Episode 16: In Conversation with Holly Márie Parnell!
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Holly Márie Parnell ! A filmmaker, a friend, a really lovely person !!! This podcast episode was mostly recorded at a live event a couple weeks ago at Sirius, an arts centre in Cobh, Ireland. Sirius are showing Holly's film, Cabbage. We chat about loads of things: about the film itself but also beyond, about filmmaking as an act of love, engaging with text through the medium of film, shrinking your rig to try and make filmmaking a portable, inconspicuous practice as you relate to your subjects, and MORE! enjoy!
Speakers: Gabrielle de la Puente, Zarina Muhammad, Holly Márie Parnell, David Parnell
Jingle by Toynoiz
Zarina Muhammad (ZM): Hello and welcome back to The White Pube Podcast! I’m ZM and we’ve got another episode for you that is special! Interesting! Exciting content! This week’s episode is a recording from an event I did a couple weeks back at Sirius, an Art Centre in Cobh in Ireland, when I was over there. It’s a conversation between myself and Holly Márie Parnell: a filmmaker, a friend, and just a totally beautiful person.
This conversation between me and Holly is mostly about a film Holly made called Cabbage and it’s currently being shown at Sirius. It’s on till the 15th April, so you’ve got about 2 weeks if you’re catching this one time, to go see it if you want to. If you can’t make it over then no wozz, that’s what this podcast is for. Hopefully we’ll do our best in filling in blanks and giving you a bit of context if you haven’t seen the film. But hopefully this should just be a very interesting chat with a filmmaker and Very Interesting Person.
I’m going to very quickly give you blurb for Cabbage and then I’m going to play you some excerpts from the film. The blurb is from the Berwick Film Festival programme where the film was recently shown and it says:
Cabbage is an intimate film made in collaboration with Parnell’s family, Cabbage looks at the complexities of bodily autonomy within an ableist paradigm. Taking place in the months leading up to an international move from Canada back home to Ireland - a country they had to leave a decade prior due to severe cuts in disability services - the film focuses on her brother David’s writings using eye tracking technology and her mother’s memories to explore how we shape a sense of self under the pervasive weight of unspoken assumptions and fixed definitions that get placed onto bodies. Dissecting layers of language, agency and power, the film is a subtle examination of how a human life is measured and valued.
And the excerpts I’m going to play are coming up next. The first one is an audio clip from the film where David is using said eye tracking technology to address the camera. It’s the same eye tracking technology he uses to write and his writing appears in the film. I think this might be from a clip where Holly is speaking to David and they’re having a conversation back and forth. But his writing also appears as texture and material that the film interacts with throughout. The next clip is from June, Holly’s Mum, sorting through medical documents and speaking to Holly behind the camera and it’s a back and forth.
After that we’ll get into the conversation and there are clips from David and Gabrielle who contributed… it wasn’t just me and Holly chatting, there was also Gab and David, neither of them were present in the room but they were there in other ways.
So yeah! Hopefully this is interesting and you enjoy it — I’ll catch you at the end. Goodbye!
David Parnell (DP): I want to ask you a question. I want to ask a question. I want to ask a question. I want to ask a question. I want to ask a question. I want to ask you a question. Tell me yes or no. I want to ask the question. Tell me yes or no. I want to ask a question. Yes. This is how I say. Yes, this is how I say it. Yes, That’s funny. That’s funny. That’s funny. This is how I say yes. That’s funny. This is how I see it. Yes. Change the subject.
Holly Márie Parnell (HP): Dyou want me to stop filming.
DP: No, I meant something else. I’m going to start again.
June (J): Today is quite interesting. When you see these old, you know, professional notes about David. Just it’s just so interesting how these are all just captured like this on a piece of paper. Yet, it none of it captures this. These are all the documents that way back when David first took ill I mean, there it was shortly after we were able to take him home. And after having those really negative conversations with some of the doctors about his future and and sort of that kind of sense of just write him off, that I just felt, no, I need to get I need to get all the information possible. So I’ll take what they have and then I’ll work with that and work with what I know as his mother and with him moment by moment. These, erm— psychology ones are so… And they have this testing scale and I mean, who are any of us ever fit on to a type of scale? I don’t know how you can measure the essence of being human on a scale.
ZM: Okay. So hello. Thank you for having us. And I’m going to open up by asking. I know we’ve just watched the film, but can you tell me super quickly what happens and what people can expect to see? Listen to think about his recording for people that might not have seen it and also just generally.
HP: Yeah, so this is a film that is basically a triangle between me, my mother and brother. Me is the filmmaker behind the lens. David and his words and writing that he uses and that he writes using is using, I guess, technology. And that’s threaded throughout the film kind of the backbone of the film. And then intimate conversations with my mother spent over a couple of years of collecting.
ZM: Can you tell me a little bit about how this film actually came together? How did you make it? What is your workflow look like and what was the process of putting it all together?
HP: Yeah, well, this is the first actual single channel film I’ve made. Is funny speaking to you like this because you know my work and, you know, was for anyone who doesn’t like us. No, this is my first single channel film. So before that, it’s mainly been my video performances and installations that I’ve always drawn on, like loads of fragments using my phone as my main source of recording device.
Yeah. And so for me, if I’m always like collecting, whether it’s field recording, like sound or just like fragments of little things happening, that’s like how I work. And then I suppose and this is also the first time that I like upgraded to like a nicer camera, I suppose. And that was decision was purely because I was filming so much indoors as well.
And there was like literally details of words on a page that I wanted to capture that like the film couldn’t do. So I was thinking she probably learned how to use the actual camera. And so it was interesting for the process of bringing in a bigger camera was more like, How can I make this feel as much like my phone as possible and as much like because the phone basically felt like just another appendage that was really easy to collect things because it didn’t interfere with like the intimacy or the authentic authenticity of the moment.
Because like, cameras are like bodies, right? And so when they get bigger and they can change, like the atmosphere of the space, so I was always trying to figure out how to make that as small as possible. Um, I actually completely forgot your question.
ZM: No, that question was rubbish compared to what you just said. So you learn slowly, like, No, there’s something really interesting about how cameras are like bodies. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
ZM: That was like the best thing I’ve heard all month.
HP: Like, No, no. But they just they have their own energy and they have they affect people are act different in front of them, whether they enjoy to be in front of it or are scared of it. And it’s interesting, when I was learning how to use a nicer camera, I suppose I was like learning on all these YouTube channels and all these like mainly men on the YouTube channels teaching cinematography.
And they were it was all about how to make your rig bigger and how to expand your rig. And so that when you go in on set, you’re like, look more professional because your rig is bigger. And it was just I could not find like any YouTube channel that was, uh, like the inverse of that. So I would just take what they were saying and try to inverse it and learn it.
Like, how could I make my set up as small as possible to create that? Like, so it could be a body that just felt like an extension of my hand. So and especially in because I work in terms of like collecting, I think this is the beginning of what your question actually was from this, how I pitched it together.
But because I work in collecting fragments and just I always have to have some sort of recording device because I don’t like to set up a scenario. I like responding to one that is like something exciting is happening and there’s a resonance and I think, oh gosh, this has to be captured. And that can only be done when something’s on you all the time.
So that was a learning curve in terms of how to bring that into that relaxed environment.
ZM: Yeah, and, how long did it take you to collect the footage that makes up this film? Like from start to finish.
HP: Year and a half? Well, yeah, And it was because we were in the middle of this move. And also the move back to Ireland was more of a contextual background thing that I wanted to include in the film that was just more place for the characters Within that context is in that shifting context. But there’s also something when you’re looking at this subject matter, it wasn’t like, Oh, I’m just looking at this one part of the story or this.
I kind of wanted to look at like all the different layers, and I just felt that there being that like batting back and forth, like ping pong toys because of like cuts to disability services is just like this absolute absurdity like to include, but just have it in the background rather. Um, so that’s that kind of started the films.
Like my mum was literally going through old things and deciding what to keep and give away. And I was thinking and it was, yeah.
ZM: So it’s like background and also an inciting incident, that kind of.
HP: Oh I never thought about an inciting incident then.
ZM: Maybe this is like Writer Brain like kicking in like —.
HP: Gabrielle and I just talk about like story structure all the time. Yeah. Yeah. Maybe that’s the inciting incident.
ZM: Yeah. Not to narrativise it, not to turn into like some big grand narrative.
HP: But everything has story.
HP: Everything. Yeah. Not it doesn’t exist in narrative or film. It’s like even this moment will have a start and end. And a climax and a denouement.
ZM: Yeah, not necessarily linear. It’s. I love that. Yes. Okay, so this is not just like a Q&A in convo. This is a multimedia presentation because Gabrielle isn’t here. David also isn’t here. And we are going to play some clips from both of them in conversation as well as us having a chit chat now. So there’s a question from Gabriel for David, but I’m going to ask you it now first.
What is your favorite bit of the film?
HP: Jesus. Um.
ZM: Quick fire. Think fast.
ZM: This is a difficult question.
HP: I think probably the reason why the film is called Cabbage. I like that scene with my mum just so she’s like, There’s just something powerful about, um, her revisiting those documents and being like, fuck them. And, and she’s only in that place of like, power and resilience because of time and because of living such a long, you know, she’s in her sixties and has lived a long life with this, in this situation.
So I think like the fact that she was like, time becomes immaterial and this as well, because she’s like looking back and being able to analyse something from over years ago. And I think that like time is powerful in that scene for me.
ZM: Yeah, that’s a good answer.
Gabrielle de la Puente (GDLP): Like hello to the audience. I’m not in Cobh. Unfortunately, I’m in bed in Liverpool with COVID, but I’ve got some questions for David and he’s already answered them. So question number one is what was your favourite bit of the film?
DP: Through my eyes. Through my eyes.
ZM: I just want to ask you a question though, off the back of David’s answer. Um, and I thought if I’m reading between the lines or like inserting subtext, isn’t there the all that parts of the film that you had to shoot through, not your eyes or your camera, like a camera as your eyes, and that through his eyes, like, did you have to vacate your perspective and enter into a completely different space and what was that like?
HP: Yeah, no, I quite literally did that. Like I took the lens and I would like follow his own movements. I don’t know if that’s way too literal or not. I just felt it was far more interesting than just like filming him experiencing a moment. But I don’t really use a lens to like and like film as a medium to its capacity to be able to like inhabit, try and inhabit someone else’s perspective.
ZM: What was that like, though? Because you’re not just the filmmaker, you’re also David’s sibling. Like, what did that feel like? Those two categories collapsing into each other or like, was there like a clash or how did that feel?
HP: I think because I’m the sister and the daughter and the filmmaker, it allowed me obviously access, but not just access, but time spent. It in the minutia of daily life where these nuggets of wisdom like seep through in really casual ways. And I think for me that is the space of the real and that’s what I’m like always trying to tap into when I’m making something.
So it was like such a gift to be able to make a film with people I’m so close is because of that. Does that make sense?
ZM: Absolutely. Like it feels it’s that and bridging the distance, right like so in the space between that makes Yeah that makes sense Yeah.
HP: Because people think — I’ve had that question before like, oh, you’re so close. How did you find how did you create then the distance needed as a filmmaker, I was like, I don’t believe in needing distance maker.
ZM: MM No, that’s interesting. And I wonder though, if those are the bits that feel like a collaboration, maybe then this is smooth segue into talking about this film as a collaborative work. And yeah, those are the parts that feel collaborative.
HP: Yeah, like I was saying to you earlier, like the film feels like this triangle, like between the three of us and if you take one part of it away, it would just collapse and not be the same thing. And I think that’s really important, especially with giving David his voice and not not that I’m giving him his voice, but like elevating the way he speaks to an audience.
It was absolutely necessary that it wasn’t just my project or my gaze, but like really, really equal, you know?
ZM: Yeah, three different voices speaking, I guess.
HP: Yeah, I really, really do feel like I was just the filmmaker that the camera and made the editing choices and David was there with his words, creating like the backbone of the film. And my mum’s, like, memories and the way she speaks is like, like really powerful and that’s all just words coming out of her mouth and into the camera.
Um, yeah. So it felt like strong unit.
ZM: Yeah. That’s maybe that this is the best segue into talking about David’s writing. So I’ve got some questions maybe. First I want to ask about how his writing is technically or practically facilitated, and he tell us about the software that he uses.
HP: Yeah. So the, I guess software, it tracks his retinas, so it picks up the movement of his eyes and essentially works like a mouse. Like if you were on a computer and that and using your hand. But his eyes would just be that most tracker. And then if he holds his eyes on either letter or a premade word for a certain amount of time, then that comes up.
And then his fastest way of communicating is to premade sentences. So he does use that the most and he does type words as well. But it takes much longer. But a lot of the poetry and things that he writes are made of these premade sentences. And I yeah, I kind of love that, like what he’s able to do with what he has, with what’s already been made, what he’s able to say in those in those premade lines.
GDLP: My second question is that I find that I communicate quite differently if I’m typing on my phone versus my laptop versus speaking to someone face to face. And I kind of want to know how David thinks this technology, the eye gaze technology, shapes his communication, like can he write in his own phrases, for example, or is it all chosen by the machine?
Does you finds himself thinking faster than the machine? Or is it okay? How does he feel about the automated voice and apologies if this is too many questions. And while it’s just something I’ve been thinking about in terms of like the parts of Kabbage where David repeats himself when he speaks, which I imagine he doesn’t just do for the film, but is on the daily, like it allows him to spam a message in a way that we don’t do with our mouths. And I just think that’s a it’s an interesting quirk of the technology.
DP: I want to talk about it. I want to talk about it. I want to talk about it. I want to talk about it. Oh, .
ZM: Well, now maybe it’s a question for you as well. I caught a clip of you talking about having used the eye gaze for yourself. So maybe there’s something that you can speak to in your experience as well.
HP: Yeah. I mean, as a family, we’ve all like, tried it just to be aware of like what it’s like for him. And it’s like incredibly difficult to use and incredibly tiring as well and a bit frustrating to just like, focus so hard and mistakes are made and you have to like look away quickly before it does the wrong thing.
And it’s so he doesn’t just use it all day long and have all the time. It’s can be a frustrating tool. And I also find that interesting. This is just one mode of communication. He has lots of other ways to communicate nonverbally, like through facial expressions and sounds, and that’s how we’ve communicated with him as a family like our whole lives up until he started learning this technology.
So we’re fluent in his language. So it is just interesting now that I’m with this new technology, people are like, Oh my God, he’s communicating. How do I find that another interesting layer of like him having to, like, prove his humanity in a way that this sort of helps people even get to that place, which is not even shouldn’t even be necessary.
But we’re just like, Oh, I can understand that word. Okay. Oh, that’s something I here. Yeah. So that’s interesting to me as well, that tension. But because it’s clunky and awkward as well at the same time. Yeah. And his language with us that’s outside of that frame system is much more fluid in my opinion.
ZM: Yeah, that was something you were talking about earlier that it kind of exists within frame system, this framed system and it kind of it’s this other end to this other material that has to be fit in that it has to fit into. Yeah, the requirements of this, the software that obviously has like a designed user experience and outcome in mind, right?
I’m going to play a third question now from Gabrielle and an answer from David.
GDLP: Question three In terms of bodily autonomy, has David’s relationship with medical professionals changed since beginning use of the eye gaze technology? I do. They treat him less like the title of the film because of his language now. And I ask that because so last year my nan was in hospital for about six or seven months and she had a stroke and the doctors were telling us to get ready.
She was she was probably going to die. But while she was in there, over the course of a few months, she suddenly regained the ability to speak. And the theory is that when she was in there, they took her off the antidepressants that she’d been on for a few years, and suddenly she was like coherent.
And it meant that even though physically not much had changed, besides this coherence and this new language that had returned to her, and the doctors suddenly decided to like, take her seriously and move forward with treatments that they’d held back on. Because they seem to say that, you know, they they’d written her off, they’d given her the cabbage treatment and and then when she could speak again, they, like, gave her an operation and she was able to actually come out of the hospital and she’s like still here today.
And yeah, it just has made me think a lot differently about language and respect and how dark that can be between doctor and patient.
DP: I know it. I like that. I know it, I know it, I know it. I understand. I know it.
ZM: I’m going to—
HP: It’s nice having Gabrielle’s ghost here.
ZM: It does — I’m convinced. I saw a ghost last night not to go off on — but I’m convinced I saw a ghost last night. Yeah, Yeah, that doesn’t exist.
HP: Well, you wanted somebody.
ZM: It’s multimedia presentation, so it was in the spirit. Well, and right. I just want to shift gears now rather than talk about language and like CAPITALS language as well. All caps, language, explicit like hard and fast language, and maybe talk about some nitty gritty of it because so many come and ask, well, this kind of about language.
And so this question I want to ask about how David’s writing sits against the visual content that you shot and like maybe how his writing related to the footage. Can it, was he writing first and you were responding to it or was he responding to the bits that you were shooting and like didn’t was there a bit of a back and forth?
HP: Well, it’s hard to like pinpoint because I’m always filming. Like, actually I’m to like, apologise to my loved ones because it just the camera’s always on and not, not in like an artistic sense, always maybe in a home video sense just it’s always there. So I don’t know when like the hard line of like when I But with his writing, I suppose that came first because it was that writing that made me, that actually inspired the project because I don’t know if other people feel this, but when I see David’s writing, it feels like it has an outward projection.
He’s asking the audience like it creates the viewer, it creates an actor relationship with the viewers as if these questions are for the viewer, or maybe they’re for no one. Or maybe he’s just speaking to like it. Like what you can’t even put your finger on. And I always think about that, too, in terms of like these knowledge systems that get made or these like authorities, like even the people my mom mom’s like talking about, like you sort of can’t even pinpoint where that, like power is coming from.
But yes, so his words either they sort of feel like soliloquies in a way. You know, in a theater when the actor just stops and starts to, like, talk to the ether. And then that felt like a really nice moment to me that that inspired the film. And then what the things that I wanted to film and knowing that I didn’t want to just like film it as in document it, but really try and get like, um, somatic with my filmmaking and my relationship with like his words so that it could like move beyond just a space of pure language and be trying to communicate something a bit more in terms of like the body.
ZM: Yeah, yeah.
Can you say more about. Like that and I don’t know if somatic is like a, an adjective in only the somatic-ness. That’s not a word he’s speaking of maybe about the somatic quality that the film takes on. Like is it—
HP: I guess like the moments that I had spent with David, I, I try to like tap into what is the experience of that moment. And for David, I think there is when he’s in that space because he’s in this body that is always being stared at and equally always ignored. Um, so he’s hyper aware and I think his writings are like hyper aware of the body and what that means to inhabit a body that is different.
Um, and when he’s in is his favourite thing is to just be in nature. And when I think about that, like more deeply, I just think that, like, it’s a place where he doesn’t need permission to just be and to just exist and to have to prove anything. And I think that’s a space of somatic ness.
ZM: This must be a word for that. But it’s like, this isn’t a word, but I must be — I’m aware that I’m missing, I can’t think of it — somatic.
HP: It is this like feeling connected beyond language. That’s how I feel. Like it connected to the nature universe or connected to like the world around us without having to use words. That’s what it means to me. That maybe the definition.
ZM: Yeah. No, no, maybe it’s about groundedness that like, kind of like that cerebral headspace of like language and, and things that you can on sound verbally. Mm. That’s really cerebral and like above our heads. But like the opposite of that probably is. Yeah. Like mindedness that you’re speaking to. Yeah. This is really just the process of me understanding things and —
ZM: (Laughs) Yeah and now this. Okay, so this isn’t a clip from Gabrielle, I’m going to enter her headspace. No, I’m. I’m going to become a ghost. And Gabrielle, the ghost is going to possess my body. And it also, as Gabrielle. And she says,
I don’t think this film, this is a film about disability. It feels like a film with it. I don’t mean that to sound like an artist term, but more like a lot of art with disability as its subject matter is a bit like, Wow, look at this person. Aren’t they horrific or inspirational? Educational? And that doesn’t feel like the invitation here. It feels more level.
Now. She’s this would have been a clip that’s more like a comment than a question. But I want to offer you.
HP: Yeah, no, I like that because this isn’t a film about disability to me, this is a film about ableism. It’s asking people to question this ableist paradigm that we’re in. So I’m not looking at like him being really inspirational or it being sad. Like, sure, like all of these things exist in that constellation, but the film is not about that.
The film is about the space where you reclaim power in this system that’s quite suffocating. So yeah, I like that she tapped into that not.
ZM: Yeah, yeah, not like identifying that. And I then want to ask a question for you about, maybe filmmaker head on. Were there choices that you made to engage with the subject of your film in a way that was maybe more careful, more tender, more and, —
And I’m like that sentences words in a really cold, like technical way because I’m saying like subject engage and the choices, even though the, you know, subject of your film is David, your brother.
HP: Yeah. No, I’m, I when I was in Berwick a few weeks ago. So this film called I currently by Manuel Munoz Rivas, I think I butchered it, but um, and then his Q&A after I just got like really his words really resonated with me when he said that filmmaking for him is a gesture of love and, and he likes to film the people in his life that he loves, almost like saving them from the erosion of time.
And that not that that is that relevant that this thing about gesture of love it’s like how I feel about filmmaking and like I’m really not. There’s a lot of shit to like critique in this world and especially in the art world. We kind of hang on to that like space of like the things we want to share that we feel are wrong with the world.
But I think we can talk about that from a space of love as well. And like I want to choose to like film and be with subjects that like offer something to this world that is in a space of like joy and love. And that being like a political position is a way that makes sense.
ZM: That makes absolute sense. And that’s really profound as well, because I feel like at the moment I’ve really been thinking a lot about who we monumentalise or like the act of like documentary or like image making, like who, who, who gets to be like, ‘I’m documented’ and how that happens, right? That that feels like it contains potential to be a space of like tenderness, care, loves and all these and maybe maybe saying like, oh, you know, this is an active I think the word care has been like a real curatorial buzzword.
HP: You know what I was thinking the other day? I was thinking like for the white pube, Bingo, you guys, should have done an artist statement Bingo.
ZM: Yes, Bingo. Well, curator Bingo.
Because I guess there was a year. There was, where curators were like just would not stop talking about policy, policy policy. And it’s like, I’m interested in policy, but not anymore. You’ve made my position icky and it’s — we should write note to self cut out of the recording. No, keep it! okay Yeah. And get that. And I think that that kind of often turns into aphorism, trite or like tweet like it turns into like a Twitter word that you can just throw out into the world and like, expect that it kind of hits someone as a shorthand, that everyone knows what you mean.
But I don’t know, like it kind of has real tangible meanings and what you’re doing a real tangible thing by like documenting someone and that that’s the act of love and remembering, right?
