Originally published by Risco Cinema, 15 March 2018
GURCIUS: My life changed forever on the day when, still a child, I watched the classic Dunyayi Kurtaran Adam by Çetin İnanç, better known as “Turkish Star Wars”, and in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, the hero puts a golden brain and a golden lightning-shaped sword into a pot of clay and melts it over a fire, and as the gold turns liquid, he plunges his hands in the molten metal and then emerges with golden gloves which have super mystical powers. For years and years this scene has stuck with me and never failed to impress me. Seeing The Kingdom Of Shadows this scene came to my mind again when I saw the figure of the alchemist and his burning hands. I don’t think that film is a direct inspiration for you, but I imagine that alchemical inspirations come from similar places. Could you talk a bit about this scene in particular and the figure of the alchemist?
DANIEL & CLARA: We first became interested in alchemy in 2013 when we began a period of intensive dream study. For a couple of years we would begin each day by writing down and discussing our dreams, we found a lot of connections between the imagery in our dreams and mythology, fairy tales, the history of painting and also alchemical manuscripts. What impressed us so much about the alchemists was the strange beauty and mysteriousness of the images they would use to symbolise their work. Through the writings of Carl Jung and Marie Louise Von Franz we began to understand the work of the alchemist as being one of inner transformation, of spiritual transformation and a quest for self-knowledge. This is exactly what we wanted our films to be, each film is a vessel in which we place the materials of ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, personal obsessions, fears, hang-ups, memories, everything that we are and we boil them up. We break ourselves down and travel though the various dimensions of ourselves and seek to heal, to know ourselves deeply and be transformed. The Alchemist in The Kingdom Of Shadows (played by Kai Fiáin) represents this work, the act of placing oneself in the boiling pot, he is both the material of the work and the witness to the work, in the end he transforms but he transforms into what he always has been, he becomes himself fully manifest!
GURCIUS: What other symbols does this film carry? I’ve read one review of it by someone who was not familiar with western religious myths and I thought it was very interesting how he tried to read the images without any knowledge of the bible. What other mystical mixtures can we find in the film?
DANIEL & CLARA: Growing out of the material gathered from our dreams The Kingdom Of Shadows started life as being a film about our families, not necessarily our families as they are externally but as they exist in our dreams or within us as symbols. We wanted to make a film that would heal the wounds of our ancestors in a very real way, we needed to be liberated from the hold that the past has over us so we can be at peace with ourselves and live our own lives and not what is dictated by the past. This journey led us to thinking about how ancestry works, how psychological knots are passed on from one generation to the next. The giant mythological knot right at the heart of our culture is represented by the archetypal man and woman Adam and Eve. We wanted to unpick and transform these images, with this film we wanted to heal Adam and Eve! Through our alchemical studies we met with the figure of the Rebis, an androgynous half man half woman, a figure in which the opposites are united, this unity and split is represented several times through our film, in the Alchemist, in the Lovers (Adam & Eve) and also in the daughter and Cain. This is not about a heteronormative relationship dynamic but a reuniting of opposite energies, they could also be called light and darkness or sun and moon, any symbol of duality… really these are about the masculine and feminine forces that exist within each of us.
GURCIUS: What about cinematographic mysticism? I see Shuji Terayama, Guy Maddin, Maya Deren, Richard Kern, Jack Smith and many others. But I wonder if it is more that I see these filmmakers in everything and that they contaminate with their strength each new image that appears before me. Who are the cinematic and ritualistic gurus that inspired you to create the images and the narrative of this film?
DANIEL & CLARA: Standing strongly by our side through the making of all our films are the spirits of Derek Jarman, Jeff Keen, Vera Chytilova, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Raúl Ruiz, Sergei Parajanov, Jan Svankmajer and so many more, we love so many kinds of films, all cinema is an inspiration to us really! In some ways the particular influences on the The Kingdom Of Shadows are the same as our other films but added to the mix we were thinking more particularly about silent cinema techniques, the use of tableaux and staged scenes filmed in wider shots, but it’s silent cinema via the Czech New Wave. We were also thinking a lot about performance and the language of gesture, taking cues from people like Meredith Monk but also, maybe less obviously, from Laurel & Hardy and Buster Keaton, I suppose giving our performances a more expressionist inflection rather than comical. All this stuff is in the mix, plus a major influence of European painting, particularly Italian Renaissance painting and medieval illuminated manuscripts, specifically the wonderful alchemical illustrations of the Splendor Solis.
