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Interview with Frank Kelly, creator of the Twitter-inspired 140 film project.

June 10, 2009

I’m excited to share this email interview I conducted with Frank Kelly, the organiser of the 140 project. This is the first, in what is hopefully an ongoing series of interviews with storytellers from around the world.

I’ve mentioned the 140 project before in an earlier blog, but for those who aren’t familiar with the project, Frank has been inspired by Twitter to come up with a new way to make a film. On June 21st, 8pm GMT, 140 filmmakers from 140 locations around the world will record 140 sec of footage each. I’m one of the filmmakers involved, and I’m very interested to see the results of the final product. Find out more about the project here.

In this interview Frank provides some interesting insights into his life, the changing face of storytelling and his own personal quest to find and tell great stories.

Please note, that as this is Frank’s story I haven’t edited any of his answers, so excuse the odd mispelling etc.

What’s your story? (in 140 char. or less)
I make films. I’ve written screenplays for about 10 years, shorts, features, TV shows. Made some shorts and won a few awards doing it too!

How did you start out?
First film I made was Emily’s Song, a short about two brothers which played in festivals around the world. That was the first real step into filmmaking. But I had been writing for years before that, learning my craft as a writer. Before that I studied Animation Production in college, but decided to go into live action when I graduated, live action being my first love.

Tell us a bit about the idea behind this project.

I was frustrated with not getting anything made, I had made a film in a year and there didn’t seem to be anything coming up. Right about then I signed up to twitter, my first thought was ‘I don’t need this,’ I figured it would just be a distraction, but then I started to think about how I might use it to get something going. Seeing how quickly you could communicate with a lot of people and taping into the expedient nature of twitter I started to think about connection and synchronicity.

How do you think technology is changing the way we tell stories?

Storytelling is as much a part of our DNA as the colour of our eyes. As humans we tell stories everyday, perform little plays for each other, try to entertain each other. One of my favourite things to do is watch people telling stories, in a cafe, on the town, one is usually the audience, while the other is the story teller, waving his or her arms around stepping in and out of different characters, retelling some tall tale of something that happened last week, exaggerated ten fold for effect. I think technology will simply be another outlet for telling stories, we’ll tell the same stories, but in another way.

One of the filmmakers on 140 is Zach Helm, the writer of Stranger Than Fiction, and probably one of the most unique story tellers of this generation. He is using twitter in a new way to tell a story. He has a fictional character called Henry Thorpe whose life he is played out in real time as he twitters his adventures, which is an interesting use of the medium.

Do you see this project being fiction, non-fiction or both?
It’s non-fiction, although some filmmakers may chose performance pieces, I’m not sure yet, I won’t know until I see everyone’s footage. It’s a documentary of sorts, an experiment. It will cut together as visual experience that will, hopefully, perhaps have a message, an over all feeling.

What tools are you using to bring the various filmmakers and footage together?
I’m bringing the filmmakers together online, mainly through twitter, but also via email. I’ve asked the filmmakers to shoot on whatever format they have available to them, as the filmmakers come from every degree of experience, from student to seasoned professional. They will then send to footage to me as a file and I’ll upload it and begin cutting… which should be fun!

How will your project be distributed?
I will promote the film on the film festival circuit for about a year and seek distribution.

Is this project self funded? Or do you have sponsors onboard?
There is no funding. The idea was to make something from nothing, using the internet and the ingenuity of the artists involved. I don’t have any money, so I figured there was no point in trying to make something that cost a fortune… or even €10!

What makes a good story?
I’m not sure, something that surprises you. It’s a mixture of Deja Vu and Jame vu, something you know you’ve seen before, but at the same time, something you’ve never seen before. It’s old and new at the same time… tricky!

What’s your favourite story? (can be a film, book, myth etc)
Back to the Future is my favourite film, I think it’s a wonderful film and a brilliant story. His Dark Materials are my favourite books, masterful storytelling. I loved the Lord of the Rings movies. I think I like grand adventures, something I can be completely absorbed and lost in.

Where did you get the name pale stone productions?

Pale Stone is the name of a character in a story my writing partner have been working on for several year. I wont tell you too much lest it spoil some of the plot.

Greatest fear in life?
Losing someone dear to me.

What is your idea of freedom?
I akin freedom to happiness. And not sure happiness exists as a complete and constant state, we have moments of happiness, but we could always be happier! We’re still tied to so many worries and anxieties: bills, dept, health concerns, car payments, mortgage, credit cards, all of us struggling to make something good, make a living, make a mark. Freedom, or happiness are not things I feel everyday, whereas I feel worry everyday, and freedom is life without worry I think, which is impossible. Maybe only when we’re dead will we really find freedom… Happy answer!

Your greatest ambition?
To provide a good living for my family, make sure they are looked after and safe.

Your tips for spreading the word and getting online support for your projects?

The network theory. I tell everyone I know and ask them to tell everyone they know and so one, hopefully soon everyone will know! We’re all connected now, so it should work.

'Broken Wall' by Frank Kelly

'Broken Wall' by Frank Kelly

The favourite photo Frank Kelly has taken called ‘Broken Wall’. You can see more of Frank’s photos here.

I took it in a place played as a child. I later found out it is the factory where my grandparents worked and indeed met, so it has a strong significance for me.
It was part of an exhibition I did called ‘Old Shoes and Broken Walls’ about the crumbling factories around my town and simbolises, for me, how easily we forget, and how we get so fixated on what’s directly in front of use that we forget about where we came from, who made us, how we got here, and there is no reverence for that. I think there should be.

Why are you drawn to storytelling?

Simple answer; I don’t know. Something to do with the fact that I like being surprised, I like feeling part of something, I like making people feel surprised and making them feel part of something. There’s a big hole in all of us, something we strive everyday to fill, with food, money, cars and all the material things we want. I don’t think any of those things are as satisfying as a good story, when we hear a good story, whether in a film or a book or from a friend, we feel complete for a few moments. It’s something primal.

If you had to live by a motto, what would it be?

I have no idea!

– Many thanks for Frank for sparing the time to answer a few questions. You can also find out more about what he is up to at his blog.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2009 12:35 am

    Thanks Johnny, it was a pleasure. Sorry about the spelling and typos everyone!!!

    • June 11, 2009 12:41 am

      No worries Frank. It was fun. I was going to go through and fix the typos but I thought I’d leave them as it’s more human. None of us are perfect! Either that, or I’m lazy 🙂


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