Galwegian Tim Fleming is one of Ireland’s leading cinematographers and two of his previous films have both won Oscars, so could he make it three in a row with short film The Door up for an Academy Award this year?
Ireland could be in line for one, perhaps two, Academy awards when the Oscars are held on March 7 with The Door and the animations Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty and Secret Of Kells all receiving nominations.
Tim Fleming is originally from Grattan Road in Salthill. These days he is based in Bray, Co Wicklow, and his work takes him all over Ireland and across the European continent. However he maintains his links to his native city through his parents, brothers and sisters, eldest daughter, and grandchild, all of whom reside in Galway.
Tim was the cinematographer on The Door which has been nominated for Best Short Film at this year’s Oscars. It was written and directed by Juanita Wilson and produced by Louise Curran and James Flynn of Octagon Films in Wicklow.
“Juanita was looking for a cinematographer for the film and that’s how I came on board,” Tim tells me. “The Door is about the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on a family and we first went to film in Belarus but we couldn’t make it work there, so we relocated to the Ukraine and shot it there.”
Despite its grim subject matter, Tim says the atmosphere on set was good and that making the film was an enjoyable experience.
“It was fantastic and there was a fantastic crew,” he says. “We had an Irish production designer Susie Cullen, and the assistant cameraman was Eoin Keating. All the other crew were Ukrainian. It was cold there, minus 15 degrees and lower at times, but we went there prepared and it worked out well.”
The Door has been enjoying acclaim across Europe since it was released in 2009 and it has already won the Polish Grand OFF 2009 award for best director, a gold medal at the Bilbao International Film Festival, the Katrin Cartlidge Bursary 2009 at the Sarajevo Film Festival, and a host of Irish film awards, including best short film at the IFTAs.
“The film had been doing really well around the world,” says Tim, “and then came the Oscar nomination.”
However this is not the first time Tim has been involved in an Oscar nominated film. He was the cinematographer on Once, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song, and he was the second unit cameraman on Martin McDonagh’s Six Shooter, which won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short.
“Yeah it’s getting boring now with all these Oscar nominations,” laughs Tim. “It will be great if it comes to cinematography.”
However he is hopeful that the publicity generated by The Door’s Oscar nomination will make more people aware of the work of director Juanita Wilson and create audiences for her next film, for which Tim is again, the cinematographer.
“I have been filming Juanita’s first feature film in Macedonia, which is about the Balkans war,” he says. “The fact that The Door we made is making noises is nice. It’s also shining a light on Juanita’s new film and I think that will make audiences look out for it.”
Over the weekend, Tim was back in his native Galway as cinematographer for a new short film. Things Behind The Sun, written by Galway actor and writer John O’Dowd. John describes Tim’s involvement as “a huge boost for the production”.
The film, named after a Nick Drake song, explores the idea that people can live in the same house for years and yet live in isolation and silence.
“It’s the story of a man who loses his wife and is left to care for his young son,” explains John. “He remarries quickly but it soon becomes apparent that things have gone from bad to worse. There’s some black humour too as we watch the characters shuffle around each other.”
Things Behind The Sun started to take life when John began a film course with the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme in Galway and pitched the idea that the students work together to make the film.
“To their credit the college agreed and 10 students were chosen,” he says. “VTOS would provide equipment and insurance. I got in touch with the director, Richard Walsh a Heuston School of Film at NUI, Galway graduate, and he moved from London to make it.”
It was through Richard Walsh that Tim Fleming became involved.
“Richie asked me was I around and could I help, and I said I was,” says Tim. “It was a really pleasant experience and it was also nice to be able to get back to Galway and see my family. That was a great experience.”
The production also involved Kevin Glynn as camera operator, Keith Grainger on sound, and Danie Holland on make-up. The rest of the crew is made up of VTOS students.