From James Joyce to J. James McDonagh

Galway and the local population’s interest in the arts and the culture of artistic innovation makes it an ideal place for a budding artist to hone their craft.

That is according to local film maker J. James McDonagh, whose film adaptation of James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man will be released this coming Blooms Day, June 16th.

Originally from Clifden, McDonagh believes the Galwegian culture of artistry mitigates the lack of facilities available in Galway relative to a metropolis such as Dublin. The sourcing of cast for the film proved surprisingly easy to McDonagh and this is indicative of the native talent available in Galway.

“I thought getting actors would be the hard part”, he said. “I could have cast the film two or three times over with the amount of good people with acting talent living here in Galway. I didn’t have to look that hard to find some exceptional acting talent”.

The cast members who aren’t from Galway were drawn to the city to sharpen their acting skills and this speaks to the cultural reputation the City of the Tribes enjoys as an epicentre of artistic expression.

Whilst population density means the facilities that are available in Dublin are more prevalent, there are however, support structures in Galway for a young artist to make a living, breathing manifestation of their ideas. McDonagh reserves special praise for the GMIT Film Centre at Cluain Mhuire on the Monivea Road.

“GMIT Film Centre has been a crucial part of the whole film. It is a great centre they have, where artists can access gear, cameras, lights and other film equipment, at excellent prices”

The plan was to initially wait to release the film at film festivals, but McDonagh will delay the release until Blooms Day on June 16th, in homage to James Joyce and will release it on Youtube to maximize its reach.

“Film festivals have their place, but for a fifteen-minute film I’m eager for more people to see it. I don’t see the need to be stingy with it and whilst I will submit it to film festivals…I will release it on Youtube. I put my heart and soul into it and I want people to see it”, he said.

Despite its relatively short running time of fifteen minutes, the total package took over a year to complete, a process which was at times painstaking.

“It took me three months to write the script. Then, it took another two months in pre-production, getting the crew and cast together. I initially thought production would only take two months, but it ended up taking five months. The editing process took between two to three months”, he said.

With over a year between the original idea and the finished product, a lot of thinking time was available. That McDonagh kept pursuing the idea with so much time to ruminate over the what’s and what if’s speaks volumes of his belief in the quality of the film, his actors and his ability to marry them all together into a finished product.

“The fire never burned out. I’m not just passionate about this, I’m passionate about James Joyce as a whole. I believe he is a cinematic writer and writes perfectly for cinema. The Dubliners was a tv series before tv series’’”, he enthused.

As good example of the local hunger for art, McDonagh says, is the local theatre and drama scene.

“The theatre is where you can see the average Galwegians passion for creativity. Film is dependent on resources, but there is a purity to theatre”

McDonagh’s next venture will see him veer into Irish mythology as he combines two legends of Irish folklore, in a project aptly named Cú Chulainn:Salmon of Knowledge.

Benefiting from the support and intangible artistic energy that courses through the veins of his home city, McDonagh’s newest project will have the support of a city and of a culture.

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