If you’ve been to the right kind of festivals (or the right kind of parties) you may have seen the cult short films Jennie Balfe, The Confession Sessions or The Day It Rained Sweets. Sometimes collaborator Jamie Hannigan spoke to the filmmakers responsible – the collective of pranksters and documentarists formerly known as Dogmedia.
Dogmedia, aka Western Plumbers, are Gary Bermingham, Tim Hood, Andrew Keogh, Ger Staunton, and Andrew Travers. All but Tim Hood (a freelance cameraman) are graduates of the National College of Art & Design, Dublin. Since leaving college in 2001, they have – as Dogmedia Productions – made a number of short films that have attracted a growing cult fanbase, whilst treading an increasingly blurred line between scripted comedy and documentary. Following a previous collaboration with the Ballymun-based Axis group (which resulted in the short film Bag of Bags), they are participating in a 10-week filmmaking workshop for transition year students at the Trinity Comprehensive, Ballymun.
Jamie: Why did you change the name from ‘Dogmedia’ to ‘Western Plumbers’?
Ger: You know the way Prince isn’t called Prince anymore, but you know who I’m on about? (laughter)
Andy: It’s just a bit of fun, y’know? I suppose, for me, it’s just not to be precious about things like that… We’re still making the films and it doesn’t matter what name we go under.
Ger: It was just to get a name on the end of the film.
Andy: Ah yeah, we needed a name to get Jenni Balfe into festivals and things like that, yeah. That was it. But we knew nothing about films.
Were you surprised at how Jenni Balfe took off?
Ger: It’s good for house parties. That’s where you see it popping up. If you just want to have a laugh… Most of the stuff we do, that’s where it gets shown, isn’t it? Besides film festivals?
Gary: It is, yeah, yeah. Usually people having a drink, having a smoke.
Andy: It’s just we were showing it to people and then someone wanted a copy, and someone else wanted a copy and… So we kinda just fed that a little, I suppose.
You all seem to switch around roles from film to film. Gary was hosting Jenni Balfe and then doing camera on The Kilo.
Ger: It’s like the Dutch with the Total Football. Everyone should be able to play in every position if you’re all thinking along the same lines.
Andy: It just depends on the writing, really, y’know? Like whatever idea we want to go with, just seeing who’s best-suited for it, if there’s role-playing in it or something like that, we kinda get an idea who’s the best person to play it.
Gary: The funniest bit in The Excuses was when we came up with the idea.
Andy: Yeah, it’s always that way. There’s like three or four meetings where it’s just coming up with the idea and writing it. That’s the funniest part, after that it’s just hard work.
Ger: Even when you get to the point of delivering the line in front of the camera during the excuse, you’ve still heard it so many times that it’s just a chore.
Andy: So with The Excuses, that whole kind of funny part of writing half of a script and not knowing what’s going to happen, y’know, we get a lot of kicks out of that.
Ger: A running theme for us seems to be, we’ll write our half of the script and we predict their half.
Andy (laughs): Basically, yeah. But that’s good fun, that’s what keeps it kind of lively.
The full article is printed in Film Ireland 114.