Spotlight on Ciarán Cooke on working on AppleTV+ Foundation TV Series

  • Ciaran Cooke
Ciarán Cooke, studio manager at Odyssey Studios talks to Ciarán Cooke, studio manager at Odyssey Studios about his work on the blockbuster TV Show ‘Foundation' filmed at Troy Studios in Limerick City.

Who are Odyssey Studios and what was the role of Odyssey Studios in the making of the new show?

Odyssey Studios is one of Europe’s largest permanent model making facilities. We do everything from design and digital modelling right through to fabrication, all in house.

We were honoured in that we had several roles on Foundation and got to experience the production as a whole. We worked with a variety of different departments including making large sculptural set pieces for the Art Dept and multiple ornate pieces for costumes and armour for the Costume Dept.

But primarily, we worked as the miniature model makers for the VFX Dept. Many of the spaceships seen in the show are actually miniature models made right here in studio.

Describe an average day working on the show?

Like a lot of productions, the average day in production is a 100 mile an hour collaborative obstacle course. Unlike most productions, the scale and quality of Foundation was like nothing I’ve seen before.

What was your favourite part of the process working on the series?

There are lots of things that stand out, but I think I can only narrow it down to two. The first was in the very early days of production, Mark (company Director) and myself, were invited to a design briefing in Troy. At the meeting were an assortment of dept Heads and higher ups including show creator David Goyer.

The meeting went very well and we were asked as to our availability to take on an amount of work. For a new company, this was such a massive step for us, I can still remember the elation. The second was finally seeing our work on screen. It was a long wait from beginning the project in 2018, to finally seeing the fruits of our labour, especially when you can’t tell anyone what you’ve been doing. The VFX in the show are outstanding, we may have built the ships but Chris MacLean and his team made them fly.

What was the biggest challenge working on such a blockbuster story?

I’d have to say Communication. With any production the dissemination of information from the top down is the key stone to the entire production, with something the scale of Foundation, that becomes even more of a challenge. We were lucky in that we had open channels of communication with the VFX team and a dedicated liaison. Getting the information we needed as fast as possible allowed things to stay moving forward, time is everyone’s enemy in film.

What should we look out for on screen to see Odyssey's work?

So there’s a whole host of Odyssey Easter eggs scattered throughout the show, but the main ones to lookout for are the VFX miniatures. The FTL (Faster Than Light) ships are all our models, including the commercial FTL seen in episode 1 and the destroyer fleet seen in episode 2.

How did you start out in filmmaking?

That’s a good question. Definitely not the standard route. I know there are failed artists who have turned to business, but I’m not sure how many more failed businessmen have turned to art. My first job in film was striking sets in Ardmore Studios after I quit an office job in Dublin. I moved from that into set dressing and then onto shooting crew for several years before returning to making. I guess now I’ve found a fusion of my practical, business and film making skills.

With the success of Foundation and independent productions in the Mid-West, how would you like to see the film industry develop in the region? 

I think the mid-west is on the cusp of huge development. The west coast of Ireland has long since been underutilised from a filming standpoint. With services like Shannon Airport, the motorway, train line and a huge manufacturing base in the city, Limerick is a gate way to shooting locations outside of Dublin/ Wicklow. Cultivating local talent will continue to be essential and with productions like Foundation and bodies such as Screen Skills Ireland helping with that, I only see the industry growing here. Why do you think we set up shop here in the first place!

What advice would you give to someone in Limerick looking to start out in model making for film and TV?

The film industry is a tough gig, it’s definitely a labour of love for those involved and it’s not for everyone. But for those who know it’s what they want to do, work on your craft, pick what you enjoy or what you’re good at. Keep improving, every day is school day. We’ve hired people from lots of backgrounds like woodworking, architectural even digital, usually because they bring a new set of skills to the team. Once you have the intrinsic skills, anything can be adapted for film. It’s an opportunistic industry, you have to put yourself out there and when the chance comes, take it. There are college courses which can give you a leg up, or courses with Screen Skills Ireland. We’re even looking at running courses ourselves through Odyssey Academy, shameless plug.

Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects you’re working on? 

I can’t say much. Expect more blockbuster Sci-fi that’s for sure. We are also consistently working with local artists and public installations, as well as developing out own projects. Hopefully we’ll see an Odyssey Studios production on our screens in the not to distant future. Unfortunately I can’t give anything else away, everything that’s in the pipes in under strict non-disclosure agreements. But stay tuned for big things. This is only our third year in business and were only getting warmed up.

All-time favourite Sci-fi films and shows (besides Foundation)?

That’s a huge question. Where do you even start? I’ve been hooked on Sci-fi my whole life, like truly fascinated. Back to Future for me a s a kid and again as an adult was such a game changer. I’ve always loved Star Wars. Nolan’s Inception and Interstellar are a couple of favourites, but you can’t mention those without a nod to Kubrick and 2001.

Even the satirical Starship Troopers holds a place for me. The Alien films are a masterpiece that have aged like a fine wine. Blade Runner has to be squeezed in there somewhere. TV show wise, Black Mirror is fantastic, I really enjoyed Westworld too but you can’t beat a bit of Rick and Morty.

Foundation is now streaming on Apple TV

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