I’ve been engaging with films and filmmaking a lot lately.
As part of the Film Seminar module in UCC, which was delivered by Jill Murphy and David Puttnam, I explored the Experiences of an Independent Documentary Filmmaker based in Cork – Carol O Keeffe. Carol has been making films since 1999 and has achieved some recognition for her films, with awards at various film festivals. Her film The Pieces of Me was broadcast on TG4 in 2013.
As well as the traditional essay I decided to make a film about the filmmaker. This is where it got interesting. A novice filmmaker taking on making a film about an award winning filmmaker was perhaps foolhardy. But perhaps better than anything else, it showed me the challenges of trying to make a film with no budget and limited access to equipment.
I had to borrow a camera to film the interview. Carol and my classmate Annmarie helped me to set up for the shoot. We spent a frustrating morning trying to rig up a lighting system using various bulbs and lamps not specifically designed for that purpose. It is no wonder then that when I finally got around to starting the interview that we got off to a difficult start.
Following this hilarious start I filmed an interview with Carol exploring her experiences as an Independent Documentary Filmmaker in Ireland today. Along with my essay this helps to shed some light on the benefits and challenges of making films independently. For Carol the main benefits for are having the freedom to explore issues and themes that interest her; not being constrained by demands of a Funder and being able to choose who to work with. The main challenges are isolation, access to equipment, time, funding and distribution/screening.
Despite these challenges Carol is interested in the potential for film to impact on social attitudes and to affect social change. She wants her films to make a difference and to maybe get people to look again at their ideas about things like gender, adoption, addiction and identity. The potential of film to foster human empathy and connection is also of interest to Carol: “I’d like to think that people look at the work and consider the fact that as human beings we are all the same and even if an audience isn’t struggling with the particular subject matter in their own life, that they can somehow identify – to kind of have a human thread between people. An unlikely story line can reach many people if there is just a line of similarity between the audience and the subject.”
I am also working on another film project with my classmates Jess, Dave and Annmarie (collectively we are known as JODA). We have been focusing on a local legend of The Moving Graveyard of Mathey in Cork and have interviewed a number of people about the meaning of that legend for them and the local community. We are currently editing the footage. Watch this space!