Lights! Camera! Ashford!

We talk to filmmaker John Kelly about his ambitious Ashford film studio Clap ‘n Load

The brainchild of Ashford filmmaker John Kelly, Clap ‘n Load have put together an incredibly impressive line-up of films in a ridiculously short length of time.

The fact that the Wicklow-based studio has managed to cover three very diverse genres with its first three features – namely period dramas, documentary and sci-fi – says a lot about the vision and scope of Clap ‘n Load.

With a special showcase of their work at The Whale on Sunday, November 28th, we grabbed 15 minutes with head honcho John to find out more…

How did Clap ‘n Load Studios come together, and was it a hard day’s night making that leap going out on your own after years of working for others…?
I established Clap ‘n Load Studios roughly a year after I graduated from my studies in Pulse College, on their Diploma in Film and Television Production. After finishing that course, I worked on some corporate jobs for a few large clients as a sound recordist, but my primary work was in low-budget films in and around Dublin. I’d say about 90% of these films that I worked on were never even finished, and while working on these shoots I would notice the same problems come up again and again that would inevitably be the downfall of the production. The issue with every one of these films was poor planning, and not appreciating that you need experienced crew to create a strong production.

I was working almost exclusively for free at the time, and I didn’t even have the benefit of having good content to show off at the end of it. So eventually I decided to take it upon myself to create my own projects that I had control over planning and could make as ambitious and impressive as possible. Budget isn’t as limiting a factor as most people think, it just prompts creative solutions to achieve results. For example, in our first film Masquerade we needed to create a convincing aesthetic that represented the time period with an incredibly tight budget. Despite everyone telling me to shoot it as a contemporary film because “you’ll save so much on production design and locations etc”, I instead spent the time planning, calling in favours and forming partnerships that allowed us to create what I think is a very convincing period piece, despite the limited budget. That is what Clap ‘n Load Studios aims to do: create incredibly ambitious content that no one else at our budget level is able to achieve.

Your first three films are quite diverse – period drama, life during wartime and a documentary centred around visual impairment; is there a goal with Clap ‘n Load when it comes to the kind of films you want to make, or is it all done on a project by project basis?
Clap ‘n Load Studios is focused on human stories. Despite the diversity of genre and period of our first three films; at their core they are all stories about people. Masquerade, for example, deals with an incredibly tumultuous time in World History in the First World War. It’s story is hinged on the varying social standards and expectations of different classes, and the subterfuge and deceit between members of that society. In Masquerade, much like real life in many cases, everyone has some ulterior motive and will use whoever they can around them to that end. The story centres on Duke Kenneth Wright, and how he deals with a schism in his own family, and the lengths to which he’ll go to protect his reputation no matter the cost.

Visionaries, on the other hand, is a documentary that investigates how three visually impaired musicians experience and use music in their lives. How it has offered them opportunities to do incredible things that even fully-sighted people would rarely dream of, create vibrant and supportive communities of people brought together by their common differences, and how music offers a level playing field for those who are affected by various forms of sight-loss. But the story also serves to promote and visually demonstrate the vast gamut of sight conditions and the variety of resulting ways that those affected experience and interact with the world around them. There is very little information and public knowledge out there on the topic of sight loss, and the general public largely believe that sight is a black-or-white topic, when in fact that couldn’t be further from the truth. Visionaries is a human story about how we can adapt when deprived of one of our most vital senses, and overcome the odds stacked against us.

Nevermore is a story about manipulation and oppression. While it is presented in a comedic Action Sci-Fi, the main focal point of the story is Beth, a girl who was abducted from her parents at a young age to be part of an Imperial biological experiment to aid their War efforts, and how an Imperial scientist risks her life to free this girl; knowing that should they be caught, they will both suffer torture and execution for their treason. Ultimately, the crew of Nevermore are a family. One brought together by the misfortune of war, and an enterprising eye for making a profit. While they can come across as a band of scoundrels, they care about each other. And although Captain Michael Dane would never admit it, he does begin to feel sympathy for Beth. The story is about how the human bond that forms between the unlikeliest of people at times in times of trouble.

That is the connection between the three films, and the overall goal of Clap ‘n Load Studios. We tell human stories that we hope will make the audience ponder a question.


You can catch the Clap ‘n Load showcase at The Whale on Sunday, November 28th at 4pm.


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