Christmas Question 2023

We asked the staff at Windmill Lane the following question:
‘If you had to be trapped in a Christmas movie, which one would you choose?’


Deborah Doherty (Head of Production)

Right now after a busy few months in work and moving house I’d definitely be Kevin from Home Alone 2 – Stuck in the New York Plaza Hotel on my own with a huge room service bill.


Sean Maher (Assistant Editor)

Sean Maher

If I was to be trapped in a Christmas movie, I would probably choose The Shop Around The Corner by Ernst Lubitsch. Not my favourite film of his, but to be elegantly dressed, moving through crowds with graceful choreography and under the featheriest imitation of snow, passing by snatches of witty exchanges, foolish moments and the most 1940’s-era dewy-eyed sentimentality, that really would be something!


Barra O’Connor (VFX Data IO)


If I had to choose one to get stuck in, it would be The Santa Clause, specifically the Santa’s Workshop part of the movie. The magical feel of the place, all the toys bopping around, Bernard the Elf giving me grief, and I’ll be able to achieve that lifelong dream of finally tasting that hot chocolate that Tim Allen gets! 


Abby Greene (VFX Production Coordinator)

Abby Greene

If I was trapped in a Christmas movie it would be The Santa Clause 2! I would choose this film because I always wanted to visit the North Pole as a kid and to meet the elves (Bernard and Curtis in particular!) This movie also has the tooth fairy, mother nature and father time and I think it would be cool to get to save Christmas with the whole gang.


Lauren Fee (VFX Production Manager)


My favourite Christmas movie to be trapped in would have to be ‘A Muppet’s Christmas Carol’. Because what a fun zaney world it would be. Lots of singing and dancing and nothing bad can happen. Much better than Krampus’ world. Plus you get to hang out with Miss Piggy and Michael Cane!


Isis Eridane Cortes Sauza (Compositor)

I would choose How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) because it is such a magical place. Besides, all the people in the town have really cool outfits and hairstyles and it looks like a stunning place to be around Christmas time. In terms of the music, nothing beats the original song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” originally written and composed for the 1966 cartoon special How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The lyrics were written by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, the music was composed by Albert Hague, and the song was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft. If it was Christmas what a wonderful place it would be living in a world of Dr Seuss. 


Tony McFadden (Compositor)

The Christmas movie I would like to be stuck in is Reginald Hudlin’s “Candy Cane Lane”, and why? Because it is about a man who is determined to win his neighbourhood’s annual Christmas house decorating contest, and to me, that just sounds like such a perfect life. 


Tom Morris (Re-recording Mixer)

tom morris

I’d definitely go for ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. It’s two holiday movies for the price of one! Plus being able to switch from merry to spooky at any time really is the dream.


Juan Rebella (Engineer) 

If I had to choose, my favourite Christmas movie would be Home Alone 2. It’s the most popular one in my hometown during Christmas Eve.
I still remember being ten years old and dreaming of being in Kevin’s situation during those vacations! “It was a ground breaking film in its time!”


Gina Brady (Office Manager)

It would have to be Elf, so much adventure and funny drama. I would love to be Buddy’s (Will Ferrell) assistant. I just think this film has such a feel-good factor, it’s hilarious and is one film that we as a family sit down together and watch every year!


Ali Neary (HR Manager)

Ali Neary

If I had to be trapped in a Christmas movie it would have to be Home Alone, that gaff is unreal!

After I sorted out the burglars I’d probably just let the Mam back in and then set up more booby traps to keep Uncle Frank, Buzz and the rest of the awful McCallister clan out and I’d be happily eating cheese pizza in the most iconic movie house ever with Moira Rose, amazing!


Sarah Gillick (2D Compositor)

It’d be nice to be trapped in something like Frozen with singing rock people and lots of ice skating, but I think the worst Christmas movie to be trapped in would be the movie the Santa Clause(1994); Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa and has to take on the role himself. He gets trapped as Santa, he ages prematurely, and his whole life is taken over by Christmas. Great movie, and good for teaching kids about leaving Santa to work in peace in case you distract him, he falls off your roof, and you’re trapped as Santa forever!


Emily Burke (Post Production Producer)

Edward Scissorhands – My hands would be scissors.


Catherine Synnott (Interim CEO)

My ideal pick would be The Snowman. The thought of gliding gracefully through the countryside, mirroring his magical flights would be my dream come true.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

from everyone at
Windmill Lane  

Aaron Carroll – Windmill Lane’s Head Producer


This week we sat down with Aaron Carroll – Head Producer for Film & TV at Windmill Lane – to discuss his career to date.


What first attracted you to being a producer – and did you come to it from another area?

I actually started off as a Junior Colourist in Windmill’s Colour Department! It was my first real brush with the industry proper and was a great introduction to the post-production pipeline, learning the ropes under Dave Hughes & Matt Branton. I was there for a couple of years, working on some amazing projects before I started to feel the itch for something new. I was lucky enough that at the same time, a position opened up for a post coordinator in the production department. I figured as much as I had loved Colour, I would rather change job, learn a new skill, and stay in Windmill with the fantastic team I had gotten to know. If I didn’t like producing I could always move back to Colour in another facility right? Luckily I quickly fell in love with producing and haven’t looked back.


How did you learn to be a producer?

