyndon, The Shining and countless other movies going back as far as Lawrence of Arabia.

Legendary Assistant Director Michael Stevenson on the set of The Shining

Legendary Assistant Director Michael Stevenson on the set of The Shining

Nick kindly arranged for a lunch with the three of us at Riva in Barnes which was not only delicious but very expensive. What was more delicious was the catalogue of unbelievably funny and moving stories about Barry Lyndon and Kubrick that Michael shared some of which formed ideas and notions for KBC and some of which I shall never be allowed to share! Michael was the actual person who answered the infamous phone call that sent Kubrick packing from Ireland so the sense of film history was tangible. Their generosity with time and memories was as strong and intoxicating as the wine on offer…

Legendary Location Manager Nick Daubeny, me (David O'Reilly) and Michael Stevenson at Riva, Barnes, London.

Legendary Location Manager Nick Daubeny, me (David O'Reilly) and Michael Stevenson at Riva, Barnes, London.

The Film Offaly Interview

June 1st 2016. Up at 3am to catch flight from Gatwick to Dublin, bus to Heuston, then train to Tullamore, then a lift from mum (I know, it’s all glamour the film biz) to Offaly County Council Offices. Oh, and it’s my birthday. 

The director and his mother on the way to Offaly County Council

The director and his mother on the way to Offaly County Council

A quick detour to Charleville Castle before the interview to meet the brilliant Dudley Stewart and have a quick look at some of the beautiful rooms in the castle. If I win I’ll be back I say to Dudley, like a South London Arnie.

Charleville Castle

Charleville Castle

Sitting in the waiting room at the Offices I flicked through the Midland Arts magazine and read about the previous year’s winner – Caper. Shot in Tullamore just as I planned and doing great business on the festival circuit.

 

The sound of laughter coming from the interview room was deafening – it sounded like it was going very well indeed for the group before me. And here I was on my own feeling cream crackered. The interviews were running late and the next group turned up – again a full gang of filmmakers full of confidence and Irish accents. The pressure was rising and my old april was beginning to squeak (which could be attributed to the dodgy sandwich on the flight).

 

But the interview was good. Sinead from Film Offaly, Niall Sweeney from Offaly County Council, Alan from Filmbase and the great Offaly writer Eugene O’Brien made me feel at home. They wanted more love story, which I agreed. They were intrigued by how I was going to do it all on such a tiny budget- I agreed. But I convinced them that all the locations – castle, field, even Dublin Port – were all here in Tullamore.

 

I left thinking “oh well at least I can have a pint with my mum and dad on my birthday” and did so. 

Not even a pint of Guinness

Not even a pint of Guinness

Time to look at a photo of the artist as a young man back home, 

The young director himself

The young director himself

then it was back on the train, back on the bus, back on the plane, then back in a cab and then back home late in to the night. Not exactly how I planned to spend my birthday but at least it wasn’t boring. The next day it was straight back in to work in Pinewood on the “Untitled Han Solo Project” with the prospect of foreign travel looming.

 

And now we wait. 

 

The Idea

I’ve worked on film sets for nearly half my life now so the travelling circus is almost all I know. The family of disparate nomads - tradesmen, technicians, actors – have always fascinated me, two hundred people from all walks of life forced together for an intense amount of time all working towards the vision of one person – the director. 

There’s no question that one of those visionary directors, perhaps the visionary director of the last 100 years of cinema, is Stanley Kubrick. Obsessive in detail, relentless in perfection his films remain some of the most respected works of cinematic art since film began. Killers Kiss, Paths of Glory, Lolita, Spartacus, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut – all of them benchmarks of direction, design and writing. 

So…when I sat down to write a short film about a film crew filming in a small Irish town the stories I had heard of Stanley in Ireland during Barry Lyndon instantly came to mind. A famously long shoot in stunning Irish landscapes that was mysteriously cut short by a threatening phone call that sent Kubrick back to England overnight and the production not long behind to complete the principal photography of Barry Lyndon. 

Mike Nolan as Stanley Kubrick | Photo by  Glyn Rainer

Mike Nolan as Stanley Kubrick | Photo by Glyn Rainer

Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful films ever made I knew the reality of production would have been mud, bacon sandwiches, Woodbine cigarettes, toilets and scratching arses and that dichotomy, the dichotomy of the film industry in general, came together to become Kubrick by Candlelight. Once I had figured out a Romeo and Juliet style love story between two young lovers from different sides of the camera tracks – one a local Irish kid who has a job as an British Redcoat soldier extra and one an English assistant director – I knew how their story would interact with the myth and legend of Stanley’s departure. 

Set up in the downstairs of Costa Coffee Piccadilly, I set about working on the short with the Film Offaly competition in my sights. This wasn’t long after the U2 Apple debacle so all I had on my Iphone was their album Songs of Innocence which they had given away/forced on 500 million Apple users. In the end I hooked on to the track “The Troubles” and that got the story going. 

Costa Coffee, Piccadilly.

Costa Coffee, Piccadilly.

I toyed with various titles – First Positions, Candles for Stanley, Women of England before landing on Kubrick By Candlelight. It was not long after that I discovered Pavel Barter’s excellent radio documentary “Castles, Candles and Kubrick” in which he interviews cast and crew of Barry Lyndon about filming, Kubrick and the abrupt departure from Ireland. It’s very good and well worth a listen.

Title ideas.

Title ideas.

So I entered the Film Offaly/ Filmbase competition and moved on with my life. Until…I got an email saying I had been shortlisted! And I had to come to Tullamore for an interview….

Introduction

Welcome to my occasional blog about the inception, pre production, shooting and post production of the short film Kubrick By Candlelight – winner of the Film Offaly/ Filmbase Bursary 2016. Myself and Vinnie have assembled a world class cast and crew to bring you this ambitious big little film about the behind the scenes drama (and comedy) of the filming of Stanley Kubrick’s legendary Barry Lyndon in Ireland in 1973.