Unsolicited Advice from a Failed Male Poet

Some people seem to have a hard time understanding the difference between constructive criticism and being an asshole, so let me explain.

Constructive criticism is what writers go to writing workshops for. The work is there but it needs tweaking, reformatting, shifting around. You give criticism to help improve the work that is presented, you don’t try and wish it were something else, done in a different style or with a different voice. And most importantly, you are expected to give criticism, to help make the work better.

Being an asshole is going to a poetry event, seeing a number of female poets and deciding their work is not in any way like that of the 19th Century romantics who for you define the standard of the art form, therefore it must be bad. At this point you decide to go home, write an eight thousand word essay to each of the poets and explain to them how their looks, their performance, their writing, their ideas and their voices are not the way poetry is meant to be written. And the sending it to each of them by email.

If, added to this, you are a loser in your mid-40s who has not yet managed to have a book of your own published, you then simply transcend the label of asshole.

It was a pleasure helping Alvy get this rebuttal to once such asshole out into the world. I do believe work like this helps people who have to put up with this sort of crap, and by making this video I hope to have played my own little part in helping those people.

Game of Thrones: How NOT to structure a TV show

Every TV show has its low moment. For me, that moment came in Mad Men in a season 4 episode called “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”. In that episode the usually savvy business man Roger Sterling goes against his nature and has a freak out at some Japanese clients because he fought in the war. It was a ridiculous moment that felt totally untrue to the character.

Thankfully the season 5 premiere reinvigorated the show, and it maintained its brilliance till the end. But you get this in other shows that never recover, like in The Wire when McNulty fakes a serial killer, or in Parks & Rec when the characters all become self-parodies.

Game of Thrones has a different problem. The best thing about the show is that we keep getting challenged on how we feel about certain characters. We go from hating Jaime Lannister to thinking he’s actually okay, same with The Hound. Even Jon Snow transforms from an arrogant upstart to a true leader over the five seasons.

But now the problem with the show is that – due to time constraints most likely – they haven’t taken the time to think about how they want to tell this increasingly expanding story. And so we get scenes that don’t really go anywhere, but are basically telling us what to expect by the season’s end.

It’s really bad television if the creators spend a whole hour setting up for something that will happen without being exciting or dramatic at any point in that hour. Mastery of the craft of storytelling comes in managing to do both.

te amo / je t’aime / i love you

Depression is something that touches so many people. Even when we are lucky enough not to be afflicted with it, we all know and love people who are or have been.

In Alvy Carragher’s poem “te amo / je t’aime / i love you” the sense of growing apart from someone you’ve known your whole life is palpable. We all have people in our lives who we lose contact with for one reason or another, but when it’s family and it’s depression, it takes on a whole other level of tragedy.

I created this animated film for her poem on and off over a couple of months. It was my first attempt at doing a 2D computer animation using Photoshop’s timeline feature. The side-scroller feel to the animation is as much a necessity as a creative choice, but it seemed appropriate in capturing the tone of the poem.

Alvy’s debut poetry collection will be launched on the 13th of June, 2016 in the Irish Writer’s Centre on Parnell Square.

The Whileaways – Family Well

The Whileaways had just made an appearance on the Late Late Show the weekend before, so it must have seemed very quaint when I showed up with my DSLR and a tripod.

But smaller setups are best for live music. For one thing it’s a lot less intrusive, they’d barely know you’re there while they perform, so you don’t have to worry about disrupting the performance, you can just let them do their thing.

They had a performance this evening at the Temple Bar TradFest which is a great event bringing the best of new and traditional folk music together over the course of a few days. I got in for soundcheck and they performed three times, the third take hitting the mark.

The stage lighting was perfect for shooting – colourful and moody – so it made my job easy. This is their single “Family Well” from their album Saltwater Kisses: http://www.thewhileawaysmusic.com/buy-cd

Why the Internet is the New Frontier for Filmmakers

It was probably La Blogotheque that first gave me the impression that films on the internet could be just as amazing and awe-inspiring as what you see in the cinema. In particular, it was the video of Lianne La Havas ambling through a Parisian market as she plays “No Room For Doubt” on her electric guitar.

The mix was amazing, we’re in this public place, but the camera hugs her face so that we feel like we’re there with her. We don’t feel like the public who appear in the backgrounds either smiling, or ignoring her.

When I first started making content for the internet I was trying to emulate these videos, and so I gorged myself on them. They were often very roughly shot one-take videos, and truth be told you could skim through twenty videos before finding one gem. But that gem was something else.

Vincent Moon was the man responsible for kicking off La Blogotheque but actually by the time that Lianne La Havas video came out, he had already taken off on a new adventure. He became a sort of international Alan Lomax, recording performances of music around the world. And one video in particular still hits me with how emotional and beautiful it is. If this isn’t cinema then I don’t know what is.

There have always been people who say “this is not art” or “that is not cinema”, but the greatest artists in the world don’t fear technology and what it can bring to their art form. There are some who believe it’s only a film if it’s eligible for an Oscar, but why limit yourself as a viewer to such a degree? If you’re a creative then limiting yourself like that makes even less sense.