The director of a short film which has been nominated for an Oscar has paid tribute to Northern Ireland arts groups for giving him his start.
An Irish Goodbye has already won Best British Short Film at the Baftas, and could scoop the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film this weekend.
The film is a dark comedy set on a farm in Northern Ireland. It tells a story of two estranged brothers – one with Down’s syndrome, played by James Martin – who come together after their mother’s death to try to fulfil their mother’s “bucket list” with her ashes before they sell off the family farm.
It was shot on location in Londonderry, Templepatrick and Saintfield and also stars Seamus O’Hara, Paddy Jenkins and Michelle Fairley.
Sunday could be a double celebration for Martin as he celebrates his birthday and attends the Academy Awards.
Director Ross White is already in Los Angeles, and joked he was recovering from jetlag but was having a great time.
He paid tribute to Northern Ireland groups the Belvoir Players and Ravara Productions for giving him his start.
“All those great organisations gave me a start and really got me excited about storytelling, and then the professional work that happens in our wee place is just astounding for the size of it,” he said.
“It’s all a bit surreal, a bit ‘pinch me’, but we’re just trying to have fun with it and enjoy ourselves. We had a really good night at the Baftas, and we’re going to do exactly the same for the Oscars.
“They are competitions, but being here, being in the room, you’ve already won, so we’re just going to have a good time.”
Martin is travelling out later this week ahead of the ceremony on Sunday.
He said a friend of his, who also has Down’s syndrome and is an actor, inspired him, and like White he paid tribute to the Belvoir Players as well as the Babosh drama group for giving him his start.
“I’m just glad that An Irish Goodbye is going this far, it’s actually on the day of my birthday that the awards will happen – it’s the icing on my birthday cake that it might happen. I’m going to party in style with the boys.”
He has already made some celebrity friends such as actor Colin Farrell, who he met at the Baftas, and is hoping to meet Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg at the Oscars.
He said he would encourage anyone to try acting.
“I would say talk to a drama group, it doesn’t matter if you have a disability, do what you can, and never judge a book by its cover,” he added.
White received a grant of £1,125 in 2020/21 from Northern Ireland Screen for short film development support, a programme funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
More recently Martin received £1,286 of National Lottery funding through the Arts Council’s Travel Awards to support him and an accessibility support worker to attend the Academy Awards.
Alison McCrudden, head of literature and drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said the organisation is thrilled for the team.
“Huge congratulations to the team and cast of An Irish Goodbye in winning a Bafta and being nominated for an Oscar.
“Thanks to the National Lottery players, the film received support in its development stage back in 2020/21 and now National Lottery funding is supporting actor James Martin to attend the Oscar ceremony in Hollywood,” she said.
“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is thrilled for all involved and wish them every success this Sunday at the Oscars – they’ve already won just by being in the room.”
Selected cinemas will present a special screening of An Irish Goodbye as part of a Homecoming Tour. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with cast and crew. Visit www.floodlightpictures.co.uk for details.