Interview With Writer/Director Graham Jones: Silicon Docks

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview Writer/ Director Graham Jones about their new animated comedy, drama film Silicon Docks, which follows a group of recognisable tech figures meeting for a drink in an Irish pub. In this interview we discuss tech billionaires and who would win in a fight between them, modern internet culture and the ever forward march of progress.I hope you enjoy.

Q: What was your message with this film?

GJ: SILICON DOCKS is mainly to do with modern culture or the internet – and the way that tech is transforming our lives. Technological advances have changed human interaction, in some cases, for the better – but in many cases not. Ireland is a culture that is quite social, traditionally. We commune, we communicate, we gossip like you wouldn’t believe. It’s very interesting to see that culture transplanted into the 21st Century or the internet era. 

A lot of the web is interconnected, but paradoxically distant and removed. We’re closer to each other, yet also further apart. We have all this great tech and these zippy apps and social media platforms that purport to make communication easier, but which often just leave people staring at their phones like zombies instead of really connecting like they used to. 

So I wanted to riff on all of that stuff, from an Irish perspective.

  Q: Why focus on tech moguls?

GJ: Human beings are really the only things an audience can relate to – and so wanting to explore the kind of themes mentioned above, I needed to find the right characters for the story. Granted, I could have used a collection of Irish characters and shown how their lives have changed because of tech. But I found the whole Silicon Docks area of my native city – where these big US tech corporations have congregated due to low corporation tax passionately hawked by the Irish government – more and more intriguing and using the moguls gave me other narrative opportunities also. Many of these moguls are actually my own generation and it seemed like they would make good protagonists because, like me, they actually lived through this change or even brought it about. No, they are not completely responsible for the internet, but dramatically speaking they made great punching bags. It certainly seemed valid to subject them to same kind of distortion that is commonplace online nowadays, it felt almost karmic! 

Q: What sort of impact do you think tech and the digital space has had on our daily life?

GJ: I think it has a huge impact. I grew up without this ‘web’ and have seen the way it’s grown and mutated and really kind of taken over our lives at this point. I do wonder what it must be like for people who were born into it, who arrived when it was already operating. What really strikes me is that it used to be peripheral, whereas now it’s all-consuming. Just how far will this go, or where exactly are we going – I wonder? There is no doubt that it’s improved some aspects of our lives, but at what cost? That’s the big question. To me, it’s as if we are going forward and backwards at the same time. A good example is indie filmmaking. It’s easier to make an indie film nowadays, compared with back in the nineties when I used to shoot on celluloid and distribute expensive cans of film to cinemas. But on the other hand, it’s also much harder to get attention for your movie nowadays, after you have made it. Backwards and forwards, better and worse, that’s the internet. I suppose we’ll see what happens…

Q: Who do you think would win in a fight between Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey?

GJ: Ha, I haven’t a clue – but must confess that I would probably watch that fight, a guilty pleasure. I guess that’s kind of what our film is: Musk and Dorsey and Bezos and Zuckerberg’s idea of fighting. One-upmanship or pissing contests – basically like a tech mogul version of fighting. Again, tech bros don’t like a lot of touching or interaction!

Q: Why choose the medium of animation to tell your tale?

GJ: I thought animation was the right medium for SILCON DOCKS because it so resembles the world we live today – I mean so resembles the internet or the metaverse or pick your word. Instead of meeting in a pub, on the street or wherever – people basically now send data to each other through their little electronic devices. We are becoming increasingly virtual and so right away I suspected animation would be the right medium to portray that virtual vortex. But it’s not just animation we use, as the background in SILICON DOCKS is actually rotoscoped. It’s animation on top of a rotoscoped world, which again seemed natural given our new reality. On this planet, we’re humans who increasingly operate in a digital web and so we tried to reflect that visually. The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan once said.

Q: Any funny stories from production?

GJ: Well, I couldn’t find anybody to do Elon Musk’s voice authentically, because he’s got a kind of scattered, hard to place ‘new world’ accent – and so, in the end, José just did a Dublin accent for us! 

Q: What are your future plans for your next feature?

GJ: I can’t say anything about my next film at the moment, unfortunately.

Q: Do you have any words of advice for future filmmakers who  may be reading

GJ: The main error new filmmakers make is assuming they only have to make the film and that once they do so, everything else will kind of magically fall into place. In reality, there are 2 stages to the process. One is literally making the film and everything that involves, all the way through from script to final mix. The second stage is getting it to people via whatever route you choose to take. Typically what happens is that new filmmakers are so exhausted after the first stage, they have no energy or spirit or realisation the second stage even exists! So do watch out for that…

If you would like to check out Silicon Docks  for yourself it is currently out now on YouTube

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