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In Conversation: Conor McBride discusses being an aspiring film-maker in New York City

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Conor McBride is a filmmaker living in New York City, having moved there from Dublin four years ago. His latest work, the somewhat un-Googleable Untitled, won the audience choice award at the Zero Film Festival in LA and the grand prize at the Brooklyn Short Film Festival. The documentary is about a Brooklyn-based visual artist turned drag queen.

Untitled is embedded below and after viewing it you can read a short Q&A with Conor – don’t forget to visit his portfolio site here.

1. What were you working at in Ireland?

I was working as a producer of corporate film in Dublin for Agtel, one of Ireland’s oldest production companies and had started a documentary collective. I actually left the job a few months before I came to the US and gave walking tours of the city instead, which was a nice break and a great way to close my chapter on Dublin.

2. Tell us a bit about why you packed up your fiddle and camera and moved to America, presuming you have no regrets?

I never did a J1 when in college. In fact I’m not really sure what I did with my college summers. But one summer I was working on that RTE J1 reality TV show and sitting in rainy Dublin watching all this footage of people enjoying themselves and regretted never experiencing living in the States. They brought out this new extended year long J1 visa so I thought “why not, it’s only a year”. 4 years later I’m still here and don’t see an immediate end in sight.

3. New York, best city in the world – discuss.

New York is the most iconic city in the world and for this reason people think it’s the best. I’m always amazed at people coming from Europe to New York who are absolutely obsessed with the city and want to live here so badly. To be honest it isn’t the city but the country and its people that keeps me here. I never cease to be amazed at the diversity and depth of interest I have in American culture and its people.

4. Since moving what kind of work have you done?

Since moving to this country I have done everything from bartending to babysitting. I learned how to make a margarita and change a diaper but also honed my skills to become a video editor and learned a great trade, which has also improved my ability to direct.

5. Untitled seems like such an interesting person and a true performing artist, how did you meet her?

My friend is making a feature length documentary on the Bushwick drag scene, particularly the House of Bushwig. I was helping him film the documentary at the same time I was coming up with an idea to pitch for Accent Magazine. Untitled’s performance of Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ sealed the deal and I knew immediately I wanted to do a profile of her.

6. How did you find working for Accent magazine, did they commission the piece or did you pitch it to them?

Accent Magazine is a new London-based publication started by fashion photographer Lydia Garnett and graphic designer Lucy Nurnberg. I love their ethos of celebrating lives lived out of the ordinary through different mediums. They were looking for ideas for their new issue, I pitched my idea for Untitled and they commissioned it.

7. How did it feel seeing the film honoured at the Brooklyn Short Film Festival?

I always get really nervous before watching my films in front of a big audience. Which is crazy because I’ve been a musician and singer for years and performing live in front of big crowds you actually have the possibility of messing up. With a film you just press play. But it was great to get support from my peers. It’s a shame the projector blew out the highlights a little but I got over that, mostly.

8. Will Untitled get shown at any other shorts festivals or has putting it online for the world to view scuppered any chance of new festivals?

Yeah, it’s definitely been unfortunate that it was premiered online as film festivals like to have it all to themselves. That said, I hope it’s just the beginning of its journey on the festival circuit. Sadly I just missed the deadline for the Galway Film Fleadh but I have entered it in the IFI’s Stranger than Fiction festival and the Kerry Film Festival as well as all the gay film festivals. Whatever box I fit in basically!

9. Any projects in the pipeline?

I was working on a music video for a DJ called Jaw Jam before I started this and am hoping to complete it this year. It’s based on a photo collection called Westside Rendez Vous by Katsu Naito. They’re these beautiful black and white portraits of transvestite prostitutes working in the Meatpacking District in the early 90s. My grad film was about prostitutes in Monto a 100 years ago so this would be a perfect fusion of both documentaries!

10. A weird one to finish, are you sad to be missing the Killorglin puck fair?

I will not miss Puck Fair this year… because I am coming home for it! In fact I’m bringing home about 10 people from across the pond. Doing my bit for The Gathering you could say. For some of them it will be their first time out of North America so no doubt it will be a culture shock, for them and maybe the people of Killorglin. No drag queens though – this time!

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Nigel

Nigel loves stupid films almost as much as he likes clever films. He'll watch anything but is usually drawn to documentaries, North American independent films, Irish cinema and gung-ho, balls-to-the-walls Hollywood blockbusters. Here's what he's been watching.

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