Tamar Thomas interview: ‘Belfast’ producer
“It was anxiety-inducing, I would say, but the main priority, as it is with all filming, is to make sure that everybody is safe,” explains producer Tamar Thomas about the challenges of shooting “Belfast” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Writer-director Kenneth Branagh‘s semiautobiographical film was shot in the title city and in England in the fall of 2020, and “the well-being of our cast and crew was the priority.” We talked with Thomas as part of our “Meet the Experts” Film Producers Panel. Watch our exclusive video interview with Thomas above.
The film is set in Northern Ireland during the 1960s, when young Buddy (Jude Hill), his parents (Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan), and his grandparents (Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench) must decide whether to stay or go as the conflict between Catholics and Protestants becomes violent during the Troubles. The filmmakers “needed to make sure that everybody felt protected” while telling that story, so there was constant COVID testing, the set was divided into zones to control the amount of contact, and the cast stayed in one hotel. But because of those challenges and precautions, “there was a great sort of feeling of family across the whole unit.”
Though this is only Thomas’s third credit as a producer — she was an associate producer of Branagh’s “A Midwinter’s Tale” in 1995 and a producer of his “All is True” in 2018 — she has collaborated with the filmmaker many more times than that. “I was his assistant stage manager for his very first theater company way back when, and sort of stuck with him ever since,” she remembers. “I’ve really enjoyed working with him because it’s such a varied career doing lots and lots of different stuff. We’ve done theater, film, TV, radio, so it’s been an extraordinary time and I’m very thankful.”