Twenty-nine-year-old Lakshika is a film-maker living in Galway City. He talks of how making movies is a bit like magic and what it was like moving to Ireland from Sri Lanka. His cinematography style reflects a certain need for escapism and a desire for doing things until you get them right.
Photos and Words: Julia Monard
What are some of your favourite things you’ve done to date?
I did work with the United Nations for a week in Bann,Germany last year. That was very cool; being surrounded by all these future UN leaders at their training course. I had to go to a big mine, about a hundred meters underground with the world’s largest land machines; it was very intense. I’ve made a lot of videos for my good friend and artist Finbar McHugh – graffiti videos and time lapses about emotions and hope, which led to short films. After college, I was kind of lost. I wasn’t sure what I was doing and Finbar persuaded me that I should go after my dream. I had studied Digital Media Design in Limerick, where video was my main interest. Film has always been the goal, the thing that makes me happy the most.
Can you tell us a bit about the music videos you’ve shot?
They’re fun, you get to cram a lot of stuff into three minutes, which is pretty hard to do. Sometimes, when you overthink it and it doesn’t work out, you just go with it and people find meaning in it. That’s more important than what I think.
What are some of the things that inspired you while growing up?
I didn’t watch that many movies until after I’d moved to Ireland. We grew up with Bollywood – dance and cheese and colours. Then, the films that did stand out were Terminator 2, Aliens, Starship Troopers, Jurassic Park. Special effects have always fascinated me – it’s like magic, that idea of building a completely different world.
What’s your Galway story?
I moved here in 1999, so it will be 20 years by the end of this year. Before that, I’d never left Sri Lanka and everything was completely flipped around. Safety is a concern here, and people can live much longer here! The last time I was in Sri Lanka, there was a family on a bike and the two parents had helmets and the children had nothing on. The way we grew up there is in many ways backward – I would say probably 40 years behind Ireland now. At that time, 20 years ago, we still had corporal punishment, we were still getting whipped and had four-hour punishments at a school run by nuns. I came here and noticed that everyone speaks out of turn, no one behaves and there’s no punishment. I just found that bizarre; it was a culture shock.
How do you feel about Galway?
It’s a very friendly place – probably the friendliest place in Ireland, after having been here for so long. It’s my favourite place in Ireland too, without a doubt. You can walk down the street and meet someone you know and that will lead to something else – suddenly you’re at the bar and there’s more people. That doesn’t happen anywhere else, especially not in big cities. Galway is notorious for that. There’s fun to be had and people are very easy going. It’s a very ‘nightlife’ city. It’s also the rainiest city; that’s probably the only thing I would like to change about it.
How would you describe Generation 20 in your circles?
Everyone here tries very hard to follow their passion and their craft, which is very cool. I am not sure if there are enough things going on to make a decent living out of it, but the energy is very good here and people keep trying. You’re always surrounded by very positive people.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Until April project?
Until April was devised in 2016. It was essentially an art project created with a corporate mindset with two of my friends, Alan Walsh and David Owens. We said that if we hit a certain target by April, we would go busking in Europe, see how far we got and follow our dream of living on the road. As a part of the project, the band, also called Until April were playing electronic music and because amps were just being banned in Europe, they had the wonderful idea to buy a hundred wireless headphones online. We had rules like what we earn is what we live on, which forced us to get better at things and not use our savings. My job was to make the band look good online and create a documentary of the experience. It was three months with the band, but it ended up being eight months in the end for me. We did a few cities in Germany, Switzerland, and Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. It was probably the craziest time of my life. Stuff got robbed, we carried a stupid amount of bags, and had barely any sleep. But no matter how badly plans unfolded, there was always an alternative solution.
If there were no financial or circumstantial restrictions, what would you be doing?
That’s a tough one. I already did the traveling thing. It’s great, but you can’t do it forever because you will lose purpose. What I noticed by the end of my traveling time was that I was getting bored. I wanted to make something, improve my craft. It was the goal, but then you want to do something better or new. Otherwise, what’s the point of living? I still want to travel, so it’s finding the balance of work life and seeing new places. I’d love to do more with visual effects, but you need a team of people, a lot of resources, computers, and software, as well as building the technology to do it. I don’t know that many people in Galway that do it.
“I came here and noticed that everyone speaks out of turn, no one behaves and there’s no punishment. I found that just bizarre. It was a culture shock.”
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m working with a lot of green screen stuff, so I am learning quite a bit. It’s a project of fun educational videos. We normally only see small green screens in Galway that can barely fit head to torso, but we got to build a very big green screen that can fit head to toe. My secret hope is to put it to another creative use in the end, maybe a music video.
What is the most inspiring place in Galway?
