EUFCN Location Award 2023 Finalist: Inis Mór

The largest of Ireland’s Aran Islands, Inis Mór, is just a 40-minute ferry ride off the country’s western coast. This beautiful, sparse island was a key location for The Banshees of Inisherin  starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as friends turned to bitter enemies.

Inis Mór is among the finalists of the EUFCN Location Award 2023, the annual prize for European filming locations organized by the European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN). The location was submitted by Screen Ireland.

The Banshees of Inisherin Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Director Martin McDonagh’s intention was to locate the production of the Banshees of Inisherin  on an isolated and rugged island that could represent Colin Farrell’s character Padraig, embodying his sweet, simple nature – juxtaposed against his rival Colm’s more lyrical personality.
“The locations brief for ‘Banshees’ suggested epic and wild landscapes,” says Location Manager Eoin Holohan. “A harsh, and sometimes brutal environment that was ultimately contained in a beautiful and breathtaking landscape. Inis Mór offered all of this and so much more.”

Shooting of the film began during the picturesque summer of 2021. The late summer sunsets gracefully illuminated the unique karst landscape of Inis Mór, adorned with ancient ruins and exquisite limestone hand-built walls, creating a captivating journey through time.

“We began filming at the end of August, in perfect summer weather,” says Producer Jo Homewood. “The sun was splitting the stones, the colours of the island were singing. In the evening when the sun sank below the horizon, the sky and the ocean in front of us were set on fire. Everything paused and there was round of applause from cast and crew.”

Inis Mór, Aran Islands

Inis Mór was the setting for Padraig’s cottage, perched atop the island and offering breathtaking views of the cliffs and surrounding ocean.

“When looking for a location for Padraig’s cottage we travelled every lane on Inis Mor,” recalls Jo Homewood. “One morning Martin told us he couldn’t settle for a ‘compromise lane’, and so Padraig’s cottage was built high above Gort Na gCapall, on the southern cliffs of the Island, looking West, towards Dún Anoghasa. A wild and exposed location.”

The production ventured to the ancient Bronze Age fort known as Dún Anoghasa, setting for a key scene where Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan share a bottle of Poitín (Irish moonshine). Permission to film at the historical site was generously granted by Ireland’s Office of Public Works.

“I remember standing on the cliff edge of the protected ancient fort of Dún Anoghasa absorbing Martin’s request to ‘get Colin and Barry to sit here’,” adds Holohan.

Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan sitting on the cliff edge of Dún Anoghasa

A 14-kilometre-long island, Inis Mór posed logistical challenges for the transportation of crew, equipment, vehicles, and sets.

“Shooting on an island is a massive, endless, challenge,” explains Eoin Holohan. “Everything you normally do when shooting a film, goes out the window. How do you get materials onto the island? How do you get permission to build temporary sets on a Special Area of Conservation? How do you accommodate the crew? How do you accommodate lighting requests with no access for plant machinery? How do you get enough toilets onto the island? How do you address all these challenges and deal with the Covid Restrictions?!”

All challenges were successfully overcome by the hospitality and cooperation of local residents. “It was without doubt the most rewarding location I have worked with. Every problem was solved, Inis Mór was worth every challenge it presented,”says Holohan.

The Banshees of Inisherin filming in Inis Mór

Inis Mór’s cultural significance includes numerous heritage sites, a native Irish flora and fauna habitat, and a thriving Irish language-speaking culture. The island’s first appearance on screen was in the very first Irish film, Man of Aran  (1932) – and its most recent remains a testament to this remarkable location, steeped in Irish film history.

“There are many anecdotes I can share,” says location manager Eoin Holohan.” Watching crew starting their morning with a dip in the freezing and refreshing Atlantic, meeting all the perplexed and amused local farmers as we tried to pick the perfect cows for Padraig, watching crew whizzing along on their bicycles. Or witnessing Colin Farrell jogging around the Island head to toe in his neon shorts and vest.”

“Evening after evening, during the weeks of filming in early September, we would stand in awe, looking West at the sunset, stilled by the immensity of the land and the ocean,” recalls producer Jo Homewood. “Inis Mór brought a unique magic and presence to The Banshees of Inisherin – thank you to the people and land.”

Inis Mór

“We had the most amazing time making The Banshees of Inisherin  on the West coast of Ireland,” says director Martin McDonagh.”The most talented and fun crew and technical support, the most beautiful locations on Inis Mór and Achill, the kindest support and assistance from the islanders. Everything on the movie, from behind the camera to location management to production facilities to catering, was world class, and I can’t wait to make another film there as soon as possible.”

The European Film Commissions Network is a non-profit association that supports and promotes the European film industry and culture. It currently represents 99 European film commissions and film institutions from 31 different countries.