Bernard MacLaverty's first steps in film-making

Seamus Heaney, Bernard MacLaverty and film are words that do not necessarily sit together. But thanks to the inspiration of a young NI film producer, they have become an award-winning combination.

Bye-Child started life in the fountain pen of Seamus Heaney. Producer Andrew Bonner was won over to poetry and the power of creativity by the poem which gives a glimpse into the dark world of a feral child. 

It begins with the epigram:

He was discovered in the henhouse where she had
confined him. He was incapable of saying anything.

It was Bonner's brainchild to turn the stark imagery of the poem into a ‘scary little jewel of a film’.

Still of Bye-Child filming With the combined talents of Bonner as producer and NI novelist and dramatist Bernard MacLaverty (Cal, Grace Notes, Lamb, The Anatomy School) as director on board, the pair put together a strong cast including their first choice's, Susan Lynch and Dick Holland to create what the critics called a ‘harsh, poetic, truly haunting and horrific’ short film.

The film gained a nomination for Best Short Film at the 2004 BAFTA Film Awards and won MacLaverty the Best First Time Director at the BAFTA Scotland Awards in November 2004, although he jokes that the only award he thought he was up for was ‘The Oldest Newcomer’.

Image of Bernard MacLavertyBoth Bonner and MacLaverty now live and work in Glasgow. 

MacLaverty is famed for many reasons, from his four novels and five collections of short stories to the many adaptations of his work for other media - radio plays, television plays and screenplays. He is a member of Aosdana in Ireland and is currently Visiting Writer/Professor at the University of Strathclyde.

He is also employed as a teacher of creative writing on a postgraduate course in prose fiction run by the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

With a background in teaching, Bonner tutored on the Harry Potter film set, managed an indie band and worked on a wide range of TV and film projects before producing Bye-Child, his first film.

This opened the door to international film festivals, from Palm Springs to Tehran, and spurred him on to make his second short, Icicle Melt, which premiered as a finalist at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Shorts competition at the BFI London Film Festival.  Image of Andrew Bonner

In addition to making an award-winning film, the pair have expanded the possibilities of the film medium to embrace education, with the DVD and integrated website functioning as a complete educational resource pack for teachers and those interested in film-making.

They are proof that the NI film industry has space for those, old or new, who have enough determination, talent and patience to work through until the final cut.