An interview with Niall McKay, Executive Director and Curator of Irish Screen America


McKay is a New York-based Emmy award-winning independent producer and director who hails from Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow, Ireland, and who created this new venture out of the multi city film festivals that he previously founded and produced in New York (Irish Film New York) and San Francisco, and co-founded in Los Angeles.

Cinema Without Borders: Please tell us about Irish Screen America (ISA) and its goals.
Niall McKAY : Irish Screen America, formerly known as Irish Film New York, supports and guides Irish media-makers by showcasing their work and fostering partnerships in the two largest cities for the entertainment industry in the United States – New York and Los Angeles. The organization holds screenings, industry panels, discussions and master classes throughout the year.

In New York, the annual film festival is held at New York University. The Irish Screen America/Los Angeles film festival is held at the University of Southern California.

Irish Screen America was founded by Irish filmmaker and producer Niall McKay and is produced out of his media production company, Media Factory.

CWB: We understand that you previously founded, produced and/or programmed Irish Film Festivals in New York and San Francisco and Los Angeles.  How does the new entity differ?
NM: Irish Screen America combined the Irish Film Festivals in New York and Los Angeles into a single entity.

CWB: ISA has recently produced its inaugural film festivals in New York and Los Angeles. Can you tell me about the curatorial style of the festivals and generally the kinds of films that you look to showcase?
NM: We showcase new Irish talent, contemporary Irish Film, TV, web and Animation. Our principal programming aim is to bring content that would otherwise not be seen or available to a US audience. We also aim to showcase new Irish filmmakers and content makers and help them find a market and support in the US.

CWB: Tell us about upcoming ISA events
NM: We hope to expand the number of events that we do during the year. Ideally, we’d bring at least one screening per quarter to LA and and New York audiences. Furthermore, we’ve had much success in building a local network of Irish and Irish interested production personnel.  We are not just building a festival but a community. We found that our local Los Angeles and New York Irish filmmaker programs were very successful.

CWB: Who supports the organization?
NM: We’re supported by The Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland, Tourism Ireland, NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, USC School of Cinematic Arts, Moet and Northern Ireland Bureau.

CWB: Can you tell me about this year’s recent festivals?
NM: We really had something for everybody this year. From “Traders,” a tense thriller set in a gritty Dublin, to “After the Dance,” a beautiful story about adoption and immigration. Another highlight was Gerard Barrett’s haunting portrayal of a son of an alcoholic, “Glassland”.
This year, we had several shorts programs that didn’t just show that top ten shorts of the year but showed new Irish Talent or Local Irish Filmmakers.

CWB: Are you seeing any specific trends or themes amongst Irish films and filmmakers?
NM: Irish film is moving from one of telling very specific Irish stories to telling universal stories set against an Irish background. I think that this more global approach will mean that our films will become more popular both inside and outside of Ireland.

CWB: What else should attendees look forward to during the year?
NM: We will have a number of supported screenings of films such as “Brooklyn” and “Room”. We’ll also be working hard to create a network of Irish filmmakers.

CWB: How do you see the progress of Irish Cinema in general during this last year?
NM: It’s been a good year for Irish Cinema, there were 5 Irish films in Toronto, five in Sundance, two in the New York Film Festival, two in Telluride, two in Cannes. One has to remember that the entire budget of the Irish Film Board is about 10 million. Compare that to last year’s US top Oscar winner “Birdman” which was about 17 million.

CWB: Do you think that Irish Screen America will help Irish films find distributors here in the states?
NM: I think Irish Screen America is most useful for New Irish Talent rather than well-established filmmakers. We have in the past helped films find distributors, get into major festivals and helped filmmakers find representation.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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