Jason, we understand that your film company is based in Ireland, and deals in filmmaking world-wide. Many of our readers are Students of the Arts. Please tell them how you first became interested in the motion picture industry and of your early start there.
JF- I have always had an interest in film. It probably goes back to my father’s collection of ‘Photoplay’ magazines that he had piled beside his bed, all of which I would devour to feed my ever growing interest in all things cinema. My parents Anne and Peter (avid film-goers) always encouraged this love of movies and the theatrical arts in general (my brother Daniel was a well known child actor, having starred in productions with Peter O’Toole, Jenny Agutter and Donal McCann, amongst others).
TAEM- Please tell us a little about your company, October Eleven Pictures.
JF- My younger brother Jonathan and I started our television and film production company in 2000 thanks to the advent of broadcast forms of digital technology (in our case the Sony PD150p DvCam) as we wanted to explore the capabilities of this technology and see if we could get on the professional ladder in a very competitive Industry. We were lucky in that our first production, in collaboration with the internationally acclaimed photographer, Sir Simon Marsden and Oscar-nominated Actor John Hurt was nominated for two IFTAs (the Irish equivalent of the United State’s Oscars) in 2003. This helped to propel us seriously onto the British and Irish scene and allowed us to develop other productions; the first of which was an examination of the life and work of the late theatrical legend Dan Crawford of London’s King’s Head Theatre in Islington. This also gave me the opportunity to work closely with such greats as the late Oscar-nominated Susannah York, Joanna Lumley, Alan Rickman, the late great Corin Redgrave and Richard E. Grant, amongst many others. This film ‘A Maverick in London’ was subsequently acquired by BSKYB and played for three years on Sky Arts One to critical acclaim.
TAEM- Your early days saw you work in the animation department with the film ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’. How did this work into your life long dream?
JF- It’s funny, I had wanted to apply for the Animation Dept. of Ballyfermot College in Dublin (a college that has produced four Oscar Nominees) but because I had spent the summer travelling around Europe with a friend, I was too late to secure a place but instead managed to get a spot in the Model Making Dept. of the same College. After nearly severing my finger with a scalpel while making a miniature of a gymnasium I heard that Murakami/Wolf were holding interviews for positions available in their Paint and Trace Dept. of a new series of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. I jumped at the chance and ended up leaving College before graduation to take up a position in an area that I had always wanted to be in, in the first place. After working on two series of this acclaimed TV series, I secured a position with Steven Spielberg’s animation company Amblination and realized special effects for key scenes on ‘American Tail 2 : Fievel Goes West’. That was a great experience which led to me working on Richard Williams’ (‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’) new production, the animated epic ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’ which has since become somewhat of a Cult Film.
JF- Our first production ‘The Twilight Hour’ which was double IFTA nominated in 2003, followed the internationally acclaimed photographer Sir Simon Marsden as he gathered material for his latest book of the same name. This film really seemed to strike a chord with the paranormal and horror audiences in particular and attracted some excellent reviews with Discovery eventually distributing the film (which also features narration from the wonderful Oscar-nominated actor, John Hurt) to 100 countries in 2004. Following this we put into production a Sky One feature documentary with Uri Geller called ‘Uri’s Haunted Cities: Venice’. A companion film to the Geller production saw both films picked up by Hollywood Studio LIONSGATE for international distribution, focusing on Asian Countries through their Asian arm, Tigergate. Further collaborations, this time with the acclaimed paranormal investigator Chris Halton of Haunted Earth UK, are currently in development.
JF- ‘3Crosses’ is a future-noir thriller looking at the relationship between three Irish brothers and the nefarious crime world in which they find themselves embroiled. It is an experimental feature film which centres on violence and its consequences as the main focus. We have had quite a few disturbed audiences reeling from the film and have also attracted such exclamations as ‘A nihilistic spray of testosterone’ and with a nomination for ‘Best Independent Feature Film’ at the 2011 Underground Cinema Film Festival, we have been happy so far with its early days viewings. ‘Blood’ (which was written and directed by Bernadette Manton and filmed, edited and executive produced by me) is a dark, psychological drama that looks at a deeply dysfunctional family. Described by the prestigious Galway Film Fleadh as: “The bravest feature film debut that one could hope to find” this feature film is currently going out onto the International Film Festival circuit.
