“Lisa Hannigan, James Vincent McMorrow, Julie Feeney, Villagers, Sinéad O’Connor and a long-arm list of other names have had their performances and downtime documented by O’Reilly in a style far removed from what we’re used to seeing on our screens, small or otherwise” – The Irish Times
“Myles O’ Reilly is the finest music documentarian Ireland has right now” – The Irish Independent
“Myles O’Reilly is an Irish director of exquisite live music films…No other director makes you feel like you’re right there at a gig” – The Irish Times
* Winner ‘Best Irish Director‘ 2010 IMTV Awards*
* Winner ‘Video of The Year‘ 2011 IMTV Awards*
* Winner ‘Best Female Video‘ 2011 IMTV Awards*
When his band Juno Falls fell apart, Myles O’Reilly found a novel way to stay close to the music – by making acclaimed films of Irish rock and indie artists, writes TONY CLAYTON-LEA of The Irish Times.
‘THE PIVOTAL POINT was when I watched most of Werner Herzog’s films. What Herzog says about the way he works is that he films truth. He likes honesty. He calls it the ecstatic truth: the simple, everyday things people do that you forget, but when
they’re on film it’s all about the characteristics of nature and personality. As soon as I saw his movies everything changed; it was like I had spent three years with him in Tibet and he had instilled everything in me.”
Irish filmmaker Myles O’Reilly – tall, thin, nursing a pint of Guinness in a Dublin city centre hotel foyer – is finally forging something of a successful career for himself. You may or may not have heard of the band he used to be in (the overlooked and under-appreciated Juno Falls, which fell by the wayside several years ago), but you have certainly heard of the Irish music acts he has been filming since he experienced his Werner Herzog epiphany.
Lisa Hannigan, James Vincent McMorrow, Julie Feeney, Villagers, Sinéad O’Connor and a long-arm list of other names have had their performances and downtime documented by O’Reilly in a style far removed from what we’re used to seeing on our screens, small or otherwise.
“I really don’t like broadcast- format television,” he says. “Herzog says about broadcast television is that it’s drenched with inadequate imagery, which people see so much of every day. I wanted to make musicians look differently than they would on television.”
A few years ago, while still dabbing his wounds from the way in which Juno Falls was rent asunder, O’Reilly knew he wanted to remain plugged into the music. With a background as a photographer, he started, as if for nothing better to so, dabbling in filming musicians.
“The music industry was all I knew. As a musician you make friends, try and get support slots, try to sell yourself, try and understand all the people who are in the industry, what their functions are, try to have a vague notion of all of that. I wanted to stay there. I knew I could if I was good, and so filming suddenly became a proper function.” O’Reilly’s initial forays began with trad-mad/fusion act Kíla, and then graduated to what is effectively a who’s who of Irish music acts. His marketing strategy, such as it might be described, was simple: he would shoot small movies of live performances, put them on his YouTube channel and then send on the link to the acts, asking them if they liked what they saw.
“If or when they said they liked it, I’d uncheck the private box on the channel and make the film public. For a lot of the early ones I’d just turn up at the gig. I’d be on or close to the stage, filming off the cuff, and a lot of the musicians would ask me to come back.”
It helps, as a former musician, that he has an intuitive sense of how people move on stage. “Where it works well for me is when I know if a band hasn’t necessarily done their best performance of a song. I’ll shoot randomly at a gig, and if I feel they’ve given their best performance I’ll continue; if I feel a performance isn’t good – if they’re panicking to some degree, or have the mild sweats – then I’ll stop rolling.”
O’Reilly’s latest film, As Above So Below, received its premiere in Cork last month. A short work about a series of concerts by Lisa Hannigan, James Vincent McMorrow, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Duke Special at Mitchelstown Caves in July 2011, it justifies belief in O’Reilly’s talents as an instinctive (and distinctive) documentary film-maker whose growing reputation is now seeping out of Ireland. His work with Villagers, for instance, has captured the attention of hip UK record label Domino.
Needless to say, O’Reilly’s career change from musician to film-maker has had a profound effect. “There was a day some years ago when I said I’m stopping music – it was such a huge part of me, but I felt I had to say goodbye to it. I thought life was going to be really miserable, and that I’d need to take on a different career. Now, however, I am so exhilarated that I can fill the space that music had within me. It feels like I’m a fan again, which is amazing.”