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Banjoman: When Grit Met Graft


Meet Banjoman Films, the Irish production company killing it with determined creative prowess and gripping narratives

Banjoman: When Grit Met Graft
What does a young boy, his martial arts obsessed little sister, and a skinhead bully have in common? 

A Banjoman and a string of advertising film awards…

Nissan’s 2017 ‘No More Nice Car’ ad worked to reposition the comfortable-if-not-that-cool brand as a literal force to be reckoned with. The concept, created by creative agency In The Company of Huskies, and screenplay, whipped up by Banjoman Films, featured two siblings terrorised by a local ruffian - weaving a tale of trial, transformation and eventual victory. A smart metaphor for Nissan’s new attitude, the spot garnered international attention for its original story and heartfelt direction - picking up numerous awards including a 2018 Young Directors Award, the Grand Prix prize at ADFX and two silver 2019 AME awards.

Nissan - No More Nice Car from Banjoman Films on Vimeo.

Not just an important statement for the brand, the ad also marked an important milestone for the multi-faceted production company. Now, Banjoman are a firm presence at the table - pitching and securing big jobs with global and domestic brands such as Nissan, Teeling Whiskey, Sudocrem and Woodie’s. But, at their inception in 2015, the platform was essentially born out of Dermot’s desire to direct and shoot his own films. Unusually, he started on a completely different career trajectory - studying Business Marketing at university, deciding to ‘follow the road most trod’. However, once his bachelor’s had wrapped up, Dermot was finally able to pursue his curiosity, following up quickly with a Masters in Digital Filmmaking. 

Started as a passion project but rapidly picking up steam, Dermot and Banjoman entered the industry with the mettle and moxie that would become synonymous with the brand. Adopting an approach of ‘nothing to lose,’ they acquired experience at a rate of knots, backing up bold confidence with hard graft and grit. 

“We started with Havas Dublin on work for Lucozade Sport. We were rejected for the spot on the basis that we didn’t have anything similar or of the same level on our reel. So, we went away, found a rugby-player mate of ours and mocked up my vision for the spot. I shot it exactly as if it was the real deal. We took it straight back to Havas to prove that we could do it. They loved it and the next gig was ours,” Dermot recalls. 

Whilst Lucozade Sport was one of Banjoman’s first official clients, Dermot had previously bartered his way into creating and directing - even accepting a suit as payment for his work. 

“Now it seems madness but getting paid in the form of a suit back then was fantastic,” Dermot laughs. “The economic downturn hit us badly, finances were stretched, my graduation was coming up and I had no suit. So, I walked into Louis Copeland and asked to create an ad for them. We agreed that if they ended up using it, they’d give me a suit. It was kind of perfect.” 

Now, four years after conception and Dermot’s role as founder has changed exponentially as he chooses to solely direct. Head of production and longtime best mate Matt D’Arcy is the company’s main point of contact.

“I always knew I wanted him on board. We’d been in the same class at school and he had worked in agencies throughout college; he’s very organised, disciplined and stern - a good polar opposite to myself. People just love working with him,” Dermot says. 

Matt’s presence at Banjoman was, however, interrupted briefly with a six-month stint in the world of professional rugby. 

“A year into his work with us and he got signed on a short-term contract with Munster Rugby. Ultimately it didn’t work out and Munster’s loss was our gain. Professional sport is always lingering to take him away but hopefully as he gets a bit greyer and a bit older, those chances will disappear,” Dermot jokes. 

Banjoman’s ability to switch between script writing and treatments, directing and producing is their unique selling point in a fractionalised industry - something developed by repeatedly turning their hands to projects that stretch their creativity. 

Homestore + More - The Reunion (Directors Cut) from Banjoman Films on Vimeo.

Homestore + More, Ireland’s leading independent homewares retailer has been a direct client of Banjoman, returning regularly to commission emotionally resonant spots. Fantastically, the stories that have made the brand so recognisable aren’t plucked out of thin air - instead the Banjoman team draw on real life experiences to create the stand-out spots. 

‘The Reunion’, one of Homestore and More’s most successful campaigns, went viral through its emotional intelligence and story-craft quality. The spot is actually based on head of production Matt’s brother who lives in Australia, returning each year to visit their dad. 

“We love Homestore + More. They’re a brand and team with whom it’s always a pleasure to work. Ciarán [Dooley] has been given the freedom to direct to write his own scripts and develop his own voice - it’s an incredibly rare privilege. Having worked together for so long now, there’s a shorthand between them and us, everything feels familiar, as though going home for Christmas. It’s really great,” Matt says. 

Teeling - Dublin Reborn from Banjoman Films on Vimeo.

More recently, Banjoman have been showcasing all their strengths, collaborating with Teeling Whiskey to produce, write and direct ‘Dublin Reborn’. Taking an already-formed idea to Teeling’s door, Dermot pitched and sold the idea of a re-imagined Dublin - centred around the city’s historic vigour, the tenacity of Dublin’s rich busking culture and how whiskey could be at the centre of it all.

“I knew I wanted to do it very visually” Dermot explains. “We could have had him rapping over the whole spot or heard the dialogue between the two characters, but the music really brought the emotion, allowing us to just let the visuals tell the story. It’s not about the actual genre of music - it’s the attitude, the spirit.” 

Having learnt the structures, Banjoman expanded their team, all the while keeping in mind their wish to stay lean and agile. Currently, Dermot, Matt and executive producer Pat Hinkson represent four directors across a spectrum of genres. 

“Our strategy is to represent a small roster of competitive, diverse directors. Our priority will always be to develop the reels of the epic talent we already have before any rapid roster growth,” Dermot says. “Every-time we bring on a new director, it is a standout moment when thinking of milestones. Early on, we took on Ciarán [Dooley], having met during agency work. We produced a spec commercial for him - Samsung’s ‘The Loneliest Boy in the World’, and it was fantastic to see this translate into agency work straight away.” 

Banjoman’s roster also includes documentary style director Mia Mullarkey and comedy director AJ Colomb. 

“Mia is totally driven by characters and really uses her incredible documentary style to capture authentic and honest voices from people. AJ, our first comedy director, brings cinematic-quality humour to our team. Not only is she funny but she has a dense knowledge of directing for screen. It’s a brilliantly diverse lineup,” Dermot beams. As a director himself, Dermot is known to draw out raw performances in edgy brand films and commercials. 

Looking to the future, Banjoman’s main priority for 2019 is to pitch and treat on scripts explicitly appropriate for its directors. 

“From a commercial point of view, we want to get in the room for the best scripts in town - we’ve already had an amazing start to the year with scripts from agencies. This year will see us enter the film market with two short-films, so keep an eye out for Ciarán’s TWIN and a film we produced, HEDY - both on the festival circuit this year,” Dermot says. 

From jockeying for spots and bartering for payment to now bench-marking a level of agile excellence, Banjoman Films is the product of daring, fortitude and mastery. 

“We were self-made because there was no other way - absolutely no other avenue. Now, we are fortunate enough to have it mostly figured out because we’ve done some really good work with really great brands. Because of the time and graft put into learning our craft, we get to create something from nothing and put it out in the world. It’s an unparalleled feeling.” 

Behind the scenes of Teeling Whiskey ‘Dublin Reborn’ campaign directed by Dermot Malone.

Behind the scenes of Teeling Whiskey ‘Dublin Reborn’ campaign directed by Dermot Malone.

Ciarán Dooley on set of his short-film TWIN.

Behind the scenes of PS4 (PlayStation4) Survival directed by Dermot Malone.
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Banjoman, Mon, 15 Apr 2019 15:07:26 GMT