Interview with Paddy Murphy: My Reflection

An opportunity to speak to someone working in your industry for quite a long time and gain experience from this interaction is always very inspiring. Fortunately, I got a chance to interview Paddy Murphy, an award-winning filmmaker, and discuss with him what does it mean and how does it feel to direct films. Lately, I have posted the interview itself, and now it is the time to reflect on what answers I got. 

For me, it is always very interesting to hear how people start their journey in film industry — and for Paddy a huge willing to tell stories became the reason why he started making films. Filmmakers are always storytellers, and making films is a great way to tell stories. According to Paddy, he doesn’t really believe in film schools — to an extent that film schools will never substitute real experience of being on set, and I totally agree with him on this point. Of course, education contributes a lot, but alone it doesn’t mean much. The whole concept of “go outside and make films NOW” is something I hear extremely often from people in the industry — and of course, they are right. Even though it might be very hard to overcome all your inner fears, and doubts, and procrastination, and whatever else might stop you from making movies, it is the only way to get started and move forward, mastering the art and craft of your passion. 

Another thing that always interests me is sources of inspirations. I often experience that block when you just cannot find a really good idea for your film, and the more you think about it, the more stuck you get. Usually, good ideas come to mind naturally, without forcing yourself, but I keep asking people about where they find inspiration — and real-life events are the most common answer, which is, of course, very understandable. Also, I fully agree with the idea that stories are all around us, you just have to pay attention, notice and catch them. 

When I asked Paddy how he would describe the job of a film director his answer was: “Share your vision with everyone”. To be honest, I think this answer fits really well: directing films means communicating your ideas to all the team and the cast, sharing your vision in order to bring production to life, and it is also transferring that vision to the audience. As a film director, you have to understand all the aspects of making movies, be able to stay calm in any situations and be objective towards yourself. 

A part of the interview I can deeply relate to is the one when Paddy speaks about filmmaking teaching you to deal with any unexpected issues. Personally, I feel exactly the same. I have this idea that filmmaking in general and film directing in particular is a process of constant problem-solving. You will always get into unexpected situations, in a way it’s inevitable when being on set or in pre-/post-production stages, and it’s okay. Making films helps you gain this ability to stay calm, stop panicking and start thinking of what could be done with the issue — because without it you won’t be able to move forward. And once you learn it, you start noticing that it works not only in filmmaking but in all situations you might face in your life. 

I’d like to thank Paddy for sharing his experience and thoughts with me, it was both very inspirational and useful for me as a young filmmaker. Here I would like to put his quote from this interview addressed to all aspiring filmmakers: “ Never stop. Never give up. Only make the compromises that make sense to bring your vision to life. Fail often. Fail hard. Learn more than you ever will, as fast as you can. Tell stories that mean something to you”.

Interview with film director Paddy Murphy

When did you realize that filmmaking is what you actually want to do in life? How did you start your journey in the industry? 

I think from an early age I knew I wanted to tell stories. I just didn’t know what format to do that in. I spent a lot of my life writing stories before moving into videogame development as I felt that was an incredible opportunity to tell an interactive narrative. I quickly grew frustrated with the limitations of linear narrative within that medium so I returned to writing short stories. One of these won a bunch of awards. That was Ensnared which would go on to become my first short film. A person I was working with at the time, helping with PR & Marketing, suggested I write and direct Ensnared, so I did and I caught the bug. Clerks really inspired me as a film-maker because it showed me that you can actually just go out and make a compelling and entertaining film without needing a massive studio budget behind you.

Do you believe in film schools? Why?

I don’t believe in Film Schools… but at the same time, I believe that like most things you learn a lot more from doing. I mean, I get that some film schools are more practical and give people access to gear and talent and all that stuff, but to me there is nothing that can prepare you for being on set. I learned so much going and being on other peoples sets when I first started out. I wrote a 5000 word breakdown of my experience as third assistant director and script supervisor on Andy Stewarts award winning short film, Remnant. It was honestly far superior to the course I did back in Limerick, Video Production and Manipulation. I say that if you have the experience of film school – fantastic, but don’t just presume that means you are more valuable on a set. Everyone on set is treated the same – at least on the set’s I’ve been on and that’s usually down to experience – not just education…

What is your best memory from your own experience in film directing? Any memorable moments, events, etc. 

I think the first time we shot the “Cross Body” shot in The Three Don’ts. We had never done a stunt anywhere near that level. I just remember the fear in the lead up to it and imagining everything that could go wrong. We basically had a guy launching himself at three other guys, down a hill… at night… in the middle of nowhere. I will never forget the joy I felt watching that shot on the monitor. It just lived up to everything I had imagined when I wrote that part of the script and it always gets a huge laugh at screenings. I think another memorable moment was at the Canadian Premiere of The Three Don’ts – just watching a non-native crowd react to the work was a hugely wonderful feeling and really inspired me to get out and get to work on the second feature film right away 🙂 I think the thing I enjoy most about film-making is finding my film family. Just working with people that I would gladly get up and work with again anytime, anywhere!