JF- ‘A Christmas Carol’ came about after I had read an obituary on the wonderful charity work done by the late great Paul Newman through his Hole in the Wall series of camps for seriously ill children across the world. We approached his camp at Barretstown Castle in Ireland and suggested that we put into motion a feature film production of the beloved novella from Charles Dickens with the idea of raising much needed funds for the brilliant work that is carried out at the camp. After some meetings the film went into production and an excellent cast was assembled including Vincent Fegan as our particularly gruff Ebenezer Scrooge with fantastic support from the likes of Brendan Grace (‘Father Ted’), Brendan O’Carroll (‘Mrs. Brown’), Lara Belmont (‘Rise of the Footsoldier’ and ‘The War Zone’) Christen Mooney (Oscar nominated ‘The Secret of Kells’) and Laurence Foster (‘The Mannions in America’). The feature was adapted and directed by me and produced by my brother Jonathan and Carl Shaaban. With ‘A Burial at Thorn Hill’ my wife, the screenwriter Bernadette Manton (‘Blood’), had written a wonderful screenplay that had attracted some excellent attention in the film-making community in Ireland and Britain. After many months of trying to find the perfect cast, we finally attached Bryan Murray (ITV’s ‘The Bill’ and Channel 4’s ‘Brookside’), Cora Fenton (‘Strength and Honour’) and Bill Fellows (BBC’s ‘Eastenders’ and ITV’s ‘Downton Abbey’) to take the three pivotal roles in the feature film which went into production on location in June of this year. This is a very dark psychological horror film that looks at loss, revenge and the ‘possibility’ of redemption. I co-produced the film with the tenacious Jason Shalloe (a producer who won’t take NO for an answer..haha) and executive producer on the feature was my brother Jonathan (who had recently come off producing a TV mini-series for TV3 called ‘The Guards’). ‘Railway Children’ was a film that I wrote and work-shopped with the incredibly talented kids at the Habemus Performing Arts School in Dublin. The cast comprised of 43 roles for teens and further roles for 8-12 year olds included in the cast. The film looks at a post-apocalyptic world where all adults are dead and children roam the scarred landscape trying to form their own types of society with often dramatic and violent results. It is kind of a cross between ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ’28 Days Later’. We have a wonderful cast in this production which was written and directed by me and filmed on location in Dublin in August of this year. Producers on the film were Carl Shaaban and Jason Shalloe, with executive producers Jonathan Figgis and John Keegan.
TAEM- When will our audiences be able to see them ?
JF- We are premiering ‘A Christmas Carol’ in December in Ireland with an international roll-out for 2012. ‘A Burial at Thorn Hill’ and ‘Railway Children’ will go out to the festival circuits in early 2012.
JF- Thank you. We started out making documentaries. These include the previously mentioned IFTA nominated ‘The Twilight Hour’ for Discovery Civilisation, Sky Arts’ ‘A Maverick in London’ looking at the amazing work of Artistic Director of The King’s Head Theatre in London’s Islington, Sky One’s ‘Uri’s Haunted Cities: Venice’ and the award-winning ‘Cursed’ (a companion piece to Geller’s trip to Venice – both distributed by Hollywood Studio LIONSGATE). We recently teamed up with acclaimed paranormal investigator Chris Halton of Haunted Earth UK on two productions; the first is a 30 minute piece called ‘Leap Into Darkness’ and looks at an investigation into the notoriously haunted Leap Castle in Southern Ireland. The second is a feature documentary, currently in post production called ‘Cathnafola’, which looks at an all night investigation at the infamous Cathnafola House (also in Southern Ireland). We hope to have this feature film roll-out in November of this year.
TAEM- Jason, what other new projects are underway for you and October Eleven Pictures that we can look forward to?
JF- We have a slate of feature films in various stages of development including a Zombie thriller called ‘Urban Creep’ and a Vampire film called ‘The Ecstasy of Isabel Mann’ as well as my wife Bernadette’s latest feature ‘Suit Mature Couple’ which is a comedy/paranormal horror film.
TAEM- Jason, audiences in the United States are hungry for new motion pictures, and from what I have seen, you are the one that can satisfy their appetites. I am humbled to be able to have this interview with you for The Arts and Entertainment Magazine and thank you for the time that you have spent with all of us. Please promise to keep in touch and update events that you, and your production company, have in the making.
JF – Thank you very much for the time and we will definitely keep you appraised of all work in development and currently getting out into the market.