Boy Starts Band… Becomes Award Winning Director

An Interview with Sing Street Creator John Carney


Irish writer, director, and composer John Carney has done it again! After the success of the films Once and Begin Again comes a new musical drama that will leave audience’s laughing, crying, and dancing their way out of the theatre. Sing Street is an autobiographical film that lives up to the cheeky tagline “Boy meets girl. Girl unimpressed. Boy starts band.” A young and fresh cast along with excellent writing brings humour, honesty, and a universal feeling of connection to a perfectly portrayed 1980’s rock scene. Carney has the exceptional ability to combine dialogue and song so perfectly that his work stands apart from all other films in this genre and Celtic Canada was able to get a glimpse into the creative process of this brilliant storyteller.

Celtic Canada: Sing Street borrows a great deal from your childhood experiences in terms of location, music and plot- how much of yourself ended up in the characters themselves?

John: Not much actually once I cast Ferdia, you know he’s a very, very confident kid and I wasn’t anything like him when I was young. So when we cast him it was really where the memoir separated into drama as he’s such a confident kid and has this sense that he can sort of do no wrong, I really wasn’t anything like him when I was younger.

Celtic Canada: The young cast is huge, you picked no-bodies really, how did you go about finding them?

John: For the open casting call I just sort of put a big ad in the paper for any kid who knew music, could play guitar, piano- when they arrived to the casting call, they would come in, tell a few jokes and read some of the script then from there I just started putting them together, it was a real treat working with these young kids as they carve their way to success.

Celtic Canada: The music in this film maintains it’s raw, organic edge by using such young actors and intentionally less professional musicians- but the music itself has a distinctly different tone from your other films. What was it like stepping into such a vibrant genre?

John: It was very nostalgic for me, you know, hearing that music again and um, trying to remember what once it felt like to create music when we were younger. Really this has been the best one in terms of the music that I’ve had with a film; ever! Once was very wordy, Begin Again was a musical album too but this one was really just a laugh from beginning to end. It was great to work on every day and it was very nostalgic for us, especially for the more mature members of the crew on site.

Celtic Canada: You have mastered a very difficult genre of film-making, what do you think makes your musical dramas so successful?

John: Being in a band for a long time, I’ve loved music all of my life and I felt that when I watched older movies that I noticed the music. The music meant so much to me and I realized I couldn’t just be a composer again and again. I really felt that the two things were sort of breathing- that I could never chose between the two to tell a story. I watched this continue to happen as I started making films and I’ve found the music really moves the drama along.

I don’t know I guess I just sort of try to tell the truth about how music has affected my life, and how it’s bettered my life. Once was very honest, and translates into my time living in Dublin on my own. Begin Again was a response to that and I guess Sing Street is really the story of my formative school band from when I was young. So it’s as authentic as I can remember, it’s basically the story of what I did to survive as a kid at this new school. How I kind of came back to music, and how difficult music was for me at the time.

Now Playing at the Varsity Theatre in Toronto, and opening up in select Theatres across Canada in April & May, check your listings for show times!