What do you find the most challenging in filmmaking? 

Trying to acquire any kind of sufficient budget. I make a lot of horror films, which require a large amount of special effects and make up, making them more expensive to shoot than say Drama films. Even though horror films always make a lot of money internationally it can still be exceptionally hard to gather investors and production partners for horror films. I think to make horror you really have to make something incredibly unique, which is also incredibly challenging. In terms of a technical level, I would say acquiring strong audio is much more difficult than getting beautiful visuals. We primarily shoot on a RED Scarlet Dragon in 5K with over 9 lights. So that never worries me. But even with the right equipment, Audio seems harder to find people with the adequate skillsets.

How do you find inspiration and new ideas for your films? 

Majoritively from my own life experiences. Films like The Sad Ones, Ghosts and The Cheese Box are all based on real world events that had an effect on my life. However, I also gain ideas from discussing and brainstorming with friends – that was how The Three Don’ts was born. I think another area is my love of Irish culture and using that in new and meaningful ways within the narrative of visual media. I feel that I did this with films like Retribution and am aiming to do so again with my second feature film, The Perished. I think we get ideas from everything around us. Going for a walk. Dwelling in our own thoughts. Reading a book. Reading the news. Everything. Don’t limit your opportunities for storytelling and you’ll never be without inspiration.

How would you describe the job of film director in five words? 

Share your vision with everyone.

What do you consider the most important personal qualities of a good film director? 

Organizational abilities are a must, however, you must also be a people-centric person. The ability to speak to and relate with people is fundamental to someone directing actors. You must also understand the different aspects of film-making ie. lighting, camera, makeup to be able to relay details to the heads of department. A good director is able to keep a level head even in the face of absolute chaos. An ability for quick thinking is a must as you will likely need to change things up on the fly. The ability to be objective about your work in the edit suite is a huge one. You need to be able to watch the film not as the director, but as a passive observer. If you’re looking at a shot and you’re unwilling to cut it because you know how much time and effort went into it, you’ll likely make poor decisions. A good director is capable of always thinking of the betterment of the film, even if it sometimes goes against their own vision.

Who would you name in your top 3 list of film directors? Why do you find them outstanding in the industry?

Kevin Smith: I think the reason I so admire Kevin Smith is twofold. One because I love the idea of his journey – a guy making low budget films with his friends in his workplace. Telling fun, relatable stories that resonated with an entire generation and live on to this day. The second reason is that when he got tired of the “hollywood” way of making movies, he broke away and found a way of continuing to make the films he wanted to make with Red State & Tusk. I think he seems like the type of person who values the people that came up with him and he’s someone I would love to meet and have the potential to work with in the future.

Wes Craven: Wes Craven is known for many iconic horror films such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, but I think the reason he is one of my idols, is that he came from absolutely nowhere in the early seventies. His first few films “The Last House on the Left” and “The Hills have Eyes” were brutal and unflinching and existed outside of the studio system. He was one of the first horror auteurs. Almost twenty years later he was able to parody the tropes of horror films in Scream, horror tropes that he himself helped create throughout the 80s. Wes’ back catalogue is exceptional – even, or maybe especially when he was given less to work with. It’s this tenacious attitude and the ability to defy the system that I adore this director and mourn his loss to this day.

Joe Lynch: Joe Lynch has personally inspired me as a filmmaker when I met him at Frightfest last year. This was before I had seen his latest film Mayhem, starring Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving – a film that became my top film of 2017. Joe is the type of person who has seen every facet of the industry including it’s worst sides on his 2012 film, Knights of Badassdom – due to studio interference and production woes. Yet still he absolutely adores film-making. He’s a walking encyclopedia of film knowledge and he loves every step of the process – in spite of all the bad he’s seen. Joe is a personal inspiration as it was him who encouraged me to get out and make my second feature film. I cannot wait to see what he does next.

What would be your advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Never stop. Never give up. Only make the compromises that make sense to bring your vision to life. Fail often. Fail hard. Learn more than you ever will, as fast as you can. Tell stories that mean something to you.

Did filmmaking teach you something important that you would never learn without it? Any important lessons, insights, etc?

As someone who suffers from incredibly bad Anxiety, I found that directing has really taught me how to deal with unexpected issues. I find that the ability to remain calm in the face of complete and utter disaster is something I would never be able to do if I had not learned to do so on a film set. I think the only insight I would give is something acclaimed film-maker Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2, Mayhem) once told me. He said at the start of the first day of shooting get up and write on a piece of paper “Congratulations, you got through the first day. You can do anything!”. When you get home that evening, no matter the hardships, that piece of paper will give you the energy and confidence to tackle the next day with everything you have.

