Coming Soon: Celtic Soul

Markham Street Films' Michael McNamara on tapping soccer enthusiasts and Jay Baruchel fans to build buzz for the road trip doc.

celtic soulComing Soon, an ongoing editorial feature from Playback, highlights the distribution strategies for soon-to-be-released Canadian films. Here, we speak to Celtic Soul writer, producer and director Michael McNamara about the distribution strategy for the feature documentary, which his Markham Street Films is handling.

The film: Celtic Soul follows Canadian actor and director Jay Baruchel and Irish soccer journalist Eoin O’Callaghan, long-time Twitter friends who finally meet in-person in Montreal to embark on a journey to fulfill their lifelong dreams of watching a Celtic FC football match at Celtic Park. Along the way the duo discovers Baruchel’s ancestral roots, talk soccer (or “football”) and dig into what it is about “the beautiful game” that inspires global fanaticism.

Production/distribution credits: The film is written and directed by McNamara and was created by Baruchel and O’Callaghan. It is produced by Markham Street Films, in association with Super Channel and with the Participation of the Canada Media Fund, the Rogers Documentary Fund, the Bell Fund, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, the Rogers Telefund, the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit, and the Ontario Tax Credit.

Shooting began in February of 2015 in Montreal, but paused for Baruchel to star in and direct Goon 2. It then resumed in February 2016 in Ireland and Scotland. 

Theatrical: Celtic Soul opens Nov. 25 in Toronto at the the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, where it will screen until Dec.1. On Dec. 2 the film makes its way to the Whistler Film Festival for its Western Canadian premiere.

Additional windows: Super Channel has come on board as the Canadian broadcast partner for the film, though a TV air date has yet to be confirmed. McNamara and producer Aaron Hancox, VP of unscripted at Markham Street Films, will also be travelling to the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam this month to shop the film to international broadcast partners.

Target audience: The Celtic FC, the legendary Scottish football club, has a huge fanbase around the world, said McNamara. The club was set up by and for Irish immigrants after the potato famine as a charity to raise money for the children of these immigrants. “Anyone of Irish ancestry and/or fans of Celtic FC [are the target audience] to be sure, but this film has broad appeal. It’s a comic buddy movie, a road trip movie, an Irish roots movie and a sports movie all in one,” he said. In addition to Celtic fans and Irish ex-pats, the filmmakers are also hoping the film will appeal to Baruchel fans as well.

Marketing: To help promote the film, the company created an interactive website that details every stop on the duo’s road trip along with tons of extra footage – from hanging out in the Montreal Canadiens’ locker room to hurling at Croke Park in Dublin. The film will lean heavily on social media, using a series of sponsored Facebook posts to guide users from different parts of the country to the website. “This will include driving Toronto area users to see the film at the Hot Docs Cinema, Montreal area users to for extra Montreal-related content, users in Ireland and the U.K. to check out the Celtic Club History section of the site, and we’ll be driving fans to contribute to the community page of the site for a chance to win signed Celtic FC Jerseys,” he said.

Budget/financing: The film was produced on a budget of roughly $650,000, said McNamara. While he said Celtic Soul is “one of the lucky” films not to be disclaimed by Super Channel, the Allarco creditor protection filing did affect the production. “It did have a little bit of an impact on our cash flow. It made it difficult for us to [secure] our interim financing,” he said. “Then things slowly fell into place. We had the POV Fund – which really saved us – the Rogers Doc Fund, the OMDC Film Fund. Everybody recognized that this is a film could have a theatrical life as well as a life on Super Channel. So we got a lot of support,” he said.