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IFTN chat to Science on Screen ‘Mending Legends’ Team James Ryan & Paul Webster
11 Apr 2017 : Katie McNeice
Science on Screen is a funding strand for creative documentaries engaging with an area of scientific research currently underway in CÚRAM, which will fully fund a twenty-six minute film with a budget of €35,000.

The current instalment of the scheme is open for applications until Wednesday April 19th.

We caught up with the producer James Ryan of StationHouse Media and director Paul Webster, whose project ‘Mending Legends’ received funding in 2016.

The film looks at the devastating effects of tendon injury on sports people and the team of scientists who are working to form the world’s first 3D cell assembled tendon prototype.

IFTN:Tell us how you became involved with the scheme initially and what the outcome was

Ryan: “The Director of 'Mending Legends', Paul Webster, initially approached me with an idea for the 2016 scheme. Paul had attended the Science on Screen information day that had been held in Galway and it was an idea that combined Sports and Science to showcase the work being undertaken by CURAM in Galway - specifically we looked at how a research group are aiming to grow a tendon from stem cells which can then be implanted into the body, improving patient recovery time and rehabilitation: something that surely would be of huge interest to sporting bodies such as Horse Racing Ireland, GAA, Olympic Ireland etc.

“The idea fit the SFI's remit and also had a wide audience appeal through its use of Sport as a hook. We developed the idea and prepared the pitch documents - which resulted in a shortlisting and interview in the Galway Film Centre. I had worked on documentary series for other companies in the past, and was keen to get a doc production under my belt for my own company, StationHouse Media. I think the calibre of crew I had lined up definitely helped the pitch document. Maire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill was a great addition as our presenter to lead the story. I was also lucky to have people like Nigel O'Regan from Riverside TV on post production - Nigel would have worked on the likes of Risteard O Domhnaill's  'The Pipe' and 'Atlantic'. I also managed to get a score composed by a new company called TribalCat Music, which I think really ups the production value.

“Shortly after the interview, we received the good news that we had been successful. It was a respectable budget at €35,000 but of course you could always use more! We filmed over 5 dates during summer 2016 and it's a documentary we're all very proud of.”  

IFTN: Do you feel the use of film has enhanced awareness of the research being carried out and if so, why?

Ryan: “I think it has enhanced awareness - and hopefully will for a long time to come. It premiered to a full house in An Taibhdhearc, Galway along with the other winning entry 'Feats of Modest Valour'. It has had other screenings since and there are plans to show 'Mending Legends' around to a network of secondary schools and sports clubs around the country. If teenagers are aware of the type of ambitious research taking place on their doorstep, it can't but pique their interest in it as a career.”

IFTN: Do you imagine the partnership crafted between medical research and film could benefit other areas of science?

Ryan: “Absolutely - A funding scheme like this shines a light on the different research taking place in Ireland - I think science, or any subject, just needs to be presented in the right way to an audience. All this research is taking place behind closed doors - A filmmaker can help tease out a story and showcase it to a wide audience.”

IFTN: Tell us how you became involved with the scheme initially and what the outcome was

Webster: “I found out about the scheme online and I was immediately intrigued by the idea. I am hugely interested in the area of science and the prospect of collaborating with scientists was very exciting. The key word for me was 'engagement,' I was keen to develop a project that would appeal to a wide audience. When I heard about the tendon project at Cúram, I thought about the various GAA, Rugby and Soccer stars that are plagued by tendon injuries. This was our way in, we could explore a common problem associated with all of the  sports that are loved here, while also exploring the futuristic sounding advances in science that are taking place in Ireland.”

IFTN: Do you feel the use of film has enhanced awareness of the research being carried out and if so, why?

Webster: “Definitely, when people would ask me about the project, I would tell them that essentially, scientists in Galway are trying to grow a tendon from scratch in a lab and people would be blown away by the idea. 'We're living in the future' is a common phrase I'd hear. And the fact that this kind of cutting edge research is taking place in Ireland, makes people very proud and they want to share it with their friends and family. I think that's what has made this project successful, when people learn about this stuff, they want to talk about it and learn more about it.” 

IFTN: Do you imagine the partnership crafted between medical research and film could benefit other areas of science?

Webster: “One of the reasons I loved working on this project was that it was a 'good news' story. We explored a problem and then we introduced the scientists that are trying to solve this problem and the challenges that they face. This to me is the perfect format for exciting television and I see endless potential for collaboration between filmmakers and medical researchers.” 

Apply for Science on Screen Now
Learn more about ‘Mending Legends’  

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