My screen heroes are Werner Herzog, David Lynch and Pier Paolo Pasolini.
All white men with European sensibilities, but as your heroes often unfortunately tend to look like you, there’s a pretty powerful argument for inclusion and diversity in filmmaking here, as in everything really.
There are no more memorable films for me than the Italian neo-realist dramas which my Spanish teacher used to use to teach me the language, subtitled as they were, and mutually exclusive from Spanish and English.
My dream is to make the kind of poems and pageants that Pasolini orchestrated with mostly ‘non-actors’ throughout the 60s and 70s.
These films are profound, hilarious, moving, full of joy and they completely transcend the often limited means which were used to create them.
They use classical myths and stories to talk about contemporary issues and there’s a such a vérité sense of ‘get the f*#king camera rolling and get on with it!’ that it feels like what is on screen is real, no matter how weird and outlandish what is happening might be.
The Gospel According to St. Matteo creeps into this along with the more obvious allusions to Vertigo and The Seventh Seal. I’m not really interested in aping the cinema of the past though, its just a form of shorthand, like music, with which to quickly explain a direction of travel or suggest an idea.
Francis Ford Coppola said something interesting about cinema in 1977. He said film wouldn’t become a true art form until the real democratization of the means of production.
Arguably, camera, grip and lighting technology has now reached this point…
I began going sailing with a group of friends in 2013 and have always had either a DSLR or a mirrorless camera on board (along with the ubiquitous GoPros and smart phones).
Once a ridiculous idea for a character and a backstory had arisen in the middle of the night in the middle of the sea between England and France, and a preposterous plot had started to take shape, I was very glad that technology was at a point where, with a bit of care, a handheld compact camera with a cine lens and a matte box on it could shoot something that could just about stand up on a cinema screen.
Digital colour science has got to the stage where, with preparation and careful planning, it is possible to make defined creative choices on a look even with a real paucity of means.
I think Coppola was right in 1977 - the medium should not solely be defined by its resources.
Why shouldn’t you light a scene with a head torch shining through a pint of lager?
You could argue that every penny of the £17.50 that it cost to make Kenny Dice was up there on the screen when we screened it for the cast and crew at Molinare, London in Europe’s largest grading suite.
I’d counter that I’m not really in the business of eye candy.
Who cares about pretty images that drift about smoothly from one frame to another with no content?
A much more interesting question than what does it look like is what is it saying?
The pitfall that Kenny Dice falls into is that I completely failed to communicate the story to an audience who were not in the film or at least intimately involved in it!
The story is largely opaque to everyone who has seen it, except me, which means it fails as a piece of narrative cinema, resources or none.
Here, in this video I made in 2017 for my friend Richard’s music project Plaza Hotel, the eye candy’s almost there but there’s possibly not enough story in the first place, whether communicated fully or not.
What I’d very much like to do now is to build on all of this and make something obliquely about Brexit, and about England, but also about the current resurgence of the far right in a Europe in economic crisis.
Something with a strong story that is strongly communicated (to people who aren’t in it!), and that looks fantastic.
I love German expressionist cinema, and it comes from a period that historically has a lot to do with where we are now in Europe, socially and politically: the 1930s.
I lived in Madrid for five years and used to spend at least a few hours each weekend gobsmacked in front of the Goyas and the Riberas in the Prado. Goya’s Caprichos use animal imagery to poke holes in the myopic mores of the C18th Bourgeoisie in a period of huge inequality not all that dissimilar to where we are right now.
What if the only thing that can save Europe from blindly following itself down the culs-de-sac of history is a sheep?