by Naman Ramachandran
- John Keville (SP Films) produced Simon Pummell’s Brand New-U and his next, Pilgrimage, will be underway shortly
In 2007, John Keville was working as a video editor in a Dublin based television house’s corporate department when he met a talented director called Lee Cronin. Keville decided to try his hand at producing and offered to produce Cronin’s shorts. They began with a no budget atmospheric horror film titled Through the Night. The film’s successful festival run laid the foundations for several more shorts including Cronin’s most recent film Ghost Train that had its international premiere in Clermont Ferrand in January. They also made two webisodes for Irish national broadcaster RTE called The Masterplan, a comedy drama for which Keville is actively seeking co-producers to be involved in the development process. Meanwhile Cronin is working on his debut feature script entitled The Hole in the Ground that is supported by the Irish Film Board. Brand New-U [+see also:
film profile] is Keville’s first feature length project as a producer.
Cineuropa: How did you get involved with SP Films?
John Keville: I would have always known both Conor Barry and Brendan Muldowney (who initially founded SP FILMS) by reputation. As a young filmmaker you were always impressed by the number of short films (9 in total!) that they managed to produce and the number of awards they managed to pick up. My path had crossed on many occasions with Conor in particular, as I began producing my own short films. We worked together on some smaller projects but not in an official capacity until the last two years. Over the last few years we have naturally developed a partnership and a slate of projects that we take a lot of pride in. As those projects come to fruition we feel that our company will develop and grow into a sustainable and functioning business.
How did Brand New-U happen?
I had always been aware and impressed by the work of Simon Pummell (director of Brand New-U). He had directed a phenomenal documentary a number of years ago called Bodysong that picked up a BAFTA. So when the script for Brand New-U arrived in my inbox I read it understanding the incredible emotional, immersive and visual depth he could bring to what was already an exceptional and distinctive thriller script. My producing partner Conor Barry and I met with lead producer Janine Marmot in Rotterdam at a video installation by Simon, and after that viewed his most recent docu-drama Shock Head Soul. I was completely sold after that point. I was eager to be involved with what was the first natural transmedia project that I have read. Janine and Simon’s singular and unique vision of how to make the film work with other elements of transmedia was inspiring. We applied for co production funding from the Irish Film Board and were successful in getting the support. The film shot for three weeks in London and one week in Dublin in April of last year. Fast forward a year later and we are in the final weeks of post-production ready to unleash it on the world.
Could you please tell us more about your next film, Pilgrimage? What stage is it at?
Pilgrimage is a project we are extremely proud of at SP Films. It is a truly rare project that marries authentic historical and cultural elements of Ireland while still remaining an audience driven gritty action film. It even has three languages to boot! A small group of monks begin a reluctant pilgrimage across an island torn between centuries of tribal warfare and the growing power of Norman invaders. Escorting their monastery’s holiest relic – a rock used in the martyrdom of St. Mathias, the thirteenth apostle – to Rome, the monks’ progress is seen through the eyes of a pious young novice and a mute lay brother with a violent past. As the true material, political and religious significance of the bejewelled relic becomes dangerously apparent, their path to the east coast becomes increasingly fraught with danger. The monks belatedly realise that in this wild land of ancient superstitions, the faith that binds them together may ultimately lead to their destruction. We are in the advanced stage of financing and in the process of casting. The ensemble nature of the characters makes it a hugely exciting casting prospect. The film is to be directed by Brendan Muldowney and is an Irish/Belgian co-production, to be produced by SP Films and Benoit Roland’s Wrong Men North, with the support of The Irish Film Board, Wallimages and Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles.
What other projects do you currently have in development?
I am currently developing a number of projects from a terrific selection of Irish talent. I am in the advanced stage of development on Rebecca Daly and Glenn Montgomery’s Good Favour. Rebecca’s debut film The Other Side of Sleep [+see also:
interview: Antonia Campbell-Huges
film profile] screened in Director’s Fortnight in 2012. Good Favour is a German set story of a remote Christian community experiencing a crisis of faith that finds new hope in the arrival of a mysterious young man. It is a truly exceptional bit of writing that explores the effects of religion, both good and bad on community; its many contradictions and moral ambiguities; the danger of misinterpretation but also the beauty of the possibility of belief and wonder.
I have a film entitled You’re Ugly Too by debut director Mark Noonan in post production at the moment. You’re Ugly Too stars Aidan Gillen and George Pistereanu and has a young actress called Lauren Kinsella in the lead role. A star to look for in the future!
What are the challenges facing the Irish film industry today. And what are the opportunities?
There are obviously a large number of challenges in any domestic industry. Considering there are only 4 million people in Ireland the challenges here are clear. There have been cuts in general to the Arts in Ireland, so the Irish Film Board who remain an integral supporter of the industry and upcoming film talent in Ireland are stretched massively. It is essential that all elements of media funding in Ireland find a way to cross-collateralise and feed into each other. The need is to indentify mutual opportunities to co fund Irish cinema and TV drama in the most effective manner possible - and of course for the producing community to facilitate those ambitions by providing the IP and talent to suit that agenda. It is also a challenge to integrate the requirements of a functioning industry with developing new talents.
What does being selected as an EFP Producer on the Move mean to you? And how do you think it will help you in Cannes?
It is a real honour to be selected as Producer on the Move. The Producer on the Move initiative allows me to expand my natural network and to be exposed to talented and experienced producers from across Europe. Cannes gives me the opportunity to introduce my slate of projects to people who I have no doubt I will develop with and work with over the rest of my career. The support and the opportunity to participate in it is extremely exciting and truly appreciated.