Kinsale Best New Irish Director on how The Lord of the Rings inspired him to pursue his directing career and his award-winning video for Brave Giant
Fergal Costello may only be 26, but he can already tout himself as a multi award-winning director. His Gaviscon and Doritos spec ads have earned him two YDA Awards, and only last year, he picked up a hat trick at the Kinsale Sharks, scoring Best Director, Best New Irish Director and Best Low Budget Music Video for his frantic Brave Giant promo ‘The Time I Met the Devil’.
LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with the budding director to find out what’s in store for him in 2018.
LBB> Can you tell us a bit about your early life, and how you got on the path to becoming a filmmaker?
Fergal Costello> I’ve always had a huge interest in storytelling, from drawing when I was younger to writing short stories. But thinking back on it, I was always thinking of those pieces as movies in my head as opposed to just being drawings or written word narratives. Then I saw The Lord of The Rings trilogy and that completely piqued my interest in filmmaking as a craft.
Filmmaking can, at first, seem super daunting, but as I began reading about the making of The Lord of The Rings films, I began to learn about Peter Jackson and how he made his initial micro-budget films through doing almost everything himself and that felt like something I could do, which was hugely exciting. Then I began making my own shorts, remaking films I liked in woefully bad five-minute versions. I have a version of Sin City where a fifteen-year-old me plays all the characters. That’s somewhere on a hard drive that’ll never see the light of day. But it was all learning the ropes. So making terrible stuff over and over again and going to film school was all hugely helpful in improving the craft.
LBB> After you graduated Ireland’s National Film School, you were picked up as a director for the Irish comedy ‘Republic of Telly’. How did that come about?
FC> That was an insanely lucky series of events. In second year of film school, three of my pals made a hilarious rap song about our hometown. They wanted a video for it and asked me if I’d be up for making it. Pretty much the next day we shot a music video for the tune which was lucky enough to go viral and it got noticed by the guys at Republic of Telly. They decided to remake the video and I worked on the set as a P.A. I was just happy to get my foot in the door. I developed a good relationship with the crew over the following years working on the show as a P.A. and eventually on the camera crew, and when I graduated from film school, I got an offer from Jason Butler, the series producer, to come onboard as a writer, director and editor for the sketches. That was insane and hugely nerve-wracking, but I had a familiarity with the show’s format by that stage which helped a huge amount in starting off as a director there. I owe an enormous amount to that show.
LBB> Last year your video for Brave Giant picked up Best Direction, Best Irish Low Budget Music Video at Kinsale Sharks. You must been chuffed! Were you expecting the video to do as well as it did? What has the reaction been like?
FC> It was amazing! And a huge surprise. It was really nice to have something a bit more irreverent and silly pick up an award, so I was delighted. It kind of re-energizes you too; I’d made a few pieces before that that had been runner up in a few competitions and while it’s always lovely to get something, it can get you down a bit when you’re pipped to the post, so to get a win at a prestigious festival like that was really awesome. I had no idea it would do so well at the time of filming. You never know really, but I knew if we attacked the video with an almost delirious energy in how we shot it, then it could be at least somewhat visceral for an audience. It’s really helped in people taking me a bit more seriously too when I pitch something that might seem a bit crazy on paper. I have something to point to now that might be in the same ballpark tonally that’s done well.
LBB> And where did the inspiration for the music video come from?
FC> My brief when I came onboard was essentially ‘Joe Rooney as a priest, going mad’ [Editor’s note: for the unitiated, Joe Rooney is an Irish comedian and played Father Damo in Father Ted. So, I had loads of free reign with a brief that simple. I’d been watching a lot of movies by David O’ Russell and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy and I thought combining the sort of frantic visual style in those movies with an Irish-comedy edge could be really cool. Also, with Joe Rooney playing the priest I thought it’d be really fun to vaguely hint that this was his character from Father Ted, twenty years later, weathered by age, drink, drugs and sex. Nicolas Cage movies too were a big influence. I’m the biggest Bad Lieutenant fan on the planet.
Joe Rooney’s original priest role in Father Ted
LBB> You more recently directed another music video for Brave Giant, ‘Way to Love’. It’s quite different tonally! Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for this promo?
FC> That was exactly the idea, kind of go in the complete opposite direction tonally. I always want to just try and get better and I thought tackling a romantic story would be a challenge and help me further the cause a bit for myself. The idea stemmed from that notion of doing something romantic, but trying to keep a rough edge intact somewhere to keep it interesting for me. So I thought a romance in the middle of a scrap could be cool visually and offer potential for funny layers of emotional contrast.
LBB> I see you’ve done a few spec ads for Gaviscon and Doritos. Are you itching to get some commercial work under your belt?
FC> For sure, they came during the middle of Republic of Telly’s production schedule so they were a conscious effort by me to try and make more cinematic pieces. The schedule on Republic of Telly’s shoot days were so intense that you wouldn’t necessarily have much time to craft shots, so those spec commercials were definitely an attempt to stay sharp visually. Going forward now, I’d love to get into commercial work more and more.
LBB> What other projects have you been involved in are you particularly proud of?
FC> Last year I made a one-minute short called ‘Time and Space’ that was by far the most personal thing I’ve ever made despite it being so short. I was entering it super late into a competition and didn’t have enough time to give it a proper post-production treatment bar the essentials, but it seemed to resonate with people online and go viral. So that was really rewarding, that something that personal would connect with others. It was nice to see.
LBB> What do you get up to the outside of work to relax and unwind?
FC> Video games, reading and jogging would be the main ones. And watching movies, on days off I’ll happily go through five movies or more. I’m a bit obsessed. I’ve started to get into making music for my own films too which is equal parts relaxing and infuriating.
LBB> What are your goals for the year ahead?
FC> I’m about to go into pre-production on the next film now with Claire Gormley as producer and Philip Blake as DOP. It’s a horror, but trying to be a completely feral thrill-ride too, Wes Craven by way of George Miller. Claire, Phil and I have been working together since the beginning of last year on all the projects mentioned above. We’re lucky enough to have a bit of budget too so we’re trying to up the ante on what we’ve made previously. It’s trying to feel both large-scale in scope, and very intimate emotionally so I can’t wait to do that. All going well, it’s looking like more commercial work and larger scale music video work is beginning to come in so that’s very exciting. I just want to stay as active as possible and make something different and wild every time, the goal is to have my first feature film done before I’m 28, so the eyes are always on the prize.