Julie Ryan reflects on the global success in film and television of MK1 Studios.
Life is challenging, interesting and very busy indeed for film and television producer Julie Ryan, the founder of MK1 Studios and a champion of new creative independent productions.
With its main office in Dublin, MK1 Studios also has bases in Cork and Los Angeles. Julie, who hails from Cork, founded MK1 Studios to promote diversity, inclusion and innovation through storytelling, and it has been delivering on that promise for almost a decade.
MK1 collaborates with a team of creatives developing exciting new age concepts for film and TV from development through to completion.
Prominent recent productions include The Young Offenders, and current film There You Will Find Me, a US/Irish co-production directed by Brian Baugh and starring Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave and rising Irish actress Saoirse Monica Jackson, star of The Derry Girls.
In broad terms, what is involved in producing for film and TV? For example, your latest US/Irish film co-production, the romantic comedy There You Will Find Me?
“Producing a film for me means being a part of everything. On this film, I met the US producer and director when they initially visited Ireland.
"We really connected and came up with a plan on how we could make this film in Ireland.
"The film is based on a book and from there the script was written and we began to cast and crew up for the movie.
"Post-production is split between Nashville and Windmill Lane in Dublin, so it’s very much an international film.
“It was a wonderful experience making this film and we filmed in Dublin and Carlingford in the summertime (where the locals brought a great flavour to set).
"The movie is due for release later in 2020. One of the most exciting parts of There You’ll Find Me is the movie within the movie called Dawn of the Dragons, which is a medieval fantasy epic.
“I had the pleasure of being a stunt rider and producing on horseback which is always an extra bonus.”
How does the work you have done with Disney, Lionsgate, HBO, Sony, Paramount and others inform your approach to producing films?
“When I first worked in Los Angeles, I was in the unique position of making behind the scenes documentaries for major feature films.
"We interviewed some of the biggest producers, directors, cast and crew in the world and I gained insight into how people who are top of their game operate.
“This was invaluable to me. Having the doors of those studios open up to a young Irish woman from Cork felt like the keys to the kingdom and I took advantage of every second of it.
"One of the most important things I learnt is that sometimes even the people at the top don’t know how to do everything.
“That was very freeing information as it can feel mentally taxing when you are consistently learning new skills and sometimes there is no blueprint.
"You have to trust your instincts and if you get it wrong, then you fix it and move on.
“I think it’s always important to question why something is done in a particular way and you have to question if that is still the way things should be done.
"Changing your perspective changes your experience. If the path before you is clear, then you are probably on someone else’s.
“I came up through the ranks and learned how to produce in the world of non-scripted entertainment in the Irish networks RTE and TV3.
"When I started producing scripted works, I applied most of the same principles, I learned from my mistakes and then googled the rest.”
What are are the benefits for MK1 of operating from bases in Dublin, Cork and Los Angeles?
“I moved to Dublin from Cork over 17 years ago and have lived there on and off besides living abroad for periods of time.
“Working from Cork of course is second nature to me and it was wonderful to get the opportunity to produce The Young Offenders with Cork cast and crew.
“It was over 10 years ago when I first moved to Los Angeles and I am delighted I can continue to work with such brilliant US producers and movie studios on moving back to Ireland.
“A lot of my really great friends live in Los Angeles so it’s like a home away from home for me.
"When I started out, all I wanted was to work in Hollywood and then when I worked in Hollywood, I wondered how I could bring Hollywood to Ireland.
"I love living in Ireland as well and when I formed my company it became a realisation that I could live and work in Ireland whilst still collaborating with the US as well.
“I really enjoy introducing Ireland to US producers; we’ve endless beautiful landscapes all over the country just waiting to be filmed and buckets of Irish talent to boot in front and behind the camera.
“Making films is really hard work so you might as well travel somewhere beautiful; where the government incentivise US investment and top it up with S481 [the film Corporation Tax credit scheme].
"You also get to make a movie with fun Irish cast and crew who are top of their game. It really is a no-brainer.”
Is your ability to collaborate central to your work? For instance, your new Irish/Polish co-production I Never Cry, which you’ve produced with Akson Studios?
“Yes, I love collaborating with other countries and other companies. I’ve worked on official and unofficial co–productions and it’s really interesting to learn how different crews work in different countries with contrasting workflows.
“It helps to stay innovative seeing how different systems work especially with funding.
“On I Never Cry, I worked with Jan Kwiencinski from Akson Studios in Warsaw.
"We had quite the’ funding jigsaw’ from the Polish Film Institute, Screen Ireland, Eurimages, Mazovia Warsaw Film Fund and Warmia-Masuria Film Fund.
"You also get to travel and spend time in your co-producer’s country and learn more about their culture which is always a plus.”
Your 2019 productions are following fast upon your 2018 work on the Irish film — A Bend In The River and the US-Irish production Christmas Perfection. These are clearly busy times for MK1. Is Irish independent film and TV generally in a good period?
“Yes, I think so. Everyone is very busy at the moment which is brilliant for the industry as a whole.
"It’s great to see so many Irish movies entering the world stage and Irish talent hitting the headlines at major award nights like the Oscars and the Golden Globes.
"It has been a busy few years for MK1. Christmas Perfection was a lot of fun to make filmed in Dublin and Wicklow."
What next on the horizon for MK1 Studios?
“I’m currently in pre-production on another European film co-production and also on a TV series with the US.
"Along with making indigenous Irish film, I hope to continue building strong relationships with the US as it’s a tried and tested method for me.
“I’ve made (most) of the mistakes already!”
Julie’s producing film credits include:
Julie’s previous producer credits include: