Cup Cake

Make a feature film on the budget of a TV advert? It's 'wee buns' to director Colin McIvor

As a freelance director, you must rack up the air miles. Where in the world are you now?

In Belfast today continuing work on the film and trying to get it ready for the premiere. Tomorrow I head off to a meeting in Dublin, after which I will be jumping onto a flight to Amsterdam where I'll be filming for three days. It's really not glamorous. Trust me!

You've created TV commercials for brands like Lucozade, Playstation 3 and Kellogg's. What was your introduction to the industry?

Whilst studying visual communication at the University of Ulster Art College, I began making short films. It was difficult to get funding for these and I discovered that by writing my own material the chances of having a film made, with me in the role of director, was very much increased. I also sought jobs, usually working as a runner on large feature films.

Film still from 'Cup Cake', Colin McIvor's directorial debutHow does writing and directing creations of your own imagination compare to making adverts for others? Is one business and the other pleasure?

Very much so! Making commercials is a very different experience to making film and if I'm honest making films is by far my priority. It is great to work with a crew for a few days on a commercial but at the end of the day you are promoting a brand.

When you write or are involved in the creation of a film from it's inception it becomes an emotional journey, especially with Cup Cake. The time, effort and dedication that the whole crew contributed, to a project that was so low budget that there would be no monetary benefit for them, was truly overwhelming.

You've previously produced award-winning dramas and short films. Was it a daunting move to feature film-making or a dream come true?

It was very daunting but something I'd wanted to do for quite a while. The most daunting part was shooting a feature on the same budget as one of my commercials! I have written a few feature film scripts and had always imagined I'd direct one of my own scripts as my first feature.

However the Cup Cake script came along and I was invited to have a read of it with the possibility of directing it. Initially it seemed like a very ambitious script for the budget, but with a lot of work on the script and a very dedicated crew, I feel we've pulled it off.

Tell me about Cup Cake. Can a film featuring robots, gadgets and bad cakes be romantic?

I suppose that's one to ask the viewers. It is a very simple yet endearing story and the characters are easy to warm to, PJ especially. I hope the atmosphere that we have created is a romantic one, although it's difficult to judge when you've been consumed by the project for this length of time.

Cast and crew, (like fresh food ingredients), were almost entirely locally sourced. Was that important to you?

Very important. Myself and the producer were very keen to use local cast and crew. We sought out the people who have been working with us in short films and commercials over the years. We knew that we had a strong team that we could count on and trust to give Cup Cake their everything and I feel that this is reflected in the 'good feel' vibe of the film. Such a fantastic crew made making Cup Cake a truly unforgettable experience.

You filmed the feature at a farm up in the north west coast - was it a challenging shoot because of the countryside location?

We filmed on Leslie Hill open farm. It was so fantastic. It was like a studio backlot because we used so many rooms and areas which meant we were able to pre-light and prepare the locations and move into them at short notice for rain cover etc. This really is a super location and the Leslie family were so welcoming and generous, we are so indebted to them.

I will definitely look to Leslie Hill as a potential location for future projects. I believe that there are renovations and some other developments taking place there as we speak which will only enhance it's popularity as a film location for many production companies in Northern Ireland and further afield.

How do you think you'll feel seeing Cup Cake on the big screen with an audience for the first time?

I'll be very nervous on the premiere night. It will definitely be difficult to sit and watch the film and hear unbiased reactions to it. If the nerves hold up and I make it through the whole film the post-screening comments and conversations will be interesting!

Any other features at the 10th Belfast Film Festival you're especially looking forward to checking out?

Truthfully haven't had a minute to have a look at the programme, I've been flat out trying to get Cup Cake finished!

Favourite wee buns?

Carrot cake I guess.

Cup Cake gala screening is on April 21 at 7.00pm at the Movie House, Dublin Road. Check out more films as part of the Belfast Film Festival at and see more on Colin McIvor's films at

Eddie Mullan