To me, there are three places nearby where I go for wander and they’re Silver Strand, Barna Woods, and Menlo Castle. They’re just epic looking. Green is my favourite colour, so Barna Woods always feels right with good light. Silverstrand is the best for sunsets. Menlo Castle is spooky right now and then very lush in the summer. I just love being outside.
When have you been the happiest in life?
I think it’s when you finish a project you’ve worked so hard on and it’s not terrible. I always try to push myself to do better than the last time. It’s like the quote ‘Do it til you get it right’. If I die tomorrow or next month, at least I know I tried to do better. I won an award last year, which I did not expect. A film I shot, Long Wet Grass, was in 30 festivals and in New Jersey, it won for best cinematography. My buddy, Justin Davey and I had made a film called Adulting and it also made a couple of festivals. Then Séamus Scanlon saw it at Galway Film Fleadh, decided to give us a shout and we spent seven days in Mayo shooting it. I didn’t get to pick up the award, but getting my name next to an Oscar-winner (Markéta Irglová, who created the music), that was cool.
What excites you most about the future and what scares you?
The future is always uncertain. What’s exciting is that I’ll probably keep going, regardless of failures here and there. What scares me the most is giving up, that eventually my ambition just dies. There’s a quote out there by someone famous ‘It’s when you give up, then things just work out’, when you stop caring and you’re ready to walk away. There was a time when I was supposed to move to Canada, and four days after buying the flights, I got a job offer here. I feel like that has happened before, but each time it’s gone further. That time will probably inevitably come again; in life, it’s all about timing.
What is guaranteed to make you emotional?
People suffering. My mom worked with children with disabilities most of her life and I always wondered how she dealt with it. So, when I was in Sri Lanka the last time, which was about me getting older, and going back to the homeland, I decided to volunteer at one of these places. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do there; I’d never even dealt with kids before. It was quite hard – you can’t get emotional, you just have to deal with it. A lot of the children were put there out of ignorance on their parents’ behalf. I can still speak the language and they will come and tell you everything that has happened, and you have to listen. There are a lot of cruel people in this world. That kind of stuff only really hits you afterwards, but it resides with you. So, I’m very brutal when people complain. I’ve seen a lot in life and I’ve been stupid too. But something my mom always taught me, every time I’m complaining or really down about something, is to remember where I came from. I’m really lucky to be where I am.
What do you think is missing in Galway with regards to culture?
To this day, I get asked where I am from. We live in a world where all these cultures are mixed and we have to start the conversation about that. It’s a lot better than it was 20 years ago. People are maturing, but it needs to happen faster. The funny thing is, if I go to Sri Lanka, I get asked the same thing. If people do these things and you don’t tell them it’s wrong, they’ll do it again.
What would you like to see happening in 2020?
To have opportunities given to people who need them. I feel like this industry here is more about who you know than how good you actually are at something and some people are not so good at expressing themselves or selling themselves. Some people are very good at talking but they can’t actually do anything. I personally enjoy the Arts Festival every year, because they always try to do new, weird and interesting things. If it’s something like that on a much grander scale, it would be pretty cool, if the right people are brought in.
Living in Ireland, do you identify as European?
I suppose…it’s what my passport says! But it comes back to the whole ‘Where are you from?’ question. It doesn’t feel like we’re all the same. It’s not like one big community, it’s literally just a currency with some benefits like having a European passport. I didn’t always have this though; I used to have to get a visa all the time – that’s was a huge thing. There was a time when I might have had to move back to Sri Lanka. That was not a good time.
What mark would you like 2020 to leave behind?
To me, the fondest memory was of the two years of the Volvo Ocean Race. I feel like that was great and left an impression on everyone. There was so much happening in those two weeks of madness. I also loved the Skywhale balloon that was flying above Galway one year – that was magical. Something like that, that you can see from far away, that will stop you in your tracks, something you will remember.
Was there a moment in your life that changed the way you look at things?
There was this big mountain we climbed – Sri Pada in Sri Lanka, when I was with my friend Adam. It was 5,500 steps which you climb to see the sun rise – it’s very high altitude, killer of all kneecaps. There’s a temple on top and a bell – it’s one of those places where pretty much all religions have been represented at some point. You only get one chance at that bell and you’ve got to make a wish and supposedly, your wish comes true. I don’t know what I believe, but it was just a grand moment. I like my smaller moments too; that first time you watch or experience something. Those things I treasure quite a bit. When a film inspires you or living inspires you, makes you feel something. It’s why I create.
Generation 20 is a photo and interview series focusing on the new wave of artists in Galway. With each interview and portrait, we aim to uncover their motivations, aspirations and frustrations. To get the full authentic picture and find their common link, bring them all together and into the light. How does their journey relate to Galway and where would they like to see it in 2020? We want to see the people in the budding stages of their expression, those that are quietly grafting and doing wonderful things.
Open, bold and colourful, this is #generation20.
Photos and interviews by Julia Monard.