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a film by Conor Masterson

[SCREENING 8:30pm]

Conor Masterson’s film In the Deep Shade is not a ‘definitive’ careerspanning documentary of The Frames. Nor is it a fly-on-the-wall expose or an us-against-the-world hero saga. It is, simply put, a stark portrait of an extraordinary band, who have played together for over 20 years.

In the Deep Shade celebrates simplicity. No captions. No flash-cuts. No voiceover. With a photographer’s eye, poetic sensibility and painterly aesthetic, Masterson examines the ever-evolving relationship between five musicians who’ve known each other for many years. That’s the story, and in its understated way, it’s an uncommon one.

“When the 20th anniversary was approaching I suggested filming at one of their smaller gigs, to get some footage in a more intimate venue, close up,” says the filmmaker, who has photographed the band since 1998. “Glen had seen a personal art film I made in Paris and suggested I make a film with the same loose, roaming aesthetic. My initial reaction was sceptical as I had no interest in making a music documentary, but I knew the band was comfortable around me and realised there might be an opportunity to do something interesting.”

“It’s certainly not a conventional documentary that sets up conflict and then resolves it,” Masterson says. “From the very beginning I decided this was a poetic film that would not be afraid to take liberties with linear narrative. I am personally jaded by literal documentaries that seize on a traditional story strand and make the entire film based on conflict and drama to manipulate an audience. What appealed to me was the chemistry and the family spirit that they all have. I’m hoping that it can be seen as a film about a collective whose chief concern is playing music well. I think it’s rare to have a collection of high-achieving, talented men who have worked together for this long and are still healthy.”

When interviewed for the film, Glen Hansard admitted, “You have to double-up on any eye contact with this band. To use the old analogy of robbing a bank, it’s a tight operation and if you get it wrong somebody’s gonna get hurt.”

This level of intuition, says Masterson, is crucial to understanding how the band operates.

“It’s unspoken. There are very few – if any – discussions about playing music. They simply do it. There will be shorthand conversations which amount to a wink and a nod about certain moments in a set or during a soundcheck, but their years together have created a deep understanding of how to play. You could say the whole film is about eye contact, as they spend so much time looking to each other for approval. The band is probably oblivious to this in a conscious way, but on stage it’s all about the eyes.”

In the Deep Shade looks wintry and rather beautiful. As for the director’s own vision, Masterson opted for a raw and improvisational approach. “We filmed a gig on the first night with the band and when I reviewed the multi-camera footage, it was far more interesting when a lone camera was allowed to take risks and to chase the action with no net – that is, no other camera to cut away to. I found that one point of view was far more interesting and added something to the footage so that became the style throughout. I think it adds to the feel of a Frames performance, because as a band they will play the song and be alive in every moment in an effort to make the performance as good as it can be, using any mistake as a virtue. It was all about being honest, and if something happened off stage or on and the footage was gritty but the moment was interesting that was fine. The dirty aesthetic can be very beautiful.

“I was wary of making something that looked good but had no heart,” he concludes. “We are in an age when we’re all a little ADD from an intensely fast internet-orientated world. People see so much online and watch so many things in small chunks that it’s crazy. You can’t compete for that attention, so I tried to make a film that needs to be watched as a film. This is my first feature-length work, a film about old friends and their relationships as they make music. I felt if I could make a film that touched on those ideas, that looked good, featuring The Frames’ music, then it might be a nice piece of work.”



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