So once in a blue moon, La Vida Frills gets really lucky to be granted special things. One of these was an interview with the Director of the Academy Award nominated film "The Secret of Kells". The interview was conducted at this years New York Comic Con and was my first interview ever! I was really pleased on how it turned out and I hope you enjoy reading some of the highlights from the conversation. I'd like to mention that I was also lucky enough to interview the Art Director Ross Stewart at the same time. For my first interview it was extremely relaxing and fun. The guys were the sweetest and most genuine people I've ever had the chance of meeting.
In case you have no knowledge of the film, here's a quick synopsis:
In medieval Ireland, a young boy named Brendan ordinary life is turned into extraordinary when a master Illuminator brings a mysterious book with him. Brendan is given the task of restoring the book to it's full glory, and such must go on a journey through the misty Celtic forests of Ireland. Helping him on his quest is a fay named Aisiling, who has the ability to transform into a wolf. Together they beat the odds and go on a mission of wonder and delight.
Now you know the story... so, on with the fun!
LVF: So first, can you tell me what it feels like to have made an Oscar nominated film?
TM: Well, we didn't expect it to be nominated, you know. So that was pretty exciting! It really was cool!
RS: It was nothing that we ever imagined when we were making the film. It was the most pleasant surprise that you could ever get.
LVF: What do you think are the ingredients to making an Oscar nominated film?
TM: I don't know, if I did I'd set it in a bag that'd say "Here's the ingredients to making an Oscar nominated film."
RS: I reckon the reason why we got nominated I'd say, because it was something a little bit different. Something that [the academy] had never seen before and they thought it had some heart in the film.
LVF: Do you feel the pressure on your next project to have it be nominated for an Oscar or even win? Or do you feel you can just make a new film with a relaxed notion regardless?
TM: Well, it's better not to think about awards or beating anyone out when you're working on a new project. So, I'm hoping to make the best film that I can and hope that people that liked the first one will like the second one even more! Because I think you'll be a better filmmaker if you think that way, I at least say so.
RS: Well the next one I say... has to win the Oscar!
LVF: What are the next projects that you are involved in?
TM: I'm developing a feature film called Song of the Sea. (To check out information on the film, which looks so cute I can't wait, click here)It's based on the legend of Selkies, the legend of women that can turn into Seals. It's kind of the best of Irish and Scottish legends. So it's about the last one and she's a little girl in the city and she has to find her way back to the sea.
LVF: Do you feel that your film has a different sort of atmosphere then an American animated film?
TM: Yeah, we purposely decided that we wanted to make a film that was showing a little bit of Irish culture, a little bit of Irish art and design. And it was a kind of response to the fact that there wasn't any real tradition of Irish animation, and we wanted to start something. We wanted to make films that had a sort of look and a sort of style going on. The Japanese have the same thing, and we wanted to do the same thing for Ireland.
LVF: What was the main inspiration when it came to the art of the film?
RS: We mostly looked at Celtic art as the main inspiration for the film, along with other medieval arts and other Celtic designs. You can definitely see that influence in our film. That's probably why it looks so different from American and Japanese animated films, because we're taking so much from Irish and Celtic culture and art.
LVF: Do you relate to any of the characters in your piece? Especially the character of Brendan, who seems to want to be an independent creative spirit?
TM: I think a lot of the artists who worked on the film, as with myself, saw themselves in Brendan. He's an artist just like we are artists, and he has a father who doesn't really approve and wants him to do something more sensible. So I think a lot of the artists connected with that, had a sort of kinship with Brendan.
RS: I had a kinship with Brother Aidan. Mostly because he's sort of a hippie and likes to spend time in the trees.
LVF: It seems that one of the center pieces of your film is a strong female driven character, which also seems to be the same with your next project as well. Do you feel that females don't get represented correctly enough in film or do you feel that you are representing them in a correct way?
TM: Well the problem originally with Kells were the first few drafts, it was like a submarine movie, there were too many men. But what I was interested in was there's definitely a sort of blend between the Pagan system, which is sort of goddess based and modern Christianity.I wanted in my film to show the new kind of Goddess, which is connected into the idea of the Virgin Mary. This to me is a natural response to the culture of the film.
Aisiling represents those kind of older beliefs in Ireland, which were more of a balance between male and female. She's kind of like the Irish idea of "the dreaming of Ireland", and having it appear as a beautiful woman. We definitely wanted a female element and for my next film, which almost was going to be girls dressed in bikini's on a spaceship, but in the end we chose Selkie's which is very female driven idea.
I think American films are more about boys and their fathers, which I think, when talking about Miyazaki's films, there is always a female protagonist. Which is what I really love about his films, they have a more gentler female side to it. This is something we wanted for our film as well.
RS: I think Aisiling is a strong spirited little girl, she is a good female character. She's not weak, she's very strong. She presents the Pagan belief and she has a big weight on her shoulders, especially for a little girl.
LVF: Do you have any big goals for the future of your careers?
TM: Yeah, just making cartoons for as long as I can make them.
RS: I plan on continuing to paint, and if Cartoon Saloon wants me I'll continue to work with them.
LVF: Finally, what is the message you would like people to learn about when they watch "The Secret of Kells"?
TM: There are a lot of messages. I suppose perseverance is important, so the art is important in kind of difficult times. Which I think is still relevant today.
RS: To continue the support of Irish animated films!
And that's the end! I hope you enjoyed reading this little interview and hopefully there will be more in the future of LVF.
"Secret of Kells" is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from New Video Group. To learn more about the film, check out the website here. To learn more about the studio, Cartoon Saloon, click here.
Thanks to Tom, Ross and New Video Group for letting me take a moment for a quick chat and some laughs.