I’ve been lucky to have amazing mentors over the years from our colour team, to our senior producers, to our current Head of Production Deborah Doherty. Every one of them has such a unique style and attitude they bring to projects, that I have gleefully stolen aspects from and made my own.
It’s cheesy, but I think every project is so different and has so many variables you really do learn something new on each one that you can bring with you to the next one.


[Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy]

What’s your favourite thing about being a producer and why?

As a post-producer, you have to be aware of what stage the project is in across every department. I love being able to get involved and see how a project changes and progresses’ at every step! I guess it’s just an outlet for my general nosiness!
As well, there’s such a variety of projects being done at Windmill that no day is ever the exact same. I’ve been able to fulfill childhood dreams of working on Transformers (Prod. Boulder Media), while simultaneously managing noir crime dramas like Smother (Prod. Treasure Ent) and Kin (Prod. Bron). Not many other careers can say that!


How has production changed since you started your career?

Massively. I was still a junior when the Covid lockdowns hit and I don’t think any of us have seen a bigger curveball. Focusing on the positive, it led to leapfrogs in the remote work process, both for International client management and our internal processes. Learning to manage the extra steps involved, producing across multiple timelines, and all the while helping staff maintain a good work/life balance has been challenging at times but for the best overall!
Additionally, I’ve found the word “Post” becoming a bit of a misnomer as time has gone on. Even in my relatively short time, we’re getting much more involved with productions much earlier in the pipeline. Whether it’s getting our colourists talking to DPs before the shoot or having Sound Design chats during Pre-production I’ve loved getting to jump in early and start the creative flowing!



What do you think is the key to being an effective producer – and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned?

I think all the main skills of a producer can be learned to an extent, but I believe there needs to be an innate willingness and ability to adapt. Your schedule will be thrown out and redone a dozen times over a project, the creative direction will change and flow as you find the story, and of course there’s the outside changes like lockdowns, technology advancements, industry changes, etc. You have to keep up with them all and not only keep yourself afloat but your team as well. (A decent sense of humor helps with this!)


Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?

I think Lakelands (Dir. Robert Higgins & Patrick McGivney, Prod. Harp Media) is the one I’m most proud of. I got the chance to watch the offline ahead of quoting on the project and I fell in love with it instantly.
As a midlands lad myself, I’ve found it’s difficult at times for non-Dublin voices to get a platform. Being able to work with Rob and Patrick, and help them showcase such an honest and genuine view of rural Ireland was an amazing feeling. It meant a lot to me to be able to bring this feature home to my folks.
(It doesn’t hurt that our colourist Dave Hughes and DP Simon Crowe made the Midlands look the best I’ve ever seen it)



As a producer, your brain must have a never-ending “to do” list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?

I struggled at first honestly! My first few months as a producer were full of “New Job” excitement, and then Covid jumped in and made sure there wasn’t much else to do but work. I’ve been slowly re-learning to watch movies for enjoyment and not just QC them (much to my boyfriend’s relief!)
I’m also an avid comic book collector and have been slowly taking Sub-City’s entire inventory home with me.


What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?

Admit when you don’t know something.
I firmly believe the purpose of a post-producer isn’t necessarily to know everything, but rather to know who to ask! Windmill has such a brilliant team, and has such a wealth of knowledge I find it so important to ask them as many questions as I can. And if you ever feel like you’ve asked too many, ask one more just to be sure!


Finally, what are your hopes for 2024?

The same as every year really, work on some cool projects with nice people!
I’ve had an amazing time the last few months helping some of the Guilds host events in our space, most recently the ISC round table on Colourists. I’m hoping that in 2024 we can build on that, and play host more often. I think it’s a really good opportunity to rebuild some of that sense of Film Community that we lost due to the pandemic.
I also have a particular passion for shorts and indie projects. I’m very aware of how lucky I was to get into this industry and I love being able to help out others when I can. I’ve been delighted to work with some amazing short projects this year like Callus, Johnny Dragon, Good Chips and I would love to continue that streak if I can.



Under the Bonnet at Windmill Lane


Written by Jason Gaffney

[Read Time: 3 mins]


In order for a house to stay standing – the foundations must be strong. Since arriving at 29 Herbert Street in May 2022 Ed Smith – Head of Operations at Windmill – has been laying / relaying structures that will set Windmill Lane up for long-term success.

As he says himself; How we protect, manage, move and access our data dictates a large proportion of our business. With the company feeding the imaginations of millions worldwide through VFX, Animation, Film, TV and Commercials its easy to forget just what goes on behind the scenes to make the creative process possible. Lets check under the bonnet of Windmill Lane with Ed Smith to understand how the infrastructure has been built and allows the artists to flourish. 


Can you tell me about how you set your stall out, in the early stages, after joining Windmill Lane as Head of Operations?

Initially I was predominantly focussed on understanding all the legacy workflows and familiarising myself with the idiosyncrasies in each department. Identifying inefficiencies and trying to increase communication were primary goals.  In parallel to that, I jumped in at the deep end managing our security overhaul to bring us in line with TPN best practices.

Can you tell me about some of the key challenges you have faced in your role?

Change management is probably the main challenge. Long standing habits are always tricky to adjust but the team at Windmill are really flexible and open to new ideas and workflows. Making changes is always a collaborative process and I’m lucky to be surrounded by such an experienced crew who are always happy to give great feedback and bounce ideas around.


