Graham Jones is described by Variety Magazine as “a very talented director”, and he is releasing a new ‘anti-feel good film’ called Sunshine Ukulele, the movie is about a young Irish boy who receives the gift of a ukulele from his uncle and proceeds upon a comic, suburban, mini-odyssey in which he struggles to properly identify with the nineteenth century instrument.
What inspired this film?
I wanted to make a film about the impact of the internet upon music and movies. The web has caused some problems, but it has also brought gifts. We’ve all migrated online nowadays, art and entertainment have become increasingly unmoored and rudderless – it’s easier to distribute our work, yet harder to make a living out of it. This is a rather paradoxical, bittersweet era that we are living through together. So I wanted to really riff on that in a film – ask what it all means, not merely for artists but ultimately for children and young people.
How did you find the right cast members to deliver the context of your script?
I didn’t really use a cast this time. Just my son Aidan who played the protagonist, a few bit players here and there who I had worked with before and then, of course, the real-life performers and spectators at this great Irish ukulele festival gave me permission to shoot.
What is the message you want the audience to take away from this movie?
It’s not that specific for me, I don’t want it to be so literal. What I like is to try and give people a feeling or make them think about something. I would be happy with that. In the case of this film, perhaps to make them feel like both the cine camera and ukulele are instruments that only seem old, but in terms of art history are really ‘infant instruments’. It’s incredible to think both were prematurely written off during the twentieth century! People were saying their golden ages had passed. It is becoming clear that in the twenty-first century many art forms are experiencing a great resurgence due to the internet and I would say that some young art forms are only entering their true golden age now…
Will this film be shown in theaters?
No, it’s made with the Nuascannán philosophy of filmmaking, so theatrical release is not being sought.
Can you explain this more, “ukulele players sometimes remind me of indie filmmakers”? How so?
Well, if you watch an indie filmmaker fall over and then watch a uke player collapse, they’re basically twins! I’m only kidding. No, both have a kind of a quirky, make-do, deeply talented but lost on the road quality. They’re both artists and both rely on a certain instrument. Music and movies are very connected, anyway.
They are the two arts that literally move in time. Guitar players often seem part of some misty island family. Whereas uke players seem like outsiders – yes, that’s it! Both indie filmmakers and uke players are outsiders, so feel kindred.
Will you show your film in schools/university because I feel it is a lesson in indie filmmaking?
Thanks. Yes, my films often get invited to film festivals. I hope it will be seen at some of them.
When you make movies, what are your motives?
It’s not any motive like that. It’s more a way of creating worlds and exploring questions. As to why I like creating worlds and exploring questions, well that’s just natural human curiosity. I am curious to see and feel and experience. Making films is a way of both experiencing and creating experiences and kind of channeling experiences. It helps me grow, I hope.
Why the title Sunshine Ukulele and not just Ukulele?
The significance of sunshine and rain the film is deeply connected to creativity. I don’t want to rationalize it more than saying that. Because I might detract from it! But if you look at the scenes and of sun and rain and the various shifts, it’s more to do with the protagonist’s creative spirit and frustration than anything aesthetic – although obviously, the weather becomes an aesthetic in this film, because of how we designed it.
What is your advice for new filmmakers that have to make movies on their iPhone or with an app because they can’t afford the camera equipment?
Far, far more important than the camera is the camera person. I think it’s wonderful there are so many cheap and accessible devices and also that it’s very straightforward to share what one does nowadays. The most important instrument in film-making is your eye. There’s no doubt about that. Somebody with a good eye and a cell phone is going to be able to make a better film than somebody with a poor eye and an expensive digital cinema camera. Remember that – what is of real value, is the way you see things.
Why do you feel people should watch your film?
Because perhaps it will make them reflect upon human creativity, i.e. the greatest mystery of all.
“Like the cine camera, the ukulele is an instrument that seems old but in terms of art history is the age of a toddler,” he continues. “It’s incredible to think both instruments were prematurely written off during the twentieth century! People were saying their golden ages had passed. Clearly, in the twenty-first century, many art forms are experiencing a great resurgence due to the internet and I would say that some young art forms are only entering what I believe to be true golden ages.”
In recent years, Jones penned a blog post about online cinema entitled Nuascannán which has been widely shared among microbudget filmmakers.
You can watch his latest film below.