HP: And like, depending on like what angle you focus on, care can be really disabling as well. Like if you were to like I made obviously those conversations with myself to like, not show any, like physical care side of David’s life. It just wasn’t necessary.
ZM: Yeah. And these will feel like specific choices that you made through.
HP: Mm. Oh yeah.
ZM: Yeah. You mentioned something earlier and it was about you said something about how you opened only with, like, really tight shots of David’s. I like those shots outside.
HP: Mm. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I wanted to make sure in the beginning of the film and I had these conversations with David as well that I didn’t, we didn’t want to just make that easy for the audience to just open the film and be like, This is a film about a boy, you know, with a man in a wheelchair.
It was important that David was able to, like, confront the audience with his words first. And you even see, like the surrogate body of, like the wheelchair, which is another body and of itself before you even see David in it. I think that was important for David as well. We had these conversations that he felt like he had some control over, like the narrative because he’s also playing with people’s like, in my opinion, his writings, opinions and speaking to people subconscious as well.
So even though we’re like, No, no, I wouldn’t actually think that it’s like there’s stuff in our subconscious that we haven’t even learned to unlearn yet. But I think he’s wanting to play with.
ZM: Yeah, that’s. Oh, I have a question. It’s not a question. Maybe I’ll put like put a pin in it. But like what you said about how his writing kind of engages with the subconscious. So like. Mm. There’s not question there. That’s more of a comment and a question. Maybe I’ll come back to that.
Are there other films or filmmakers who you’ve looked to as an inspiration, inspiration in that like not in a ~inspiration~ way, but like have you taken cues from other filmmakers or like other bits in the world?
Well, you know this, but my favourite filmmaker, Payal Kapadia, and I think, I don’t know, it’s funny, the inspiration because like, yeah, I think anyone whose works in a certain way will always like find their orbit, but people that are also like on that wavelength, but you’re not necessarily like making things in the same visual language, but it’s just your approach to like even, like Jonas Mekas. Like, like, Adore this man who recently passed away, but he’s Lithuanian filmmaker who used to just film everything.
He was from Lithuania but lived in York and just not approach to. He used to say like, I’m not a filmmaker, I just film. And then so this approach to just collecting, collecting and like the collecting the minutia, like every day as being like is quite powerful. But I, when I look at Payal’s films and her short films and the way she said this thing that was really interesting, um, she said that the short films like a haiku in that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And I think she does that really brilliantly where she is quite confident the way she’ll only like reveal a few things in such a short space, but create this like really profound, heavy and whole piece. And I think that’s inspiring for me. Yeah, I mean, I could talk about the micro filmmakers. I, I don’t think it would be like, Oh yeah, that’s what I’ve got.
And normally I think for me it’s like filmmaking is like really, really intuitive. Make the decisions come from like a really like good place. And I always feel, like even when I was like younger when I was trying to emulate, if I was trying to emulate someone else, it was just absolute shite. So I feel like people make the best work when it’s like you almost like it’s come from nowhere, but you get.
ZM: Yeah, it’s that’s — someone, can’t remember who, someone recently in vague proximity of me, in my earshot, said. something about how Maria Lassnig, right? Like she’s really good at being Maria Lassnig and trying to — that that act of emulation. You’ll never be as good at being Maria Lassnig as Maria Lassnig is because she’s Maria Lassnig! You can’t compare, but you can do the best version of being yourself, and like that. Yeah, that impulse is located in the gut, right?
HP: Yeah. Yeah. No, you should never want to be anyone but yourself. SO true!
Cliche! I think it is, especially with making and like speaking about the camera as like of your body. Or like an appendage.
HP: But yeah. And anything you make to like, everything — Not to sound like a hippie, but everything has like an energy. So you can, like, tell something’s been made and it’s not being authentic to itself or it’s trying to be something else is —what the challenges are sort of you can like feel that like, like the person experiencing that can like feel exactly where that thing in what kind of like space that thing has been made.
I believe that anyway. I feel that when I approach works, I can like feel.
