From Ireland With Love: Production Company Motherland Are Globetrotting Their Way to Success

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From NY to Shanghai, Motherland’s directors are winning hearts worldwide not to mention Best Irish Production Company at Kinsale 2019
 From Ireland With Love: Production Company Motherland Are Globetrotting Their Way to Success

Trawling the streets of Ireland in search of an ice cream man, to presenting the chillingly sweet tale to the crowds at renowned global film festivals: it’s been a big year for Ross Killeen, founder of Motherland. 

Jet-setting from one festival to the next, Ross has been busy promoting his stand-out documentary, 99 Problems, to film festival audiences worldwide (Tribeca, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Raindance and Helsinki International to name but a few) winning Audience Award Best Short at Dublin International Film Festival earlier this year.

Following Pinky the ice cream man, the film delves into the multifaceted world of the Dublin ice cream trade which is revealed to be as dark and dangerous as it is light and charming, with rival drivers battling fierce turf wars in order to protect their livelihood. It is no surprise that Motherland is quickly building a great reputation for captivating and emotive storytelling. 

A Future In Features

As a result of the hard work ongoing this year, Ross has been able to develop the feature film side of Motherland, an ambitious step that he says marks a poignant milestone in his company. "It has always been my ambition to work in this area but I didn’t want to do it selfishly. I’ve always wanted Motherland to be a company that could support all of our directors to be able to work in features if they want to. I am so excited to have kicked it off this year.”

Currently shooting in Gibraltar,  P.O.B. has been funded by Screen Ireland to produce a short documentary on the world of competitive young darts players whilst Ross is producing his first feature length documentary, Church of Damo. The feature, much like Ross’s other accomplished works looks at a unique subsect of Irish culture.  Every year, Irish singer, Damien Dempsey (AKA Damo) performs ‘legendary’ Christmas gigs in Ireland. They are not legendary just for the music but for their deeply cathartic and spiritual experience. 

Still from The Church of Damo, directed by Ross Killeen

“The Church of Damo isn’t just about music,” explains Ross. “It explores important issues like mental health and social problems. It looks at how the people of Ireland struggle to deal with issues like addiction, grief and depression through a broken social system and how they come to find different outlets for their emotions as a result.”

Still from The Church of Damo, directed by Ross Killeen

Doing Something Right

GOMO Brand Launch, directed by Rory Hanrahan

Following a busy year for all of Motherland’s directors, the teams’ efforts have resulted in Motherland winning Irish Production Company of the Year at Kinsale Sharks 2019. As Ross humbly puts it, “We must be doing something right. The Kinsale award gives us even more confidence to keep pushing ourselves to take on bigger and bigger projects.” 

Most recent work of note includes Rory Hanrahan’s brand launch for GOMO. His bold and vibrant spot symbolises the communication agency’s dynamic and ambitious approach to creating pioneering work for their clients. Having joined Motherland and returned to his home country only last year Rory has already racked up a serious amount of ads with Motherland including work for eir and Allianz.

Finn Keenan is also adding to Motherland’s global footprint, currently shooting in Shanghai with Nike. His clever storytelling in a relatable spot for Bord Gáis reiterates why he is recognised as a Vimeo staff-picked director and consistently receives international attention. 

Bord Gáis Energy, directed by Finn Keenan

UK-based directing duo James&James have also been busy globetrotting to unearth real people and stories, most recently out in Miami with Company 3 shooting Bikes Up, Guns Down. The captivating short film for DAZED documents Miami’s thriving subculture that rails against gun violence, crime and gangs. Alongside this they have released a number of music promos including the recently released St Francis Hotel Feat. Gaz Coombes Liar Liar Liar music video and a number of fashion commercials for Zara and Brown’s. 

Dazed Presents - Keep Me Sane, directed by James&James

Not short on directors with the talent to cut through traditional advertising tropes, Motherland’s Hugh Mulhern’s ability to explore difficult and under-discussed subjects with great poise not only won him the Emerging Director Award for Best Charity Film 2019 but more metal at Kinsale for his film for Webwise. Based on real life experiences, his second film for Webwise, Connected, is a poignant short that shares an eye-opening look at the pitfalls young people can fall prey to online and the negative effect that it can have on others.

Webwise: Connected, directed by Hugh Mulhern

From Interns to International Award Winners

Not the last of the company’s award-winners, editor at Motherland & Event Junkies (Ross’s branded entertainment venture) John Cutler also picked up a coveted international Shark for Best New Editor this year. Having started as an intern at Motherland in 2013, Ross is thrilled to see John’s work recognised internationally, so early on in his career.

“This year filled me with pride. I’ve always wanted to support young talent and give them the space to grow and both John and Peter (P.O.B) have worked their way up from interns to award-winning filmmakers through Motherland. The opportunities for young people and filmmakers to break into the industry have greatly diminished over the years and if we don’t look to the future of our industry we’ll end up with a talent vacuum,” explains Ross.

Soar - It’s Just A Phase, directed by P.O.B.

“I’ve tried to place great emphasis on nurturing the younger generation and developing their skills. I truly believe a balanced blend of up-and-coming talent and experienced professionals has been a part of our ongoing success. The young bring fresh ideas, approaches and soft skills, and our experienced directors, producers and editors push the envelope and keep us aiming high. Together, the mix of experience ensures we are constantly challenging traditions and pushing ourselves to deliver better.”

Ross also accredits the company’s ongoing success to his producers Tess Bunworth and Keith Bradley. “Both Tess and Keith were brought in to the company because they had extensive experience in short form commercial work. They really are the ones who push every job that extra 10% and give it a dash of special sauce that has made our work stand shoulder to shoulder with our international competitors.”

Commenting on what is in store for the future of Motherland, Ross says: “I never wanted to make a fortune, I wanted to make a living doing the things I love. I wanted my company to support directors to do the things they love and stay true to our ethos of developing authentic, emotive stories. I think we’re doing that now and it’s great. Looking ahead at what’s in store for Motherland next year, we’re planning to work on more international projects, especially with the UK - but mainly keep on doing what we’re doing.” 

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Motherland, 4 months ago