Gerard Walsh, Director of Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah)’

 

Gerard Wash’s short documentary introduces us to Farmer Michael, a Galway-based, divisive character getting millions of views online. But his creator, Stevo Timothy, has a past with far more twists and turns than anyone would expect.

 

Ahead of its screening at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, Gerard tells Film Ireland about how the film came together.

 

Documentaries were always something that I enjoyed watching but I never thought I would make one. Feature films have been my goal for over ten years and after directing 3 I decided why not! Let’s give it a go.

I have always been interested in telling people’s stories through small profile pieces and just putting them online so I was really going into the documentary blindfolded. Learning each day.

In between work and personal projects I enjoy asking interesting people that I encounter if I can document their story or talents and just put it out there. It helped me with my filmmaking and storytelling and I would always learn something new.

I still don’t know if it’s a selfless or selfish thing to do because I enjoy taking a peek into other people’s lives. The goal for me is always to help the subject with some sort of release or maybe just help them show off their talents.

I started this with a YouTube channel over 5 years ago called “LIVESETS” at the time. I would contact bands and singer/songwriters and just shoot one-take live performances. But after a while I wanted to do profiles on people from all walks of life. From barbers and sportspeople to comedians and grieving mothers.

Eventually I was approached by Stevo (Farmer Michael). I had worked with him a few years back on a promo video for a pub in Galway and after that, asked him to play a small part in my film South, so there was a bit of a relationship there.

He was looking for someone to create a short video about him and his life so I agreed.  When I sat down to interview him I really wasn’t expecting him to tell me the things he did. I felt Immediately torn on how to tell his story.

On one hand, it is a story of success, redemption and prevailing through art. I think that’s the story he wanted me to focus on originally.  But on the other hand, it’s a story about a terrible tragedy and something that could change a lot of people’s’ minds on how they feel about Stevo as a real person and not just his character.

After the first interview I realized that the story was bigger than I originally thought so I decided to spend more time exploring his life. I shot more days over the course of a year and wanted to see different sides of Stevo. I wanted an ending, I wanted some sort of redemption. For me, redemption needs to be shown over the course of time, it needs to be earned and I wanted that to come across in film.

If I’m being honest I was just looking for an honest way to tell the story and I’m not 100 percent sure I found it. The cut of the film as it stands has an ending, I think it works the way I indented it too, for now,  but I would eventually like to explore the idea of a longer film, hopefully we can acquire some funding for a feature-length version.

I always had a the goal of letting the viewer decide how they feel at the end and not forcing my own opinion on them. I could have easily sugar-coated Stevo’s story and tied it up in a nice little bow but there is no way I would. I have laid out as much as I could and I think that’s my responsibility as a storyteller.

If people are expecting to see a film based on a comedian and his hilarious exploits, they may be in for a bit of a surprise with this film. It is a story about a comedian, but also a story about a man with an extraordinary past.

I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s opinions and views after they see the film, I could be over-thinking everything and it’s entirely possible that I may have my head up my hole with my analysis of the film. But let’s see how it gets on.

Farmer Michael (The Life and Times of a Social Media Pariah) screens as part of the Irish Talent: New Shorts 1, Documentary Irish Talent: New Shorts 6, Fiction programme on Wednesday, 10th July at the Town Hall Theatre at 12:00 as part of the 2019 Galway Film Fleadh.

The 31st Galway Film Fleadh runs 9 – 14 July 2019.

 

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