Michael Feeney Callan
|This article is outdated. (September 2013)|
|Michael Feeney Callan|
Michael Feeney Callan at book signing, Salt Lake City, 2011.
|Born||Michael Feeney Callan
|Education||Beneavin College, Dublin|
|Occupation||Writer, filmmaker, poet and painter|
|Spouse(s)||Ree Ward Callan|
Michael Feeney Callan is a novelist, filmmaker, poet and painter, also known for his biographical writing.
An award winner for his short fiction, he joined BBC television drama as a story editor, and wrote screenplays for The Professionals and for American television. He wrote the template Irish police drama series, The Burke Enigma, starring Donal McCann, and Love Is, starring Gabriel Byrne, and went on to write and direct a number of television programmes, among them the celebrated bio-documentary The Beach Boys Today. Callan has published several novels and has written biographies of Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins and Richard Harris. His biography of Robert Redford (Robert Redford: The Biography; Knopf, 2011), written with Redford's cooperation over a period of fifteen years, was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of its recommended Best Books of 2011. In 2013 he published his second volume of poetry, An Argument for Sin.
Michael Feeney Callan was born to Michael Callan, an engineer, and Margaret (née Feeney) in Drumcondra, Dublin.
After a spell resident in London, Callan settled in Dublin with his wife Ree and their two children, Corey and Paris. He frequently spends time at Châteauneuf de Grasse in the South of France, where he paints and sculpts.
Callan started as a published poet. His wish, from childhood, was to contribute to internationalising Irish cultural experience and, in his words, "to writing some good, lasting poems". His first poems, often on romantic themes and deploying surreal language, were published within David Marcus’ New Irish Writing.
In 2003 Callan published the collection, Fifty Fingers, which includes his first published poem, Barbara.
Callan's second volume of poetry, An Argument for Sin, was published in August 2013. Callan describes the work as "a memoir in poetry, much influenced by Yeats' A Vision and Poe's Eureka." The book comprises poems written between 2003 and 2013.
Following the early success of his short stories, winning the Hennessy Literary Award for Baccy and being anthologised in Best Irish Short Stories (Elek, 1978), Callan has had a diverse publishing career. Several British television adaptations, including Capital City (ITV), Target: The Bronze Heist (Target (UK TV series)), Sweet Sixteen and Jockey School (all BBC), were accompanied by works of original fiction and poetry, as well are performing arts biographies.
Biofilmographies of Julie Christie and Jayne Mansfield were followed by highly praised biographies of Sean Connery, long time friend Richard Harris and Anthony Hopkins. The Connery book was referred to as "a necessity for Connery and Bond fans" by the Los Angeles Times and the novelist and critic Dermot Bolger, reviewing Anthony Hopkins' biography, described Callan as "one of Ireland's foremost biographers".
Callan's biography of Connery is the sole reference work on Connery quoted in Albert "Cubby" Broccoli's autobiography and remains in print after 30 years. A new edition, revised and updated to cover Connery's formal retirement, was published by Nouveau Monde Editions, Paris, in March 2012.
Callan's first novel, Lovers and Dancers, set in Ireland during the famine, was inspired by Anthony Trollope's early writing. The book was reissued by Random House in the mid-nineties.
Subsequently, in 2002 Callan published Did You Miss Me?, a novel exploring difficult female themes which will be re-released in a revised version in 2014.
For fifteen years from the mid-nineties, Callan travelled throughout the United States interviewing more than 300 sources for Robert Redford: The Biography (Knopf, 2011). The book was written with the cooperation of the subject who travelled to Ireland to work with Callan and provided access to his diaries, scripts and personal records. In the course of its preparation, Callan spent extensive time with many of Redford's key collaborators, from Sydney Pollack and George Roy Hill to Michael Ritchie and Alan J. Pakula. Specifying the depth of research, Bryan Forbes cited Callan as "a shining example" of good biographers in his review. The book was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of its recommended Best Books of 2011. Entertainment Weekly chose Robert Redford: The Biography as one of its 10 Best Movie Books of 2011. Robert Redford: The Biography was published in mass market paperback by Vintage Books on May 22, 2012. It has been translated into Turkish, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Spanish and German.
Writing for radio and television
Callan began writing for radio at the outset of his career. He adapted The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins and Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh for RTE Radio, and wrote the original plays The Train and Tripp. He also contributed more than 20 plays to the Dan Treston-produced series Treasure House, dramatising the lives of scientists, writers and artists from Johannes Kepler to Edgar Allan Poe and H.G. Wells.
Callan's first major screenplay was the epic crime series The Burke Enigma, a six-hour film production for RTE, which starred Ray McAnally and Donal McCann and went forward as RTE's drama entry for the 1979 Prix Italia. According to Callan, this work was "influenced by the film noir I loved as a kid, and by Robert Altman's (filming) style." Subsequently Callan joined BBC television drama in London, where he story-edited the detective series Shoestring (TV series). Simultaneously, at ITV, he wrote for the action series The Professionals, created by Brian Clemens, whom he cites as one of his principal screenwriting influences.
Collaborating with Anthony Shaffer, Callan was commissioned in 1987 by Home Box Office to write the The Negotiator, based on a treatment by Forsyth. The series was announced but never filmed and Forsyth later redeveloped the outline into a novel.
