I went on holiday to Ireland with my girlfriend and two close friends of ours. We stayed in a cottage near Dingle, Kerry, with the honourable goal of switching off completely for six days and relaxing in front of the fire.
This certainly appealed to me. I’m lazy. But, I tend to beat myself up constantly for being lazy. I was worried that guilty feelings about time ‘wasted’ would get in my way during our break. I decided to give myself a creative project.
Now, I’ve definitely always identified more with the ‘live in the moment, don’t try to capture it’ school of thought. The idea that the present is the only place we ever are, the only thing we ever ‘have’, the only thing that can possibly matter. And furthermore, that only a true, deep-seated memory of an event, achieved by being fully immersed-in and conscious-of it at the time, can create a record of any value to be basked in later.
To be [filming] or not to be [filming]
The thing is, the joy you can get from looking at a handful of faded old photos of a childhood holiday, say, is immense. Dormant feelings can be stirred up from depths you’d never otherwise have gotten to without that magical aide-memoire. Many people can in this way help to extend the enjoyment of a one-off event across decades. Many also get as much of a thrill out of the planning and anticipation of an event as they do from the thing itself. So time and experience are kind of elastic, right? And I was thinking recently about how one day my niece and nephew will be able to look back at the sidesplittingly funny shit that came out of their four-year-old mouths, via the proliferation of family smartphone video clips of them. It made me regret that I can never know how I talked as a child, or relive how my sister talked, because there was zero video footage of either of us ever shot. Until we were, like, thirty.
All this persuaded me to be a little more forgiving of this icky phenomenon of holding iPhones up in front of you at any and every vaguely notable occasion, instead of just being, ‘authentically’. I decided I’d have a go at being that guy. I told my friends I wanted to live our little rainy break almost entirely through the lens, see how it would be as an experience, and see how the resulting document would be as a forever experience.
I took a basic old digital point-and-shoot camera, and installed the Filmic Pro app on my iPhone so I could do time lapses and slow motion stuff. I had a tiny bendy tripod and a fisheye lens and some spare batteries for the camera. I spent the entire week juggling this gear. I was aiming for a fairly fly-on-the-wall record, just capturing whatever happened, not warping or constructing anything too artificial. Nevertheless, I was in reality thinking constantly about what exactly to film, how to compose the shots, the lighting situation, the constraints of my extremely limited equipment, how to be a step ahead of everything so my camera was trained on any potential action. My companions were for the most part very camera shy – as such I wasn’t about to push my luck and their tolerance by getting them to turn around and walk back through that door again, please, everywhere we went.
Luckily my total immersion in the project didn’t fuck up their enjoyment of the holiday, as best I can tell! Having four of us together meant that there was always a good social dynamic anyway, so pound-shop Spielberg here couldn’t really dominate the vibe too much and suck the life out of everything. Also, they’re a creative bunch who agreed that it might be a giggle.
A week after we returned I pulled two full-day editing sessions on iMovie, cutting the film to a remix of a song that me and my beardy travel buddy made in a previous band. I’m proud of the video, and yes, I am tempted to now buy a DSLR and proper editing software so that I can make a film that actually looks good. But most of all I just can’t wait to feel the feels when I watch the video in a decade, two decades, three. I expect that the emotions evoked will be more related to the slightly fretful directorial brainwork that defined my behind-the-lens experience, rather than the more visceral smells and sounds and sensations of Ireland itself. I was inevitably holding my environment at one step removed from me at the time, to some degree. My friends would likely have been absorbing and processing things more fully than me, and will likely get a more ‘honest’ enjoyment out of watching the video in years to come, you might say.
But if they do get a real kick out of watching what I made then hey, that’s a whole other level of satisfaction for me to enjoy. The satisfaction of giving a tiny but heartfelt gift.