Once upon a | Team

We are film directors, producers, people lovers and forever storytellers…

Ciarán | O’Connor

Compulsive storyteller

Baptised as a toddler, I was…except that it was in the waters of news and story creation. I used to be that kid waiting in the back of the car while my father enjoyed doing his favorite thing in life: pitch his latest nugget to the local newspaper or national TV station. The old man would see a story where no one else could, and the boy knew just how to take it all in. The fact that my family lived around the corner from Ardmore studios further contributed to seal my fate: film sets were meant to be my favorite playground.

My world in 6 words: “It will all be worth it.”

When it was time to go to university, I was stirred by another kind of urgency: going to places where stories matter. Traveling to war-torn Bosnia and mid-genocide Rwanda was my chosen degree. I then knew that my quest, my one and only, would be to truthfully unearth important stories, to keep triggering the critical change in perspective that puts everything in perspective.


I was 20 when I sold my first story, shipping the precious tape via overnight rail on a rainy evening of 1990. New Decade was born and UTV trusted the baby. It had something they reckoned hadn’t been seen before. That fluid still flows through our filmmaking veins to date: a way to look social issues in the eye, to mine history’s fine gold, to cut the edges of science like a storytelling diamond. ‘Where light bounces on a story, new colours you shall see’, says the kid in the back seat turned father (and driver) of four.

My favourite | hero in fiction

Walter Mitty. A dreamer, not a fighter. I am jealous of his simplistic view of the world and the adventures he undertook in his mind.

My favourite | villain

Lex Luther in the original Superman played by Gene Hackman. He was a charming, funny visionary who just was a little off on his moral compass. Can we please forgive him?

If New Decade was | an animal

A lioness.

My favourite | object

A pot-bellied stove in the heart of winter.



Nuala | Cunningham

People Lover

In my home town of Donegal, no one had ever thought of hosting an opera in the community hall. Until my grandmother did, soon to be followed by my aunt who would literally turn the place into a Broadway of her own. This was life on my mother’s side of the family tree, and even my father would agree that these were the truly fun branches to climb and behold the world from. Three blows, the creasing of fabric and audience muttering are the sounds my childhood music was made of.

My world in 6 words: “As long as there are people…”

I was a straight A type of girl yearning for some kind of illumination along the way. I graduated in politics, loved it but was still looking for the switch. Hence the various career starts and that hiring manager’s puzzled look after reading my CV. Taking off his glasses he said:

“Nuala, how can you possibly explain this? I mean who goes from restaurant manager to PR and book publicity after lying under counters to fix broken Guinness taps around the Republic of Ireland?
“Not many people I would agree, Sir. But kindly note that I made it all the way to Guinness’ top 3 tech reps.”

One day, as I was working at the Centre for Retail Studies in UCD in yet another unrelated research job, I heard about an evening course in film theory, then about a Masters in Film & TV. I wanted the latter as soon as I had completed the former, but no one had ever gone from evening class straight into Masters. Until I did.

When I finally got to dive from theory to practice and make my first short film in a producing role, I knew this was it. I was so thrilled with the project that I told the teacher we should really try and get this into the Galway Film Festival. He said no one had ever presented a student project there. Until we did.

When I met Ciaran in his freshly painted Dublin offices back in 1997, we recognized each other’s artistic thirst for powerful stories well told. We partnered to make New Decade the home of quality, original, authentic storytelling. And here we are, 25 years later, doing just that and still eager for more.

I will never stop longing for people’s perspective on life, the very one I and the world don’t have. I love listening to their heart and mind, helping welcome the emotional trauma, the pain, the array of emotions woven in by the needles of time. And through it all, I love shepherding them through to the end goal: the hidden riches of once secret places, their story told for the world to behold. ‘Shepherd’, this is the word that best describes the beauty of my role, that of a producer whose heart beats for people.

My favourite | real-life heroines

Queen Maebh
Katherine Graham
Constance Markievitz

If not myself | who would I be?

The joyful owner of a pub or restaurant, beaming behind the counter. Running a place where great food, great people and great stories flow like a river in town.

My favourite | meal

Lobster Thermidor, por favor.

My favourite | quote

To free us from the expectation of others – to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw – one runs away to find oneself and finds there’s no one at home.

Joan Didion

Jen | Dunbar

Production Manager
Cloud Chaser

Come on Jen, we’ve got to head back…
Just one more minute. that cloud is about to move…

On the ridge of a Cullin on the annual family holiday, I was chasing clouds on the misty isle. The dance of light was music to my eyes and my digital camera was my most trusted and treasured item. I should probably have chosen photography as a degree, but my first pick was physics, ‘a strong and sensible option that offered good prospects’, excited as I was by the promises of technology in the wake of a new century.

My work in 6 words: “Good people, quality productions, cutting through.”

After graduating – sensible box ticked – and chasing more clouds and shorelines around the world for a year, a new dream started chasing me in return: that to study TV and film production in Ireland. I hopped across the Irish Sea, spent two years studying film in Ballyfermot and the ink was barely dry on my diploma when I started working on a literacy series then became assistant to the equipment manager in Filmbase. I would join Ciaran and Nuala in 2008, excited as I was by the prospect of documentary and science storytelling with New Decade. With the fascinating world around us, I couldn’t have dreamt of a better way for my passions to meet and unite. I always had a thing for science and technology, and here I was, coordinating for ‘The Investigators’, then production managing ‘Science Squad’ and now series producing ‘10 Things to Know About’ and ‘The Island’. I enjoy wearing every hat – from development through to production and post-production all the way to managing budgets, contracts and crews.

But there is way more to my job than meets the science lover’s eye. I am grateful for the unique opportunity to give voice to what only looks like a smaller story, one that could almost go unnoticed, until someone captures the light piercing through the cloud. People continue to fascinate me, as do their stories, particularly when represented by flickering archive images from the past. I love the pause between answers, the very space where something key is about to arise. I just can’t help chasing the peak, decisive moment that will never come back. #Storyofmylife.

My idea of | happiness

Roaming around a European city and stopping for a glass of wine to chat and people watch.

My favourite | motto

What’s for you
won’t pass you by.

My favourite | villain

Darth Vader, who else?

My favourite | cloud

Yes, that one.