[IT Security is paramount for Windmill Lane]


How important is it for a company like Windmill Lane to invest in IT infrastructure and why?

There are a lot of creative people at Windmill, constantly putting incredible pictures and sound on our screens, but sometimes I like to simplify our facility as “a more fun version of a data centre“. How we protect, manage, move and access our data dictates a large proportion of our business.  Windmill has heavily invested in our IT infrastructure over the last 18 months and almost every business justification for that investment comes back to facilitating better artist collaboration and allowing our incredible teams to spend more time being creative.  In this way, we continue to develop more efficient workflows while still producing high quality results for our clients.

You have just got back from attending IBC in Amsterdam. How did it go?

IBC 2023 was fantastic. So many incredible new technologies and workflows being demonstrated. This year we were mainly focussed on security so it was great to engage with TPN directly. We made some significant connections with some potential vendors and further developed our relationships with fellow Irish industry members.


[IBC 2023, Amsterdam]


Why do you enjoy your job?

I’ve had a very interesting last year and a half at Windmill lane. The team here are incredible workmates so I’d have to say any time I can make someone’s workday a little easier is a fulfilling day for me.  Streamlining a process means we’re being more efficient and ultimately, being a bit smarter about using our resources.

Meet some more of our Support team below…


[Windmill Lanes Support & IT Team]

Jason Gaffney speaks with Lakelands filmmakers


Denzel Washington famously said “If I’m going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything except my faith. I want to fall forward, I figure at least this way I will see what I’m going to hit.” For Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney – Writers & Directors of Lakelands – their approach to filmmaking is comparable and appears to have set them up for success that knows no bounds. Having cut their teeth with numerous short films shot in their native Midlands (they both hail from Longford), including Drifting (starring Oscar nominated Paul Mescal), the pair have embraced learning and development as a way of understanding what is required to be successful in Film & TV – an industry Patrick’s describes as “a whole new set of everything… every day”.


With Windmill Lane having provided Post services on Lakelands (Grading, Online & Delivery) – I was keen to speak with Longford’s bright stars to better understand how they have ‘fallen forward’ to a point of being award winning, IFTA nominated and the talk of the Irish film scene. I start by asking; 


How did Lakelands come about?

Robert: Myself and Patrick actually met at football (GAA) training when we were kids. So we grew up in that world. We experienced the intensity, the dedication to the sport and thought the culture was fascinating. We realized there weren’t that many films showcasing the prevalence of that world in Irish culture. We were also eager to show off our little part of the world in Longford. 

We were considering a few scripts but Lakelands stood out for these reasons and more. Its the one we connected with the most and so we dived in. But its amazing…you start off with an idea and then like-minded people get excited about it and all of a sudden you have a community behind you.



How did you go about developing this community? 

Patrick: It was a big learning curve for us. We both came from a corporate world (Robert worked in PR while Patrick worked in Consulting). We had a naivety which turned into a superpower. For example – if we understood what we didn’t know starting out – we would have felt too daunted. 

Going back a bit – we started off making short films in Robert’s back garden. That was the start of our creative journey and we have become good at two things; building a team of collaborators and realizing what we are terrible at. We felt like we could weave a narrative but soon realized the technical aspects are best left to specialists. 

We were constantly learning, constantly meeting new people and falling forward. We sought people that mirrored our energy and with Lakelands – we hit a sweet spot. It was a team that felt like a family. A community we could rely on. 


You mentioned you were working full time before ‘taking the plunge’ into filmmaking. How scary was that for you both?

Patrick: Well we had Harp Media which allowed us to generate income through videography, digital marketing etc. Areas that allowed for transferable skills. This allowed us to sustain ourselves while also building a budget for Lakelands. In terms of the leap – it was terrifying but also exhilarating compared to what we were doing previously. For me – it definitely gives you a sense of appreciation for the time you get to spend on a project your passionate about. There is a lot to be said for that. 



Let’s talk about Lakelands. Can you tell about the themes explored in the film and why you felt they were important?

Robert: The main theme is identity. Succeeding within the framework of the GAA, playing well, the culture surrounding the sport and social aspects that come with it are so central to a young person’s identity in rural Ireland. Like ‘where do I stand in the community?’. We used this question as a jumping off point to get into things that affect young people in Ireland today. 

We came out of college ‘the post-recession generation’ where emigration within our friends group was massive. A lot of them won’t ever come back. That always seeps into our work. We were also keen to explore the casual alcohol and drug use throughout Irish culture and sport as well without making a judgement but observing. This was our attempt to paint a portrait, be straight up about it and not turn away from some inconvenient truths that permeate cultural identity in modern day Ireland. 


That’s fascinating. How has this portrait been received from Irish people in general?

Patrick: My favourite part of the process has been having these conversations with the audience afterwards. It gives people the chance to tell their stories and how they relate. As Irish people we are good storytellers but probably not the best at articulating our emotions. This, in itself, was fertile ground to explore. 

Going back to emigration post-recession – even a quality standard of living is not available to you. So people have had to moved away from areas like Longford. We probably relate more to the people that have stayed in Ireland. Something that people have brought up is that idea of ‘oh you think you’re better than me because you moved abroad and I stayed?’. Its important not to pass comments. 

