The brothers behind alien comedy Zonad talk to Jeremy Kay about following the success of Once and sharing directing duties.

John Carney is back after the success of his first Once, teaming up with his screenwriter brother Kieran to co-direct the comedy Zonad. Simon Delaney stars as a friendly alien who alights upon a small Irish village and charms the local populace. However all is not as it seems. Zonad received its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival (April 21- May 2) and continues to screen through the week.

Why did you want to make Zonad?

John Carney: “I had just made Once and was reeling from the success it had given me. I didn’t want to jump into doing a big-budget film; I wanted to make another Irish film and do something with my friends and family back here. Doing Zonad gave me time to do that. There were a number of projects I turned down because they were director for hire projects.”
Kieran Carney: “We made an attempt to make a feature out of it about 10 years ago but it never happened. And a TV show took off and we put it on the back burner. We still had the master tapes and eventually we decided to remake it.”

The villagers never ask Zonad where he comes from. Why?

John: “If you have everybody saying who are you and where are you from it gets repetitive. They accept him for who he is and that shows their gullibility and openness to new things.”
Kieran: “There’s an episode of The Outer Limits in which the alien was asked what lifestyle was like and he dodges the question and says it was too difficult for people to understand and I just felt it was the writer saying he couldn’t be bothered to create an alternate world and everybody would just go along with it. I felt that was a hilarious cop-out. How did the Marx Brothers get away with the stuff they got away with? You just don’t go there.”

Simon Delaney was a perfect choice for the role.

Kieran: “Simon was the automatic choice because he’d been in the earlier version and he was one of the few people we could convince to stand in a PVC suit for little money for three weeks. He has an old-fashioned quality. He can sing and he is a very good physical comic. It really worked for that part. It’s versatility that is his strength. The cast is very good throughout.”

How did you share directing duties?

John: “There’s no broad structure to it. We’d talk about ideas and when somebody had the floor it was important the other one sat back. We worked quite well together and didn’t interrupt each other’s flow. The best thing to do in a directing pair is plan ahead: you have your arguments the night before. If it was a scene that Kieran had written or he got the joke more, it was agreed he’d direct the actors, and vice versa.”
Kieran: “There’s a natural divide. John would probably be more of an actor’s director and technically minded, whereas I come from a writer’s background and would be looking at the text.”

How did the financing come together?

John: “It was chiefly money through the Irish Film Board. They were conscious that I’d had a nice response to Once. Zonad isn’t the film where you can have too much of an editorial voice so they were quite laid back and let us get on with it. I like working with low-budget films – the more money you have the more reluctant people are to leave you alone.”

What’s next?

John: “I’m making a film for Fox 2000 called Townhouse. It’s a black comedy about agoraphobia based on a screenplay I’ve been writing for a while.”