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Interview: Scott Carthy - Aspiring Kingston University film-maker

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Scott Carthy, a Kingston University graphics student has used his camera to tell the story of the endangered art form of subway dancing in New York City.

Carthy is originally from Drogheda, Ireland and he arrived in the United States with his camera in March of this year with the intention of documenting the declining subculture which is currently being clamped down.

The result of his s trip is the seven-minute film 1050.6(c), which takes its name from the section of the New York City Transit Rules of Conduct which prohibits performers from dancing within the subway cars.

I met with Scott to ask him about his about his passion for film-making, his desire to represent these dancers and what his future holds.

 

You're a rising star in the film world Scott, how do you feel about all this success?

The response to 1050.6© has been great. The aim was never primarily to get myself recognition, although this has been a huge bonus and was always something I hoped to achieve along the way. The main focus of the film was to open a discussion about this new laws implementation, and give the dancers a voice different to that of the media and the authorities.

I wanted to use film as a way of telling their story, getting deeper to the core of what this dancing is as opposed to brushing over it as the media have been doing to get their quick story. I’m extremely happy with the response to the film, as it seems to have been viewed by quite a broad audience from different countries. This was always the aim, to show what the locals are fed up with to other viewers who have never seen it before, giving them a chance to reignite this interest in the dancers one last time before it potentially disappears.

You’re a graphic design student, so how did you get involved with film and how has it helped you develop as a film-maker?

The Graphic Design course at Kingston University is very broad in its ways of teaching as well as the students interests. It’s not the type of course to discourage anyone wanting to pursure different fields of design, art or whatever else.

The course itself gives a range of briefs throughout the three years, delving into typography, book design and other traditional graphic design as expected, as well as a lot of conceptual work, film briefs, photography and much more. It gives you the chance to explore many areas so by the end you have an idea of which direction you would like to go with your career. It’s all about problem solving and communicating.

How did the idea come about to study the dancers in New York?

I think the more time we spend somewhere, be it a town or city, we can easily become bored of what we see on a daily basis. This is certainly the case with the dancers in New York. The style of dancing in the city is seen nowhere else in the world, more specifically the dancing done within the subway cars. After seeing a video of the dancers back in September I started exploring it online out of curiosity, it was something I had never seen before and was incredibly interested in.

While out in the city in March of this year I became aware of the laws implementation and the more serious approach being given to it, and it all just made sense to begin a project around it. It’s funny how one of the dancers in the first video I ever saw will now be one of the main characters in the final film, something I just would have never imagined.

Why are the subway dancers often looked upon as an unwelcome nuisance on the New York subways? Especially in a city that has a vast amount of creativity and culture surrounding the streets.

A lot of the ‘creativity’ in New York can be discovered if one wishes to do so. With the dancers it’s right in front of your eyes whether you like it or not. You can’t pick and choose when you want to see them and unfortunately they may present themselves at the worst time possible for some people.

It could be the end of the day when all you want to do is have a quiet journey home to your flat. On top of this it has become a way for many young people to make a quick buck, often not having the levels of talent that many of the more experienced dancers do. It seems to have gotten to a point where nearly anyone thinks they can do it. The drop in the standard of dancing comes paired with a lack of knowledge of how best to perform in the cars, which eventually led to a high number of complaints initiating a need for change.

It’s been said your film ‘takes a snapshot of social and political change on one of the world’s most famous cities’. How do you think you are helping to highlightthis change?

I think by taking the time to research and develop ideas about how this topic can be dealt with through film it gives it a much more delicate handling. The footage you normally see is from iphones, the interviews are done by reporters who have no relationship with the dancers, and the authorities obviously have a biased opinion. By spending time with the dancers and getting to understand the origins and reasoning’s behind it all, it gives a better representation of what it is, why it is, and what we will be loosing if it disappears. It’s a way of giving people a better understanding of it and the characters involved.

Were the street dancers welcoming? How did they aid you in your film?

The performers were great. For me it was an incredible experience working with them. I went from being a tourist carefully treading around New York turning to the complete opposite, storming through the subway carriages and around the city with them. These guys know it like the back of their hands so it was such a different way of experiencing the city. The great thing about working with dancers is that as soon as you need them to, they dance.

What’s your next move? We hear you are keen to return to the states. Tell us more.

The next move is to return to the city to work on a final film, showing the developments since the first film and what effects the law has had. A lot has changed since1050.6© was made, and many of the dancers have stopped dancing on the trains completely. I feel like this is the last chance to explore this subject before it disappears.

What do you think the future holds in store for these dancers?

For those who are passionate about what they do its certainly not the end. They came to the trains from somewhere else, and will move from the trains to a new location. Realistically those who dance as a passion wont be stopped just because one of their stages has been taken from them. The amazing thing was how the dancers developed moves around the minimal setting of a subway carriage; all it takes is some time and creativity before they develop something else.

You can watch Scott Carthy’s film, 1050.6(c), on Vimeo by clicking here




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