Robert: Ultimately people are searching for the same thing – home, abroad – we have more in common than you think. It was important for us to subvert that stereotype of a guy/girl at home in a rural place who wants to leave. Sometimes he/she/they is very proud to be where he/she/they is from and sometimes that pride can be toxic inhibiting his/her/their development. 



With these pertinent themes and the film’s momentum – can it all be overwhelming?

Patrick: Every time you make something – you learn so much. For us at the moment – we see an opportunity for more to be made in our world down in the Midlands. There are rich stories and characters that haven’t been portrayed down here. So that fuels us. We’re building a slate of projects but the acid test is whether or not they stay true to our core strengths and what we want to say. 

We definitely feel like we are at the bottom of a very big mountain. We feel brand new to the industry and we are in a way. 


“Brand new” to the industry and starting off with 4 x IFTA Nominations*. That must feel great?

*Best Film / Lead Actor for Eanna Hardwicke / Lead Actress for Danielle Galligan / Original Music for Daithi.

Robert: It’s amazing. We were making this film in the Granite Community Centre like a year ago and you don’t dare to dream but here we are. We are just so happy for Eanna, Dani & Daithi. They are all incredible artists who came down to the Midlands, indulged into the madness that we were cooking up at the time. They deserve this recognition. They bought into the project so much, what we were trying to achieve and the textures of the film. We are so grateful to them. 


Lakelands was graded by Windmill Lane. How was the experience working with the team?

Robert: It was amazing from the get-go. Aaron Carroll (Head Producer for Film/TV) was very interested from the start. Aaron is a Midlands man himself so he connected with the characters, the story and believed what we were trying to do. After showing him a rough cut he was eager – so introduced us to Dave Hughes (Head of Grading) and we just had a brilliant time with him. Honestly – the grading was one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire project. 

Patrick: We were depicting a rural Irish story so we didn’t want to take the colour out of it too much – because that’s not how we see that world. We wanted it to look alive and vibrant and bright. Dave was very encouraging for us to go this route. It was collaborative. And that collaboration has given the film a look that is different to a lot of rural Irish dramas. 


Finally – what’s next for you both and Harp Media?

Robert: We’re developing a new film with Screen Ireland called Bonfires. This will be Midlands set. We’ve also got two or three other projects in development between Film and TV. 

We recently got UK representation so as we expand trying to understand a whole new set of rules [laughs]. Every time we think we have this industry figured out – a new door with challenges opens.

Graham Gallagher – An Irish Storyteller


Written by Jason Gaffney

[Read Time – 5 mins]


Guardians of the Galaxy. Jungle Book. Gravity. You would be forgiven for assuming these credits belong to a current A-List Hollywood powerhouse with the ability to pick and choose projects / budgets at will. However these are just some of the credits from Irish born Graham Gallaghers careers that have helped establish an international reputation that is only in its infancy. Although he could be described as a Disney veteran having begun with a pencil and paper drawing traditional animation on Disney’s Tarzan in 1997 in Paris, where he also had the opportunity to study life drawing and anatomy under Thomas Wienc.



The Return


Graham has worked globally in the art and film industry for over 26 years but made the decision in 2016 to return to Ireland working with Windmill Lane as Animation Director. With Barbie currently taking the worldwide box office by storm – its success is a perfect example of how a globally recognized, and long established, brand can resonate and endure. Soon after arriving back in Ireland Graham found himself representing such a brand in the form of Netflix’s My Little PonyA New Generation as Animation Director and Head of Character in which grade, audio, effects and delivery were managed by Windmill Lane.


[My Little Pony – A New Generation, 2021 / Windmill Lane]


Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire


Graham’s latest collaboration with Disney comes in the form of Kizazi Moto – Generation Fire. This animated anthology brings together a new wave of animation stars to take you on a wildly entertaining ride into Africa’s future. Alongside directors Catherine Green, Spoek Mathambo and Executive Producer Peter Ramsey (Spider-Verse franchise) Graham was excited to work on something fresh and new.

This project is important for the continent of Africa. It’s a springboard for African filmmakers but also very international. For me – having worked predominantly in America and Europe, your brain sits in that world, so being educated in African culture and heritage was an amazing learning experience. Having an Irish cultural upbringing –  you think hmm, how can I add to this, but in the end, it’s the human aspect of the story that’s always important – people everywhere experience similar worries, fears, friendships and joy. says Graham.


[Surf Sangoma / Windmill Lane]

Collectively they directed Episode 4 – Surf Sangoma – which tells of the story of two best friends risking everything to illegally surf colossal deadly waves in Durban in the year 2050. I was interested to learn what Graham knew about this subject matter in advance of coming on board.

Well I had been to South Africa before but I had never been to Durban. There is a really strong surfing community built up there and they are so passionate about it. So there was a pressure to ensure that it felt authentic and in line with the local vibe, with a lot of education and learning required in the early stages. 

Did Graham believe a focus on best representing that Durban community and their shared values eliminated any cultural / national differences?

Well…as mentioned I have no first hand experience of Durban. We (Graham, Catherine & Spoek) are all storytellers and we quickly connected through our universal love of bringing this Afro-futurisim story to life. But there was an added richness for me to knowing more about the local history and mythology. For example – what is a *sangoma? It’s essentially a shaman which will resonate across cultures all over the world – so finding and understanding these links was key.

