Photo credit: David Sexton
Local animation and film-hero returns to Irish shores with armfuls of awards and a showreel to prove that he earned them. He’s received most attention for the bucket load of ever-more ambitious music videos he’s made, using both live-action and animation, for acts that include Madonna, Modestep, Nicola Roberts and Roxxxan. His latest short, We the Masses, is based on the dramatic, evocative art of Robyn O’Neil and was conceived at Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School.
We got a few minutes of his time to ask him some questions about his career and his upcoming visit to OFFSET 2013
We can’t wait to have you on the Main Stage this year, Eoghan. Looking forward to it?
Thanks! I’m very much looking forward to throwing up in front of 2500 people.
Take note, everyone. Don’t sit in the front row on Sunday morning. Your work slips between animation and live-action – would you still describe yourself as an animator? Or are you a filmmaker? Or an ani-maker?
I tend to move between mediums a lot depending on what suits the project. My first love was animation but I always loved live action film and I started throwing myself into it after working in animation for years. I found that I could bring all these animation sensibilities with me.
Tell us about the delicious 9 collective. How did that come about and how did it help you become the Eoghan Kidney we know and admire today?
Leagues O’Toole kept calling us the Wu Tang Clan of Irish animation which was pretty funny! Delicious 9 came about in the pub while we were studying animation in DLIADT (now the The National Film School).
My friend Rob Power named us that before we even thought of working together. It was kind of a buddies forever thing. Then after we graduated I put on an Aphex Twin show and we used clips from our films as visuals and got a pretty good reaction, so The Jimmy Cake asked us to animate an idea they had and we came together and made our first music video. Then we moved into a house together and began to watch stuff and make stuff together.
The collective involved a lot of people over the five-years we operated – mainly it was myself, Andrew Clarke, Paul Madden and Eoin Whelehan but then there was a lot of people who got involved in different projects like Barry Murphy, Mark Flood, Ray Forkan, Ciaran Crowley, Rob Power, Karen Regan, Fergal Brennan, Sue Pendrid, Tim Redfern and more!
We made a lot of music videos, performed visuals at countless live gigs, programmed festivals and curated things, made t shirts, gave talks, designed album covers and posters, held workshops, made installations and theatre productions. It provided mutual appreciation and support, which I think is important for young artists. It was a valuable experience, just working on our own terms, trying not to worry about money, making stuff which excited us. Most of what we did was pre Youtube, and No Disco [seminal Irish music TV show] was very kind in showing pretty much anything we did, so people started telling us that they saw this or that and liked it, so it gave us the drive to take it a bit more seriously.
Stars, 2005 was probably the first time you got noticed internationally… a first big break. Is that the way you see it, or do you have a different perspective?
Stars was a short film I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to make by the Irish Film Board under their Frameworks grant. It did well, travelled a bit and people do still tell me they liked it, which is lovely given that it’s eight-years old now but I don’t think I’ve ever had a big break. I just keep moving from project to project with varied degrees of commercialness involved in each one.
Does winning awards change things in terms of how others see your work?
Awards do open up an opportunity to work with someone new sometimes (it’s also a great excuse to go out and party).
You have a gigantic list of music videos to your credit – with a lot of the top-teir of home-grown acts. How does music fit in to your work? Was it just a great way to get started and experiment or are you responding to a passion?
It started with Delicious 9 and sort of went from there and when people ask me to do them and I usually say yes, if I can. It’s like a bad habit. Yeah, it’s a great place to experiment sometimes, but if you’re making something for a major label and they need to control a certain image or style then it needs to be approached almost like one would any promotional video.
The best experiments are done when you can also control the sound of course but they never have an audience, apart from a very small one, and you have to go out and seek these people out and show it them to begin some sort of discussion. That’s if you want to. Usually my video experiments rest on hard drives awaiting massive HD failures.
You’ve gone on to work for/with international acts including Madonna and Modestep. How do those collaborations come about?
They’re through a company in London called Nice and Polite who represent me as director.
Looking back, what in your music video history are you most proud of?
Caribou, Jacknuggeted: it kicked off a few years of collaborating with the amazing Dan Snaith and culminated in a DVD release of all the videos we made for two of his albums. We were very lucky to get to work such a great dude.
Valerie Francis, Punches: just a simple idea that really worked out well. sometimes it can be easy (very rare!)
Delorentos, S.E.C.R.E.T.: a simple love story starring my brother that was filmed in the house I shared with the Del 9 guys, so it’s a great record of a time for me.
Shit Robot, Take Em Up: I got to work with the amazing Marcus Lambkin and Nancy Whang from LCD Soundsystem, man, I still can’t believe I got work with these guys. So great. And lots of twitter people came on board to help out. It was a cool experience.
And a video for Natalie Findlay for Gin is going to come out in May I think. I really like the artist and the vid is pretty cool, so looking forward to sharing it.
Wener Herzog. Please tell us everything. EV-ERY-THING
I attended his Rogue Film School which was an intense experience. We listened and talked to the man, discussed projects, got into scrapes etc. It was a worthwhile thing for sure and he was a really cool guy, very supportive.
Your film, We the Masses, is based on Robyn O’Neil’s work. How did that become a starting point for the film?
Werner Herzog! Robyn and I met at the film school in L.A.. He had suggested to her that she should animate her work. I stepped up and convinced Robyn to let me help her do it. I love her work, and I always wanted to make an animated film about the individual versus the group and this seemed like the perfect way to do it.
Essentially, I approached it as an adaptation of her work, which is quite tricky when adapting still images into a film – so I was very careful to discuss everything we did. We even filmed her moving the way she saw her characters move and had long discussions about snowfall and sound. Then I got Nicky Gogan at Still Films on board.
Your work is really broad, so where are your influences coming from?
There are films that I saw under the age of 10 that have never left me, so I guess they would be top: Lucas’s Star Wars, Kubrick’s 2001, and Hal Ashby’s Being There.
What are you working on at the moment? Can we get a sneak peek?
I’m finishing some new music videos which are to do with something with Tim Redfern and Diarmuid Malloy- different but relevant to my previous work, it’s quite cool, I’m really into it and hopefully I’ll show it to the public for the first time at Offset!! There are other various bits and bobs, I’m writing a new film with Jennifer O’Brien, in the middle of shooting a film with Orla Fitzgerald.
I hoping to make a video for the Dublin band Ships too.