Old dogs and old tricks.

Largely inspired by Wim Wenders and Andrei Tarkovsky among others A Road Movie Trilogy was my first foray into feature length filmmaking. 

The first of the trilogy would be Roadside Picnic featuring myself and friend Fionntan O'Donnell (who incidentally introduced my to Tarkovsky's Stalker in 2001). On deciding to hitchhike Iceland for 10days I decided I would bring a HDV video camera and tripod as oppose my usual 35mm stills camera as I've done on previous trips. I opted to follow a series of basic rules in order to limit myself to an overwhelming amount of shooting and stress. These were as follows: 

  • There would be no pre-production planning except for actual travel plans. 
  • No insurance, no shooting permits etc.   
  • The film would consist of static framing only in which both Fionntan and I would appear in.
  • It would be feature length.  
Further rules would present themselves later, for instance throughout post-production the decision for the constant use of in-camera sound and also the decision for a black/white palette. These decisions were made in order to enforce specific themes and ideas that came to the surface when editing. 
“This lack of traditional narrative or character identification is tantamount to staking the whole film on Higgins’ instincts as a filmmaker: his visual sense, pacing, attention to atmosphere, general apprehension of the world.”
– Maximilian Le Cain, Experimental Conversations – Winter 2014
You Have Been Killed presented more challenges and stricter restraints. This time my HDV camera had worn out. The camera was inducing an overwhelming amount of grain due to the gain being the only way to set exposure (the iris wheel was stuck at f16). At times the camera would produce large purple vertical stripes which was uncontrollable. However the thought of visiting Poland's International Cinematography Film Festival Camerimage and shooting a feature film on a broken camera was irresistible. This time I travelled with two friends and talented cinematographers Luca Rocchini and Narayan Van Maele who make their acting debut. I also brought some Tri-X Super 8mm that in the end served as a final scene. Throughout shooting I would struggle to keep the project in line with Roadside Picnic except this time I was limited to 7 days, a broken camera and occasionally 4 feet of snow. 

As before the same rules followed where possible and again during post-production further rules would come to the surface, for instance the use of the negative image became dominant due to the nature of the content captured and the final scene in Super 8mm.
“Birds on a Wire taps so acutely into the damp grey grimness of a rain-swept west coast holiday that you can almost feel the wet on your skin.”
– Donal Foreman, New Voices in Experimental Cinema – Spring 2015
You Have Been Killed differs dramatically and aesthetically to Roadside Picnic and so when a another trip arose I saw an opportunity to shoot a third and final film in order to return and close this circle of films. This turned out to be Birds on a Wire. However this time I was limited to 4 days on the West Coast of Ireland in late September (not the driest month of the year in Ireland). I rented a working HDV camera to match the aesthetic to Roadside Picnic. I was travelling with good friends Anna Janiszewska and Magda Dolna, two Polish 'tourists' who wanted to see the West Coast incl. Galway City, The Cliffs of Moher etc. I simply carried their bags and observed their actions through a lens - a sort of tourist of tourists. 

Overall it was a huge learning curve allowing me to explore and exercise my technical abilities with shooting, producing and the editing needed for feature length work. On completing each film 50 dvd copies wrapped in folded black and white photocopied A4 sheets were made and placed around Dublin City in various music shops, cinemas and film centres.


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