Will Collins: The Painful Truth that Brings Everything Together

Will Collins (@WillumsFillum) is the screenplay writer for the Irish animation Song of the Sea, about a young Irish boy named Ben, and his little sister Saoirse, a girl who can turn into a seal, go on an adventure to free the faeries and save the spirit world. Like other Cartoon Saloon films, Song of the Sea was hand-drawn. The film began production soon after the release of The Secret of Kells (2009), premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. According to Wikipedia, "the film had a limited release in certain countries, but received overwhelming acclaim and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015."

I discovered Song of the Sea on Amazon Prime. When the theme music came on for just a few seconds, I was completely absorbed by the film and had to put everything I was doing on hold.

"Phenomenal" is the word that comes to mind for Song of the Sea's animation, music and writing.

Immediately after the film, I reached out to Will Collins, the screenplay writer for the film. Will took me on a journey of his own, from the inception of the idea for Song of the Sea, to how Will was introduced as a writer, working closely with Tomme Moore, co-founder of Cartoon Saloon, director and illustrator for the film.

When Song of the Sea was nominated to win an Oscar, Will was invited to join a luncheon with the world's greatest filmmakers and artists. He sat down next to Richard Linklater, the director for Boyhood (A Moving 12 Year Epic That Isn't Quite Like Anything Else in the History of Cinema). To Will's surprise, Linklater had to share a family story of his own with Will, related to Song of the Sea.

Onto the more difficult questions, what was the writing process like? Will speaks to 6 or 7 drafts of the story, at least. He lost track of the revisions and effort that went into each step and turn. Did the film have a different ending? Yes, and you will find out that directly from Will. :)

“Song Of The Sea” – Red Carpet Arrivals – 58th BFI London Film Festival

After years of working on the film, Will Collins, Tomme Moore and a team of animators, editors, musicians released a masterpiece to the world, not knowing what to expect or how people from different cultures are going to react. That's one tough hurdle for creators and creative work. Some of the feedback isn't only difficult to track down, but also hard to measure and qualify.

Show Notes:

  • [07:00] Your movie is performing extremely well on Metacritic (Scored an 85!). What do you think of that?
  • [08:30] How did this project start?
  • [15:00] What was some of the feedback you received, for example from family, friends and colleagues?
  • [21:30] Can you share some of the biggest breakthroughs you had while developing Song of the Sea?
  • [26:00] Can you comment on how the main character (the little boy Ben) evolves from having a bad relationship with her sister to being a protective brother, and how this is analogous to real life?
  • [29:00] How does the screenwriting process work in general?
  • [30:00] What are some of the initial materials you started working with (as a screenwriter)?
  • [32:00] How big was the team you worked with in a regular basis for Song of the Sea?
  • [36:00] Do you remember any cases where you changed the storyline drastically after gathering feedback from your team?
  • [39:00] Can you comment on the animation team and the music composers?
  • [43:00] What about winning the academy award? How did that feel?
  • [44:00] How do you measure your own success?
  • [48:00] What were your main influencers in life at a younger age?
  • [52:00] What are some of the things you wish you knew before getting into screenwriting? [Advice for yourself]
  • [56:00] Can you give us some details about your new movie?

Favorite Quotes:

  • [22:30] ‘I had a revelation in my first feature film. There has to be a painful truth, and it has to fuel everything. It has to fuel your characters, and it has to fuel the problem of the film and bring everything to a head. [...] As soon as I locked in on that as a screenwriter, the entire thing became quite clear.’
  • [27:00] ‘As a parent you try to keep the balance, but you can’t help what people feel. People's feelings are wired and as a parent you’ll have to deal with all their different personalities’
  • [31:00] ‘[for being a screenwriter] You have to accept and enjoy working with creative people, and accept better ideas. It is a lot of fun.‘
  • [42:00] ‘I introduced myself to Richard Linklater who I ABSOLUTELY ADMIRE, and after introducing myself as the writer of Song of the Sea he said ‘Oh I just watched that movie with my kids two nights ago and I absolutely loved it!’. That was a cool moment’
  • [44:00] ‘Becoming a parent changed my attitude towards life and my career. I’ve become a lot more focused on just happiness’.
  • [45:00] ‘I don’t frame my work in accolades anymore. I just enjoy what I do, I’m a creative person and I just enjoy seeing things being made.’

Q&A with Will Collins:

The original music for the film was composed by Bruno Coulais, in collaboration with the Irish group Kíla.

To get your copy of this beautiful album, click here.

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