Fired Up For First Full-Length Feature

Filmmaker Vincent Kinnaird is flying high, finds Frazer Orr

What is a filmmaker doing in Belfast? The short answer is, ‘a lot’.

Vincent Kinnaird and Notasuch Films are currently planning their first feature length film, having already produced a music video as well as several short films and documentaries.

Their latest short, The Linnet, has been flying around the world stopping for film festivals in places such as Cannes and LA. There have also been plenty of stops at home with Belfast Film Festival, Foyle Film Festival, The Mid Ulster Film Festival and Cinemagic.

Northern Irish interest in film extends beyond just watching them – it seems that people are queuing up to be involved in production as well.

'We cast The Linnet from a mixture of professional and non-professional actors. It’s very very easy to find very talented people that will go in front of the camera'.

And there’s a similar queue to work behind the scenes.

‘There’s a pool of talent here. I started off as a runner back in the early 90s, so you get to know people. Crew members all along the way always helped out. Even if you’re working on a no-to-low budget.’

Judge the results for yourself. At the Notasuch website you can download the full version of The Linnet. Other examples of Kinnaird’s work are also online. At Channel 4’s 4docs website you can watch Kinnaird’s short documentary on the funeral of George Best.

Websites such as this are a good representation of what is happening in the world of documentary filmmaking. While there would appear to be fewer documentaries appearing on terrestrial television they are appearing in other niche areas – on dedicated cable television channels, on DVD  and on the internet.

As a filmmaker, Kinnaird is unperturbed by these developments.

‘I welcome the change. It creates more space to watch what you want, when you want and I think that’s a good thing'.

The technology involved in filmmaking is also developing at a quick pace. Notasuch films are keeping up. The Linnet was shot on High Definition cameras and contains computer generated imagery.

To animate the star of the film, The Linnet, Kinnaird was tempted to look beyond these shores. Until he discovered John McCloskey at the Nerve Centre in Derry.

‘Eventually, with a bit of trial and error, it worked out. And then we decided to shoot it in High Definition which created a certain level of  technical difficulty and made things a little more tricky. But where there’s a will there’s a way, and the story needed it.’

‘High Definition has a huge advantage as there’s much more detail in the image so when it’s blown up to the big screen it’s sharp and it holds its colours. I think it is great for the future and a lot of HD cameras are coming down in price.’

‘Obviously what goes on the screen is most important, the content and the story, but if you get the balance right between that and the technology it’s the best combination.’

Kinnaird has a wide definition of ‘story’. He considers there to be very little difference between producing fiction and producing documentaries.

‘We have worked across drama and documentary. I’m comfortable working with actors or individuals whose story I’m telling through a documentary. At the end of the day I think film and programme and documentary making is all about storytelling. Yes, the styles are different, but every film has a theme, every film has a story, whether it’s a documentary or a drama.’

In his work he considers Notasuch to be somewhere in the tradition of the Spence Brothers. Twins Noel and Roy have been making films in their spare time for the last 50 years. They were also the subjects of a documentary by Notasuch for BBC NI in 2005.

‘They were doing it before there was any  film commission or film schools. Roy Spence has picked up lots of prizes and has been presented lots of prizes by the greats of the BFI.’

‘The Spences were going out and doing things themselves on no budgets or low budgets. The same way that a lot of younger people who are coming out of college are doing now.

The Spence’s are responsible for NI versions of films such as Frankenstein’s Monster and The Blob. They even built their own cinemas, 'The Tudor' and 'The Excelsior' at their homes.

For any other enthusiasts who want to become filmmakers Kinnaird has the following advice.

‘Go and make whatever it is you want to make with whatever means you have at your disposal. Thereafter start looking to make links in the industry.

‘Try and get experience with other people – everyone’s got some experience to pass on and through my career I’ve always found most other filmmakers and technicians helpful.’