The Secret of Kells - What is this Remarkable Animated Feature?
We felt at the time the story was set in there was a blurring of faiths and beliefs and that to tell it subjectively through the eyes of a young boy growing up in that world required giving equal weight to all the beliefs he might have been exposed to. The truth at the heart of both the Christian and other faiths is the same I believe, so we tried to show that.
KC: The story works so well, but did it take lots of revisions to create the script and storyboards?
TM: I'm glad you asked that. It’s certainly the hardest part of any film and the area I feel I learnt the most from in this production. Indeed, we had several drafts of the script before we began working with Fabrice. He helped us shape it into the story we settled on, focusing on Brendan and his story as an anchor to all our research and ideas.
Nora Twomey and I did a very rough pass at the storyboards and made an animatic about nine months before pre-production began. Then we visited Fabrice in Paris for a few weeks. We went over our thoughts and revisions based on those boards, and we did a lot of editing and finalizing of the script at that stage. Then, when we began work on the full production boards, we worked with Remi Chaye and the editor Fabianne Giro to refine the story further. Even after all that I ended up trimming almost ten minutes of colored animation at the end of production with Fabienne Giro. We worked for several weeks in Paris on the editing. It was a slightly painful but an enlightening experience for me. After nearly 4 years of production I had to step back and look at the whole story again with fresh eyes and try to find a rhythm and pace with just the animation we had.
KC: I think readers would like to know something of the film's production history. Was it hard to organize this production?
TM: We started developing the film in 1999, when I was in my final year at Ballyfermot College. We made a trailer and a first draft script (2001). We had to put it on the back burner while we worked on commercials and other "bread and butter" type work to keep the studio alive. At that time the studio was housed in the Young Irish Filmmakers building in Kilkenny.
We went to Cartoon Movie in Berlin and met Didier Brunner who was producing The Triplets of Belleville. He offered to help us produce the film and he introduced us to Viviane Van Fleteren in Belgium. Together we managed to raise the six million Euro budget needed to make the film. We finally had most of the finance in place by October 2005 and I was able to focus full time on the film between then and August 2008.
The work had to be split between the three countries because of how we raised the money through various European grants, the Irish film board, etc. The main designs, backgrounds, boards and about 20 minutes of rough animation were made in our studio Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny.