Sunday, June 27, 2010

Addressing Some Issues.

The screening of Slán agus Beannacht over the weekend raised a couple of interesting points since going live yesterday. One, the loss of a more traditional ways of doing things and the loss of one on one human interaction. Also the portrayal of teens as being dangerous thugs.

I'll address the first point first. It's weird to say, only being in my 30s, but I look back on my childhood as a completely different era. Makes me sound old but that was before the advent of the internet, mobile phones, electronic telephone service and the home computer to a large extent. It was a simpler time, where imagination was our play toy and the world outside, the fields and the forests was where we let it run wild... not a computer console and the worn out carpet in front of the TV! I clearly remember the day my childhood changed forever and I was set on my path. It was the summer of 89 and my best friend got a second hand Commodore 64.

I remember calling to his house one Saturday morning thinking we were going to set off on our day long adventure out the old tracks to a forrest some miles away as per usual, but it was not to be. He was loading a game he wanted to play. And as we sat for what seemed hours in his small shaded room, north facing with the sun cascading down some distance away, waiting for this tape to load, I got bored and decided to head off on my own. I didn't realise then but I would be making that journey on my own from then on, as one by one my childhood friends would succumb to the radioactive green glow of digitized computer graphics and the soft blip-blop of supposed alien space craft laser beams. Computer games stole my childhood adventures, and that's probably why I have never played them, not to this day.

I'm a slight contradiction though. I do actually love modern computers. I love my iMac and love what it has enabled my to do and how it has empowered me as a filmmaker. I love programs like photoshop, final cut and final draft. I love gadgets, I own a blackberry and I will get the iPhone 4 and possibly, hopefully, the next generation of the iPad and more then likely, whatever new iMac is on the way!

But I still like the old traditions, I like the one on one Human way of doing things. In our endeavour to make thinks more convenient we've become more complication and alienated and we've fogotten whats most important, human connection. In large part 140 was a continuation of this idea. I wanted to break the barrier the internet provides and make people reconnect and use the internet as a tool, almost against itself, to do that.

I miss Bosco (my rent collector) calling to the door to collect the rent. I miss chatting with him for 5 minutes before he moves on. I hate HATE calling eircom (or whatever company) to fix a problem and being sent in circles for 20 minutes before I get to talk to someone who inevitably puts me on hold. I miss the old glass countered sweet shop, I miss the leather smelling shoes shop with boxes pilled to the ceiling, I miss the barbers on the second floor with the old man reading the newspaper and the radio playing some diddly-i tune, I miss the cattle walking through town and the random shops down crocked cobble stone alleys, I miss the small dusty book shop and the cafe that served tea and coffee, and just tea and coffee. I guess it's a longing for simpler times in a world that seems to have over complicated itself.

When Bosco was taken off the streets after 35 years, on a route that had him see 500 people a week, and put behind a desk to sit in front of a computer until retirement, I was sad for him and I mourned the passing of an age. This film was a dedication to that age, and to Bosco. You'll see that the film is for Sheila. Sheila was my Grandmother, who died two years ago this month. I live in her house now. Bosco would have collected rent from her for the 35 year she lived in this house, and I'm kind of glad she didn't live to see his passing. the final nail in the coffin for that generation, now gone.

The other issue raised was how youth is portrayed in the film. A marauding teen gang stalk the rent collectors and the film opens with a beating and a mugging. I suppose what this gang symbolises is what's modern, and how there is a general distain by the new for the old, and how it pushes aside the old without care and consideration. Traditions are lost. Respect is not even considered.

I can understand the point being made, that youth gets a bad rap in films. That may be the case, but I don't think it's a misrepresentation. I think, I know, that side of society exists. There are people out there who have no consideration, no only for old traditions, but anything. People who would stab you as soon as look at you. Steal from you without a moments hesitation. Even while making this film I had some strange encounters, things which never happen me. When I was scouting the park where Pat is attacked I heard a voice call out, "What are you fuckin doing?" I look around a saw three teens, two girls and a boy, 15/16 years-old, standing near the water drinking Budweiser, "I'll fuckin slap the head of ye" he went on to say. I shook my head and moved on.

I was tempted to continue the conversation in a less cordial manner, but I didn't see the point. This area had been in the newspapers recently because of kids with knives and air guns threatening and attacking people walking their dogs. So regardless of the fact that I was twice the age and size of the kid I didn't really want a knife in my side! Bear in mind too that this area is right beside my parents house, I grew up there, played there everyday as a kid, and now I'm being threatened in it.

Another incident happened when we were shooting the first scene where the teens attack Liam. We were in an area that again has been in the news for incidents like this. I thought we'd be safe going down there mid afternoon on a sunny day. But then some kids started to arrive, a bit annoyed that we were in there spot, but they moved on, great I thought, fair play to them, feeling a little guilty that I was portraying them in such a bad light... until they started throwing rocks at us, almost hitting us and the equipment, including a case of lenses worth ten grand!

The fact is that this is an element of society, it always has been and always will be. You just have to go back to films like Clockwork Orange, or even as far back as the slightly more naive The Wild Ones, or even Rebel Without a Cause. It's nothing new. It's rebellious youth raging against whatever they can. Unfortunately, perhaps more now, the level of violence has escalated and people are being badly beaten and sometimes stabbed. It's just a fact. I'm not going to shy away from it to spare feelings if that's what the story is about. And it is just one story about one incident, it's not suppose to be a representation of all teens, you have take the film on it's own terms.

Another fact is that this is actually based on true events. In my research I asked Bosco if he had ever been mugged and he said no, but a colleague of his had and been so badly beaten that he was left in intensive care, which is what sparked the decision to take the rent collectors off the streets.

I don't think all teens are like this, of course I don't, I work with them! I cast them in this film! And I think that shows that I do have respect for youth, but a creative, intelligent and constructive youth who put the energy into creating rather than destroying. I've worked with Shane and Eric twice now, they played the kids in Emily's Song and I loved working with them. I love their energy and creative spark. I hope to work with them again in the future and I hope to be able to work with other kids and teens in future projects because they bring so much positive energy and fun to set.

There is a moment in the film which offers some hope I think. When the teens run after mugging Pat, the camera catches Andy before he runs and we see his shock and regret. He plays a character who has fallen in with the wrong crowd and just gets caught up in the moment, never expecting it to end in such a violent manner. Which I think is often the case, while teens can be load, boisterous, sometimes intimidating, there not all bad, but in certain gangs, in certain situations it's one bad apple who can push things that little too far.

Well, I hope that clears a couple of things up. I really appreciate people watching and leaving comments on my facebook page. The film will be taken down tomorrow, so catch it while you can. Thanks.

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