'The acclaim has been astounding'
MR: Tell us a bit about your background...
GB: I grew up in Knockanure. A fabulous place to grow up as a child with some great people. Knockanure was small but it was such a close knit community. It was great and as the years go on you really do miss those days. I went to primary school at Knockanure NS and then secondary school in St Michael College Listowel. Then I went to College in Tralee, where I studied Film, Television, Radio and Media.
MR: Where are you working at the moment?
I work now with Brown Bag Films Animation studio in Dublin, where I've been working since I left college.
They have won academy awards and BAFTAs and provide you with a platform to be creative. I started working on a number of their Disney shows and really learned animation.
Then I created an animated comedy which is currently in production now. I am writing, producing and showrunning the show. It will premiere here in Ireland in September and in foreign countries later this year. It's a mix between South Park and the IT Crowd.
MR: Where did your interest in film stem from?
I grew up in a house of three brothers that were all 10 years older than me, so I guess I was watching films from a very young age. I clearly remember watching Double Impact with Jean Claude Van Damme when that came out in '92 and I was about four. Then as the years went on I was watching what they were watching and just fell in love with storytelling.
They would take me to the cinema in Listowel to see Ace Ventura, Terminator 2, Liar Liar and I remember I was passionate for some reason about seeing Michael Collins in '96. I made my father take me to the late show and he fell asleep. When I came into my teenage years I kind of knew a lot about films and storytelling and decided this is what I want to do. Thinking back now I was hungry to do it.
The Pilgrim Hill script? Where did you get your inspiration?
It tells the story of Jimmy Walsh, a middle-aged farmer living in rural Ireland. Unmarried and ill-educated, Jimmy has unquestioningly assumed responsibility for tending to the remote family land and its livestock, and has taken on the care of his ageing, bed-ridden father in the same manner.
I have some family members who are bachelor farmers and I just always wanted to explore their lives. The film I suppose is a character study of these people that are all over the countryside. A lot of these people don't have third acts in life and I just wanted to tell the story in an honest way.
MR: Tell us more about the making of the film?
GB: I wrote the script and that got myself an agent with Troika Talent in London ,who represent another Kerryman, Michael Fassbender. My agent said the film could be set in Yorkshire, and asked if we should get funding but I said I'm doing it myself. He trusted me and I went into my local credit union. I told the manager what I was doing and he supported me with €4,500. He had seen some of the plays I wrote in college and with his individual generosity it kicked the whole thing off.
Then I found Joe Mullins (lead actor) who just gives an amazing performance. So we shot over seven days in Kerry. I got a really good deal on a RED camera and we just got to work. We were never trying to make the film stylish or using techniques for the sake of them, we just did what we needed to do to tell the story.
MR: Did you ever imagine Pilgrim Hill would receive such critical acclaim?
Never. I mean you try to do good work. That's all you can do. The critical acclaim it has got across the world is astounding. To be honest, everywhere the film screened - from Galway, Los Angeles, Telluride, Toronto or London -people loved the way I made it because it is fresh and it does not adhere to the three act structure and the big reveal at the end. Some people may not like that I did it my way, and that is fair enough, but I feel the film needed to be done this way.
MR: Ben Afleck invited you to his home after the Telluride Film Festival...tell us more...
It was amazing. I landed in LA and had a meeting in Hollywood Blvd with WME. That day I signed with Martin Scorseese agent. It was surreal. Six months before that I was down in a field in Ballylongford making this thing. And I must thank Mary Walsh who was fantastic in the making of it. I took Joe the main actor with me and Fr Pat Moore as well, as he has supported me from day one and I wanted him to be there. Then we were invited to Ben Affleck's house for a house party and again the following morning for a breakfast. He was such a nice guy and is with WME also and he was great. George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bill Murray were there also. They are all just great people who love film.
MR: How did it feel to win an IFTA for Pilgrim Hill?
GB: When I was nominated I felt that was enough. But then to win it was just mental. To be honest, I was so happy for my mother and father because they stuck with me and supported me along the way. I also feel the award gave me some closure too on my choice of career. I decided to stick with it as it was my passion and winning the IFTA Rising Star award really gave me the confidence to say I made the right choice to stick with it. I love the business that I work in and I can honestly say I cannot wait to go to work everyday.
MR: What's next for you?
GB: I signed a three picture deal with Film4 in the UK. I have one project which is shooting this year with Film4 and I've just finished the script for the second project with Film4 too. I hope that will shoot either very late this year or early 2014. And I have a third script, which I'm just starting to work on and that will shoot in 2015.
The agents in WME plan ahead and we are already planning what we will be shooting in 2015. The first one is called 'Glassland' and it's set in urban Dublin and will shoot later this year. It's about a young guy who's a taxi driver and is trying to hold his family together in crisis. Shooting will start this October.
I also have a project set up at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles that I hope will get the green light soon also.
Then I have Newsbag - the animated comedy - which premieres in September. We are in production right now on that. I also have another TV project which I am confident will get off the ground before the end of the summer.
And I'm working on a Play with Druid Theatre in Galway too and some other various things.