Alan Maher • Producer
“The Irish film industry has come of age”
by Naman Ramachandran
- Ireland’s Alan Maher (Marcie Films) produced Song of Granite and his next, Trade, will shoot this autumn
Alan Maher was drawn to the magic of the movies from a young age when he used to visit the cinema with his father. He drank in blockbusters like Jaws, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and branched out into more diverse fare when he was a teenager. He started acting in television aged 10 and continued for a decade and a half before moving to development and production, using the contacts he made as an actor to gain a foothold in the industry. He worked as a production executive at the Irish Film Board where he worked on several acclaimed projects including Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God and Rebecca Daly’s The Other Side of Sleep [+see also:
interview: Antonia Campbell-Huges
film profile]. As a producer, his credits include the documentaries Being AP and After the Dance. He has now founded his own company Marcie Films.
Cineuropa: Could you walk us through the journey of Song of Granite [+see also:
Alan Maher: Pat Collins, the director, has established himself as one of Ireland’s true auteurs (his first narrative feature, Silence, was universally acclaimed) and his documentary work is beautiful and insightful. Pat, Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde and Sharon Whooley (the writers) had developed the project to a fairly advanced stage before we came on board as producers. We (myself and my producing partner, Jessie Fisk) then put together the finance with the Irish Film Board, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and TG4 and our Quebec producer, Martin Paul-Hus, secured SODEC and Telefilm Canada. Keith Potter, our executive producer at the Irish Film Board, was remarkably supportive and was there for us at every juncture. Soda Pictures (now Thunderbird) then came on board as UK/Canadian distributors and Filmoption signed on as our Quebec distributor. Amy Rowan, our casting director, did fantastic work and we found wonderful actors. The shoot was a challenging one but we had a brilliant and committed team, and everyone did amazing work. We premiered at SXSW to lovely reviews and a terrific response from audiences.
Could you please tell us more about Trade? What stage is it at?
Trade (working title) is based on the stage play of the same name by Mark O’Halloran (Viva [+see also:
film profile], Garage [+see also:
interview: Ed Guiney
interview: Jean-François Deveau
interview: Lenny Abrahamson
film profile], Adam & Paul). It’s the most moving screenplay I have ever read. Hong Khaou came on board as director – his film Lilting [+see also:
film profile] is wholly intelligent and accomplished – and has become one with the material. His creative vision for the film is stunning. The Irish Film Board has supported the film from its earliest stage and Protagonist is selling. Tristan Goligher at The Bureau (45 Years [+see also:
Q&A: Andrew Haigh
film profile], Weekend [+see also:
film profile]) is our co-producer. We plan to shoot this autumn and we are casting and putting the last pieces of finance in place.
What other projects do you currently have in development?
We have narrative projects with Andrew Legge (The Girl With The Mechanical Maiden), Ciarån Foy (Citadel, Sinister 2); documentaries with Ciarån Cassidy (The Last Days of Peter Bergmann), Oonagh Kearney (The Christening); and Jessie is leading a film with Kirsten Sheridan (Dollhouse, Disco Pigs) based on the novel The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North. We are currently in pre-production on a feature documentary, Venice of the North, set in Newtok, Alaska (where our director, Tom Burke, has been filming since 2015) and a film on Phil Lynott to be directed by Jim Sheridan with Colm Quinn.
What are the challenges facing the Irish film industry today. And what are the opportunities?
We generally make films in the English language (although Song of Granite is mainly in Irish) so we are always competing for audiences with the US, UK etc. We are extremely fortunate to have a state agency like the Irish Film Board, who understand film and offer tremendous support. Our tax credit is also enormously helpful. However, other meaningful financial support is not so easy to access so co-productions are the norm. It feels as if the Irish film industry has come of age with filmmakers finding their own voices and audiences really responding to the work that’s being produced, both at home and abroad. This is as true of documentaries as it is of narrative work. There is a feeling that we can compete with the best in the world and what is perhaps slightly unusual, in this ‘Golden Age’ of television, is that, in Ireland, this is absolutely driven by cinema and those making works for the big screen. We also have excellent home grown distributors like Wildcard, Element and Eclipse having great success with Irish films.
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?
I am honoured to be selected as part of this initiative. I am following in the footsteps of the producers I most admire in the industry. It certainly helps to showcase myself and our company. I am looking forward to meeting the other Producers on the Move, hearing about their projects and introducing them to the work myself and Jessie are doing.
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