Aoife McArdle’s been impressing the advertising world with her directing talents for a while now, but 2017 saw her make that leap that so many filmmakers spend years taking a run-up to – the jump to The Big Screen.
Having started her creative output as part of free-wheeling directing collective Minivegas, it’s now been seven years since she struck out to begin her solo filmmaking career with a music video for Little Comets. She was immediately winning awards and turning industry heads. Since then her rise in the consciousness of the creative community has been steady and undeniable. She’s been making her mark as part of Somesuch’s illustrious roster since 2014.
In February this year she joined the ranks of the advertising directing elite with her ‘Daughter’ commercial for Audi, which first aired during the Super Bowl. She was the only female director featured in the Big Game’s ad breaks – a fact brought into particular focus by the spot’s focus on the issue of the gender pay gap – a principled decision for a global brand advertising to a TV audience of well over 100 million.
Her film for Absolut, ‘Equal Love’ also had something to say on a big subject. The snogfest celebrated the power of LGBTQ rights – an issue the vodka brand has been a part of since 1981. In a world where brands often come under fire for falsely inserting themselves into a moral debate they don’t belong in, it was a refreshingly tone-sensitive film – full of love and the much-touted ‘authenticity’. Aoife casually counts the shoot in Ukraine as one of her highlights of 2017, alongside “getting a low budget feature made, seeing wild bears on Whistler mountain and meeting my new nieces and spending time with my goddaughter.” The spot has been widely acclaimed already, picking up a Gold for Cinematography at Ciclope Festival and a Bronze for Casting.
September 2017 saw her debut feature ‘Kissing Candice’ premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. A coming-of-age drama set in a seaside town on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, reviews noted the film’s striking aesthetic. One reviewer observed that it’s “built on images that evoke the director’s background in commercials and music videos”. More evidence, as if we needed it, that advertising is a great dojo in which a director can hone her talents.
“We had such an overwhelming response at the festival,” says Aoife of the nerve-wracking experience of her first premiere. “But it felt like people were really engaged in the world of the film and that made everyone’s mad, intense work worth it.”
After years of admiration from the advertising press, which continued throughout this year, Hollywood Reporter included her in their list of ‘10 Rising Irish Stars to Watch’. But, mainstream attention aside, she’s continued to forge ahead with her commercial career. She’s recently shot shot two Toyota US films for the Olympics. due to be released in 2018, and one for State Farm to watch out for very soon.
Aoife’s experience making ‘Kissing Candice’ has left its mark. “I don’t think I find any project daunting now no matter how epic or intense,” she says, “because we had to achieve so much on the feature with such limited resources and time. A low budget feature really forces you to draw on and develop every skill you have.”
The feature production process has also changed her perspective on directing: “I’ve always been particularly passionate about the aesthetic and technical possibilities of filmmaking but I discovered how much I enjoy directing actors and how rewarding that can be when you have a talented cast.”
Outside of directing, Aoife says she’s enjoyed spending her year coming up with new ideas for projects, meeting two new nieces and spending time with her goddaughter. Film screenings with crew, family and friends were also highlights, up there with taking her parents to New York for their wedding anniversary and finishing renovations on her house in Belfast.
Aside from the commercials that she’s already got in the barrel, Aoife’s got plenty of ambitions for 2018. “Right now there are two features I’m excited about scripting,” she says. “I’d love to continue doing more narrative short form – be it commercial or music video. Overall, it’s great just having the opportunity to be immersed in projects where there’s room to be bold or fearless with the concept and execution.”