In 2018, we were awarded funding from Failte Ireland to upgrade the visitor experience in line with Ireland’s Ancient East’s brand. Part of the project was to replace the outdated audiovisual presentation that was shown to visitors before their tour. Tourist attractions usually put a massive project like this to tender but the media team (Chris, Alan and I) decided to take on this exciting project. From pre-production, production to post-production, everything was done in house by us. A lot of people thought that we were crazy, that we didn’t realize what the project involved, and that we were doomed to fail … I have to admit that at certain times I thought the same but looking back on it now, I can say that I am glad we took on this challenge!
The story that we present at the Park is very broad, we bring the visitors through time from 9000 years ago to the arrival of the Normans. The challenge was to tell our story in a way that would excite, inspire and invite the visitor on a journey. We decided to introduce the visitors to the Park through the story of time traveller Tuan Mac Cairill. You might be familiar with Tuan as he is already present in the Park. He tells his story in our audio guides and we also invite young visitors to complete his trials (physical activities). For those who don’t know Tuan, in Irish Mythology, he is a time traveller and shapeshifter who has witnessed Irish myth and history unfold.
It took weeks, even months, to write and rewrite a script, to break it down, to cast the actors and hire a crew, to schedule the shoot days and arrange every little detail. And before we knew it, it was the week of the shoot! We had scheduled 3 days at the beginning of October 2019 for the shoot. It was actually a very tight schedule, we had a great number of scenes to film each day. As our main character, Tuan was travelling through the ages and meeting different people, the cast was different each day. Oisin (who played Tuan) and Slaney (who played his wife Neala) were the only actors who spent more than one day onsite.
Chris took on the role of the director, Alan was our director of photography and I was the producer. The first day was an eye-opener for the three of us. None of us had a filming background and we were surrounded by a cast and crew that were all professionals. The second day went smoother, we knew what needed to be improved after day one. We started the day later as we had to do a party scene at dusk. Still, we had many scenes to go through and we were under a lot of pressure to film them before nightfall. On the third day, we decided to film the last scene early enough as it was a fight scene and we wanted to have as much sunlight as possible. However, the dusk fell on us without us realising it… At the end of each day, we would all go back to the Fulacht Fiadh restaurant late at night and share a well-deserved meal that the chef had left for us there. As the days of shooting were exhausting and intense, it was lovely to spend some time with the cast and crew and unwind together. Their easy-going attitude really made it an unforgettable experience!
Alan handled the editing part which took a lot of time and patience. The first draft was about 25 minutes long and we knew that it had to be reduced by at least half. It was very difficult for us to decide which scenes could stay and which scenes had to go. We didn’t always agree on what to get rid of and did debate a lot on what should be kept. It was very hard to see a scene on which we had spent 3 or 4 hours left on the cutting room floor. At each step of the way, we had to remember the storyline and see if the scenes were important for the story. Could the visitor understand the story if we got rid of a particular scene? Little by little, Alan shortened the video until it got to the 10 ½- minute mark and until we were happy with it… We were another step closer to finishing our project. The next steps were music and voiceover! Composer Liam Bates did an amazing job creating the music that beautifully accompanies the video. For the voiceover, Chris had the mad idea (so I thought!) to get a new actor to tell Tuan’s story. He thought that the voice of an older man would nicely wrap up the story and show that Tuan went on to live more adventures. I was a bit dubious about it and watched the video many times before I could admit that Chris was right!
It took us two years to complete Tuan’s Journey and it was with a lot of pride (and apprehension) that we presented the final product to our cast and crew for a private screening at the end of July.
The project also included the redesigning of the video room as well as creating a hologram for the Viking house. I will chat about these elements in another blog. Many thanks to all the people who were involved in this project. We are very grateful for all your help and good spirit! Alan, I’m still waiting on a director’s cut ;).