For our Director’s Note, today we have the pleasure to interview Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais, the founders and directors of The Underground Film Studio and Film Panic Magazine. Daniel and Clara are two experimental filmmakers who have been making movies together since 2012. Their films have been showcased at international festivals, and they’ve won numerous awards.
Let’s find out more about these great artists.
When did you first start getting into films?
We have both been passionate about cinema and art from a young age. We recently discovered that even though there is an eight year age difference between us we actually shot our first films around the same time. Daniel was in his mid-teens shooting his first video experiments and at the same moment across the country Clara was on holiday with her family visiting Stonehenge and shooting her first movies. We both were hooked from the first shot and made films separately for many years before meeting in 2010 and making our first feature film together, Savage Witches. From this point we joined forces and created The Underground Film Studio.
What is your vision of cinema today?
The time in which we are living is fertile ground for new visions to grow, all the tools and conditions are available for a great variety of unique expressions in cinema and art. Much of what we are seeing seems to be a regurgitation of stuff that has gone before but the films we are interested in are the ones that are uncompromising creative outpourings of their creators, totally in tune with the mind and body of the person/s that created them. What is amazing is how now absolutely anyone can make a film, this is incredible because it means there is absolutely no one you have to answer to, no rules you have to follow, if you want to spend your entire life making totally niche films about some obscure subject that only interests you in a cinematic language that only you understand, then that is an option. This is fascinating, it gives us great hope for the future of humankind.
Who are some of your influences as directors?
Some eternal influences include Derek Jarman, Vera Chytilova, Jeff Keen, Jacques Rivette, Marguerite Duras, Jan Svankmajer, Ken Russell and Alejandro Jodorowsky, we come back to their work over and over again. We are also mad about Hollywood films, we love technicolour films, Douglas Sirk, musicals, westerns, epics, the grand mythical visions of the golden age of Hollywood. We also love film noir, films like Pickup on South Street, Crime Wave and The Killers have penetrated our visions, the wandering loners in the city’s shadows, the mystery and the desperation! Laurel and Hardy have also been a big inspiration to us and have greatly influenced our ideas about performance. We love their unconscious anarchism, how every action and every movement is out of synch with society but totally in tune with their own being, it’s beautiful. Beautiful destruction and elegant chaos!
How do you get inspired?
We work all day every day on our projects, we have organised our lives so that we are able to have the best conditions for creating. Being inspired is not a random haphazard thing, it is very much about hard work and creating the conditions within yourself for ideas to flow in uncensored. But that’s not to say that inspiration doesn’t sometimes spring itself on us unexpected, we never really know where the ideas come from but we are always ready to receive them. The doors to the source of creativity have been well oiled and swing freely and in the meantime we work.
How much room do you leave for improvisation?
We always have a plan, we are obsessive list makers and planners, it probably has something to do with feeling in control, it gives us a sense of footing when faced with the chaos of existence. We both like to see ideas written down in order to get our heads around them, maybe because we are visual people. But every day we rewrite the plan, every day offers new obstacles and possibilities and it is important to be open to them. Having a plan allows us to see immediately how every change would affect the whole and so we can react very quickly to what life throws in our way. A plan is just a way of keeping things moving from one moment to the next, it’s not a precious thing, it’s a tool not a prison, you take it or leave it according to your needs in every moment. Creativity leads the way and in that sense everything that we do is improvised.
Speaking of films, which novel would you transform into a movie?
The whole history of cinema is filled with novels transcribed to the screen, we probably have enough now. Let us have more motion pictures that are manifestations of visions pouring directly from the hearts and souls of their creators. The best thing to do if one wishes to transform a novel to cinema would be to have an utter disrespect for the source material, modern novel adaptations are so scared of not being true to the book because they want to please the readers but movies are not books, they are another language, a totally different type of experience. Inspiration can come from anywhere, if it does come from a book it must be digested and absorbed into the blood stream and then maybe it will pump into the heart of your film without becoming just another illustrated text.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
We have just released In Search Of The Exile, which is a colourful, semi-abstract visionary quest through a mythic wasteland, a doorway into a dreamworld where reality morphs and transforms before our eyes. This is the first release of the three feature films we have made this year, the other two are in the final stages of post-production and will be finished very soon.
The Kingdom Of Shadows is an epic cinematic experience which stirs from the darkness the spirits of our ancestors and reawakens the horror of unresolved crimes and denied desires. We shot it on location in Portugal earlier this year. It is our most ambitious production to date and we are incredibly excited to unleash this surrealist vision into the world. The first screening will take place at the Cambridge Film Festival on 24th October, and it will then be screening at Passos Manuel in Porto, Portugal on 19th November.
The other film we are currently finishing is called Black Sun. This is the first in a series of films exploring humankind’s relationship to darkness, it is a film about a descent into the depths of the soul and the images that we find there. Taking inspiration from the portrayal of female characters in European fairy tales, painting and literature, this film seeks to unravel the true feminine experience from the grip of a patriarchal perspective. The world première will take place in Porto, Portugal in early 2017.
What is the future of cinema?
We now have behind us more than a century of cinema that has seen a great variety of expressions and innovations, the foundations for the language of moving images have been well established and explored. The moment we are living in is incredible because we have available to us the ground work done by the filmmakers that have so far contributed to the medium, from the industrial mainstream to the experimental, underground and amateurs, and much of this massive amount of work can be accessed by anyone through a few clicks. As artists working now we don’t have to limit ourselves to the old boundaries, categories and labels of the previous filmmakers, there’s no need to be restricted in the kind of films we make, anything is possible. The task now is to allow the realisations of a million different dialects of cinematic languages, a million possibilities of creation. To do this we need not break from what has gone before but to build upon it in all directions. We hope to be one gardener in this vast landscape, planting seeds and seeing what grows. What will happen no one knows but we are excited to find out.