Friday, 12 July 2013

Safe as Houses

My 10-minute poetry film Safe as Houses is now available to view on YouTube and on the Speaking Volumes Live Literature Productions website. My thanks to Sharmilla, Sarah and Nick of Speaking Volumes for releasing/hosting it.

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I wrote the poem 'Safe as Houses' in 2010. It's composed of four separate parts: part one provided the poem's core - and was first published on the streets of Dublin in February 2011 as part of the UpStart campaign; part two was written in the style of a letter to The Irish Times, adhering to the peculiar conventions of that page and exhibiting a typical admonitory/self-congratulatory tone; part three is made of a series of bullet points describing a cyclical building process; part four is a transcription, with minor alterations, of one side of an email conversation spanning a period of 18 months.

Last summer I came across an abandoned, dilapidated house in north county Dublin the state of which encapsulated so much of what the poem came out of and what it attempted to convey that it seemed almost indecent not to try and put the two together. At first I couldn't work out how. I returned to the house in September with artist Thomas Brezing wielding a video camera and we shot several scenes of me reading from my poems, including the entire 'Safe as Houses', in that setting. Then in January I enlisted the help of film editor Oliver Fallen to make something out of the footage - who on viewing it had several eye-opening suggestions to make. A week later Brezing and I went back to the house, the operation towards the making of a film (as opposed to a record of the reading of the poem in a specific setting) pretty much fully-planned in my mind in advance, and we re-shot the whole thing.

I wanted to avoid making the result polished in any way; I wanted to retain an amateurishness and an aesthetic roughness, and to allow an element of negligence in its making - all integral to what I was trying to convey. We used no backing sound track or a separate recording of my voice, and the bare minimum of post-production tricks.

The editing process was fascinating to be involved in: watching how the experienced eye of an editor and his knowledge of his tools and their capabilities (and limitations) impacts on the finished film was a hugely valuable lesson in composition. Marrying the visual element, which is Fallen's expertise, to my interest in language and to the overall concept, was crucial. I hope we made a film that traverses the sum of its individual parts.

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