Thursday, January 22, 2009

Knowledge Before Power

I’ve done both kinds, a larger budget with large crew, everyone in their place and doing their job. And a no budget with just 3 lads and me pretty much doing everything. Both worked out fine and both had what they needed. I don’t think I could have swapped the approach on each. I don’t think the first could have been made with just me and 2 lads, and the second, there would have been no need for more people.


You set out to make a film and you find out what you need as you go. Your instinct and experience and the experience and advice of others all inform you decision to go one way or the other. I don’t think its ego. I think you do what you have to the make the film you have envisioned and to best serve the story that needs to be told.


I think Irish short filmmaking is astounding. It is the only section of filmmaking in Ireland at the moment where we stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the filmmaking world. You look at shorts like Darren Thornton’s ‘Frankie’ a gritty fast paced story shot on the signatures scheme which won the European Academy Award last year, Simon Fitzmaurice’s ‘The Sound of People’ featured in Sundance, we’re over there at the moment with ‘6Farms’. The films of Ken Wadrop, ‘Farewell Packets of Ten’, ‘Useless Dog’ and of course ‘Undressing My Mother’ all extremely successful internationally award winning films. Daniel O’Hara’s wonderful shorts ‘Yu Ming Is Anim Dom’ and ‘Fluent Dysphasia’. The list goes on, and on.


There are so many amazing, beautiful crafted, well-told short films that come out of this country I think we’re in danger of losing sight of that if we concentrate on the bad. Which, fair enough, there is a lot of. I guess it’s the double-edged sword of digital technology. It has put filmmaking into the hands of those who would not have otherwise been able to afford it, which I am absolutely all for. But it also puts it into the hands of those who could perhaps benefit from training, learning technical skills and learning how to construct a story and how to film it effectively, in a way that suits that story. Digital Technology has allowed a lot of people to side step education. It’s power before knowledge, and it should always be the other way around.


I think learning and using the correct terminology and giving people roles to play within a production is important and vital. It gives people opportunity to concentrate, do the best they can at one job, shine, find their niche, excel. Which in turn benefits the production. People are natural born directors, or writers, or sound people, or cinematographers. I think if we’re all grabbing the camera there’s going to be no coherence to the piece. It’s chaos. And filmmaking is chaotic enough without having semblance of order. If the crew is organised it cancels out a lot of stress.


Visuals and design for me are extremely important. They tell as much, if not more about a character or a situation then dialogue ever could. When I see films where no effort has gone into set design of costume design I’m disappointed, because I feel like the filmmaker hasn’t gone the extra mile, hasn’t really thought about the characters and how they inhabit the space. I feel it harms the story and pulls the viewer out of the scene. Everything in the scene, everything surrounding the characters, informs the viewer as to what kind of person they are watching and what situation they are in, without having to think about it – it’s our job to think about it!


And of course, story is all-important, if you’re making a narrative, plot driven film, the script needs to be right before the camera roles. But aside from that I believe there is room for so much more with short films. It’s an art form onto itself and in that place there is room to experiment. I believe shorts should be anything the filmmaker wants. A poem, a story, something experimental, an exploration of light, texture, a visual delight, a performance piece, a montage of photography, something obscure, whatever it may be, short film is where we get to play as filmmakers, to experiment, make mistakes and try things.


Personally, I’m a storyteller, I want to tell stories and I want to represent them as visually as possible. But I love film and I want for nothing more then people to take hold of this medium, embrace the possiblities and create good, valuable work.

No comments: