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netribution > features > interview with denis mcardle > page one
Kicking off our Doclands season (all thanks to Dublin's Doclands Film Festival for the name) is Denis McArdle, whose ten-year-in-the-making debut documentary The Nook has just hits the festival circuit after a very sucessfull showing on Ireland's leading channel RTE. The Nook follows Martin Lysaght, shopkeeper, racconteur, fortune-teller, and generally one of those people who make small communities so lively. Martin, who left a life at sea to run a corner shop in Dublin's coastal village of Booterstown for 35 years, is followed meticulously by Denis McArdle for the eight years leading up to the shop's closure, and then the later rebirth of it as a sort of Tracey Emin created Aladin's Cave of the working's of an old eccentric's mind. It's a wonderfully warm and intimate documentary, filmed across Hi8, 16mm, Super 8mm & Beta, with some unforgetable moments.
I met up with Denis at the Cork Film Festival where The Nook was showing, and as well as the film, we talked about the problems facing documentary makers if they want to keep their integrity, as well as the plague of docu-soaps and reality TV.

| by nic wistreich |
| photos by nic wistreich|
| in dublin |
  Where did you go to film school?
I went to film school in the Dunleary art college, which is probably the most famous film school in the country - I'm sorry to say that I left there a long time ago. I graduated from there in 1989.

How long were you there?
Just three years studying art film/television and animation in the first year and then progressing basically towards making a graduation film. Which, like most film students, I did a fifteen minute short on 35mm - calling in favours from everywhere to get our film made. While I was there I also made a documentary about Scotland.

Did you know then that documentary was what you wanted to do?
No, it really took quite a long time to decide that. When I arrived I didn't know what I wanted to do. It was where I wanted to be - the plan was to enjoy it. It is a pity I couldn't make a living out of it.

Why is that - why do you think people can't make a living out of it?
Your overheads are so high the ideas cost so much - crew technical staff, it involves so many people, and there never seems to be enough money or time available. It is seemingly impossible to make any kind of proper living out of it because the motivations to make a documentary are not led by money and hence you can't make any money out of it. So in that respect it is the last true art form in film. And a documentary by its very nature tends to take time a lot of time to do.

So most people working in documentaries really love it with a passion?
I think a lot of them are, yes. Unless you have very big broadcaster funding you on a regular basis. I don't know anyone who is really making a living from documentaries. Everyone I know who's making serious documentaries is making a living from commercials or corporate videos like I'm doing - whatever, you know? But to solely make your living from documentaries seems to be… I wouldn’t say impossible, but it seems to be improbable and very thin on the ground. I mean I think it's a very select few who are doing it, and that seems to be the norm all around the world - it's a global issue.

At the same time there must have been a big explosion in docu-soaps and long running documentary series. Would you say that this helps the documentary movement?

No I just think it's become the tail waging the dog. The true documentary is something that involves time, money, research and integrity and I think that the docu-soaps are just a means of making something cheap. I think my eyes are shut there. What I'm saying is that I think the documentary is being hijacked by this docu-soap stuff and the digital high which is just in the market basically to make cheap movies. I would much rather see fewer of those and better quality, better content. Because these things like Uncovered in Ibiza and all this stuff that gets thrown on tape, it's not documentary you know? It’s just cheap programming, it's just to fill another slot in the machines for the public broadcaster.
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