A short film showcase at Travfest featured a ‘work in progress’ from filmmaker David McDonagh called Being Put Back Together. Travfest, a Traveller Wellness Festival took place at the Belltable, Limerick from 17th-20th November with film, visual art, audio and a live concert. We spoke to David about his passions and practices when it comes to all things films.
What are the films that inspire you?
Documentary wise. Grizzly Man, anything Werner Herzog did. Bowling For Columbine, I love the UP series, the concept was amazing and sports docs like Bigger Stronger Faster, When We Were Kings and Pumping Iron but I always found the commentary tracks from directors on the DVDs of my favourite films to be some of the most inspirational stuff. Of course who wouldn’t be inspired by films like Taxi Driver, Dead Man’s Shoes, Seven – the stuff everyone loves. I’ve a real soft spot for Stand By Me, the first Rocky and Richard Donner’s Superman. Anything by Kubrick or Scorsese. There’s way too much to mention!
So where did you learn your craft?
I guess I just bought a camera and figured it out myself. If I didn’t know something I googled it.
Very impressive! What drew you to telling this story?
I had an opportunity to make a film and I was worried about my brother, so I thought let’s make a film about that. I did it for myself in a way really, it’s probably selfish. I did it so I could process things but I also did it because I hoped that it would help my brother find something to grab on to.
We’re glad you did! How do you build a rapport with your subject?
He’s my brother, so we didn’t start from scratch but walking the streets at 3am taking photos and having conversations was definitely something that brought us closer and of course asking questions and just listening, letting him talk.
Can you talk me through the process of shooting your short film Dreamer [Kathleen Keenan, a member of The Travelling Community, dreams about a career in the music industry], which screened at Catalyst International Film Festival in 2022 ?
I contacted Kathleen and asked her could we make a film and she probably thought I was crazy but she said yes. I just found out her story as we went along and told it in the best way that I could. It was easy really and lots of fun, she’s a mom and has loads of responsibilities so I wish I could have had more time in her company but you do what you can.
What advice would you have for anyone looking to make their first documentary?
Just press record and tell a story. Don’t waste your time waiting for the perfect subject or until you have all the equipment you want. Get going now. Tonight!
Get out there. Good advice. The edit was stunning! How do you approach cutting a project like Being Put Back Together?
I just edit the way I want and I edit to how it feels to me. It’s the exact same way I take photos, how the image makes me feel. I’d love my films to make you feel something, I really would – and I always want feedback but ultimately I don’t really care once I do what I want. I have a job to pay my bills, I make films for me.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, we look forward to seeing what you do next!
David McDonagh: a Talented Filmmaker
As a kid, David McDonagh had the responsibility of remembering vhs titles as his grandfather was illiterate and he has always been influenced by film, once jumping from the stairs in Dunnes wearing a Superman costume and Thomas The Tank Engine wellies. Working in A&E and a psychiatric unit takes a toll so he decided photography would help, it did and that soon became film. David won the inaugural Misleór Film Bursary and his film Dreamer screened at Catalyst International Film Festival in 2022. David wants to create images that cause conversation, challenge ignorance and give a voice to those without.