 *a sangoma is a highly respected tribal healer


[Kizazi Moto – Generation Fire / Windmill Lane]

Jack of all trades


Kizazi Moto is an ambitious project and a daunting prospect for any director – let alone an individual not wholly familiar with the people and societies it represents. Fortunately Graham has cut his teeth in various roles throughout his career that have allowed him to understand the nuances of effective storytelling. He explains

Working for some of the biggest studios in the world, I’ve been an Animation Director, a Cinematographer, a mo-Cap director, a Storyboard Artist, a VFX Sup, a Concept Supervisor. You name it. I have loved learning step by step and honing my craft – each step with purpose.

Having worn so many hats – stepping into the directors chair was second nature to Graham and the critical success of Kizazi Moto bodes well going forward. Was he able to apply any aspects of his personal style to the project – I ask.

I got heavily involved with storytelling throughout the project’s animatic, cinematography and previz to bring through the horror vibe. Finding the correct camera language to suit the story was key. We achieved this by creating a sizzle reel to help show the key sequences, moods and dynamic moments.

For me understanding how these characters from a specific African milieu interact with each other was very important. I wanted to be sure that I was getting across their personalities and humour authentically.


[The Jungle Book, 2016]

Technical Challenges  


Being able to use his experience to further the creative is part and parcel of what Graham has done in his career. However – more experience does not result in diminishing challenges. With the technological advancements that permeate the industry, problem solving is a key trait. Realising your vision takes patience, commitment and huge attention to detail. Graham shares an example of some technical hurdles;

The movie had originally started with Unreal engine (a very powerful platform) but we realized it wasn’t a good fit for us while we were using 3 different outsource studios for post. We switched to an in-house pipeline, which meant all assets had to be swapped over to the new pipe. This was a risky call at the time but luckily animation hadn’t started yet. 

There are always aspects that don’t quite read when you finally get to grading and sound but I knew we had a safe pair of hands in Windmill Lane, having worked with them on many projects – it was great to have the time there to add that magic touch pulling everything together beautifully and making sure our original intention was captured on screen.


[Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014]

The Past and the Future 


I was interested to look at Graham’s past and how it relates to the Animation sector in Ireland. Recent success for Irish film, tv & animation would suggest that the industry is in a healthy state and producing talent that can compete with the best worldwide but for Graham all his experience and skill set has been developed abroad. 

As soon as I qualified from Ballyfermot College of Further Education I got picked up by Disney to work on Tarzan. That got my foot in the door, I then stayed to work on The Emperor’s New Groove etc. Around that time a lot of studios opened their doors in Ireland including; Jam, Kaveleer, Brown Bag, Boulder which was so important in supporting talent. They have been pivotal in getting us to where we are today and going forward. Their taking-in of domestic and international talent – who are learning from each other.


[Tarzan, 1997]

Wise words from an artist whose burgeoning reputation has not created an inch of complacency. Graham discusses his development of numerous projects including an Irish animation anthology that delves into our own mythology and heritage. 

I have a real desire to do an Irish anthology, drawing from some of Ireland’s wealth of ghost stories. We have some amazing folklore tales that could be reimagined and crafted into contemporary or futuristic stories. Being back in Ireland and re-immersed in the landscape and culture, while delving into the mythology and folklore, is hugely inspirational to me right now.


A move back to Ireland. A move into directing. A desire to explore Ireland’s myths and legends. Developing Irish based projects which will create jobs. A hugely successful career that feels like it’s only beginning.

Graham Gallagher – An Irish Storyteller.


Graham Gallagher Website

Graham Gallagher LinkedIn


Spotlight: Fionán Higgins – Head of Audio for Film & TV at Windmill Lane


Interview by Jason Gaffney

[Read Time – 4 mins]


Fionán Higgins was recently appointed Head of Audio – Film & TV for Windmill Lane. With the company investing in talent and facilities (see the recent unveiling of Studio 1 with Dolby Atmos) – I thought this would be a good time to sit down and discuss; career learnings, advancing audio technology & inspiration.


Tell me how you began your career in Audio.


As is typical of a lot of people working in sound – a love of music was my gateway into the world of audio. I was in bands as a teenager and had the opportunity to record in RTÉ and fell in love with the feel of the studio, the lighting, the silence, the mixing desks. I knew exactly what I wanted to do from that moment on. Cut to me not getting into a sound engineering degree course in Salford University and doing a 4 year long arts degree in UCD majoring in English and Philosophy.


Still wanting to have a career in sound engineering I did a part time course in the sound training center and then applied for a masters in Music technology in Queens University Belfast. They said no until I had some computer programming experience so I did a Fás course in C++ programming and then eventually got onto the Masters course which was a dream come true. After the Masters I got an assistant job in a music mastering studio in Dublin called Digital Pigeon and then eventually fell into Film and TV work.


[Fionán, with his son Tom, graduating from TU Dublin / Post-Grad Diploma in Creative Leadership]


What is it that keeps you most engaged in your work?


I really love helping great directors realize the potential of their projects while bringing something unique to a project and in the process exceeding all expectations.



What’s the biggest project you’ve worked on in your career and what were your key learnings? 


The scope of Lance Dalys Black ’47 was huge and as a sound project presented many challenges. The guns, the horses and the period setting all meant every sound used had to be unique and appropriate to the time. One way I approached this was by spending time recording all the guns used in the film. It was one aspect of the project that really made a difference and proved to be very successful.


