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Interviews

Indie Film Going Strong: Graham Jones’ ‘Sunshine Ukulele’

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Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin © 5 June 2017.
Posted in the Magazine ( · Interviews · Stage & Screen ).

Graham Jones is an award-winning Irish filmmaker who made his first feature film How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate in 1997, his second Fudge 44 in 2005, The Green Marker Scare in 2012 and  The Randomers in 2013. Variety Magazine describes him as ‘a very talented director’ and you’ll see from the links below he is constantly creating. On 1st June he released a new ‘anti feel good film’ Sunshine Ukulele.

His new movie tells the story of a young Irish boy who receives the gift of a ukulele from his uncle and proceeds upon a comic, suburban, mini-odyssey in which he struggles to properly identify with the nineteenth century instrument.

“I wanted make a film about the impact of the internet upon music and movies,” Jones explains. “The web has caused some problems, but it has also brought gifts. We’ve all migrated online nowadays, art and entertainment have become increasingly unmoored and rudderless – it’s easier to distribute our work, yet harder to make a living out of it. This is a rather paradoxical, bittersweet era that we are living through together. So I wanted to really riff on that in a film – ask what it all means, not merely for artists but ultimately for children and young people.”

Jones says that despite the importance of this theme to him personally, he didn’t want his film to simply be about filmmaking. “To be honest, making a movie about movies just didn’t grab me. That would have felt too immediate or internal to me. So I turned to the music industry for allegory. Music and movies are very intertwined, almost like sibling mediums and ukulele players sometimes remind me of indie filmmakers! Any fears I had of losing an audience with deep questions were greatly alleviated by the uke, which was the perfect vessel for a deep sea expedition.”

Jones adds that he even saw similarities between ukuleles and cine cameras themselves. “Like the cine camera, the ukulele is an instrument that seems old but in terms of art history is really a baby,” he continues. “It’s incredible to think both instruments were prematurely written off during the twentieth century! People were saying their golden ages had passed. Clearly, in the twenty first century many art forms are experiencing a great resurgence due to the internet and I would say that some young art forms are only entering their true golden age.”

Jones penned a fascinating blog post about online cinema entitled Nuascannán which has been widely shared among microbudget filmmakers (see, too, links below). In it he explains “I directed my first feature in the mid-nineties on Super 16mm film with heavy lights, generators and a fleet of vehicles carrying
equipment, cast and crew. When the film went on general release around my native Ireland, it was blown up to 35mm reels like many an indie movie before it such as The Evil DeadLeaving Las Vegas or The Snapper. Yet having recently finished shooting my seventh feature [Nola and the Clones], I can also state for the record that all my movies nowadays are shot and released 100% digitally. They can play on big screens which are predominantly digital screens anyway, yet be sent to any digital ​screen whatsoever and are created by switching on equipment that is equally digital to begin with. Digital and increasingly small. Indeed  – when cine cameras get this small it also becomes possible for us to shrink dollies, cranes and even the aircraft that allow them rise above the grounded human perspective and contribute to a story feeling ‘cinematic’.”

We asked Jones to explain his writing technique, whether he plotted and planned a movie script scene by scene or whether the writing was more organic? He told us, “Very organic nowadays, although when I was younger it used to be more workmanlike – I would structure everything in a very logical way, which of course didn’t make for very good writing. Nowadays, I try to open up and allow myself to go on a journey, to be surprised.

We’re often being asked to recommend script writing software, and wondered if Jones used it? He told us, “I became familiar with the screenplay format at a young age and employ it without much thought. It’s naturally suited to film and I would certainly vote for writing screenplays in the traditional format if you’re going to share them with anyone. But I would stress that it’s a very basic format. I mean it’s a deliciously simple format, that probably emerged on a set. You don’t really need a piece of software to type like that, but if that helps, then nothing wrong with that!”

See the Sunshine Ukulele trailer here:

Find out more about Graham Jones film’s The History Student and  Nola and the Clones , and his take on creating a new film industry. Click the link here for more on Graham’s movie Davin for Suicide Prevention Day .

Obviously we wouldn’t DREAM of linking to Jones’ movie  How to Cheat the Leaving Certificate at this time of year  …would we?

(c) Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin


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