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Interview with Producer Kevin Jackson at 72nd Cannes Film Festival

Interview with Producer Kevin Jackson at 72nd Cannes Film Festival

Irish native Kevin Jackson is a prolific TV series and film producer at Big Fish Films in Belfast and former Assistant Head of Drama at BBC. He is known for such films as award winning 'Behold the Lamb' (2011), 'The Truth Commissioner' (2016), 'Zoo' (2017), 'Ups and Downs' (2019) and many more. His upcoming slate includes a number of exciting projects including 'Reawakening' currently in pre-production. 

Kevin frequents international film festivals and markets annually. He recently attended the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival where I interviewed him. Here is what he had to say:


How did you get your start in the film biz and did you know you always wanted to produce?
KEVIN: I saved up all my pocket money and birthday and Christmas cash when I was twelve and bought myself a Super 8 Camera, Projector and Editing Kit. Even that at that age I quickly realized how expensive film stock was and how it could limit what could be shot. So I began thinking like a producer. Twenty years later, after working in theatre for ten years, latterly as a writer and director, I joined the BBC, as an Assistant Director, moving up the chain to become a Producer three years later. My gift was always in planning and production as well as script. I couldn’t help becoming a Producer.
Can you speak about Big Fish Films and how it got started?

KEVIN: Whilst I was working with the BBC, I met my future business partner, Eoin O’Callaghan, who produced for us “5 Minutes of Heaven”, directed by Oliver Hirshbiegel, which won two awards at Sundance. A year later, in 2010, I left the BBC and produced my first feature as an Indie and a year later formed Big Fish Films NI with Eoin.

Can you name some of the titles the company is most proud of having worked on?

KEVIN: Five Minutes of Heaven” and “The Truth Commissioner” for our company, both looking at NI recent history and future from an engaging and most thoughtful angle. With the BBC it would be “Ballykissangel”- TV series for the family, “Occupation” - TV serial about Iraq, and “Amongst Women” - TV serial adaptation of William Trevor’s novel.


What does Big Fish look for when considering a project?

KEVIN: We are quite diverse, but we must have one key criteria - is it one helluva story. We have a track record for diversity of subject matter in development, from film to radio to TV. Genre diversity from horror to psychological drama and political to family films.

What are the many things involved when producing a film in Ireland using the incentives? 

KEVIN: Where and how many cast and crew are from Ireland/Northern Ireland, how much are you intending to spend in Ireland/Northern Ireland, diversity of characters in the script, diversity in cast and crew. These are the main things. After that, it is reporting on the spend and doing the financial and other audits, tedious work, but all public bodies need this.


Do you think it's easier to get films produced with state incentives than privately?

KEVIN: It’s just bloody hard to raise money as a small independent producer and it isn’t getting easier. The worst thing is the amount wasted on really bad films, that were always going to be really bad films. However, State funding is an essential part of the Finance Plan for all our movies. It’s easier when a Broadcaster comes on board at the get go, so, yes it is easier with state incentives.

Does Netflix and all the digital platforms out there threaten the business of producers in the future?

KEVIN: Only if you don’t get their commissions! They still rely on original content from Independent Producers.

Was this Cannes market a good one for you?

KEVIN: The Best Cannes Ever! We had a terrific reaction to our Slate. I found Cannes to be a little quieter this year, but maybe we had better access, earlier in the first week. Or maybe we are getting better!!

What are some new projects you’ll be working on?

KEVIN: We have a story about the last witch trial in Ireland - harrowing and true. One which is about a child that wants to be born, but one that had died once already. One that is about the biggest betting coup in Ireland and the UK, a sort of heist movie like Oceans 11. One that is about a famous 18th century composer. I’ll leave it that, but we do have a few other features and TV series and singles on our slate.

Interview with Producer Kevin Jackson at 72nd Cannes Film Festival


Interview by Vanessa McMahon 


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