Interview with Cork City filmmaker, Seán Creagh

Seán Creagh
Seán Creagh

Seán Creagh is a locally based filmmaker who studied theatre from a young age with filmmaking on the side. He later studied drama and theatre in UCC as well as studying English. His desire to work in film stemmed from his realisation that “I guess I’m a storyteller; from the very youngest age I was telling stories. It’s what I love to do so anything that allows me to do that is where I want to be. I write as well and I direct theatre from time to time. I recently wrote short comic books for a competition however filmmaking is my main thing. For me, the visual medium and being able to tell a story with everything all together offers the fullest version of a story.” While studying, Creagh was entering short films into festivals. He also directed a production of Hamlet in the Cork Arts Theatre.

The next step for Creagh came when he realised an education in the arts doesn’t always transpire into money in the bank. Upon graduating, he “very quickly and intently” went looking for what he could do to find himself a job. He qualified as an English teacher and worked as that for quite a while. “After that, I came back here to teach in Cork English College and I stayed with them for three years. That took me up until the point in which my interest in films took over. In my last two years teaching, I was continuously working on a short film called Fallen Angel. We premiered it last April in the Imperial Hotel and about 200 people attended which was great. I never went to film school so I consider it the project on which I really learned film.”

“I took two weeks off to film Fallen Angel in May 2012. I kept working in the English college until the Christmas before last and that April I started my own company, ‘Ambition Films’. It was a completely different ball game to amateur film making. I got into two Cork film festivals with Fallen Angel. The concept of the fallen angel is an allegory for homelessness. We made the angel wings which ended up being four and a half metres. Despite all the special effects, it’s about the game of life and the human condition.  Fallen Angel was a very unique project and it was inspired by a lot of fantasy things and even computer games.”

An internship with producer Declan Casey took Creagh’s career in a new direction. Casey, who runs Standpoint Media, “took the time to show me cameras and before that I don’t think I’d appreciated the value of the camera, before that I was just shooting stories. He really opened it up and taught me a lot.”

Other influences include “David Fincher for his craft and visual style; Baz Luhrmann for the way he can tell a story from start to finish in a musical sense, like the story of an opera. They both have a great sense of rhythm in their films which draws you in.”

Some of Creagh’s other projects include a book trailer. “There’s a fabulous group in Cork, called Cork Comic Creators led by Alan Corbett and Colin O’Mahony. They have produced a comic called the Cork Horror Comic and they’re producing a second one now called the Cork Sci-Fi Comic. They are anthologies of works by Cork writers and I was lucky enough to have been accepted twice and I was absolutely delighted. They’re a great group and they really support talent. They’re very much about getting things out there and they respect people’s time.  I really wanted to give something back to them because they were getting me published as a writer. I went to them and said I want to get a book trailer out there so I’d like to do one for you. A lot of work went into it on special effects and short deadlines etc. but I’m very proud of it.”

 A career in film is obviously full of highs and lows, one such moment occurred “[y]ears ago, when I was just starting out, I was filming a show that I directed, Shadow of the Glen, it is one of my favourite productions that I ever directed; stellar cast. It was only fifteen minutes long and on for just three nights: I thought I’d pressed the record button but I hadn’t so I lost all the footage! Thankfully I learned from that mistake and it’s never happened again.”

Among his favourite moments, Creagh counts “[t]he closing night of Hamlet after the curtain went down, I was just backstage, looking at the set, looking at what had happened and I just appreciated it as a great moment.Another time was at the screening of Fallen Angel. I was behind a little screen and I was the one pressing ‘play’. I couldn’t see the film but I could see the audience so I was watching their reactions and that was pretty cool. Anytime the work is shown in front of someone that makes it worth it. One of my proudest early productions was a film called Ashes in a young person’s festival. It starts with the bong of a cathedral bell and I made it very loud on purpose to startle people and someone behind me screamed which I thought was great! I’m not as sadistic as Quentin Tarantino but I do like a reaction!”

Creagh is largely self-taught but he did get accepted to IADT (Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art and Technology). “Instead I chose UCC. In hindsight, if I had accepted it, it would have speeded up the process or else I could have gotten really caught up in art films and not been able to do anything afterwards. Was it difficult self-teaching? Yes. Do I regret it? No. I learned the things that are relevant and that’s an advantage.”

When asked what advice he could offer to those looking to work in this area, Creagh was eager to stress that “[i]t’s going to be tough. It can feel like hammering against a brick wall. You either have to get better tools and keep hammering, or else you have to give up on the wall!” He also emphasises that it is important to “[f]ind out whether it’s something you want to do as a hobby (five hours a week realistically) or full-time. There is a completely different amount of dedication required. Most artists aren’t business people so basically you have to teach yourself art as a business; simple concepts like time is money and knowing whether something is worth investing in or not. What’s really heartbreaking is, if you don’t treat it as such, you may have to let go of what you want to do. I was told every story is about characters. For a long time I didn’t understand that concept. It seems like a basic one but I really had to challenge that concept until I reached the point where I couldn’t knock it down anymore and then I started to see the benefits of it when I started directing. It’s important to see the organic characters in actors and to listen to people’s natural dialogue.”

Contact Seán at:

Info.ambitionfilms@gmail.com

Have a look at his work:

http://www.corkweddingvideos.com/

http://www.ambitionfilmsireland.com/

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