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.

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.

The Phantom Menace: The Most Influential Film of the Nineties?

It’s an unspoken truth we just seem to accept: only good films can be influential. But is that really the case?

If you were to think off the top of your head “what is the most influential film of the nineties?” you’d probably think either Pulp Fiction or maybe Fight Club.

But how many films really used the intertwining narratives and slick talking dialogue of the former, or the gritty tone and erratic editing of the latter in the years that followed their releases?

Perhaps I’m throwing myself into the piranha tank with this one; it’s rare someone brings up The Phantom Menace without getting into an argument. By I wanted to go beyond asking whether the film was “good” and ask “how has this film changed cinema? How would cinema be different if this film never existed?”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, comment in the blog or on the video, however you please!

Why We Need to Put the Easter Rising on Film

It seemed every piece of funding for films in Ireland in 2015 was specifically to do with the Easter Rising and this was not an exciting prospect to me.

Historical dramas have as much potential to be great as any other genre of film, but it was hard to shake the feeling that the resulting art-works would be derivative and maintain a fairly safe view of the event.

Then RTÉ’s €6 million drama series “Rebellion” premiered and it seemed it had all come true. Instead of focusing on the people who actually instigated the rising, the series invented characters and followed them instead.

Technically it could have worked, but two episodes in and it was obvious the show was weighed down by boring staging – two characters standing looking at each other speaking – and too many erroneous story lines that seemed to be going nowhere.

I put my grievances with the show to my mother, who was also watching, but she said she enjoyed it, regardless of my problems with it. She found it fascinating to see the events of the rising play out; the attack on Dublin Castle, the taking of the GPO, events that we’d always heard about, now finally getting the chance to witness.

Of course the show was as heavily criticised for historical inaccuracies as creative shortcomings. But it raised an interesting point nonetheless; was there some value to be extracted from this money-led project, even if it wasn’t exactly executed in the most riveting manner?

In my research I only managed to come across a handful of films actually about the Rising; Curious Journeys & Mise Éire. We obviously need more than this if we’re going to even begin to understand the significance of the rising.

Lenny Abrahamson – Ireland’s Realist

Around the time that Room won the Audience Award at the Toronto film festival back in September, I figured it would be worth doing a video essay on Ireland’s premiere film director.

News reports at the time stated that audience approval in Toronto was a good indicator that Oscar glory lay ahead for Room, and having followed Abrahamson since his television show Prosperity played on RTE I hoped I’d be able to educate international audiences who may not be familiar with his pre-Room output.

But as award shows came and went, Lenny’s remarkable directing performance in Room went unrecognised. It didn’t look like the world would be too curious about another outsider director who failed to get nominated.

Then 16th January rolled by and – to the audible shock of the gathered audience at the announcement ceremony – Lenny got nominated for a best director Oscar. Deservedly so, in my opinion. So here I take 4 and a half minutes to try and shine some light on this director who, I’m sure for some, seems to have appeared from thin air.