[Black ’47]


What’s the most challenging film or TV show that you can think of? 


The most recent example would be a scene from Kin Season 2 which was shot in an amusement arcade with a lot of noisy pinball machines which meant we had to re-record all the dialog due to the noise of the machines. We also contacted the Pinball machine manufacturer to get permission to use the correct sounds for the pinball machine the character is playing in the scene. The manufacturers eventually sent us all the thousands of sounds that are used in a pinball machine and the scene turned out wonderfully.


The Siege of Jadotville was the first Netflix original film that I had worked on. Initially I was the dialog editor on the project but a change of personnel meant I took the reigns as sound supervisor close to the mixing stage. It was also very sound heavy film with the guns, vehicles and a huge amount of soldiers involved.


[Aidan Gillen and Keith McErlean – Kin]


Are there any recent technological advancements that you have been impressed with and that elevate your work?


We recently installed Dolby Atmos capabilities in Studio 1 and I’ve been impressed with the level of immersion and detail you can achieve.


Some of the new Ai coming through to deal with noise reduction for problematic dialog has been really impressive. Applications like Descript give you the opportunity to save original performances without the need to bring an actor into a studio to re-record the line which saves time, money and also keeps the original intention of the on-set performance – which is hugely important to the story telling.



[Windmill Lane’s Studio 1]


Are there any films/ TV shows that inspire your work and help influence projects you’re working on?


Films like Barton Fink, Delicatessan, Betty Blue, Paris Texas, Down by Law, Apocalypse Now were my introduction into quality filmmaking when I was younger. They have influenced my expectations of what I work on from day to day.


Of the current crop of films out there I’m really looking forward to seeing Dune 2. I was very impressed with the sound work on Denis Villeneuves first Dune. It will be interesting to see how they develop the sound for this second instalment.


In your opinion – what are Windmill Lane’s unique selling points when it comes to managing Post-Production?


The people in Windmill Lane – Creatives and Production crew are the life blood. There is an inspiring commitment to doing the best job possible which is the reason we all turn up every day.


[Windmill Lane Team]

Finally – what do you do in your spare time to relax? 


I recently went back to playing piano having played it as a kid so I’m on grade 7 now and spend a lot of spare time practicing. I also like to run and have run a few marathons and hope to make it to the starting line of the Dublin marathon in October. I also make music in my home studio mainly for my own amusement but with the hope of making something I’d be happy to play to someone that’s not myself.


WFT – Fixing it in Post Podcast: In Conversation With Windmill Lane’s Deborah Doherty



Synopsis from

Our Newest Sponsor, Windmill Lane has been around for 45 years, helping storytellers to express their stories through post, VFX, audio and creative partnerships. Earlier this month, WFT Board Member and Producer Fiona Kinsella spoke with Head of Production at Windmill Lane, Deborah Doherty about the industry, her impressive career to date, and all things post-production.

Deborah Doherty

Deborah has been with Windmill Lane for almost 18 years working as an Audio Studio manager, Producer and now Head of Production across its Film and TV, Commercial and VFX sectors. She ran the successful Number 4 audio studios from 2005-2019 growing the team and resulting in several IFTA, ICAD, Irish Animation awards and an Emmy nomination. Recent projects include dramas Kin and Smother, features My Little Pony: a new generation, Greta, Black 47, Murder at the Cottage and new VFX work for Netflix and Paramount. She is passionate about finding and developing new talent in the industry and helping Windmill’s diverse client base take their projects and exceed all expectations. Prior to joining Windmill Lane, Deborah worked for audio studios in London, and for radio stations and marketing agencies in Leeds after completing her degree there at the University of Leeds. Originally from the Co. Derry north coast, Deborah has lived in Dublin since 2005 and is a busy mum to Noah age 6 and Sadie age 3, and loves living near the sea, walks on the beach, and great TV drama.

IFTA Nominated Dathaí Keane talks about saying goodbye to Smother

[Estimated Reading Time – 8 mins]

On the back of 5 x IFTA nominations – Jason Gaffney sat down with Dathaí Keane (IFTA nominated / Director-Drama) to discuss the final season of Smother – RTÉ’s massively successful drama starring Dervla Kirwan and Fionnuala Flanagan. Dathaí reflects not only on his time as Smother director but also on his growth as a filmmaker as well as the many challenges overcome post-Covid.


With Smother’s final episode airing this week – how do you reflect on your time on the show?


Smother was a really rewarding and almost life-changing experience. Going into Season One – we didn’t know what was coming. We were all excitement for the show. But then midway through our filming, we got shut down (pandemic). So having done three seasons – it’s very much bound up with that crazy time.

We all lived in the same bubble and we developed stronger relationships with crew. It’s probably something that as time goes by, it’ll really start to resonate. Rob (Walpole) and Rebecca (O’Flanagan) [Meet Rob & Rebecca] were pivotal during this period in showing support and always being supportive. They drove the project forward.

I would say that Dervla Kirwan set the tone on-set in terms of culture. Out of 65 day shoots she was there probably 60 days. She’s kind of the backbone of the whole show and really gave it her all.


Do you still have fear going into a shoot? With the aforementioned challenges how do you prepare?


