Michael Feeney Callan is a novelist, filmmaker and painter, also known for his biographical writing.
Callan with Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys
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 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 most recent work is Robert Redford: The Biography (Knopf), a comprehensive, intimate account of the actor-director's life and work written with Redford's cooperation over a period spanning more than ten years.
Born, raised and educated in Dublin, Callan still resides in the city 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's abiding 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 series in the 1970s.
Callan has continued to write poetry over the past thirty years and in 2003 published an anthology Fifty Fingers, which includes the very first published poem, Barbara.
Callan continues to work on a new collection of poetry, which will be published next autumn. Provisionally entitled The Magic Triangle, the book will contain poems written between 2003 and 2011.
Following the early success of his short stories, winning the Hennessy Literary Award for Short Fiction for Baccy, Callan has enjoyed a diverse publishing career. Several British television adaptations, including Capital City (ITV), Jockey School and Target: The Bronze Heist (both BBC), were accompanied by works of fiction and performing arts biographies.
Essay filmographies on Julie Christie and Jayne Mansfield were followed by authoritative biographies of the enigmatic Sean Connery, long time friend Richard Harris and most recently 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 referred to Callan as "one of Ireland's foremost biographers".
Callan's first fiction novel, Lovers and Dancers, set in Ireland in the famine years, was inspired by Anthony Trollope's early writing and was well regarded on publication.
Subsequently, in 2002, Callan Published Did You Miss Me?, a novel which explored many difficult female themes.
For fifteen years from the mid nineties, Callan travelled throughout the United States interviewing more than 300 sources for his latest work, Robert Redford: The Biography (Knopf, 2011). This landmark work was written with the cooperation of the subject who provided access to his diaries, scripts and personal records.
Callan has commenced work on the biography of a major music artist, to be announced shortly.
Writing for television
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. Subsequently he 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.
In the 1980s, Callan collaborated with Frederick Forsyth on two Public Broadcasting Service-aired adaptations of Forsyth's stories Privilege and A Careful Man (Mobil Showcase).
Perhaps the most intriguing television project of this decade, however, was his unproduced Doctor Who two-part episode entitled The Children of January which was delivered to the BBC in 1985 but remained unfinished when the series was suspended under Jonathan Nathan-Turner's producer tenure.
On his website recently, 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-humanoids 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".
This elusive story will finally see the light of day in an audio production featuring Colin Baker and several of the original BBC cast, for Big Finish Productions, the celebrated Dr Who archivists.
Callan has continued to write for television, including the popular ITV series Cluedo and the RTE drama Templewood.
Throughout February and March, 2011, Callan wrote and produced a major new TV series Sounds from the Cities which featured on Channel 4 in association with his interactive multi-media musical/arts project, BOBCOM (see www.bobcom.com). The series was presented by actor Mathew Horne and featured live performances from established musicians including K T Tunstall, Jon Fratelli, Joy Formidable and Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals. The series quartered the UK and visited all four provinces, testing the cultural mood nationwide. BOBCOM is an ever-renewing online mechanism providing free incentives to new artists - initially musicians, but will shortly extend to artists working in all media.
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. For RTÉ, Callan wrote and directed The Beach Boys Today, a well-received road film 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. In 1994, Callan was approached to write, co-produce and co-direct a film of Perry Como's final concert 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, in 2005 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. According to Callan, the project was "a wonderful fusion, part biography, part musical. It covered so much of the 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 (http://www.lairishfilm.com), 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 July 2011, Michael directed the two-day "Magical History Tour" event in Liverpool, culminating with a 7 hour live session from the Cavern Club, streamed on BOBCOM and on the partner channel, YouTube. The event included a whimsical 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. Featuring were John Lennon's original Quarrymen band (who also played live at the Cavern), Pete Best (the Beatles' first drummer), Banned Sauce, Kristina Cox, students from the Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts (LIPA) and two new winning bands from BOBCOM's incentive scheme: We Are Burke's Lounge from Limavady, Northern Ireland and Alamode from Essex, England. Currently, Callan is directing 'The Cleavers', a stepped narrative for www.bobcom.com online.
Desert Fauna by Michael Feeney Callan
Irish Times art critic Aidan Dunne observed that "Callan's work is like a love affair with French painting", and this seems comprehensively accurate, since Callan began painting in Valbonne 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 heavily 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 strikingly individual works peopled with statuesque Hellenic imagery. He also continues to work in bronze.
Callan's last exhibition, entitled Arcadia Suburbia, focussed on themes of childhood and adolescent iconography. He has recently commenced work on Francly, a photo-essay about the South of France, where he has travelled and worked for more than 25 years.
A new exhibition of drawings and paintings, featuring work assembled over the last seven years, will be held in Dublin later this year.
Other media work
He is a regular contributor to the arts programme, Arena, on RTE Radio 1.
Recent interviews and press features include the Irish Independent and Faux Magazine.
Callan continues work on his major new project, entitled Bobcom, which he has been writing and developing over the past two years. Bobcom is a revolutionary new website designed to return control of music production, networking and power to the musician.
Notes and references
- ^ 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