Michael Fortune (Ireland)
Interview : 10 questions
1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I grew up in rural Co. Wexford, Ireland. Completed my BA in Fine Art, specialising in video and performance at Limerick School of Art in 1999. In 2004, I completed my MA in Film from The National Film College in Dublin. I live in rural Co. Wexford and operate a studio from my home, where I undertake various projects throughout Ireland.
2. When, how and why started you filming?
I started using video in the first year of college. Originally it was a tool to document performance and later became a tool to capture performance to camera exercises. In 1997 I began working with the language of film and television and in 1998 I produced a series of works in the form of mock video diaries. These works borrowed from the newly accepted language of reality TV, and this allowed me to fabricate new realities in a bid to explore aspects of regional, social and political identity. Early works were deliberately humorous and satirical and involved myself as a central character performing to the camera. One such work Obsessions was later selected by curator Catsou Roberts for the Arnolfini Gallery for a video show entitled ‘Vague but True’
In the years to follow, I became un-interested in performing to camera, instead turning my attention to the obscure performances found within everyday reality.
3. What kind of subjects have your films?
I have built up a substantial body of work based around family, friends, scenarios and acquaintances. Subject matter range from aspects of belief and superstition to domesticity, contemporary ritual and the carnivalesque.
4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
I do, I suppose. Most of my work looks at the boundaries between art and culture, folklore and interpretation and fact and fiction. My practice revolves around the collection of material. I do not script or storyboard, instead I generate material out of the relationships and experiences I develop with the people and circumstances I encounter.
Much of the work focuses on the idiosyncrasies of people and incidents in everyday life, and through careful and contemplative treatment I deliberate produce work which has at its core the aesthetics of repetition, humor, obscurity, strangeness and intimacy.
5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
I use a Sony Z1 with external Seinnheiser K 66 Microphone Kit. I usually record sound direct to camera. I use a Monfrotto 501 Tripod Kit I have an Ianiro HDV Light Kit and an onboard light kit made by SWIT. I don’t use the light kit much though. I edit using Final Cut and iMovie on a G5 Mac Tower and Laptop.
I bought this equipment over time. This was the most cost effective thing to do, as I felt hiring was a waste of money; money I didn’t have. Most importantly though, my practice required having 24/7 access to equipment. Prior to this, I would borrow and gain access to equipment from my old art college and friends.
What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general
and you personally?
In regard to the production of work, I am open to working with new tools as long as they serve a purpose in the scheme of what I am achieving to do. I have no interest in using new technology for the sake of it. I have no interest in putting technology before practice. Instead I prefer to see strong content in work, as no matter what new technology or equipment you have, if something is shite from the start no amount of production will make it any better.
6. How do you finance your films?
This varies. Some works are completely self-financed. A lot of these works cost very little to make. Having access to the required equipment also helps.
In recent years, I have been commissioned to produce work under The Public Art Programme in Ireland. These commissions are welcomed and allow me to work on more substantial works. In saying that, these budgets are small in comparison to the budgets given to films produced in the mainstream film industry.
7. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
Much of my work is made in collaboration with people. By saying that, the work is produced out of the relationships that I build with the people who are in front of the camera. So this is collaboration in many regards.
When it comes to direction though, I work individually. I have worked with other people before, but I prefer the control on working on my own.
This is not ego driven; instead, due to the relationships I develop with the subjects in the work, I find larger crews are more of a hindrance than help when recording.
Similarly, the serendipitous nature of my work is something that does not suit the style of working with other people or larger crews.
8. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Loads of things really. Too many to mention.
9. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
Carry on working. Improve my studio practice and produce more substantial works. Obviously, I’d plan on getting better funding to help that.
10. Can works of yours viewed online besides on VideoChannel? Where?
No. You will have to contact me and if I like the sounds of you I’ll post you something 😉