It’s all in the preparation. So already now we’re starting on a new show. Before you shoot is when the proper work is being done so that when you get to set – it should run smoothly enough. If a challenge does come – you don’t panic because you know what the schedule is, we know what the scripts are etc. We can work around it. And by having all that preparation done, you set the pieces in place to achieve what you want.

A typical set of examples would be; planning with AD’s, discussing shot-lists, agreeing on how we will shoot things with the DOP, being methodical and mapping it all out in advance.


[Dathaí Keane]


To me the landscape plays such a big role in Smother. Would you agree that its central to the show?


100%. We wanted the landscape to be a character. Lahinch is just trapped between the land and the sea. It’s very elemental. You have the rugged Wild Atlantic Way sitting beside the Burren, which is on its own; unique, mysterious and beautiful. There’s a harshness to the Burren. Which is something I think that came into the show, because even though there’s a beauty to Smother – it’s quite an austere beauty. That’s something I think that reflected the landscape, especially the blasted rocks that you find, the narrow trees that really are trying to eke a living out of this thin soil. And that’s something I think we were always conscious of when we were making the show– It was something we tried to, to weave into it as much as we could.


Do you feel the landscape influenced the characters behaviour in any way?


Well people are inherently connected to place. So it’s ‘how can that be reflected in story’ and then for characters who aren’t of that place ‘is there a contrast or a conflict between them and those who are more deeply established?’. It’s something we talked about. Because we did a lot of exterior work. We are out in the elements quite a bit and for the interiors we chose them as reflections of the landscape. For example – the houses often face onto the sea or else they would be nestled into a mountain side suggesting a need to be protective or sheltered. So we were trying to find locations that really spoke to that and spoke to who each character was.


[Burren landscape, Smother]


Now that you mention it – the original promotional poster referenced the roots of each character. How much of this was discussed with the PR team in advance?


Correct. When we spoke with the publicity team we spoke about how we will portray the characters and they kept coming back to family heritage and legacy. So we took elements from that, drew up concepts and came up ‘the family tree’. The roots run deep and still impact the lives of these characters to this day.


[Smother – Season One Promo Poster]


Smother includes some VFX – posted by Windmill Lane. How do you find working with VFX and how does that impact your approach to filmmaking?


For Smother I worked alongside John Kennedy [Head of VFX/Windmill Lane] who was across the process. There were conversations we had before we shot so this allowed us to shoot in the most effective way possible.

Windmill Lane VFX Supervisors were down on set for the days we were shooting. They took those materials away, worked on them and what they ended up delivering was outstanding. I think a lot of that was because of the planning stages and having John be there and talk us through what he felt would help achieve the look.


Did the shoot of Season 3 throw up any unique challenges that the VFX could help with?


Well we filmed in a water tank in Wicklow. On the day there were certain things we had difficulty with. For ex with a water tank you can have your actor in there for a certain amount of time. It’s very hard to keep things steady in frame because everything’s moving.

It’s quite difficult to light for it because there’s so much reflection off materials you can light and the water tank has a certain light source from the side that you can see sometimes. So when we were filming it we were getting lots of material but it was always a case of questioning ‘okay this is almost like just raw material that the VFX guys are gonna have to do some work on’ to create the shots that we’d discussed. This was probably the most time consuming VFX work for Season 3 but we were delighted with how it turned out. 


How important is sound for you and how was it working with Fionán Higgins & Mark Henry at Windmill?


 It’s such an important process. I think people are surprised by the amount of time we put into sound. I think it’s what distinguishes a good show from something a little bit pedestrian. If you hear good sound – it just brings the thing to life in a vital way. It elevates everything. It really makes a drama stand out if the sound design and mix is top-notch – which I think we’ve always gotten with Windmill.

I have noted a trend in TV that you almost need subtitles for an English speaking program – as the dialogue can be hard to understand. Smother is a dialogue-heavy piece so it was time consuming for me and the team. We have a dialogue editor on hand making sure it’s all in there and if it’s not – we move to ADR.

For me – I think it’s important to be creative in ADR. I think a lot of people aren’t aware of the ways you can re rejig a scene in the edit by just coming up with lines of creative ADR. Or something is a little bit unclear in terms of story narrative. You can insert a line of dialogue into it or rewrite the script a little bit in the post process.


[Niamh Walsh, Smother]


You have also worked with Matt Branton in the Grade for all 3 seasons?


Yes. A good example of how crucial the grade is; If we were dealing with, say, a flashback Matt would come up with a certain look for the flashback, maybe treating the material a little bit differently, giving us a distinctive feel so that the audience knows. Because once we establish that convention and we do a true audio and true picture – then every time the flashback pops up – the audience is along with us. It’s something we can use to help them. The grade can be another storytelling device.


After 3 seasons – is there a level of trust whereby you can let the Windmill team (VFX, Audio, Grade) ‘do their thing’?


To an extent. There is a level of trust that has been built up over three seasons where I’m very happy for Mark Henry, for example, to work his own creative magic across the sound design and find moments. There’s moments where you want the sound design to be really prominent and the score might have to take a backseat. But then there’s moments where the score needs to drive the story. And I suppose it’s just balancing that and that’s something we could do collaboratively when we’re watching it through.


[Dean Fagan & Conor Mullen, Smother]


What advice would you offer someone looking to replicate your career?


