The Mr Motivator of NI Movie-making

Brian Philip Davis is creating chances in NI's film industry

Click to watch Brian Philip Davis' video for Oppenheimer's Breakfast In NYC (4.53mb)

LISTEN to an interview with Brian Philip Davis (1.95mb). This interview is part of November's Podcast.

Young filmmaker Brian Philip Davis has his feet on the ground but his eyes set on the stars. As well as producing music videos, he has two short films to his name, and no plans to stop.

A graduate of the University of Ulster, via a brief time spent studying in New Jersey, his first short Inside is a 'noir' tale with a suitably alienated protagonist, a small victory that takes its stylistic cues from Darren Arnofsky, the claustrophobic black and white from Pi and the quick-edit jump cuts from Requiem For A Dream.

‘For something that was made with no money, it’s done okay,’ says Davis. ‘It was shown at the Foyle Film Festival last year and Belfast film festival this year.'

The young director had no problem jumping straight into the darker heart of movie-making, with Inside

‘A lot of people have come to me and told me what it was all about. It’s another piece out there and people have responded to it – most of them positively.’

The Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission has celebrated its most successful year to date, co-financing ten feature-scale productions in the 05-06 financial year.

In the past, features written and produced outside of NI have often used the country as ravaged backdrop on which to paste jaded character types. Films like Resurrection Man, In The Name Of The Father and Patriot Games have used NI’s colourful history as dramatic fodder with mixed results, sometimes simplifying stories with Hollywood gloss to make the tales more palatable to international audiences.

Skipping swiftly over Brad Pitt’s cringeworthy accent as a Cookstown-based IRA man in The Devil’s Own, features made in NI tend to focus on stories taking place within, but separated from Northern Ireland’s political struggles.

The movie based on Colin Bateman’s novel Divorcing Jack, Kris Marshall’s peace-loving fop in The Most Fertile Man In Ireland, and Terry Loane’s Mickybo and Me tell the stories of lives lived on the edges of the traditional divide.

‘That’s becoming a thing of the past,’ says Davis, on the retrogressive themes of past films that have featured Northern Ireland. He believes that productions from NI’s burgeoning industry will continue to embrace more varied ideas.

‘I don’t think that kind of thing is going to fly too far any more. It’s not going to appeal to an audience outside of this country in this day and age.’

Davis quickly followed Inside with The Poet and the Bear, a budgeted and collaborative production.

‘It was written by an illustrator, Barry Falls, who was putting a script together for a screenwriting competition in Belfast. He came up with ‘The Poet and the Bear’.

The story follows the fortunes of a young aspiring artist, who has an unlikely encounter with a maniacal grizzly, and the deceased French poet Rimbaud.

‘I read it, loved it and thought it would make an ideal next piece.’

Although NI might not yet be known as a hub for cinema, the increasing amount of productions, and their world-class quality, means that film-making is becoming a viable career in NI, now more so than ever.

‘There are a certain percentage of people that are always going to be interested in making films,’ says Davis, who realises that a pro-active approach is the only one to take.

‘If you start making things and getting them out there, the other people that are trying to do this will come to you and say ‘hey, I’m trying to do this too.'

‘I’ve been lucky enough to get some jobs on other people’s productions. I think it’s easy enough to get into the ‘film industry’, as a member of the crew or in a department, if you have something to offer. Since I left college, there’s always been something in production’.

‘We’ve just finished 26 episodes of Bel’s Boys, a kid’s drama series, the first of its kind to come out of Northern Ireland. I’ve also just finished working in the art department of a feature film, Kings, which is, as far as I know, the first Irish-language feature film to be shot here.’

Davis’ hands-on approach to creating opportunities in his chosen field led to a creative partnership with the band Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer are one of Belfast’s more recent success stories, enjoying nationwide radio play and a tour of the USA after being signed by Bar/None Records. Davis created the video for their track ‘Breakfast In NYC’, a video which is the definition of a simple idea, well executed.

‘Keeping it simple is definitely something that I try to do,’ he says. The video features a selection of decorative Polaroids which, as well as documenting the band’s time on the road thus far, make for a warm and sentimental sequence.

‘When you have no money, you really have to make the film in the preparation, in the pre-production. Hopefully all the work you put in beforehand will show on the day.' including an unsettling, ear-slicing finale.