Urge >>View Video>>
People are different and some people find an outlet through their interpersonal relationships or through other aspects of their work. I think the reason you’re a musician or a painter or a poet or a filmmaker or whatever, the reason you create – it’s not for the money let’s be brutally honest, it’s not for the fame and fortune probably, but it’s because you have some kind of inner urge to articulate something and work something out for yourself, and then to communicate that. I think that is something that in my early adult life I began to realise was there and just wouldn’t go away.
Desire >>View Video>>
I studied engineering in university. I wouldn’t have thought that a creative career was available to me so I was kind of drifting down a more expected route for somebody who was good at maths and that kind of thing but the desire to work in something that allowed me to express the things that were going on in my head was something that was always there. It took a while but it kind of worked its way into a career in film. In terms of talking about a challenge to overcome, for me it’s about keeping an eye on that; expression is front and centre, that’s the core of what I do.
Distractions >>View Video>>
There are a lot of distractions in a creative career. You can start making a certain kind of work but then another type of work becomes more profitable or more easy to do or more available or that’s where the funding is. Certainly within film this happens.
You’ve got a whole television industry and a film industry which is not the most creative way of working but it’s regular and it’s paid well. That’s kind of a massive gravitational pull for a lot of people who work in the television industry – writers don’t have that; there’s not a giant well-paid industry that writers can get sucked into, or painters for that matter, but within film it’s there. For me, it’s important to acknowledge that and understand that I could go in that direction but that it wouldn’t be true to the urge I have to explore and express and work things out through work; through art. It wouldn’t have been a wise move. I think pursuing that expression and persisting, slightly stubbornly, in a way that my work serves a purpose for me in my head is important to me.
Making a living >>View Video>>
I wouldn’t be from a background that would necessarily allow me a great deal of luxury. Making a living was always a massive part of what I do and what’s interesting about filmmaking is it’s not a black and white thing where you either make a certain type of film for zero money or you can make a totally uncreative work for lots of money; there’s a huge crossover.
The films that I make now have relatively good budgets even though they are very much the work that I want to make. You can make an OK living that way and then there are jobs within filmmaking such as editing which is kinda how I made a living for years where you get paid quite well; historically it’s a unionised industry where rates of pay are relatively high.
If you’re lucky enough to work on a particularly interesting film, or even to just dip your toe and edit something that isn’t very interesting for a couple of weeks, it’s important to go back and strike a balance because if you were to commit entirely to the idea: “I need to find my creative voice as a way of dealing with my own wellbeing”, then you’re going to make a whole host of other problems for yourself which are societal; how you get by in life. You may end up feeling the stresses of not being valued in society because society does value money and it values attainment and achievement and that’s a measuring stick that’s held up to a lot of people. If you can insulate yourself from that, then great but a lot of people can’t necessarily which has a profound effect on their sense of self-worth. Filmmaking has this very happy-for-me aspect of allowing commercial work; there’s a whole spectrum between the commercial and the artistic that you can work with.
Beginnings >>View Video>>
There were years where I would only have done commercial work and tried hard to then in my spare time develop other projects which were the beginnings of me making my own work. At a certain point I was able to get funding to do one of my own films which allowed me to step away from the more commercial work for a while. That film then did OK so you’re gradually able to pull away from the more commercial side but also editing is not necessarily only a commercial thing, there’s a creative collaboration at the heart of filmmaking – maybe it’s the same for musicians who play in bands or work on each other’s albums and things like that but for me working with somebody like Pat Collins or Feargal Ward or any number of people that I’ve worked with over the years, it’s their film they’ve got the funding, you don’t have to worry about that side of things; you’re not driving that, but you go and you’re paid well to work on a project with somebody for a certain amount of time and there’s a huge creative element in doing that so it addresses your creative need whilst also giving you four or six months of work. Film is set up to allow that. That four or six months of work allows you to maybe take a month or two away and develop something which might become one of your own projects in due course, so I used to try and strike that balance – taking on a big job while also leaving room to develop work of my own.
Arts Council >>View Video>>
The Arts Council, who have always been great supporters of mine, do make money available for creative work which is outside of commercial expectations which is an amazing thing that Ireland has. Obviously there are countries who fund it better, etc… that’s a whole other conversation but there are a hell of a lot of countries that fund it a lot worse.
I’ve a lot of friends in the States who have never come across that idea of a grant to go and make your own work; it’s not available to them. I think we are lucky that we do have that and it’s something that we need to hold onto and campaign around holding onto because it’s not just about the outcome – which is the work – it’s about the outcome which is the wellbeing of the creative people and the outcome of the what the work can do for other people: people who see the work, people who work with the artist on the work. It’s not just about: “Did that film do well? It did well in the making of it as much as anything else and I think society would do well to keep an eye on that rather than simply look at the utilitarian outcome based analysis which is common these days.
