Fresh from his BAFTA win we caught up Brian J. Falconer, the producer of Boogaloo and Graham...
Boogaloo and Graham is a story about love, a snapshot of one family’s daily life in the middle of the terrible conflict (in Northern Ireland) that our country endured for so long. That conflict influenced everything around us, it shaped the people we are today, our humour, our strength and what I feel Boogaloo and Graham does best is show that in a conflict, people still have to live, love and bring up families just like anywhere else.
I trained as a structural engineer and worked for several year with a company that manages infrastructure and public services across the UK. I believe a lot of what makes me a highly motivated, organised film-maker comes directly from my engineering background.
After I completed university in 2003, I decided that I should take some time out to see the world and the many bars in it. I did a variety of jobs before one day going out and buying a camera and computer on hire purchase, I then became a ‘film maker’. I worked with lots of upcoming Belfast peers and then in 2007 I met director Jonathan Beer. As I watched Jon work, I was inspired by his creativity, his work ethic and his ‘go for it attitude’. I very quickly realised that if I wanted to uphold my side of the partnership I would have to work very, very hard. So I did, setting up our production company Out of Orbit along the way and now ten short films later, I am in a hotel in London with my BAFTA by my side.
Since 2008 the Northern Irish film industry has exploded. Northern Ireland Screen has been fundamental in building up the industry, training the crews and supporting upcoming producers like myself. Productions like Game of Thrones are providing a platform for local crews to train to a really high level but that also brings the challenge of crew availability. The more productions happening in Belfast, the harder it is to secure the most highly skilled crew.
For Boogaloo and Graham it was no different but I found that with the amazing script written by Ronan Blaney and top director Michael Lennox at the helm, people just wanted to be part of it. Michael was adamant that DP Mark Garrett was the person to make his vision come to light. To build the team I started from the top, contacting the people who I knew were the best. You have to remember that the film only cost £20,000, that was from conception to the delivery of the master files therefore all the crew, who would normally make very good, industry standard wages, were working for nothing and that was my job, to ask them to do this. I always feel like I am fast developing a reputation for the worst paying producer in the North but my hands were tied!
My skill lies in making £20,000 look like £100,000 and that’s what I think Boogaloo and Graham does with its chickens, children and British Army in 1970s Belfast. I always appreciate how important a crew are; without them films don’t exist.
From day one Michael told me he wanted Martin McCann and Charlene McKenna to play the parents. They are both incredible actors and once they'd read the script it didn't take them long to say yes.
For the children we held extensive casting sessions and saw many, many children. We'd whittled it down to about 6 children and then I received a phone call from Michael to say ‘there’s one more’! Michael trains at a local kickboxing club and his attention was drawn to 8 year old Riley Hamilton (who plays Jamesy) who was in the process of arguing with his mum. Michael was impressed with Riley’s confidence (I believe he won the fight) and approached his mum about him coming to an audition. We came to understand that you're not looking for one amazing child actor, you need two that have great chemistry and are believable as siblings. Aaron Lynch stood out to us from day one and when we saw him and Riley together we couldn’t believe how amazing they were individually and as a team.
We also had two amazing Belfast actors Paul Kennedy and Jonathan Harden on board and with the help of a lot of our friends as extras, the ensemble was complete.
The children were amazing! But I would say 90% of that was due to the direction that Michael gave them. With regards to working with animals, or chickens in our case, I will answer this in two words: Kenny Gracey. Kenny was recently referred to as the Doctor Dolittle of the northern Irish film industry and he is just that, providing all types of animals for Game of Thrones, Dracula, Robot Overloads, The Survivalist... the list goes on. Apart from being the nicest man in the industry, he never did anything other than make my job easier.
The sheer volume of work I had to achieve in only 88 days of preproduction and the money I had to do it. £20,000 is a lot of money but when you are being adventurous it's nowhere near enough, but that’s the fun. Paying for something is the easy way, to get things for free or at a massively reduced rate takes work. Instead of one phone call I made twenty, but I always knew that when asking for something I had to think about the other person and understand that they must benefit from the partnership. The key is to remember everything, that’s where my organisational nature comes to the surface. If I don’t remember the smallest detail or task, it can have a knock on effect that could end up costing me money that I don’t have.
Northern Ireland Screen in partnership with the BFI NET.WORK.
We knew we wanted to premier at the Galway Film Fleadh and they were the first people who believed in us and our film. Miriam Allen and Liz Quinn were so complimentary.When we got placed with a special mention, I knew we had something great. Then Liz phoned me and said that Kathleen McInnis of the Toronto International Film Festival had seen our film, loved it and wanted to consider it for TIFF. We got selected and everything exploded! We owe everything to these two wonderful festivals!
I have multiple projects in development with Northern Ireland Screen and I'm going to use our BAFTA success to find the best possible teams to come on board for these amazing new projects.