Part 3 of the Interview with Irish Director, Jason Mehlhorn.
Ballybough Court, your short documentary premiered at the Underground Cinema before picking up the award in the best documentary category in September. That must have been a proud moment to get acknowledged by others working in areas of filmmaking in Ireland?
It was the first award I’ve won so yes, it was quite thrilling. Although I think the award was more to do with the subjects in the film than anything I necessarily done as a filmmaker. It’s directing was simply a case of pointing the camera in the right direction really. I did see most of the other films in that category [best documentary] and was quite surprised as they were all very good and at least two were funded.
On Ireland for a moment. How do you think the current economic shambles here will impact on filmmaking in this country over the coming years?
Well on the one hand there’s less spare money floating around, so this makes filmmaking harder, but on the other everything is cheaper and more people are free to work on them! It’s a double-edged sword, but I think for any filmmaker making stuff on an extremely low budget it’s a good thing. I suspect the people who’ll suffer the most are filmmakers higher up the chain, you know the ones used to the many luxuries on their healthier budgets. To my eyes there seems to be more independent features being made in the last two years than I’ve ever noticed before that.
I was lucky enough to have seen Ulterior a few weeks back. It was only after a few viewings I could truly appreciate the effort involved, but not only that, what you achieved with the budget you had. Has this type of filmmaking, meaning micro-budget, a broader place in filmmaking practice than what it has currently in Ireland?
Well to be honest I find low-budget independent features far better and at least more interesting than the funded ones from the Irish Film Board. I think by and large lower budgets force filmmakers to think more creatively to tell a story and I also sense more passion about them. I’ve seen some amazing low-budget independent films in the last year from Ivan Kavanagh, Colin Downey, Donnacha Coffey, Rouzbeh Rashidi and Michael Higgins to name just a few.
What now for Ulterior? Are copies of Ulterior available to the general public yet?
I’ll be entering it into film festivals for about a year and we’ll see what happens. I’m still in talks, but outside of film festivals I’m hoping there’ll be at least two public screenings in Dublin in 2011. After the year I may either approach distributors to see what they make of it or I’ll distribute the film myself on some cottage-industry style if not bigger. So regardless of what happens people will be able to see it in 12 months if they don’t catch it anywhere else.
I know you've done work in this area Jason, both on shoots and in post production and it's an area you yourself pay particular attention to. Would you expand a little on the area of sound...
As I think I said earlier it was something I kinda fell into and will be moving away from to concentrate on writing and directing as it’s mostly served it’s purpose. However, I’ll continue doing it on my own projects and I’ll always have a particular interest in the possibilities of sound in film. I also prioritise the sound recording with the same level of importance and consideration as the camerawork, which is almost unheard of. Usually the sound department needs to work around everyone else and are sometimes treated quite disrespectfully, but I place it on a much higher level. It’s great for creating subtly and emotionally affecting the audience in ways that I don’t think can be achieved with a camera.
What's up next project wise?
The only definite thing is writing the feature script for the other thriller which would’ve been selected had I not choose to go with Ulterior. It’s just a writing exercise mostly, but if something really grabs me during the process I may wish to make it myself. Other than that I’ve two ideas for two features that I can make for a very low budget, a thousand euros or so. Both are quite experimental but they’re really exciting me at present. I’d work with a much looser script than with Ulterior and go with the flow more, however it won’t be some improvisational or haphazard thing. After I finished Ulterior I noticed that many of my favourite things in the film were happy accidents or incidents, or ideas that came from others. I’d like to see if I can set up an environment to utilise these things more.
Finally Jason, I've seen in the UK that Film Study enters the curriculum at an early stage. It's seeping into the system slowly here in Ireland. Do you have any advice for filmmakers who would be considering shooting shorts, or indeed, crazy enough to attempt a feature?
I think to always follow your instincts, it’s one of the only tools a director has in my opinion.
Jason, it's been a pleasure. I hope the coming year provides both Ballybough Court and Ulterior with the attention they deserve.
Well many thanks Noel and thanks for taking the time to interview me.
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