An tEarrach Thiar: #2 Research
 
 We're approaching the release date for An tEarrach Thiar, a film I directed at Paper Panther, co-produced with the Cartoon saloon, featuring Lisa Hannigan & Kíla on music! So over the next few weeks I'll be popping up some process posts from the project here. 

Based on a poem by Máirtín Ó Direáin, the film takes place in that golden hour, as the sun sets on a spring day on the island of Inis Mór.

Here I'll be talking a little bit about the research process of the project.

 Straw Island Lighthouse, Inis Mór

An tEarrach Thiar is a slow, contemplative poem, languishing on the details of the days labour and the scenery of the Island. Even though the language is quite evocative and suggestive, it is rooted in a specific sense of time and place, which helped a lot, in terms of developing the look of the project.

I knew from Máirtín's biography that he lived on the island up until the late-1920s. Although already familiar with the tradition and culture on the island, to make sure I wasn't making too many assumptions or romanticising the lifestyle, I did a good bit of research on the history of Inis Mór and what it was like in that time period, including costuming, agricultural techniques, and equipment used. Thanks to the IFI Film Archive I tracked down 'Aran of the Saints'  a documentary set on Inis Mór and released in 1932. A documentary on Máirtín Ó Direáin's work by Macdara Ó Curaidhín called 'An Charraig Stoite,' featured footage from 'Aran of the Saints'

This film was invaluable in immersing myself into the relevant time period, and though it suffers from the stiffness of documentaries of the time (as well as being a defacto commercial for the Irish Catholic Church), there is a certain irrepressible character that shines through the formality they tried to impose.

'Hands: Currach Makers'

In addition to these documentaries I also referenced David and Sally Shaw-Smith's craft series 'Hands', especially 'Currach Makers' along with some elements of Robert J. Flaherty's 'Man of Aran' -  all of which were set on the Aran Islands.

Bill Doyle: The Aran Islands

Another real treasure was the photographic work of Bill Doyle. He's has multiple books on the Aran Islands, and rural life in the remote west, including one documenting a funeral on Inis Meáin which is just incredible. 

Bill Doyle: Island Funeral

The majority of his work is monochrome, and even though much more contemporary than Aran of the Saints, it still feels like a place out of time.

As well as these secondary sources, I also paid a number of visits to Inis Mór, walking the roads, and trying to build a continuity between different locations.

The island itself feels like it's trapped between the immensity of the ocean and the sky. I knew that I wanted to have a passerby, a bystander, witnessing the things being described in the poem, so this helped a lot in regards planning what you would encounter going from point A to point B on the island.

Animation by Ciara Daly Nolan

In general there is a to and fro between the land and the sea in the text, which I wanted to incorporate into the visuals. This would create some element of tension or anticipation as the film develops, which would work as a counterpoint to the measured nature of the song.

It took a good bit of trial and error before I figured out how to weave a through-thread connecting the somewhat disparate elements described in the text, eventually arriving on premise of the journey of a child on their way to meet their father at the shore.

Photo collage of the north eastern side of the island

This would permit some intercutting between the child's walk to shore and the father's return from sea, as well as use of 'b-roll' showing scenes from around the island; scenes that perhaps the child comes across on the way from the cliffs to the shore. This also allowed a denouement after the climax point of their meeting, walking together back to their home, which matches up thematically with the song's reprisal of the chorus at the very end.

'Hands: Currach Makers' 

Lastly but most importantly, yes there were dogs on the island and they are very nosey too.

The next posts on art direction and design and animation are going to be patron-only, but there are a few mini scene process posts that will be visible to all coming up too.

Look forward to hearing what your thoughts might be so far. Let me know if you have any questions!