Tracy O’Riordan • Moonspun Films
20/04/2012 - While studying at Trinity College, Dublin, Tracy O’Riordan got her first taste of producing with the play The Fall Of The House Of Usher, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s celebrated short story. She began in television drama as a story editor and various production roles and then moved into film. One of her biggest successes being Clio Barnard’s The Arbor [trailer] for which she and Barnard won a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.
Cineuropa: Can you share with us some of your experiences while working on films like The Queen [trailer, film focus] and Of Time And The City [trailer]?
Tracy O’Riordan: The Queen is the biggest budget film I have worked on to date. I was part of the production department (Assistant Production Co-ordinator). Although my rank was not very senior and it was a step down in terms of the level of responsibility I had had on smaller budget films, I was really happy to take the role because I wanted to work with Producer Tracey Seaward and of course Stephen Frears. I was primarily in charge of organising tech recces in Scotland and finding accommodation for 130 plus crew members and cast and making sure that everyone got to and from Scotland as and when they were needed. I learnt how the hierarchy works on big films; that it’s a bit like the army, with everyone in a fixed role and expected to get on with their specific job they are employed to do. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the production department (working flat out trying to solve problems before they arise) and made some fantastic crew contacts and learnt how to look after A-list cast.
My role on Of Time And The City was completely different. I was head of development and production on Digital Departures, a low budget film making scheme, and Of Time And The City was one of 12 films that were developed and one of three films that were ultimately produced. It was very interesting to see how Terence Davis approached the work, he’s a very passionate individual and this was a very personal project; about his birth city, Liverpool. For Terence it started with a Peggy Lee song (The Folks who Live on the Hill) and he started to build the documentary around the song.
How did The Arbor come about?
A company called Artangel – who specialise in working with contemporary artists, making all forms of art, commissioned The Arbor. Clio Barnard came to them with an idea called Buttershaw - which sought to look at previous representations of The Buttershaw Estate in Bradford. Artangel don’t specialise in filmmaking, so they were looking for a Producer and they had heard of me from Of Time And The City so they interviewed me and I took on the role. At this point, Clio had recorded over 90 hours of audio from residents on the Estate and one of the first things I organised was an audio edit of the material to discover what story Clio wanted to tell. When I came on board I was told that the finance was in place but then the majority funder fell through. I looked at the schedule and budget, took it apart and put it back together cutting almost 50% of the costs. Artangel then contributed half of the budget and the UK Film Council pledged support once a distributor and sales agent were onboard. I managed to secure a sales agent, however, the distributor was more difficult, due to it being a first time director and non-commercial subject matter. With no UK distributor willing to commit before the shoot, I met with City Screen, who wrote a letter of commitment supporting the project and this was enough to convince the UKFC to come on board. Along with a small license fee from a UK broadcaster we were able to close the finance.
What projects do you have in development?
The Selfish Giant is a coming of age tale about two boys who get caught up in copper theft in Bradford. Clio Barnard is directing and it will be my second collaboration with Clio. We hope to shoot in September 2012 and I am currently raising finance. Film4 and BFI are on board and other investors are tbc at present.
I am working on another documentary with Clio, but it’s too early to comment at present, but I have a commitment from Film4 for some development finance.
Much Ado About Nothing Much is very early in development; it is a contemporary musical reworking of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing set in London. I am hoping to shoot a pilot at some point in 2013. It will be a bigger budget production, so I will be looking for co-production partners.
You have been chosen as one of EFP’s Producers On The Move. What does this mean to you and how will this be beneficial for you at Cannes?
I have attended the Cannes Film Festival frequently over the last 10 years, so I was aware of Producers on the Move and as several of my contemporaries have been Producers on the Move it means a great deal to me to be chosen. I know how beneficial it will be in terms of raising my profile in the industry and forming relationships with European Producers for future co-production collaborations.
Producers on the move is an initiative of the EUROPEAN FILM PROMOTION