FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
IFTA AWARDS 2024
Haunted Ulster Live
Against the backdrop of the Northern Ireland Troubles, TV veteran, Gerry Burns, teams up with popular children's presenter Michelle Kelly to investigate poltergeist activity in a haunted house in Belfast. A seance causes the broadcast to descend into chaos. When the youngest child is mysteriously abducted by an unseen force, the two presenters must face their greatest fears on live TV.
Director: Dominic O'Neill Writer: Dominic O'Neill Producers: Will McConnell, Dominic O'Neill
Q: What was the genesis of this film, and how did it evolve over the course of development to production and completion?
- Dominic O'Neill (Writer, Director): "I always thought 1990’s Belfast would be a great setting for a ‘live broadcast’ from a haunted house. Local TV during the troubles provided an eerie and twee alternate reality where everything was ‘fine’. I wanted to see what happened when the nightmares of the outside world crept in."
- Will McConnell (Producer): "We both remembered the BBC drama ‘Ghostwatch’ from when we were kids, it was something of a cultural phenomenon, though it was only ever broadcast once. That gave us a launching point for how to do this, and something audiences could latch onto straight away, though we take the concept in a different direction."
Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
- Will: "Hopefully they’ll laugh with the first half, and gasp at the second half and not the other way round."
- Dominic: "The film appears to be a parody, but there’s more going on than meets the eye. I think audiences' expectations are subverted, and they’re engaging with it in a serious way which is heartening, because that reflects our intentions."
Q: To what extent was your on-screen talent vital to the success of the film?
- Will: "Dominic was very clever to look to the Belfast theatre scene to cast the film. They all had an immediate appreciation for the tone and rhythm of the script, and they all hit their marks first time. The rapport you see on screen is real. We couldn’t have made the film any other way, because we literally didn’t have the time or money to do several takes. Aimee Richardson flew over from London to work with us for a week. Her professionalism and dedication just pop on the screen, and I’m sure she wouldn't mind us saying that her ‘outsider’ status gave the character a definite edge."
Q: What’s the most interesting/inspiring piece of feedback you’ve received from people who have seen the film?
- Will: "We weren’t sure how English audiences would react to an Irish story set during the Troubles where the English producer is a villain. They loved it."
Q: Can you speak to the growth in the Irish film industry in recent years and how it helped your film get off the ground?
- Will: "Due to the growth in the industry here, the skillset of crew is very high. We had an incredibly talented and experienced young crew, and everyone was dead on, dedicated and hard working."
Q: Why is it important to see your work represented at the IFTAs and to be acknowledged by your peers in the Irish film community?
- Dominic: "We are new kids on the block, to see our strange low-budget indie sitting beside some of the best films of the year is a real buzz for us. Hopefully the uniqueness of the film resonates with the IFTA audience."