Interview with Niall McCann – Director of The Science of Ghosts – Part 3 – by Killian Laher
Nomoreworkhorse caught up with film director Niall McCann around the release of The Science of Ghosts, his latest film which is about Adrian Crowley.
What are your hopes for this film?
I hope people like it. I hope it gets picked up by a few festivals and a couple of cinemas in Dublin. It’s like Kevin Barry says: “storytelling is probably the closest thing in life to dreaming”. Film is very similar to dreaming. I know Kevin says in the film that your thoughts and your dreams always work out, but I don’t know if they do.
This film is like, you go on a trip and you mightn’t be sure where you are all the time. Is it a bad thing that a film mightn’t make sense? I like when I go to films and I don’t understand everything. I could have been more prescriptive in the voiceover, saying ‘this is what I mean’. I wanted to make a film which engaged the audience and had them as an active participant in the film. I don’t really understand life, I don’t think anyone does.
Jumping back to Lost In France, how do you feel about it a year on?
Very proud of it. I was in Athens with the film in September last year and I went to the festival and there was a 12 course lunch at a fish restaurant. And I don’t eat fish. But I’m one of these Irish people that although I don’t eat fish, rather than be rude, I will try to eat it. One of the guys was the guy who made The Road To God Knows Where about Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was there. It was brilliant to meet him.
I would have preferred if the film had screened more around the world. It was released in UK cinemas and then it came out on DVD. The minute it’s on DVD anyone can download it who wants to see it and I think that affected festivals picking it up. That really bugs me. People come up to me and tell me ‘I’ve downloaded your film’ and I said where did you get it and they say it’s a torrent site. People don’t see it as theft. I don’t know why. It’s just consumption for the sake of it.
I like the experience of watching the film in the cinema. If you just download it, it’s not the same.
When you’re in the cinema you engage with a film far more than if you watch it at home. You’re not supposed to watch a film on a computer, or a phone! Especially Lost In France which has a certain aesthetic, you should at least be giving it your attention. The same with the new one. You make a film first and foremost for cinema, otherwise it may as well be TV. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s different. The Sopranos is probably one of the best things ever made in any art form. But music is the most important art form.
One thing I’ll say about the film, it’s confusing and it jumps around a bit. But I’d like people to look at it like they would look at a piece of music. I’ve always been jealous of musicians, more left-field musicians who I don’t think are judged by the same parameters as when you make a film. It would be nice to have that freedom. I have a problem with this idea that things have to make sense. Nothing makes sense to me! Even when it does… maybe I’m having a perpetual existential crisis, even when things do make sense I start thinking about it so much that things start to unravel. Once you start thinking things are going to fall apart, they’re going to. You just have to get on with things.
What do you think about the health of the film industry these days? Is it as important to people as it used to be? Where do films about music fit in?
There’s a new Nick Cave film coming out (Distant Sky). There’s one every year! People seem to like them but they seem harder to get into cinemas than other documentaries. I suppose they’re niche. I keep on thinking that all the musicians I like are really popular. I thought Lost In France was really mainstream but I was told it’s not. It was me paying homage to people who meant a lot to me. With the new film, I am worried about how people react to Adrian, I have to be protective towards him because he’s the subject of the film. You’re asking someone to open themselves up and you hope it might lead them to be noticed by people who hadn’t noticed them before. In other ways, make themselves vulnerable which is scary. As the person who’s asking people to do that sometimes you feel bad.
Can you put yourself in Adrian’s shoes, can you imagine how you would feel?
Not really. I’m not in the public eye. Adrian is used to this, he’s in videos, he’s on tour. The last time I did interviews I didn’t realise unless you say ‘off the record’ it’s not off the record! This time I won’t slag off people so much. Though I think ‘punching up’ is okay, I wouldn’t do that now, but I was trying to be honest. In Ireland you get told you’re bitter, you’re not allowed be critical in Ireland, even though you probably should be at times.