In this filmmaker In Focus feature, we shine a light on TJ O’Grady-Peyton. Below we introduce TJ and June Butler takes a look at 3 of his short films: Wave (2017), Silence (2020), and Sentinel (2021).
TJ O’Grady-Peyton first gained industry recognition in 2013 when he was shortlisted at the Young Director Award in Cannes for his Adidas Super film after graduating from the London Film School’s filmmaking MA program. Since then, he has directed an array of work all over the world for clients such as the European Union, Uefa, Asics, Volkswagen, Gatorade, Diesel, Under Armour and BMW.
TJ was awarded the Discovery Award in his home town of Dublin by the Dublin Film Festival.
His short film Wave, which TJ starred in and co-directed, was picked up by The New Yorker after winning an Irish Film and Television Award for Best Short as well as top prizes at Flickerfest, Toronto Shorts, Galway, Leeds, Cork, Kerry and Aesthetica. Wave has played 75 festivals including BFI, Melbourne, Aspen and Clermont Ferrand after having its world premiere at Tribeca 2017.
In 2018, TJ was invited to take part in a filmmaking masterclass with Werner Herzog in the Amazon, Peru. He was also a participant in Les Nuits en Or 2019 hosted by the French Academy of Film, The Cesars, along with 30 other filmmakers from across the globe that won their nation’s top prize for Best Short Film.
In 2020 he became a member of the Director’s Guild of America.
This year his latest short film Silence had its world premiere at Tribeca 2021 and TJ was the recipient of the Bingham Ray New Talent Award at the Galway Film Fleadh 2021.
June 19th, 2012, Gaspar Rubicon (TJ O Grady-Peyton) was found lying on a busy street with 19 broken bones and a severe head injury. Gaspar is rushed to hospital where he falls into a coma. Five years later, confounding all medical predictions, Gaspar wakes up. However, Gaspar can no longer speak English but rather a strange gibberish that no one understands and no other person seems to speak.
Narrated by Jarvis Cocker, Wave is a cerebral and thoughtful short film about bearing witness to immediacy. Opening scenes that show Gaspar falling slowly through space over an ethereal, fantasy backdrop are just beautiful. The mechanisms that directors TJ O’Grady-Peyton and Benjamin Cleary use to draw audience attention to what he considers important are most interesting. He highlights days, dates, months, and notes the elapse of time – all devices cleverly placed to ensure focus on momentous events in Gaspar’s life. There seems to be two forms of time cues according to Gaspar – one where each second passes slowly and without note, and the other with fleeting relentlessness when Gaspar starts to engage with the world around him. Gaspar is able to communicate in a basic way using images cut from magazines but yearns for someone to converse with. Someone who understands him. With the assistance of two work colleagues, Gasper launches a video online in which he pleads for someone to talk with – someone who speaks the same language as he does. Amazingly, Gasper finds Huldvar (Danny Kehoe) but soon learns that the bonds of effective communication stretch well beyond simple utterances.
Wave is a tale of locating patterns that convey a universal style of joy. When one brain function falters and shuts down, it is replaced with another, slightly quirky but equally relevant version of interaction. In the end, Wave tells a story of unquantifiable bliss, an irrepressible need to comprehend regardless of methods used, and a quiet reverence in discovering delight through the simplest of means.
Director: TJ O-Grady-Peyton, Benjamin Cleary • Writer: Benjamin Cleary
Wave premiered in April 2017 at the Tribeca Film Festival.
A man stands in a care-home reception area, arguing with nurses and staff as he desperately demands to see his father. His pleas reach fever pitch and he becomes increasingly frantic with each gentle rebuff from nursing staff.
Audiences are introduced to the drama by observing the spectacle through the conduit of a mirror. It suggests collusion between director TJ O’Grady-Peyton and those watching the film – almost inferring that viewers are interdependently linked to the same moral compass as the people who work in the home. The ‘sentinels’ witness unfolding scenes with an immediate investment in emotional pathos. As techniques go, it is an exceptionally clever one – by instantaneously connecting to the drama, and thrusting the audience into centre stage, there is an element of bearing witness. An overarching arbitrary judgment echoing from without. From the onset, the dialogue is tense and reaches a noisy (and near tragic) crescendo in the dying moments of O’Grady-Peyton’s touching film.
Writer Tony Kiernan and Director of Photography James Mather combine their visual and narrative skills with a fine cast of actors to truly breathe life into Sentinel. They are ably guided by TJ O’Grady-Peyton as he raises valid questions regarding sentient identity along with a shared goal to truly embody living in the moment.
Director: TJ O-Grady-Peyton • Writer: Tony Kiernan
Sentinel is currently screening at the Foyle Film Festival (19–28 November 2021).
Filmed in London immediately after the end of the first lockdown, Silence tells the story of Kai (Kai Joseph Felix Keenan) who wanders the city in search of run-down buildings where he practises his graffiti skills. He returns alone again and again to the same eerie block and spray paints visions of vivid colour. While he is there, Kai overhears the strains of Swan Lake playing and he tiptoes through dim passageways where he observes a young girl (Lauryn Bryan) ballet dancing. Mesmerised, Kai watches Lauryn pirouette and twirl. She is unaware of his presence. Kai returns to his home where his father admonishes him for being lazy. He retires to his room and promptly sets about teaching himself to dance. Over the weeks, his efforts begin to pay off but not everyone is pleased with his endeavours. His father is horrified at the direction Kai is taking and is determined to prevent Kai from continuing along the path Kai has chosen. The story reaches a pivotal point where Kai is driven to make choices – should he continue to explore his sensitive side or would it be wiser to align himself with his father’s brand of machismo?
Silence is laden with sonic and visual beauty. The jarring, misalignment of contrast to Lauryn dancing in a run-down, squalid building versus the shimmering, wondrous agility she possesses, brings forth a stark recognition that propels Silence to shine bright. Director O’Grady-Peyton is not afraid of guiding his audiences to this conclusion and we thank him for it.
Director: TJ O’Grady-Peyton • Writer: Ivan Cush, Kensaku Kakimoto, Tj O’Grady Peyton • Executive Producer: Kensaku Kakimoto
Silence had its world premiere in June 2021 at the Tribeca Film Festival and is currently screening alongside The Dance at Irish Film Festival London (17–21 November 2021).
Tj’s short film, Broken: A Lockdown Story (2021), features in June Butler’s Irish Talent: New Shorts Five: Fiction – Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh 2021