Vis-Ed: Feel Good Lost
In a cultural climate where rehashed VHS footage spliced together with found YouTube clips and fuzzy JPEGs constitutes most brand-new, independent music videos, it's a welcome change of pace to discover people who are dedicated to pursuing the arts of cinematography, production, storytelling, editing, and directing. Sure, there are likely many nascent filmmakers scattered around the globe who are hard at work honing those exact skills, but few are doing so with such distinct style and exuberance as Brendan Canty and Conal Thomson, the Irish pair who makes up the production studio Feel Good Lost.
"Originally, I was putting [my work] under my own name, but I wanted to build a kind of collective-type production company," shares Canty. He and Thomson, a cinematographer whose first love was still photography, met while attending film courses at Cork Institute of Technology. Though each started out doing all of their own class work and expanding their portfolios alone, the two wound up working together on their final school project in the summer of 2011, creating a 30-minute short film about a US paratrooper lost in Normandy during World War II. "We were delighted with how that came out," Canty says of the first Feel Good Lost movie, The Kid—which, incidentally, made it into the 2011 Cork Film Festival. "It taught us so much about the process and the production and all the stages of making a short movie. It forced us to discipline ourselves." But the experience wasn't without its difficulties, too. At first, Thomson had a hard time transitioning from his SLR to a film camera. "It's a bit different thinking in moving images, as opposed to single photos," he confesses, but Canty seemed to know exactly how to overcome the hump. "Conal would struggle to get shots, and I would say, 'Con, just set up the shot like it was a photograph,' because [his] photographs are amazing." Canty continues, "And [he] started to do that, and we started to get amazing shots as a result."
Thomson and Canty have worked together ever since, amassing an astounding number of pieces in a very short amount of time under the adopted title of an instrumental album by Canadian post-rockers Broken Social Scene. "We needed a name," explains Canty of his shared moniker, "and I was in love with the phrase 'feel good lost' and the idea [of that phrase]." Feel Good Lost may have begun with a short film project, but outside of that, the pair has almost exclusively made music videos. They started out crafting unofficial, experimental pieces for tunes from the likes of Clams Casino and Panda Bear, which were more or less for practice, but the filmmakers now work with up-and-coming acts—such as Keep Shelly in Athens, Sun Glitters, and Blackbird Blackbird—to create purely original pieces. As Canty puts it, "We started doing music videos because it was a great way to build our portfolio and show that we can direct and what [else] we can do. It went so well for us that it became what we do." And it makes sense; Feel Good Lost makes each video very quickly, but nonetheless maintains a high level of quality rarely seen in truly independent music videos. Thomson adds, "I guess we've got, like, two separate styles that we're [working with] at the moment, which are videos with all the blended images together and normal, film-like narrative ones." According to them, an experimental/visual project takes about a week to complete, while a narrative piece could occupy two weeks of work if they have a proper budget. With that time frame, it's no wonder Feel Good Lost premieres multiple videos a month online for artists from around the world.
But speed and tenacity isn't everything. The burgeoning artists will also tell you that their location helps in tremendous ways. "It's a small enough place," says Canty of his hometown, Cork, "but there's a lot of variety in the landscape. We've got the ocean, forests, mountains... We've got a city, which isn't great, but we've got a lot of changing landscapes, which really suits us for videos." Idyllic surroundings notwithstanding, Thomson and Canty make sure to get out of town every now and again, too. It seems that some of their favorite work—like the Slow Magic piece that Canty filmed while on holiday in Tuscany or the video for "THNX" by fellow Irishman Mmoths—has been shot outside of Cork. "We went down to Mizen Head, which is at the very southern tip of Ireland, and we spent the day at amazing locations shooting amazing footage," Canty shares about the making of the "THNX" video. He goes on to explain that travelling might be the biggest reward for what Feel Good Lost does. "Just the fact that we're getting paid to climb this mountain or find this abandoned castle which is right on a cliff edge where you can look around you and get a panoramic view of all of West Cork... That's pretty amazing. Even if we weren't getting paid, that's just what we love to do."
People—actors, specifically—play an important role in the work of Feel Good Lost, as well. Not all of the duo's projects can be composed of bucolic landscapes shot with dreamy filters and edited into abstraction. Stories are important, too, and Canty and Thomson have slowly assembled a cache of reliable actors for their productions. "Over the last few years, we've just met enough people [to work with]," explains Canty. "In school, when we were doing little short movies, we got our friends [to work with us]. They might be terrible at acting, but they'd do it as a favor. Now, at this stage, I think we've met enough people who are really talented at what they do, and want to be in [the videos] either just to be in them or to improve their portfolio." Even with that team of talent, however, we're not likely to see another narrative film from Feel Good Lost in the immediate future. As Thomson puts it, "We have ideas. If we turn them into short films, that's another question. We just have to find [one] that we really like. And it would be handy if we have some money by then, so we don't have to do it like the last one, with no budget."
Regardless, Canty and Thomson are keeping plenty busy. They're currently working on loads of new music videos for electronic-music upstarts, including another piece for Mmoths and Slow Magic both, and will also soon unveil a brand-new endeavor, Feel Good Lost Records, the first release from which will be a digital EP (with limited-edition physical copies) from Cork synth-pop duo Young Wonder. Canty is humble about the whole thing, saying, "It's more of a personal project that's fun for me and that I love to do. But you never know. It might do well, and I might make something [more] out of it." Along with all of that, the production company will ring in its first birthday on May 10 at the Pavillion in Cork. Keep Shelly in Athens is scheduled to headline the auspicious occasion, along with performances from Dublin-based outfit Sacred Animals and Young Wonder with Canty and Thomson providing live visuals for the whole event. It's obvious they have plenty to celebrate, and after a year as productive and promising as the first, it's anyone's guess what the second will bring Feel Good Lost. "We've been quite good at doing videos for the right songs or the right people," says Canty, quickly summing up a hypothesis for his and Thomson's successful year before he adds, "But we definitely want to move on and do a few more short movies this year." With the kind of ambition they've exhibited, it would be no surprise if Feel Good Lost continues to grow and accomplish everything it sets out to do.