INTERVIEW: Conor Barry, Producer
Cork producer, Conor Barry is on the up-and-up having been selected as Irish rep for the very prestigious “Producer On The Move” project at Cannes a couple of years ago. He had his latest feature film, “Mammal”, in competition at Sundance in January 2016. Ahead of his talk at our March Production Club, Film in Cork had a chat with Conor as we couldn’t wait to find out more!
So before we get onto Sundance, maybe let’s back-track a little and find out how you got into producing?
I attended the national Film School in Dun Laoghaire in 2000. I produced Brendan Muldowney’s graduate short film there – THE CHURCH OF ACCEPTANCE, which got selected for the prestigious short film festival Clermont-Ferrand. We made several shorts films after that including INNOCENCE, which won Best Short at the Galway Film Fleadh, and THE TEN SHORTS which won multiple international awards. We slowly began to produce shorts funded by Filmbase, Galway Film Centre and the Irish Film Board short film schemes – Shorts Shorts and Signatures. Gradually, we went into development with the Irish Film Board on the feature project SAVAGE. And then I produced my debut feature SAVAGE in 2009 funded by the Irish Film Board.
Can you tell us a bit about “Mammal”?
MAMMAL is directed by Rebecca Daly whose debut feature THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP was selected for Director’s Fortnight in Cannes in 2011. I produced MAMMAL with Macdara Kelleher in Fastnet Films. It tells the story of a woman (Rachel Griffiths) who has lost her son and develops an unorthodox relationship with a homeless youth (Barry Keoghan). Their tentative trust is threatened by his involvement with a violent gang and the escalation of her ex-husband’s (Michael McElhattan) grieving rage. It was selected for the Sundance, Dublin and Rotterdam Film Festivals among many others, and has received very good reviews to date. It’s a co-production with Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
It was a great experience to be in Sundance with an Irish film where there were so many other Irish films selected this year. Also, the screening itself was very emotional as Rachel and Barry who play the two leads attended and spoke in depth about how they approached their difficult roles in the film. The reviews in Screen International, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Vanity Fair were all great, and helped with the momentum in getting sales and further festival selections.
We’ve heard you’ve just completed a new project ‘Pilgrimage’ with Brendan Muldowney. Can you tell us more about that?
Pilgrimage is the story of a group of monks who escort a holy relic across the perilous war-torn landscape of 13th century Ireland – but at what cost to their faith and sanity? It is written by Jamie Hannigan, directed by Brendan Muldowney and produced by John Keville, Benoit Roland and myself. It is an Irish Belgian coproduction supported by the Irish Film Board and the BAI among others. It stars Tom Holland, who will be the new Spiderman, and Richard Armitage from The Hobbit, and Jon Bernthal from Fury who is also the new Punisher. XYZ Films in the US are the Exec Producers and Sales Agent. We shot in the west of Ireland and Belgium.
What drives you as a producer?
Very simply, I approach producing from the point of view of wanting to see the final film on screen as an audience member, and working with talent at all levels to achieve that.
Any tips for aspiring producers in Cork?
Keep making things. It is sometimes better to put all your resources into a brilliant one minute piece than to spend a year trying to do something that can never overcome the problem of resources. Lastly, producing anything is such a long term commitment that one has to be very careful when to actually say yes, so spend your time reading loads of scripts and talking to people, so that the project you do eventually do choose to produce is the best project that you can find.
And finally… what are your 3 favourite things about Cork?
HURLING. HUMOUR. ATTITUDE.