Language >>View Video>>
Thinking about the potential of personal growth and the potential of becoming something that you would aspire to becoming, is itself very good for your mental health. I think one of the major difficulties at the moment is that it’s very hard to look forward to things; it’s very hard to speculate about the future, much less to create that future because there are so many outside and extrinsic forces at play and I think that’s something that everybody within society at large is struggling with because we do like to have some sense of control.
I think, for me, finding a way and learning a creative language was a way of opening up the future as much as anything else; it was a way of opening up ways of thinking, ways of learning, ways of growing. It’s a bit like learning a language and you don’t quite know what it is you’re going to learn when you start off but it’s kind of an opening up of a way of thinking. I think that does inform the present moment and I think that’s the thing to be aware of: we all need a sense of possibility, a sense of opening up, a sense of growing in a particular direction and if that’s not there because we don’t know what next year is gonna look like, we don’t know what Christmas is going to look like, we don’t know what Wednesday’s gonna look like, that can be very difficult.
Shy, curious people >>View Video>>
Documentary filmmaking is an amazing outlet for shy, curious people; people who are really curious about the world but have a certain reticence about themselves. Filmmaking allows you to go out into the world and feed that curiosity whilst also being in a slightly powerful position with regard to the people that you meet because you ask them questions; they don’t necessarily get to quiz you. You can kind of hide behind a camera while also engaging deeply with the world. That suits a very particular niche which is quite common I think within the creative world. What we’ve had in the last year is a closing off of that aspect of filmmaking and there’s been relatively a good bit of money available through funds from various state bodies and that’s all wonderful but it’s meant then that people are sitting at home writing films that they’d like to make one day; maybe they’re editing, they’re working with archive and stuff that’s possible now. I think the big difficulty for a lot of people, myself included, that thing of getting in the car and going off and engaging with humans out there in the world… it’s been largely closed off and you’d really, really miss that.
Shrunk >>View Video>>
We have to be cognisant that everybody is going through this; everybody has shrunk down to being a solo artist which is a very difficult thing. You make work to express yourself in some way so that somebody can then listen to it, watch it, read it so then it’s an engagement by the proxy of art with another human; the viewer in my case is a really important person who lives in my head who I sometimes get to see at a screening. That communicative urge is a huge part of the creative art and I think acknowledging that and folding that into everything that we try to do is fundamentally important.
A load of well funded solo artists living at home with no way of getting their work into the world is just going to keep them alive and little more. I think the power of art is in that communicative thing it’s in that connection whether it’s the power of art on the part of the viewer who takes solace or was entertained or was made to cry by that work, or on the part of the artist who feels that they’ve actually expressed something that was deeply within them. Both of these things are really important and we have to foster them equally.
Part of the gig >>View Video>>
The human connection side of all of this is what has to be kept an eye on. Empowering an individual artist to make his or her work on their own in their house is fine but fostering networks where people can share their own experiences and can help each other with projects is as important I think because people are really missing other people and most artists if they’re left on their own with a pile of their work will go through some kind of period of thinking that its’ entirely worthless and that it’s rubbish and that it doesn’t mean anything… it’s just part of the gig.
I think having somebody else, having a few other people, whether they’re people engaged on a particular project with you or people who are going through a similar thing, to talk to and to hear yourself saying, “Awh it’s rubbish, it doesn’t’ mean anything” and then realising that’s a stupid thing to say, and having someone saying, “No it’s not, it’s great, I loved your work”… it’s really important. I think fostering those networks now, whether we should be doing it ourselves – and I think we are in an age of social media, whether it’s through your network or all the other networks available – to just check in with each other; it’s not about necessarily supporting each other but just to talking to each other about the work.
Men’s shed >>View Video>>
I’ve quite a few projects on the go at different stages of development and some of them are small works that I’m making completely on my own and others are larger works that I’m working with other people on and what’s interesting is I find myself gravitating towards the ones that I’m working with other people on.
After this chat I’ll go onto a call with somebody else to talk about a project that has no money in it and should be a low priority but he and I have great craic talking about it and it’s full of possibility and it’s full of potential for the future and so I really enjoy working on that project; I enjoy making the time to think and talk about it.
Again, the whole creative industry is full of shy, curious people and that shyness is a big part, in my experience, of the artistic world, and what people tend to do, they won’t ring their friends and go I’m feeling a bit blue today, but if you have the cleverness and self awareness to pretend that what you’re going to talk about is a project, then you can talk to them.
It’s kind of a big men’s shed for artists, and mens’ sheds are amazing. Let’s all pretend that what we’re interested in is tools and making benches when we all know we want to talk to other humans and I think artists are not above that. We are exactly the same as the men who go to the sheds in certain ways and I think admitting that to yourself and finding yourself a little project which maybe isn’t going to pay the rent that month but gets you talking in an excited way to someone else, you’ll bounce out of the phone call, you’ll bounce out of that Zoom chat and realise that’s what you need, it’s the connection it’s really, really important.
Remember, if you’re a member of the Irish creative industry, you can talk to a counsellor free of charge at any time of the day or night. Simply call the phone number below.