MUIRINN LANE KELLY
I have thought twice about writing this, wondering if it’s presumptuous, not really my place to do so. But these are my honest feelings about someone I knew and liked a lot, someone from whom all of us, and in particular those of us who are interested in writing and working in this business, can learn.
I first met Muirinn as my fellow script editor on the BBC series Waking The Dead. Last Monday I received a call from a friend to say that she had died. I knew she’d been ill for some time but like an idiot I thought her illness was under control. While she did talk about her illness and acknowledge it to her industry friends, she did so with great dignity and always tried to put a positive spin on something that was obviously a horrible negative; and I think there was a sense that she didn’t want anyone’s pity; or for other’s knowledge of her illness to get in the way of her work and professional dealings.
When I was told that she had died, it was one of those deaths that really shakes you, I was stunned and shocked and sad. She was only 50 and seemed younger. Muirinn was one of the people in the industry I liked best, a loyal, constant friend through many years. I bonded with her working on Waking The Dead, which for one reason was not an easy show to work on, and the script editors came in for a lot of flak. Muirinn always stood up to the show’s antagonist with dignity, intelligence and balls (much more bravely than me – who just used to whinge to her in our shared office). One of the things I liked best about Muirinn was that she didn’t take shit. If people pissed her off, she let them know; and she loved a good gossip. She had an acerbic sense of humour, was a real laugh and a lot of fun to be around.
I remember the first meeting I had with her and a writer (Declan Croghan) on WTD ended in them having a blazing row – which was entertaining – but they were able to have this row and move on from it as if it was nothing because they had such a deep, mutual respect and friendship (NB Declan isn’t the antagonist I mentioned earlier, he is a lovely man and very talented screenwriter). One of the things about Muirinn was that if she worked with someone and rated them, she would keep recommending them for future work and introduce them to other people she liked and rated. I subsequently worked with Declan and an Irish producer, Orla Bleahen-Melvin, because Muirinn introduced me to Orla; and am developing a course idea with another Irish producer to whom Muirinn introduced me. I owe her so much.
It’s generous, brilliant people like Muirinn who make this industry fun to work in, the people who you know you can go back to time and time again who will tell you about the sort of people you should be working with but more importantly as a friend, a rock of kindness, intelligence and insight.
One of the last conversations I had with Muirinn, she followed up with an email telling me I should be setting up as an agent for script editors, trying to encourage me into another work possibility, with all sorts of ideas about how I could do this.
And I got an email from another writer friend who was on the 4screenwriting course who reminded me that it was Muirinn who had first sent me her script and told me I should read and meet this writer. The writer in question said in the email that she would never have had the career she has had if it hadn’t been for Muirinn
She was one of the best supporters of writers – and script editors – I’ve met. She was always telling me about writers she thought I should know about, sending me scripts she thought I should read; telling me about script editors I should be working with. She even paid for one of her junior colleagues to come on a course I was running because she wanted to nurture and support him.
She was also a brilliant screenwriter herself, with some impressive credits – but in recent years her writing had gone on the backburner because of her success as executive producer at Tiger Aspect drama, most recently on the Sky Atlantic show, Domina.
She worked as a script editor on the Channel 4 screenwriting course and then another year came in as one of the guests to give feedback to three of the writers.
The group of writers and trainee script editor with whom she worked was probably the group of 5 that remained closest as a group after the course, still in regular contact with each other, regularly meeting up for drinks, Muirinn’s initiative; Muirinn was always interested and encouraging about the work they were doing and the successes they were having (and the people who worked with Muirinn did tend to have significant success). I spoke to one of those writers, Paul Williams, last week and he expressed so much gratitude towards her.
Her death reminded me how short and valuable life is (and how cruel it can be), how we have to make the most of what we have, now, how I wish I’d said all of this to her when I had the chance, how kindness and integrity and a passion for the work we do, as she exemplified, is so valuable.
Thank you, Muirinn.
The next newsletter will be on Friday December 2nd.
Friday November 18th 2022