At this year’s Transilvania International Film Festival, “Yellow Bread” sat down with the Irish animator, director and artist, Cashell Horgan, to talk about his short film “The Clockmaker’s Dream”, screening in the “Shadows Shorts” Competition program at the Romanian cinematic event, as well as the current Irish Film scene, short films and his next projects.
Can you talk about your background and how you got into film?
Cashell Horgan: I studied multimedia in Dublin and then, I specialized in animation. I animated for a number of years, making shorts, and then I ended up teaching animation. I’ve always had a passion to move into live action as well. But, my training comes from animation.
What can you say about your work so far?
C.H.: We’ve done stop motion – clay animation – and we’ve made a number of shorts that worked quite well. In fact, we’ve won a few awards at festivals. And then, the rest of my work would be in painting and writing.
Originally, “The Clockmaker’s Dream” was supposed to be stop motion, right?
C.H.: Yes. Because I’d spent two years working on a 13-min claymation and I didn’t want to spend another two years of my life working, I said: “Let’s try this as a live action just to see if we can apply the same sort of principle, story, vision and style to a live action and see how that might work.” So, really, that was kind of an experiment. We also wanted to see what kind of a time constraint we had, so we we just played with the idea and the story a bit. So, hence the masks and the characters, which is all quite animated, quite cartoony.
And, how did that come about? Was it the idea from the beginning, and therefore an inherent part of the film?
C.H.: Yes. It was. It was always there, because the concept was that he was the creator and these anthropomorphic figures and creations were partly animal and partly human. They were also kind of archetypes of what you would find as characters in our society in a small town in Ireland. It was playful.
Where did you find the inspiration for the story?
C.H.: It’s a funny one. As far as the themes are concerned, it comes from the idea of love – first love, losing love, grief and searching for romantic love again. And then, I suppose, when studying Buddhism and philosophy, you realize there are many other types and forms of love that you could extend to family and society, which is “Agape”. A lot of the inspiration also came from the early clockmakers and automaton-makers in History.
The setting and visual style come from the 19th Century? Was it always supposed to be like this?
C.H.: Yes. It was.
Why did you choose that period and that setting?
C.H.: Because I love the idea of the mechanical, the electronics. So, it’s kind of an old world where you can take apart something and reassemble it and it’s where it differs from the digital world in which we live. That was the choice for a more steam punk mechanical clockwork universe rather than the present digital world.
Would it be fair to say it’s also set in a kind of post-apocalyptic world?
C.H.: It’s a microcosmic world; it’s a clock within a clock within a clock. That’s the idea. It’s symbolizing the idea of a creator that creates a world and stands to lose it. The clockmaker is just like you and me. It’s how we involve ourselves in this world. We’re the creators of our own world.
The film is very crafty. Can you talk about the shooting process?
C.H.: We spent a lot of time storyboarding. Ian McCaffrey is the storyboarder – He did a good storyboarding. He did the “Penny Dreadful” TV series and the film “A Monster Calls”. I was working with him and a lot of the shots were pre-planned. The d.o.p, Mark Waldron, is also a very good stills photographer, so it was kind of a conscious choice to go framing. It’s almost like a still picture and the action happens within the frame like it was shot before. We fixed the camera and the things would be happening within the frame and then it was a matter of working with traditional artists, mask-makers. We wanted it to be very hands-on and we used the least amount of CGI we could.
How did you get Jared Harris on board?
C.H.: We did a cast and crew screening in Limerick, at the Richard Harris Film Festival, and he’s one of the patrons of that festival. He actually did a Q&A afterwards and I went straight up to him and asked him: “Did you like it, Jared?” And, he was like: “Yeah! What you did with the money…Well done!” And, I said: “No! Did you really like it?” And, he said he did, after which I asked him to do the narrator’s voice. He agreed. And, that was it. The next week, we went to London and recorded the voiceover. He didn’t charge and that was his support. It was really great to work with him. He’s a very talented actor. It was a real bonus for the movie getting him to do the voiceover because it really helps to have a name and a man that talented to help push the film.
What do you think the message of the short is? Is it: “Love makes the world go round” and not money…?
C.H.: Yes, it is. It is “Agape.” “Agape” is the word for love for mankind, for humanity, and that’s the message. Interacting like a clockmaker, with his creation. As you interact, you create, you create situations; as you meet people, you create things. So, that’s the message of the film. Love isn’t just about loving one person – it’s that too – that’s the romantic idea. But, other than the romantic idea, there’s the other, grander kind of concept of love. That is “Agape”, the message that is on the clock tower. We’re all capable of that greater love…
The film was selected in a script competition and was awarded part of the funding by Limerick City of Culture in 2014. Now that it is complete, “The Clockmaker’s Dream” is one of the film legacy projects to promote Limerick as a filming destination in Ireland and part of the Limerick City’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2020. Can you talk about the film’s role in the promotion of Irish film and how it contributes to the current strength of the Irish film industry?
C.H.: It was to be shot on location, and the idea was to promote the area by using it as location. So, that way, we utilized the surrounding areas on the city scape and people around to cooperate on that. It shows a lovely part of Ireland. That town actually exists as a tourist attraction.
Would you agree with the statement that the Irish film industry is currently experiencing a boom? And, that the Irish shorts are really, really strong?
C.H.: Yes. The standard is growing, growing, growing… And then, you have the Irish Film Board and city councils that are very much into promoting and supporting talent through short films as they see it as an investment for the future, for them to gain experience towards feature films. So, they are very strong and they are doing very, very well. It’s grown a lot in the last few years. The talent’s always been there.
What do you think of the short film scene? Do you agree with the general idea that it is a showcase of talent before the feature film?
C.H.: Yes, and no. They can do that. They can be a showcase of talent, of course, and they can be the kind of trailer promo for a feature concept. But, really they are an art form in themselves and it’s like a short story writing vs. a novel. Some ideas can only be expressed in a short form and that’s why short films are always going to be there. They are their own entity, their own thing. They’re a beautiful art form.
What are your next projects? Do you have anything in the pipeline?
C.H.: Yeah! We’re finishing another fantasy short based on fairy mythology. We are also working with Pat McCabe on a feature film, “Heartland”. We’re developing that into a screenplay. That’s a western set in Midland Ireland. It’s a really great piece of work. I’m sort of looking forward to that!