Mark Mahon - Creating a Screenplay, Book, Graphic Novel and Film About an Irish Hero
Award-winning writer and director Mark Mahon might be one of the first people to ever write a screenplay, novel and graphic novel for the same story. Brian Boru - Freedom Within the Heart will also soon be getting a movie adaptation. Today we chat about this novel and how Mahon's film making background and location scouting in Ireland influenced this work.
Please give us a short introduction to Brian Boru - Freedom Within the Heart
Brian Boru – Freedom Within The Heart tells the story of a young Irish revolutionary, who unites the clans of Ireland, in an effort to lead his people to freedom against Norse tyranny. It is an inspirational tale of struggle and triumph in his unyielding pursuit of saving the Emerald Isle.
What inspired you to write a fictionalized tale of Brian Boru?
I originally wrote it as a screenplay and then, decided to turn it into a novel due to delays with the project’s production. It’s my first novel so it was a kind of personal challenge too.
The battle sequences in your novel are quite descriptive, what kind of research did you do to paint such a vivid picture of these scenes?
I had done lots of location scouting for the movie in Ireland, which is where I will be shooting it and really just tried to transport myself there from a timeline point of view. Generally, due to the nature of the weapons of the time, I imagined that these battles would have been very gruesome as these would have been ordinary men who knew what the consequences would be for their loved ones if they didn’t give it their all.
Ireland has such a rich history. Are there any other historical characters who you feel could benefit from a novel based on their lives?
Absolutely... my next project after ‘Freedom Within The Heart’ is called ‘Ireland and the Sultan’ and is based on the Great Famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. I know immediately one hears the word famine and thinks the subject matter might not be comfortable reading but the stories that went on in Ireland at the time were really amazing. It’s sometimes during the most difficult times that we can see the best and indeed, the worst of people’s characters.
How important was historical accuracy for you when developing the plot of Freedom Within The Heart?
It was very important but what was really exciting about it from a creative point of view, was it gave me a blank canvas for the want of a better way of putting it. Despite what some people might have you believe, historical records weren’t too well kept one thousand years ago. Other than major events, this was very liberating as it allowed me to take the story in my own direction, as long as I was able to bring it back to where it needed to be at any given time.
The book is a real page-turner - how do you manage to keep your readers on the edge of their seats?
Thank you. I think because I come from a movie background, I’m probably more concerned with the pace of the story than anything else. I’m also a firm believer that the art of writing is in rewriting and sometimes, less is more. I feel that when you have a story to tell, you should just focus your attention on telling the story, which in turn will just automatically lead to a quicker pace.
Can you give us an update on the movie adaptation of Freedom Within The Heart?
Yep, well we’re all ready to go... we have all the production elements in place and are currently waiting on our senior finance to come into play. We intend on shooting it all in Ireland and the Irish Government have been very helpful, in relation to the National Parks and Reserves etc. From where I’m standing at the moment, I believe that we will hopefully commence principal photography in early 2017. People really don’t understand how much time and energy is actually expended before and after making a movie, but shooting one definitely makes it all worthwhile.
How hard was it to convert your award-winning screenplay into a novel? Do you think it would have been easier the other way round?
Good question... I’m really a screenwriter at the core, so I don’t even think that I could imagine doing it the other way round. I suppose the experience was interesting and definitely having a pre-planned route did make it easier. The one thing that I do remember is at times, I almost had to stop myself because what one finds when writing characters is sometimes characters will want to take you in a certain direction, but generally I had to keep tabs on this. It is true that the main body of the novel is broadly based on the screenplay but there is much stuff in the novel that just will not be in the movie.
What are the biggest differences between AD 952 and today?
Probably the speed at which we can get things done. One forgets that in 952, to travel even a couple of hundred miles would have taken days, never mind to mobilise clansmen for battle, catch food etc. It’s ironic though because back then, I believe people were more concerned about the needs of those who they counted as friends and clansmen, whereas people tend to be more about themselves now, which is sad in a way.
Freedom Within The Heart has also been turned into a graphic novel. What made you decide to follow this route?
Well, I usually storyboard what I intend on shooting and then, got this notion of converting the storyboards into a graphic novel. I have two very talented people who I work with for this, Miguel Caceres and Veronica Gandini. We’ve just finished the graphic novel for my next feature too, ‘Ireland and the Sultan.’ It’s funny because it’s been pointed out to me since, I believe that I’m the first writer who has written a screenplay, novel and graphic novel on the same story, which was interesting to hear. The main motivation for the graphic novel though, was to give people a flavour of what’s coming for the movie.
Your first feature film, Strength & Honour was released in over 22 countries. What was it like to see your film on the big screen for the first time?
I can see my movies in my head from the very outset, so the best part is actually just being able to share it with others.
Apart from being a director/author, what secret skills do you have?
I produce too, which really helps in getting things done. I wouldn’t call it a secret skill but I generally just try to treat others, as I would like them to treat me because after all, we’re only passing through here.
What do you have planned next?
My next focus is getting the movie of ‘Freedom Within The Heart’ completed and then, it will be to make ‘Ireland and the Sultan’ or ‘The Chicago Way.’