Don’t be afraid to tell your own stories. I think oftentimes we’ve had a propensity in this country [Ireland] to service other people’s stories too much. We’ve been very happy to let everybody come in and tell other people’s stories. We’re at a stage where I think we can compete at the very highest end of drama production, and we can focus on telling stories that are rooted in this country and in our people.

The Irish are natural storytellers and I think we have so many stories that we can get out there. So I think people who are young, you know, look at what’s on your doorstep, look at what you can use. There’s a lot to be said for hard work as well.


Written by Jason Gaffney

Windmill Lane appoint Stephen Pepper as VFX/Comp Supervisor


The vastly experienced VFX artist joins Windmill Lane with over 30 years’ experience in VFX for Film, Television and Commercials.


Back in 1986, Stephen Pepper spent a day watching the artist Charlie Whisker in Windmill Lane, Dublin. Fast forward to 2023 and Stephen arrives back at Windmill with a career and filmography that would be the envy of most in the media sector. Working across Film, TV and Commercials and having lived in Canada, USA, the Netherlands and Ireland – Stephen has perfected his craft and is keen to put his stamp on Ireland’s longest running Post Production house.


Summer of 86

I was keen to find out how Stephen became interested in VFX in the first place.


“I was 16 when my Dad (who worked in advertising) got me a gig shadowing Charlie Whisker in Windmill Lane working on a Bosch FGS-4000. It was for a music video by Steve Winwood (Valerie). He was basically painting frame by frame and animating paint strokes around characters on the plates. I thought this was awesome.” [laughs]. The following year, having just finished my Leaving Cert and having a potential placement in college, I spent the early summer creating some portfolio work on my Commodore Amiga with Deluxe Paint. It got me a job at Agtel Communications (which would become Picture Company in 1990 and later Piranha Bar).”


[Steve Winwood-Valerie / clickable]

As you can tell – Stephen took a shining to creative software from day one and was surprised with how quickly his professional life evolved from that formative summer.


By the end of that summer I had the option to go to college but loved what I was doing and was earning money so decided to dedicate myself to the role. For the first few years it was mostly TV graphics and commercials at Agtel. Initially we worked on Quanta Paint hardware but then moved to Apple hardware, running photoshop. And then we purchased the Quantel Hal.”


The Embassy & Ironman

After moving to Vancouver Canada, and meeting his wife, Stephen formed The Embassy with a group of VFX professionals he had worked with before; Neill Blomkamp, Winston Helgason, Simon van de Lagemaat, James Hebb & Trevor Cawood. They started off doing commercials and some episodic work, and the launchpad for the business was in 2005 having worked on Citroen’s C4 campaign ‘Alive with technology’.


[Citreon C4 Ad Campaign / clickable]

“That ad put us on the map and from that ad – we got the call to work on Ironman which was a game changer. We worked on the entire cave sequence where Tony Stark is building the suit to escape captivity. It was our first feature. The closest thing we had done prior to working with Marvel was Stargate sequences. But we learned pretty fast which is always the best way I feel.”


[Ironman, 2008 / clickable]

District 9

All of a sudden Stephen and his colleagues were the talk of every major studio across North America. So much so that it wasn’t long until District 9 was greenlit in production. District 9 became a global phenomenon earning over $215 million against a $30 million budget and blending (some may argue) VFX and social realism together for the first time. This was a fascinating and experimental period for Stephen and his colleagues. Stephen explains:


“It was great. The film was mostly shot on RED cameras but they were at the very early stages of their development. The film was also shot on Sony prosumer cameras and it was a multitude of different formats and quality. For example one issue with digital cameras at that time was that any large horizontal movement would result in rolling shutter artifacts – which made compositing tougher. But it was a really creative experience and time.”


[District 9, 2009]


In late 2013 Stephen made the leap to Amsterdam, Netherlands where he lived for 9 years. Here he worked for the world renowned Ambassadors – a creative production studio founded in 2007 with studios in Amsterdam and New York. Stephen notes that one highlight of this period was when he was asked to judge ‘Film Craft’ at Cannes LIONS in 2015.

In 2019 Creativepool decided to lean on Stephens expertise and insight by asking him to be a Post-Production judge at their Annuals. It’s fair to say that The Tens was a period of acclaim and reward for a career dedicated to craft and learning. Since shadowing Charlie Whisker aged 16 Stephen’s inquisitive nature means he is always learning – a key trait for someone working in VFX where change and evolution happens daily. This admiration is shared by John Kennedy – Head of VFX at Windmill Lane – who shared his joy at bringing Stephen onboard;


“It’s fantastic to have someone of Stephens calibre, reputation and experience join our team. His work across film and advertising speaks for itself. He brings with him the reassurance  of  great creative leadership that’s going to be of immense value to our crew and growing client base.”


[District 9, 2009]

Career Advice

Throughout our conversation there is a constant emphasis on learning. From Stephen’s desire to shadow artists at the age of 16, his willingness to adapt to emerging hardware & tech, the bravery to take on major Hollywood productions with modest experience – it appears this is a key trait of his. What would he advise to the next generation of talent who wish to work in the industry?


“My advice is to throw yourself into the deep end and figure it out as you go along. When I graduated from secondary school there were not many courses available in Dublin so if you need that base – great. But practise makes perfect.”


Stephen Pepper IMDB

Stephen Pepper LinkedIn


Written by Jason Gaffney