Union’s VFX for Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson

Union VFX provided the VFX for the Award-winning and Oscar-nominated The Banshees of Inisherin. The film is a remarkable dark tragicomedy film that is set on a remote, fictional island off the west coast of Ireland in 1923. The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two lifelong friends who find themselves at an impasse when Gleeson’s character abruptly ends their friendship, with alarming consequences for everyone. The film provides a metaphor for the Irish Civil War that is both graphic and charming, – and requiring photoreal visual effects.

Following on from their work with Martin McDonagh on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the Union team was reunited with the acclaimed writer & director for his latest film. Union VFX is an independent visual-effects facility founded in 2008 by Adam Gascoyne and Tim Caplan to provide a creative service and is based in the UK.

This melancholy tale is a beautiful balance of both tragedy and comedy set in the remotest of 1920s Ireland. Reuniting Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the two stars of McDonagh’s 2008 debut feature In Bruges, it’s an end-of-friendship breakup movie that swings between the hilarious, the horrifying, and the heartbreaking.

The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four BAFTAs, including Outstanding British Film and Original Screenplay. It was awarded three Golden Globes for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay, and was selected for the BFI London Film Festival.

The Banshees of Inisherin follows two men who’ve been friends for years and are going through a crisis that results in graphically butchered fingers. This along with 1920s digital matte painting environment work, CG objects, and elements work required the Union team to create challenging and complex VFX.

As the sole VFX vendor on this film, Union collaborated closely with McDonagh with Simon Hughes as the production VFX Supervisor. Union came on board very early in the process and was on set for the shoot in Ireland in the middle of the pandemic.

The team had their work cut out with the missing finger VFX.  ‘The biggest challenge was creating CG stumps of Brendan Gleeson’s fingers alongside the intricate movement and animation required, ” Hughes explained. “We had to make a CG version of the hand and work on the many complex hand movements involved to make it look realistic”.

Other visual effects included CG fire (burning down a house), an impressive lightning storm, a CG church bell, and the beautiful period matte painting that establishes the remote landscape in the film’s opening scene.

Hughes went on to say. “The show doubled in size from our original award and had a very tight turnaround time, but working with a seasoned director like Martin, who we already had such a great relationship with, meaning it was a total pleasure from beginning to end. The VFX are invisible, as they should be and the film itself is a masterpiece.”

Director, Martin McDonagh commented: “I’ve worked with Union on two films now, Three Billboards and The Banshees of Inisherin, and have always found them to be brilliantly artistic collaborators, and a lot of fun!”