CUI111.3 Being a creative leader

Being an effective leader is a great challenge. However, if we add word “creative” to this phrase, the goal becomes even harder to reach. We are all more or less familiar with the basic leadership skills, but how a creative leader differs from a traditional one?

 

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Screenshot from “John Maeda on the importance of creative leadership”

 

It would be right to focus on the word “creative”: it might sound very basic, but a creative leader applies his creativity to leading his team. This includes abilities to communicate and interact with the team, to improvise and look at things differently, to learn from mistakes and be open to the unlimited feedback. According to John Maeda, within a successful company led by a creative mind, everyone in the team interacts in order to help each other so everybody can benefit from it. Importantly, those who would be at the bottom of a classical hierarchical pyramid (basically, product creators), should actually be at the top of a tree, which lives because of the support of the roots — and these routes are a creative leader (Design Inbada, 2013).

Also, the engagement of the team in the project plays a crucial role. Ken Wright claims that actively engaged team members are about 30% more productive than others. An effective creative leader makes sure, that all his team are willing to achieve their goal. It is also crucial to provide them with a positive working environment and make them feel great doing their job (Ken Wright, 2013).

I believe that an effective team led by a creative leader is the one that realizes itself as a united organism with shared goals. That is why it is so important to develop the creative leadership qualities in order to achieve something truly unique.


References

Design Indaba. (2013, May 2009). John Maeda on the importance of creative leadership. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRNeEbJtEIQ
Ken Wright. (2013, August 26). Leadership – Engage your Team – Create a Culture of Engagement [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZA94smSkQg

FLM110.3 Don’t let technologies kill filmmaking art

Since the beginning of the cinema era, technologies have developed significantly and filmmakers have got many tools for them to create absolutely unique worlds in their films. Particularly, technologies have been used film marketing since the beginning of the studio era (SAE Film and Media, 2015). Filmmakers wanted to make their movies as spectacular as possible — in fact, it led to modern blockbusters we see nowadays. No doubt, modern technologies significantly contributed to the development of film industry. However, they also affected the way the stories are being told in the films.

 

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One of the Star Wars’ characters recreated using CGI technologies 

 

Personally, I have always valued the films shot without using the CGI. I prefer natural atmosphere to the fantastic worlds which are being recreated in films. In my opinion, CGI sometimes creates an image that lacks honesty. Apart from that, many Hollywood films are being so focused on CGI effects, explosions and other visual technologies, that they give up the heart of the film — the narrative. Deep meanings and interesting stories are being sacrificed to spectacularity, which is, in my view, highly distractive for the art of filmmaking. Apart from that, overuse of CGI sometimes leads to the film losing its authenticity (The MovieNetwork, 2014).

All in all, I think that computer-generated imagery should be used responsibly in the films. It is a powerful tool that can contribute to the production, but personally, I feel that films that rely too much on CGI lack… Soul? Probably something like this. I believe in natural filmmaking and would like to create movies that are not dependent on CGI. Films are about stories, about characters, about cinematography — but not about demonstrating the latest technologies in computer-generated imagery.

Have a look at how Michael Gondry created visual effects in 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — without using CGI.

References

AirNikeNick23. (2008, April 14). Michael Gondry – Camera Trick. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II0er7TmkS8

Real Tarkin vs Rogue One CGI Tarkin [Online image]. Retrieved 2018, April 23 from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-19/real-tarkin-vs-rogue-one-cgi-tarkin/8194824

SAE Film and Media. (2015, April 20). Spectacle and technology. Retrieved 2018, April 23 from https://medium.com/@SAEFilmStudies/flm110-topic-11-1a5a2bd403a2

TheMovieNetwork. (2014, May 20). The Pros and Cons of CGI. Retrieved 2018, April 23 from http://www.themovienetwork.com/article/pros-and-cons-cgi

CIU111.3 The golden era of collaborations

Living in the 21s century, we are lucky to get opportunities that would never be possible without the development of modern technologies. Before even communication between creative people was a much bigger deal, but nowadays with the help of the Internet, we have more chances to collaborate with those who are interested in our work, even though they may be kilometers away from us.

Collaboration is an extremely important part of the creative process which allows us to share our ideas in order to achieve the best possible result, come up with something entirely new and overcome those challenges with which we might not be able to deal working alone. Apart from that, collaboration gives us a chance to spend time together more productively, inspire each other and give us more creative power (TEDx Talks, 2014).

The Internet gives us endless possibilities for collaboration, including collaborations with fans. For those who admire someone’s work, it might be difficult to gain the attention of a person. However, social media makes everything much easier. While researching the topic, I came up with the story about a popular EDM producer Deadmau5 who posted his new track on SoundCloud and pretty soon got a feedback from one of his fans saying he wrote some lyrics for it. Deadmau5 decided to give the guy a chance and was amazed and inspired by what he got. It led to them releasing the track together — and that perfectly illustrates the creative collaboration opportunities we get with the Internet (Newton-Rex, 2015).

