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Producer Níall Carver discusses the making of Heyday: The Mic Christopher Story
15 Oct 2019 : Nathan Griffin
IFTN caught up with producer Níall Carver to find out more about how the documentary came about, deciding a structure and narrative and the importance of documenting Mic Christophers story.

Heyday: The Mic Christopher Story is a heartfelt story that charts singer-songwriter Mic Christopher's humble beginnings busking on the streets of Dublin, his rise to rock star, the near-fatal accident that left him millimetres from death, through to his final year where he lead an entire generation of Irish musicians onto fame, success and new artistic highs.

Mic’s story is told through the eyes of those whose lives he touched including Oscar-winner Glen Hansard, Actor/writer Sharon Horgan, Mike Scott of The Waterboys, Bronagh Gallagher, Josh Ritter, Lisa Hannigan, Colm Mac Con Iomaire and many more. This epic story of extraordinary music and friendship will both touch and inspire.

The film was produced by Níall Carver of Speed of Life Films Production, Alan Leonard and Fiona Graham of Single Cell Films with Mike O’Flaherty and Donal Scannell featuring as executive producers. Alan Leonard directed the film and co-wrote the script with Níall Carver. Cinematography by Fiona Graham, music by Mic Christopher and The Mary Janes, and additional score by David Cunningham and Eoin O’Callaghan.

IFTN spoke with producer Níall Carver ahead of the film’s screening at the Kerry International Film Festival on Sunday, October 20th at 2:30 pm in Killarney.

IFTN: How did this project first come about?

“It actually began nine years ago when I approached Maureen Christopher, Mic’s sister, with a view to making a radio documentary on Mic. I knew a few friends of Mic, though I had never known him myself. I was a huge fan of his music and was fascinated by his life-story and the effect he had on others in his brief lifetime. I was doing a Communications Degree at DCU and the radio doc became my thesis project. I was then also producing radio for RTÉ Digital and had plans to find a home there for the radio doc though after graduating from DCU, I was sidetracked from the project, and never got the radio doc to air. It was then when I brought the story to director Alan Leonard, four years ago, that the possibility of transposing it to the screen came about.”

IFTN: What led you to revisit this project so many years later?

“It was still a huge fascination to me and still glaringly obvious that it was a story that needed to be told - albeit one that I had by then put aside. When I shared it with Alan, he was immediately hooked. The story alone kind of blew him away and then when he heard the music he shared that awe that I had - seeing Mic as an unheralded world-class Irish talent, who really was at the top of his game when he was struck down. We then decided that if we were going to do it, we needed to do Mic, his music, and his story justice.”

IFTN: How did the story develop over the years and how did you settle on the format that you chose?

“We did initially briefly think about a shorter form TV documentary, but that idea quickly ballooned, by virtue of the sheer scale of the story. The story we told on screen is somewhat different from the one I had told in my radio doc. For one thing, we ended up, eschewing the Guinness ad, which had been the intro hook of my radio doc.”

“We realised that the story was itself so rich and epic in nature that the Guinness ad and some other ‘chapters’ in his life were surplus to our requirements for the feature film format. In the end, it’s on the longer side as a 100 mins film, as we did include quite a lot of Mic and The Mary Janes’ (his band) music - which we felt was essential. It’s not easy to condense a life into a neat little film-sized package, let alone a life like Mic’s. We had a 3-hour film for quite a while. Alan and I talked and talked tirelessly about what to leave out or to leave in, and then himself and Fiona laboriously shaved it down in the edit suite.”

IFTN: The film is directed by Alan Leonard and produced by Fiona Graham. How did they influence the project?

“Alan has a great understanding of film and narrative as well as being a very visual and technical director - he’s quite the dark horse of Irish cinema. He really made the film what it is. Fiona was a great technical producer, who had all the gear and crew at her fingertips, as well as being DOP and editor.”

IFTN: The film features several touching testimonials from Mic’s family and friends, many of whom are well known Irish creatives. How did you go about arranging these interviews and gaining access to Mic’s inner circle?

“That was my end. I retraced a lot of my steps from the radio doc. Maureen by this point trusted me somewhat - at least she knew I was primarily a fan and gradually I think she saw that I wanted to do right by his legacy. This then carried sway with all the other friends and family. Once Maureen gave the project her blessing, I approached people one by one. Musicians and actors are always moving so it can be hard to pin them down, but like most things, belief, perseverance and hard work pays off. Of course, Mic himself comes with such gigantic goodwill, so the project benefited from that as people saw we were bona fide in our intent. Others already knew what we knew, that his story had to be told, so they were happy to help.”

IFTN: The film has enjoyed a great festival run thus far, screening at the Galway Film Fleadh and picking up an award at the IFI Documentary Festival. What has the reaction been so far?

“It has been wonderful. There was a certain nervousness and tension in our camp until the film came out, as we knew how much Mic meant to so many people. But the response has been really great. There have been lots of tears and lots of laughs too, in cinemas so far. By way of Mic’s story, the film also focuses on the seminal Grafton Street busking scene of the late ’80s, and that chapter, in particular, has been enthusiastically enjoyed. Mic really did feature so strongly in the lives of a whole generation of Irish musicians, and people seem to love that celebratory nature of his story now.”

Heyday: The Mic Christopher Story screens at the KIFF on Sunday, October 20th at 2:30 pm in Killarney.




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