Tuesday 14 December 2010

ONCE: Raise Your Hopeful Voice

"ONCE" gives us permission to do everything we want to do, and say everything we want to say. It was shot on a camera that is below the accepted industry standards. It starred people who'd never acted before. The lighting was terrible. It was about an Irish guy and a Czech girl singing acoustic singer/songwriter songs. It was only 83 minutes long. It didn't have any major drama, or twists, or explosions. It didn't have that cool-indie-film-vibe. 

"ONCE" didn't have a deceptive trailer, it didn't have an A-list cameo, it didn't have a twist ending, it didn't have a clever marketing campaign, it didn't have a dedicated social media team, the director didn't claim to be the "next" anyone or anything.

THE FILM HAD HEART. That's what it had and it's what it has. It's a film that people love and adore and need. It's a film that people watch when they're all alone at 3am. It's a film they watch with the family on a Tuesday night. It's a film they watched tucked up in bed with their lovers on a cold Sunday evening. It reaches everyone. It reached Steven Fucking Spielberg. All because it has heart. It has heart over everything. The camera shakes a bit? The heart is more important. The music isn't as catchy as a well-constructed soundtrack? It has heart. It got an Academy Award because of that heart. 

"ONCE" is proof that we can do it, we can make the movies we need to make and say what we need to say. We can make obscure movies about musicians in Ireland. Of course, we gotta know what we're doing. People with heart make bad movies all the time; but they also make good ones. This movie proves that if we make something astoundingly great, that's enough. It sounds obvious but - we get too caught up in all the junk; thinking about making things that are 'marketable' or 'original' or 'surprising' -- we get further and further from writing and making "ONCE". We become a confused mix of a director like Crowe making "ELIZABETHTOWN" when really if we follow our hearts we can be Crowe making "SAY ANYTHING."

"ONCE" is magic. It really is. The songs are so meaningful, the look in Marketa's eye is so beautiful and the tone of Glen's voice is beyond soulful. And it carries you away into its world for 83 minutes and it has nothing to do with what anyone is taught in film school, or has drilled into them by producers - it's the work of heart, and soul, and hard work, and experimentation and simple honesty. Simple honesty - what a thing. So rare. But what a wonderful thing. How can we get more of that into our work? We can watch "ONCE" a million times. Look at that moment in the film on 15mins 35seconds; the two characters share a look; I don't know whether it was improvised or directed or an accident. Whatever it was, it says everything. It says wow we sound amazing, and it says wow I'm falling in love with you and it says wow, this movie is gonna be awesome! It's the most honest look in the history of cinema and it came in a split second in a little Irish movie that almost nobody ever heard of but in the end the world heard of because it was so honest, inspiring, and unique.

If you want to write a 'hot' script, or you want to impress Hollywood; that's great! I'm excited for you and I would love to see your movie when it's done. But this is about the people who have it in their hearts to tell something simple and small. Because, actually, there aren't a lot of books or blogs or anything that support that. It hasn't been modelled for us enough. And of course, when it is; sometimes the movies are so small we hardly know about them. But "ONCE" exists. It's there. It inspired people the world over, it touched people, and yeah; it made money. It happened because a writer/director and a small crew and a dedicated producer and a wonderful cast made it happen, and they believed in it. They did the night shoots, they worked for little pay and they believed in something they couldn't quite see. It exists. For those of you who have projects in you that are like this; don't hide from them, don't bury them, don't believe there isn't a place for them. The world wants and needs these movies. 

If you haven't already; you can read my interview with "ONCE" Producer MARTINA NILAND right here

Care to share?


  1. Great post! Once represents everything that's right with movies. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Totally agree with what you're saying. It's probably the most low profile musical movie I've ever seen, yet so much heart.
    "Once" can also mean the only one time the lead characters will play in the movies (I read it somewhere).
    I may have been a little bit disappointed with the ending, but I don't like it either if there's too much drama.

  3. Yes, totally agree. The movie is just so refreshingly honest, I simply LOVE it.
    I know what you mean about the indie films having the indie vibe - it is getting a bit uncool actually.

  4. I totally agree, film needs more heart and less money. A film with heart warms mine.

  5. My brother bought me this for my birthday and it sat on my shelf for two months before I watched it - why did I wait so long? The music haunted me and I love the actors and the story. I especially liked the ending - so anti-Hollywood and not what i was expecting. If you haven't seen this film - WATCH IT ASAP!

  6. Very well said!! I enjoyed the sh*t outta this post and yes, I am now jonesin to see this film! And no, not because you make it sound so "cool," but because of the honesty and simplicity you mention. Two of the best qualities for art to have. Those two qualities alone are why I love the music of Tom Petty! Thanks also for the comment on my blog - means a lot coming from THE Kid in the Front Row!
    Please follow me: glamvita.blogspot.com

  7. I loved this movie. Because it has heart :). Imao, the music is the best part.

  8. wow, thats just... I have to see this movie now
    but in the end I definitley agree; a film has got to have heart or it won't reach you ;)

  9. Couldn't agree more. Such a warm, unassuming movie. Cinema needs these little gems that come out of nowhere.