Back at the BBC, Callan was commissioned to write a two-part episode of Doctor Who entitled "The Children of January". This was in final revision when the series was suspended under Jonathan Nathan-Turner's producer tenure in 1985. On his website, Callan responded to an enquiry on this subject thus:
I wrote a two-parter called The Children of January. It was to be a season closer, not a series termination. But the BBC decided in mid-season that the show had run its course and, in the middle eighties, I think they were right. But I loved my episode, which was delivered late in 1985. I created a race of runaway proto-humans called the Z'ros, sort of 'human bees', of which I still have the fondest nightmares. The Children of January, incidentally, refers to renegade outcasts of a dawning 'parallel universe' civilisation that was abandoned
Callan has continued to write for television, including the popular ITV series Cluedo and the RTE drama Templewood.
In 2011 Callan wrote and produced Channel 4's Sounds from the Cities. The series was presented by actor Mathew Horne, and featured live performances from K T Tunstall, Jon Fratelli, Joy Formidable and Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals.
Film and directing
Michael Feeney Callan made a significant contribution to the regeneration of the film industry in Ireland during the 1980s. Joining Morgan O'Sullivan's pioneering production set-up, Tara Productions, Callan collaborated in a strategy to acquire the defunct National Film Studios (as Ardmore studios was then named), alter film investment law and attract Hollywood-based co-production into Ireland.
Throughout the eighties, Callan worked with O'Sullivan, forging a bridgehead at the renamed Ardmore Studios which was bought in partnership with the NEA and MTM Hollywood in November 1986.
In the 1990s, Callan started directing. His directorial debut was with the six-part series My Riviera, in which Roger Moore, James Coburn, Sylvia Kristel, Charles Aznavour and Joan Collins reviewed cultural and personal favourite places along the Côte d'Azur, an area Callan has frequented since the 1980s. The series was screened on ITV and throughout the world.
In 1993 Callan wrote, produced and directed The Beach Boys Today, a co-production with RTE documenting the final touring days of the Carl Wilson-led Beach Boys. More work in the USA followed, including a documentary entitled Back to Enchantment about animators Gary Goldman and Don Bluth (An American Tail, Anastasia) which tied in with the Warner Bros release of Thumbelina (1994 film).
In 1994 Callan was approached to write, co-produce and co-direct a film of the final concert of Perry Como for PBS. Como, by then in his 80th year, was unwell in the week leading to the filming and the performance itself was curtailed as a result, but Como expressed himself exhilarated by the experience and later commented that he had always wished to end his career in Ireland.
After a decade working on the Redford project, Callan resumed directing with the film Luke Kelly: The Performer, which subsequently spent eight weeks at the top of the DVD sales chart in Ireland (2005–2006), achieving platinum sales status. According to Callan, the project was "a wonderful fusion, part biography, part musical. It covered so much of the poetic ground I love, the stuff that inspires me. And Luke was an incredibly gifted man."
In December 2007 Callan joined the advisory board of the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival, along with Jim Sheridan and other luminaries from the Irish film scene, a move which underlined his commitment to promoting Irish artistic endeavour worldwide.
In November 2010 Callan co-founded an interactive television-based resource for new artists and musicians, BOBCOM (the Birth of Brilliance Community). As part of its creative incentive scheme, in July 2011 Callan wrote and directed the two-day Magical History Tour event in Liverpool, culminating with a 7-hour live session from the Cavern Club streamed on YouTube. The event included a re-creation of The Beatles' 1967 magic bus tour and a re-creation of the day in July 1957 when John Lennon met Paul McCartney. Featured were the original Quarrymen band, Pete Best, students from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) and Alamode and We Are Burke's Lounge, two winning bands from BOBCOM's incentive scheme.
Callan went on to set up and direct the premiere episodes of The 2UBE Live from LIPA, a student series produced by LIPA, from October to Christmas 2011.
Irish Times art critic Aidan Dunne observed that "Callan's work is like a love affair with French painting", an accurate evaluation since Callan started painting in Chateauneuf de Grasse in the South of France in the eighties and titled his first exhibition, staged at Dublin's Blue Leaf Gallery  in May 2002, A Workshop in France.
Subsequently his work ran on two parallel tracks. His figurative nudes featured in the Blue Leaf's Nude group showing in November 2002, and more detailed figurative work, taken from his illustrated poetry notebooks, was the focus of the Fifty Fingers exhibition, which opened at the Pembroke Blue Leaf Gallery in August 2003. In tandem with this figurative work, Callan's experiments in abstract cubism have produced quirky works peopled with statuesque Hellenic imagery. He continues to work also in bronze.
Callan's last exhibition, entitled Arcadia Suburbia, focussed on themes of childhood and adolescent iconography.
A new exhibition of drawings and paintings featuring work assembled over the last eight years will be held in Dublin shortly.
Other media work
Michael Feeney Callan has frequently contributed to the arts programme Arena, on RTE Radio 1. He has also regularly reviewed books for the Irish Independent and contributed journalism to Vanity Fair, GQ Magazine, the Irish Times and the Irish Broadcasting Review.
Callan also contributed to "The Art and Craft of Film Biography: A Symposium" in the summer 2013 issue of Cineaste magazine.
Callan co-created the multi-platform arts project entitled BOBCOM and worked with producer Steve Levine on its development.
Michael Feeney Callan won the Hennessy Literary Award in 1977 for his story Baccy. The story concerns the culture clash between urban and rural values and will appear in Callan's first short story collection, The Beautiful Corner, to be published in 2014.
Notes and references
- Callan, Michael Feeney (2011). Robert Redford: A Biography. Random House. p. 402. ISBN 9780679450559.
- http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/search-handle-url?%5Fencoding=UTF8&search-type=ss&index=books-uk&field-author=Michael%20Feeney%20Callan, Michael Feeney Callan at Amazon.co.uk
- http://www.blueleafgallery.com/, Blue Leaf Gallery Website