(Beware the inappropriate language)

I believe that 21st century is a perfect time to create something together with both your peers and fans because it can lead to revealing a new creative power and be a great source of inspiration. I’m convinced that we should not give up these opportunities.


Resources

Newton-Rex, E. (2015). Deadmau5 collaborating with a fan is exactly what the internet is for.. Medium. Retrieved 22 April 2018, from https://medium.com/world-of-music/deadmau5-collaborating-with-a-fan-is-exactly-what-the-internet-is-for-33b917a5812a

TEDx Talks (2014, June 19). Creative collaboration — a 21st century imperative: Paul Roe at TEDxFulbrightDublin [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFFEzM2JnIo

Wanza7 (2014, May 22). deadmau5 finds vocals for “The Veldt” | March 18, 2012 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgeWHnSmPKE

CIU111.3 Why criticism is important?

Criticism is one of the concepts that is often misunderstood or undervalued. Many people consider critics those who just want to rip your work apart without even being in the industry — so basically the concept is perceived only in its negative connotations (our recent discussion in the university on this topic only proof my thoughts about it). However, I personally believe that critics are important and their work is valuable for a deeper understanding of a piece of art.

I’d like to narrow the topic and explain what I mean by the example of film criticism. So why is film criticism important? One of the most known American film critics Roger Ebert gave a very simple answer — “Because films are important”. And in their turn, films are important because they have a great influence on the society and the way people think (FoundationINTERVIEWS, 2008).

It is vital to bear in mind that film criticism exists not because it is meant to tell the audience what to think and feel — it has a greater purpose of putting the films in the cultural context, giving a better understanding of the decisions made by filmmakers (Fischer, 2015). Familiar with the film art much more than a general audience, they can reveal more details that can provide a deeper understanding of what the film crew intended to say including subtexts, allusions and so on.

Considering all this, we should value film criticism — and criticism in general — as it analyses the piece of work within its cultural context, looking closer at every creative decision that contributed to the final product. And in order for people to realize this importance, we should get rid of that ridiculous negative perception of criticism and focus more on what we can learn from it and how we can get better.


References

Fischer, C. (2015). The importance of film criticism. University Observer. Retrieved 22 April    2018, from http://www.universityobserver.ie/otwo/the-importance-of-film-criticism/

FoundationINTERVIEWS. (2008, December 30). Roger Ebert on Film Criticism – EMMYTVLEGENDS.ORG. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FCVlQ_5aSI

CIU111.3 The Motion Picture Patent Wars

Copyright is something at least barely familiar to everyone. We know that intellectual work is protected by copyright, we know we should not break these rules because in fact it is considered stealing, plus if we want our intellectual property to be protected then we should respect others’. In fact, it doesn’t always work like that, but what interested me more during our Copyright & Contracts lecture was if all these copyright laws are actually made just right to manage all the challenges of intellectual property.

So I started digging deeper into the issue. I won’t be able to cover the topic properly considering the word limit, however, I’ll try to at least briefly cover the issue. So, first, I’ll talk about the effect of patent and copyright on the early development of filmmaking industry in Hollywood. After inventing a working camera and the projector by Lumber in 1895, the patent holders for making and distributing movies including but not limited by Jenkins and Edison formed the Motion Pictures Patent Company, a cartel known as the Film Trust (Khairy, 2010).

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Members of the Motion Pictures Patent Company 

 

After that, the organization considered themselves the only ones who were allowed to make and distribute films, suing everyone who tried to produce something on their own. “Illegal” movies were distributed in nickelodeons — and the confrontation between the Film Trust and their opposition (who would later become Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. and others) led to an actual war which was fortunately won by those who fought for freedom of filmmaking (Wu, 2010).

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Nickelodeon — a place where the films used to be distributed

Copyright laws might be very important, but even nomads some of them stop the progress and the development of creative media industries. No doubt, we should obey the copyright laws. However, we all should be aware that sometimes they might be changed for the industry to move on.


References 

Khairy, W. (2010). Film History: The Motion Picture Patent Wars. The Cinephile Fix. Retrieved 21 April 2018, from https://cinephilefix.com/2010/05/22/film-history-the-motion-picture-patent-wars-2/

Members of Motion Picture Patents Company [Online image]. (2018). Retrieved from https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft3q2nb2gw&chunk.id=d0e16683&toc.depth=1&toc.id=d0e16474&brand=ucpress

Nickel-Ext [Online image]. Retrieved from https://www.pghfilm.org/about-us/history/nickel-ext/

Wu, T. (2013). The master switch. New York: Vintage Books.