After directing everything from live-action films to animated series and even some work with horses, Rob (right) and Ronan Burke (left) are well versed in the world of kids TV and ready to two-step their way into their next project—directing the second season Cottonwood’s live-action tween series Find Me in Paris.
“I think we were brought on because we have the right mix of skills that they were looking for in terms of the tone that they’re trying to strike. We’ve done romantic comedy, comedy, and a lot of kids stuff,” says Rob Burke. “We have worked with doubles and horses and we have worked with a higher-end kids budget. I think that we ticked a lot of boxes for the producers.”
“I think we have brought a certain amount of polish to a lot of our work which is what they were looking for too,” agrees Ronan.
Produced by Cottonwood Media in association with ZDF Enterprises, Find Me in Paris is currently in production on its second season following a time-traveling ballerina. The tween drama has been picked up by broadcasters all over the world including France Télévisions (France), Disney (France and Italy), ZDF (Germany), ABC (Australia), VRT (Belgium), Universal Kids (US), and American SVOD Hulu. It is distributed by Cottonwood’s parentco Federation Kids & Family worldwide, excluding Germany, GST and Scandinavia (which is managed by ZDF Enterprises).
Jill Girling serves as showrunner on the series along with Lori Mather-Welch (Ride). Cottonwood founder David Michel, Zoe Carrera Allaix, Cecile Lauritano and Pascal Breton serve as producers with Leila Smith as executive producer. The first season was directed by Matt Bloom (Hank Ziper, The Lodge), who will also be directing the second half of season two, trading off with Rob and Ronan.
Season two began filming in mid-July and will wrap up in November, with the Burke brothers staying on the whole time. While they will only be filming the first 13 episodes of the 26-episode season, the Parisian Garnier Opera House where the series is filmed can only be used during a limited time so the three directors need to trade off based on that schedule.
“Matt set up the show and developed the tone and the look. So we’ve been talking to him and working with him since we started prep and he’s been giving us the low-down on things,” says Rob. “It’s great to have someone there who’s been through it and you can ask him how things work.”
The Irish directing duo have a fair share of directing experience themselves, having worked on TV3′s Red Rock, CBBC and JAM Media’s animated series Roy and Netflix’s Free Rein. While they’ve been working together since they were in film school, both said that working on Free Rein prepared them the most for this project—though in some ways this one will be much easier.
“On Free Rein we shot actors riding on horses that, when we started filming, weren’t proficient riders so we had to shoot doubles for them as well. And funnily enough, it ended up being very similar to the way in which we do the ballet,” says Ronan. “And actually it’s easier with ballet because you can talk to ballerinas and you can talk to actors but you can’t talk to horses, you know?”
Besides the horses, the brothers say the biggest learning curve for them on Free Rein was actually getting used to working for a platform as big as Netflix and balancing everyone’s expectations. There was a lot of talent on board and they, as the directors, needed to make sure that everyone was communicating what they wanted so the Burke’s could bring that to life. The collaborative process between them and the commissioners, the producers, exec producers, writers and everyone else gave them the skills they needed to bring the twirling tale of Find Me In Paris to life.
Many directors—including their cohort on this project, Bloom—prefer to work alone but the Burke brothers have chosen to work together on nearly every project in their careers. Rob points out that they do occasionally work on things alone but that they work far better as a team.
“We just fell into it naturally because that’s how we started working and I think we compliment each other, we just have each other’s back. It’s easier in some ways because you can share the load,” says Ronan. “We have the same sensibilities. I think it’s easier, and we’re stronger together because we have each other’s support.”
They will be using this shared vision not just to work better together but to also compliment the vision that Bloom has already laid out and created for the series, with a slight twist. Rob and Ronan say they believe they were brought on board mostly to keep the project afloat, however they also think their past experiences with comedy will bring a fresh angle to the series.
“The challenge for us is trying to choreograph the action, the dance and the blocking in such a way that it feels like the same show but doesn’t feel exactly the same as last season,” says Rob.”The challenge is to bring that bit of our style into the production, and it’s probably something that we bring naturally because we have a slightly different point of view. If Matt was given the same scene he’d probably make it completely differently, because it’s just who we are.
The two were tight lipped about what they have planned next but they did say they’re hard at work on the upcoming Irish feature film Damo & Ivor: The Movie, which already debuted in Ireland and will be released in the UK this year. As well as an undisclosed Irish kids series that is due out in 2019.