#Poetry | Blog 054 | Black '47 and Niall O'Mianain

October 06, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

It was never my intention to go out and capture poets on my OpenMicNights YouTube Channel, I thought I would be filming bands and singers at these events, however, over the last year I've found that poetry can be just as powerful and just as current as any political hardcore rock band can be. The first poet I captured on camera was actually a rapper from a gig I did with North West Hip Hop, a guy called Jack Loughrey aka SomeDeadBeat. I'm not sure if his rap was poetic or it was a poetic rap, but whatever was going on, I was captivated. You can check out his performance here: SomeDeadBeat - Peace, Love & Green Doves

The next to come on to my radar was the well travelled and popular Niall O'Mianain. I've been to a number of OpenMicNights and heard him take to the stage, and in the early days, I didn't record him, because naively I thought that I was building a music channel for local talent to showcase to a wider audience. Again, this proved to be very narrow-minded on my part, because music and poetry go very much hand in hand. A poem may not have a bridge or a chorus, however, as I mentioned earlier, it can have a very powerful impact on the soul.

If there was to be a next time that Niall took to the stage, I vowed to keep the cameras rolling.

I didn't have long to wait. Singing sensation Rebecca Mulhern was playing host to an OpenMicNights gig in the Maiden City's Bennigans Bar. Which is pretty much where you'll find me most Monday evenings (time permitting). During the interlude between bands, Niall, in his usual flowing clothes, long dark beard and even longer dark flowing hair took a seat on the stage. Niall usually stands during his recitals, flailing his arms in expression and punctuation, but tonight he was more mellow and not feeling as energetic.

What impresses me most about Niall's skills as a poet is his ability to recite them at will as if they're not just words he's written and memorised, there his friends who walk by his side waiting for an opportunity to be heard again.

That evening, we listened to two poems 'Ahh Donegal', and the second of the evening 'Change in the North of Ireland'. Once publised online, they quickly got views on the channel, for such a small following it was fairly noticeable, proving I was wrong not to have taken advantage of this new source of creative endeavour.

A few weeks later, whilst sitting in The Grand Central Bar listening to Rosborough playing an acoustic set, I got chatting to Niall who had joined us later in the evening. I got to thinking, 'I wonder if we could record something that we could incorporate the film Black '47 into the theme?'

I put this to Niall. Neither of us have even seen the film at this point, only ever being exposed to the trailer recently, made this even harder as a challenge. It was Wednesday evening when proposed setting Niall the challenge of writing an original poem based on the film he'd not seen, for recording the next Saturday, some 10 days later, and he accepted.

I didn't pursue it after that. I'd had a few pints and thought it would be a tough call for anyone, and I didn't really know Niall that well, other than him reaching out and thanking me for making the video a few weeks earlier, so I wasn't sure if he was just being ameiable or he would infact have a go. Anyway, a week passes and I get a message, he's only gone and nailed it and wants to know if we're still on for the recording!

We agreed that an early start would be in order, fewer people, less traffic and hopefully a dramatic morning sky. The reason for that was during the week I too had managed to see the film and was struck me most was the greyness and bleakness of the landscape. I thought we could utilise some of the surrounding areas of Culdaff on the Donegal coast as there are areas with little foliage and it would take at least an hour to get there from where I live and pick up Niall. So the alarm was set for a 7 am pick-up and a drive West.

The Friday before was nothing but torrential rain. No let up and I was worried that we'd have to call off the shoot, but Saturday revealed low cloud but the hope of a dry day.

Having not heard the poem we did a few recordings off camera, and each time Niall repeated it I just knew he'd guided these words through the dark history of Ireland to today's shoot.

One problem I had was that I knew I wouldn't be able to sync up the clean audio with the outdoor shoot, and we couldn't boom mic because there was a fair bit of wind and I didn't want to restrict Niall's movements so the only option was to lapel mic him using the Sony ECM-AW4 Wireless Microphone Transmitter to the DJI OSMO camera.

We filmed firstly off the side of the road on the way to Culdaff because of the hillside views both near and off in the distance look fantastic. The clouds were heavy and the effect was exactly what I was after, I even managed to get a few moments of airtime on the drone. The second location was just off the beach and finally, for one section of the poem we ventured on the soft sand as the tide was deciding either to come in or out, we weren't sure, it was touch and go whether we'd have a wet Niall by the end of it.

We wrapped 5 hours later from pick-up to drop-off. Along the way, I discovered a lot more about Mr O'Mianain and I'd like to say I consider him a friend after this intense session. There were moments when he was going through his poem that I felt shivers go down my spine, such was the intensity.

I got home and set about editing the footage as fast as I could. The thing about trying to create something current, especially when it's aligned with a film that's just been released, you can't wait about. So far the film Black '47 had only been released in Ireland, the UK wide release would be coming on the following weeks, with the US following quickly behind it.

I spent all Saturday and Sunday trying to resolve the various audio issues I was experiencing and trying to match the various lighting conditions we faced when moving between locations and the sun taking a higher position. I could have kept the whole video focussed on the first video, however, at each recording, Niall's focus on different words and lines were slightly different each time, so I wanted to take those and put them in the final version. With the addition of a few backing sounds and colourisation, I was done.

The video went live on the Monday, 10 days from start to finish. Niall's ability to create something from scratch, memorise it and have the same powerful conviction each time he recited was inspiring. It was a pure pleasure to work with him, and I hope next time I see him in the coming weeks he'll accept a soft drink and a hug from a very grateful videographer.

Check out the final version of 'A Deathly History' below and let me know what you think in the comments section.


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