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General News / September 23, 2019

TJ O’Grady highlights plight of housing crisis in ‘Why Wait’

General News / September 23, 2019

TJ O’Grady highlights plight of housing crisis in ‘Why Wait’

Irish Film and Television Award winning director TJ O’Grady Peyton discusses his new eye-opening music video for Lilla Vargen’s ‘Why Wait’.

Ballymena singer Lilla Vargen has collaborated with Irish Film and Television Award  winning director TJ O’Grady for a considered visual piece highlighting the urgency of current housing crisis in Ireland.
 
Co-directing the film ‘Wave’ alongside Academy Award winner Benjamin Cleary, TJ O’Grady Peyton picked up the Irish Film and Television Award for best short in 2018.
 
Lilla and TJ both have experience volunteering with homeless charities together they’ve created a “hybrid documentary of sorts” that sees real people and casted actors depict heart-breaking realities.
 

Speaking on the video Vargen said, “My family worked with the council helping put together packs for people who were sleeping rough.”

“You see things that are quite hard, but you also learn the most amazing things just from talking to people and they’re so glad to have these conversations. It’s difficult to imagine how hard it must be sitting there on the streets day by day, with everyone avoiding you.”

After volunteering at the Simon Community TJ felt compelled to make a piece about the housing and homelessness crisis. Initially not intending to create a music video, the piece took on a life of its own after he heard Lilla’s song.
 
“Having volunteered at the Simon Community [a charity which helps homeless people in Dublin], I saw first hand the effect that the housing crisis and homelessness was having on the city. I wanted to create a piece that documented what was happening, so I went about shooting moments not knowing fully what the piece would become. Lilla’s song and words accompany the material we captured beautifully. I hope this piece helps to raise awareness for this important subject.” 
Lilla Vargen Screenshot
We had a brief conversation with the director TJ and his director of photography about some of the thought processes behind the project and its potential impact.
 
What did you learn from documenting their lives that you didn’t perhaps realise before?
TJ: It’s difficult to say, but one statistic that I was given by the Simon Community while we were making the piece was startling. Figures in April of this year suggested that 10,378 people are in homeless emergency accommodation at the moment, including 3,795 children. 
 
Can you tell me more about how the video will have a potentially positive impact?
TJ: I would never assume it would have a positive impact, but I’m hoping the video helps raise awareness and maybe even starts a conversation. I also hope it highlights people’s perseverance. Any decent person who is surviving whilst enduring hardship deserves respect.
 
Despite not initially intending to make a music video, what were your plans for the project when you realised that you could make a piece like this?
 
Albert Hooi: The video started out as a one day shoot about the pope’s visit to Ireland. Towards the end of the day we came across a protest and a lot of the messages people were talking about were around the issue of the homeless crises in Ireland and how the pope’s visit cost so much and that the Irish government was not addressing the issue. We also met some homeless people throughout the day who told us their stories and we were struck by the reality of what was happening in Ireland. We decided to start documenting what it was like to be in Ireland at the time and the homeless crisis seemed to keep coming up. Around half way through the shoot we saw the potential of it becoming a music video rather than a doc as we felt we could visually tell the story without words and it could be a more relatable and easy to digest piece.
 
With homelessness being such a current issue what can we do to help?
TJ: I am no expert, but there are plenty of organisations that could benefit from volunteer work. On top of that, being aware of what’s going on and having compassion is a healthy start.
 
The video does a great job at humanising the issue, when other outlets tend to portray the homeless negatively.

TJ: I think it’s important to treat people as humans and not be afraid to have these honest conversations with a view of trying to effect positive change. It’s not easy and never will be. To state the obvious, being homeless is tough and a lonely situation and any kind of support can go a long way.  

Why did you initially feel compelled to document what is going on initially?
TJ: I noticed more and more tents popping up around Dublin. I also had done some volunteer work in the Simon Community and had met a few interesting people that highlighted the issue. That helped me realise how difficult a situation some people were in. People of all backgrounds and ages as well. I was also experimenting creatively as a filmmaker and artist. I wasn’t sure where this was going to lead, but we kept plugging away and here we are.
Watch the video for ‘Why Wait’ below: