Mike O’Shea’s line of work has taken him to countless dizzying heights, but none so giddy as being included in the closing credits of what is set to become the top-grossing movie of all time.
Mike and his colleague Cian O’Driscoll are included in the credit roll of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in recognition of their contribution to keeping the film crew safe while working on one of the most vertiginous movie sets: Skellig Michael.
“We [Dingle-based Work at Height and Safety Training] got a call from Pinewood Studies in relation to doing safety work at Skellig Michael about 18 months ago. We didn’t know for three or four months what it was we were working on,” said Mike.
They were tasked with sourcing equipment and organising the logistics of transporting it to the island, liaising with boatmen to make sure everything ran smoothly.
“We had no idea what the movie was or who the actors were. It was probably a couple of weeks before actual filming started before we discovered what was happening. By then, we were fairly heavily involved,” said Mike.
Among their tasks was transporting a 150kg generator to the top of the World Heritage Site, which is traversed by precipitous stone walkways. They also carted lighting equipment, boxes of camera lenses, portaloos, changing rooms, and even giant mirrors, weighing about 30kg.
“We had about 30 people out there for three weeks, travelling to and from the island every day. The work was very physical and we were the first team on and off every day, working for up to 18 hours at a time,” said Mike.
During shooting, they provided safety harnesses for actors and crew and were “very involved with the stars”.
“They were a phenomenally easy bunch to deal with. We had conversations with JJ Abrams, the director. [and] Martin Joy, the supervising location manager. We’ve worked with a lot of film crews over the years and the Star Wars crew were so professional and so easy to deal with,” said Mike.
Their Star Wars involvement has created “a fantastic opportunity going forward”, said Mike, though he professed to having “no idea what a big deal Star Wars was” until he saw two members of Pinewood Studio get highly excited about seeing their own names in the final credits.
“To be honest, it was a small bit wasted on me, I was never a fan,” he said, with most of his youth spent with his head, literally, in the clouds, climbing from age 13 on MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.
So, has he any regrets about working on Star Wars? “In hindsight, given the work involved, we could have charged a lot more,” he said.
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