A Word from conor o’kelly: tfr’s Founding editor

- By Conor O’Kelly

Conor O'Kelly illustration.jpg

I am delighted to have been asked by the Trinity Film Review editors to consider the lifetime of the publication in light of its ten year anniversary. As a student turned lecturer, it is sometimes easy to forget how much work goes into all of the extra-curricular activities that Trinity students undertake, and thinking about the genesis of TFR has reminded me how much learning happens outside the classroom.

Trinity College, it is fair to say, is especially supportive of student societies, publications and sports clubs. These supports manifest through the sometimes arcane rules, constitutions, budgets, quorums and procedures of the college itself and bodies like the Capitations Committee, the Central Societies Committee, the Student Unions and countless individuals, past and present, who have contributed materially, with their time, with their vote.

In this context, then, TFR is the end product of a complex apparatus of education policy and individual effort. Concomitantly, the continued publication, and dissemination of student writing signals the continuity and, I suggest, the continued success of an institution which, over hundreds of years, has established and refined its premier place in Irish education. Which is why we should never underestimate, or take for granted, the supports that make so many extra curriculars possible. For many Trinity students, their experiences in publications, societies, unions and sports clubs are the lifeblood of their education. This is what we should think of when we speak of the DNA of Trinity College.

In 2008, Trinity Publications would regularly print short film reviews but that was the sole college outlet for wannabe film critics or theorists. TFR was conceived as a place for aspiring film writers to hone their skills, a place for longer pieces and for writing directed at a more film focused audience. The group that assembled to start the publication were all drawn from the Film Studies undergraduate programme. We were due to graduate in 2009. So we had started the magazine in our final year, just as our dissertation proposals were due. Dr. Paula Quigley, while bemused by our questionable timing, supported our application to the Trinity Visual Arts Fund who underwrote the purchase of a computer and desktop publishing software.

As the first editor, I got two issues out the door in 2008-2009, I balanced the budget, attended publications board meetings and spent countless hours formatting copy and images. When the time came I handed the reins to the new incoming editor in a semi-orderly manner. And this is the process which has been repeated every year for the last decade. A set of beguilingly simple steps that cumulatively lead to a decade of film writing by students for students, in the only student printed film magazine in Ireland. Indeed, since the move online of Film Ireland, TFR is the only film magazine of its kind printed in Ireland.

On my office shelf I have a TFR archive. It has come out consistently twice a year, changed physical shape four times and had four different logos. Over the years there have been some very consistent features. Besides thematic issues, film reviews and interviews with industry professionals, ‘Underrated / Overrated’ is a perennial favourite as is ‘5 word Reviews’. Iconic shots from film classics have also featured regularly over the years. For my part, these are innovative approaches that I like; student publications are unusually open and free forums for expression, it would be a shame to not push the envelope and experiment.

Of course I am enormously proud that TFR survives and thrives. I am, however, far more impressed by the students and teams that have carried and developed the idea past its embryonic form, through all of the committee meetings, deadlines, late nights, editor elections, editorial meetings and balanced budgets. In 2010, after two years in existence, TFR became the first newly recognised Trinity Publication since the 1970s. Now, on its tenth anniversary, we should recognise it as part of Trinity’s institutional and cultural memory. Happy Birthday TFR!