ZM: Is that like a logic that runs in and around your own work, like when you’re approaching like maybe the process of like, sorting clips and figuring out a nice order for editing — because it sounds like a very separate process to shooting.
HP: Yeah. And what I’m like, it’s like experiencing other work too, like the thoughts of like is this good or bad? Never goes through my mind. It’s just like, do I believe this or not?
ZM: That’s a much nicer question to ask yourself as well.
HP: Yeah. And you have to ask that of yourself as well. Yeah. I never thought of it that way, but yeah.
ZM: Oh my god. We’re learning so much and, and actually, speaking of learning then, what have you learned in the process of making this film? Like, is there learning that you would take with you or leave behind as you go into the next project?
HP: Someone asked me this at the last screening.
ZM: Was it Gabrielle!
HP: I don’t remember now!
I think it was. I actually don’t didn’t know what to say and I still like don’t really know.
ZM: She’s bamboozled you twice. What’s going on?
HP: She’s done it twice.
No, it’s fine. I think it’s because maybe then the answer is like that that learning process hasn’t quite it’s not kind of come to you.
HP: I think I have learned how to make a beginning and an end because it’s the first time I did like a single channels before then it’s like been instantly like the loop really — can’t really like invest in the loop. So not to make something that like existed in a time loop is like difficult, but how to like still make it feel like you’ve just dropped into a space and then been pulled out?
And allowing that to have a beginning in an end was a great learning thing for me and learning new equipment and all that, and that shit’s boring.
ZM: No, no, no, no. Because I think like that technical, that technical question really affects me the way that not just like the way that the output looks, but like the feel of it, right. Like, no, that’s, that’s learning you can definitely take that. Gabrielle will not bamboozle you again.
HP: She’s like, you didn’t learn your lesson the first time.
ZM: And then she’s got a question for David.
HP: Yeah, this is a nice one to end on. Yes.
GDLP: Question number 4 and my final question is when I was at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival with Holly two weeks ago, Holly mentioned that after the film was shown in Cork Film Festival that someone has approached David since then to talk about publishing a book. So my question is, what’s going to be in the book and what can we what can we expect?
DP: What I see, what I see, what I’m seeing, seeing, looking, touching.
ZM: Hello, it’s me again, I’m back. But not for long! Because that’s all. Thank you for listening! There is a bit of an abrupt end in there, apologies for that but at that point in the event we opened things up to questions from the audience and. I’m not actually legally sure if we’re allowed to use that recording? Y’know GDPR and all that. But it’s a shame because the questions were really good, Holly answers were obviously really good as well. So. Apologies to you, I’m basically just telling you about something you can’t hear. But take my word, it was great!
Thank you to everyone that came on the day, to Sirius for the event. Thank you to Miguel Amado for getting us back to Sirius to chat to Holly. And thank you most of all to Holly! Who is just, yeah. So generous and thoughtful with her answers. Really really, it’s always just a dream to talk to an artist who knows what they do, is willing to think out loud about what they do and really engage with the questions put before them.
I remember actually having a chat with HP before the event and I was like — kinda running through the questions like ‘some of these are a bit bad, that’s a bit of a boring question’. And holly went — there’s no such thing as a bad or boring question, only bad or boring answers. If someone’s taken the time to actually engage with your work and think about it enough that they ask you a question, that’s amazing. You should thoughtfully respond to that.
And I wish I was that generous. I really do. Because sometimes I find myself getting impatient with questions that I ask and also questions that I am asked. Yeah, I just wish I had that kind of generosity and patience. It’s just —yeah. Feels like an admirable quality that — OW! I just hit my hand! — and admirable quality but also a quality that just makes thinking about or around the work or just art in general filmmaking in general — it just makes that a real pleasure to engage with.
Hopefully this has been a useful podcast! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed it! If not, ah well. There’s always next week, let’s wait and see. Thank you for listening, see you next time. Goodbye!