‘Remember Me, My Ghost’ dir. Ross McDonnell
A resident of Ballymun recounts her life lived in the flats.
Director: Ross McDonnell
Producer: Morgan Bushe
Editor: Carter Gunn
Composer: Aaron Martin
Presented in association with Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival 2013
C8: Where did you come across this story and why did you want to tell it?
RM: I was originally commissioned to make a short documentary based on a series of photographs I did in a community called Ballymun. I wanted to develop a feature film in that world and thought making a documentary would be a good way to kick start the script writing process.
I wanted to tell this particular story as I have been photographing in Ballymun – one of Ireland’s biggest council estates – since 2005 as the area has been undergoing Europe’s largest urban regeneration scheme however in all the years working in the area I had never touched on the domestic stories of Ballymun residents – specifically women’s stories. It felt like the right time to try.
C8: The music is helps set the tone for the film. How did you work with composer Aaron Martin to strike the right balance?
RM: Aaron had worked with myself and Carter Gunn on Colony and they have a fantastic working relationship. His music is just brilliant, so cinematic. Carter is an amazing, standout editor and always uses music to great effect. Aaron generously gave us free reign to use his music for the film and it’s been a great collaboration.
C8: How did you decide what to shoot to visualise and illustrate the voice over and the film’s story? And did you shoot much that wasn’t included in the edit?
RM: I shot forever!
With any places or situations that are in a state of flux or undergoing radical changes it’s often the case where things that seem mundane or boring at the time can simply be gone when next you return.
Suddenly their lack becomes significant to your story. It’s a lesson and something that as a documentary maker you keep having to learn and re-learn. Trying to approach your work with diligence and a methodology is a good idea – something I constantly try to remind myself.
C8: Why did you decide to make this film black and white?
RM: I think if I had my choice everything would be in black and white.
C8: The woman you interviewed is a great storyteller. Did you have to direct her, ask a lot of questions or did she just open up very naturally?
RM: I met ‘Rachel’ when I interviewed ten women who were part of a community project called ‘Women Telling Stories’ that focused on writing and oral histories. She is an amazing person who has an unbelievable amount of strength and great character. I interviewed her twice for around ninety minutes each time. I think she is someone who has learned a lot about human nature from her own experiences and can relate her story in a way that is both incredibly personal but also has a kind of universal feel.
C8: You’re also a photographer. Does photography help with documentary filmmaking in particular?
RM: I think these worlds have merged so much now it’s hard to separate them in a practical sense but I think there’s great opportunity to explore ideas about storytelling and narrative using a range of practices. For audiences they can see elements of the same narrative from different approaches, different perspectives. Also it really helps keep things fresh to switch between the two. Often times filmmaking can have a real impact where photography perhaps can’t and vice-versa.
C8: If you did the whole process again, is there anything you would do differently?
RM: No regrets.
If I was being critical the film could be certainly be shorter. At the time however I viewed ‘Rachel’s’ interview as an objective and important piece of documentary testimony and I wanted to respect that and give it as much time on screen as possible.
C8: If you could give young filmmakers a piece of advice what would it be?
RM: Just to stick to what you are interested in as a filmmaker. And be patient.
C8: What in your opinion is the essence of a good collaboration?
RM: Great collaborations are all about having great forward momentum and people feeling they are part of something they can be proud of.
C8: What’s next for you? Any plans for future projects?
RM: Yes. Hoping to start work on my first drama film soon. Cross your fingers!