GURCIUS: If some images are reinterpretations of dreams and their reinterpretation changes the meaning of the memories and images, how do you escape the endless looping, of filming always the same dream, reinterpreting it differently every time you film it?
DANIEL & CLARA: On one level we suspect we may be making the same film over and over again, there is a core set of themes and images that we don’t seem to be able to escape, we guess that these things must be somehow fundamental to who we are and central to our task as artists. We recently looked back over the films we have made so far and realised that on one level they could all be seen as creation myths, this question of the role of the artist/creator and the nature of creativity being turned over again and again on both a personal and mythological level.
One of the incredible things about dreams is that you can’t control them, they bring from the unconscious an endlessly surprising array of images that one could never put together in a conscious manner. Dreams have this startling ability to be simultaneously confounding while carrying a sense of being just right. We draw strongly on the scenes and images that come to us in our dreams but we are never concerned with attempting to recreate them accurately as scenes in the films, they always transform through the process of the making. What we hope is that we can create a cinema that works on the audience in the same way dreams do, that the films can confound and surprise but also feel like everything is just as it should be, opening up doors to new dimensions of feeling, thought and understanding of oneself.
GURCIUS: What is The Phantom Film Band? Some vocals made me think of music by Diamanda Galas and Iva Bittova, and the sound design reminded me often of musical performances I’ve been to where music is made with the clinking of cutlery, mics installed on knives, food being crushed and chewed in high volume. What was the experience of dealing with the sound track in a film completely without dialogue? What’s the importance of working with different textures of sound? I really identify with the freedom to shoot without worrying with the general sound, and recreating it from scratch in the editing.
DANIEL & CLARA: The Phantom Film Band is the name we use when the music has either been entirely created by us or has been heavily directed by us in collaboration with some musicians as opposed to working with a composer. For The Kingdom Of Shadows we created the music by casting musicians in the same way we would cast actors, we found people who could perform the right instrument or sound and directed them through an improvised session in a recording studio. We then took all these recordings and processed, layered and edited them to build the final soundtrack. Some of the instruments we play ourselves, some are played by non-musicians and others by professionals, but used in ways that are more experimental or challenging to their training. We wanted to create a sound that was another character in the film, it had to feel as if it was haunting the film, that it wasn’t just an illustration of the scene on screen but that it was an active element in itself. It is the soundtrack that really breathes life into the film. As you have noted we shot the film entirely silently and every single sound from each footstep, creaking door, every breath, wind sound and cough was recorded in a studio and added after the edit was complete. We always work like this, we don’t want the films to sound naturalistic, we are not interested in being realistic but in creating a sensorial experience in which every single element has an entire universe wound into it!
GURCIUS: What kind of music influences your thoughts on cinema?
DANIEL & CLARA: Do you know the album The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter by The Incredible String Band? Or Hounds Of Love by Kate Bush? We’d like our films to be like these albums, a whole world with different moods and characters, different time periods and dimensions all colliding and existing in a single form, every time you listen to them new things can be discovered, they grow and change as you change. If we could make films like this, that get better and more complex with each viewing, then we’d be very happy!
GURCIUS: Family memories, literature, what else can be fuel?
DANIEL & CLARA: Everything can be fuel for creativity, the body is important and little discussed in relation to how creativity works but cinema and all art originates in the body. One’s films are extensions of the body, films are our phantom limbs. The relationship between our organs, our diet and physical environment all impact on our creativity, our thoughts and feelings and these things are all present in the final films. If you were to cut us open and go on a journey through the inside of our bodies you would find our films, maybe The Kingdom Of Shadows would be wound up in our intestines, In Search Of The Exile in our throats, The Quest For The Cine-Rebis under our eyelids and Savage Witches in our blood!
GURCIUS: Going back to the past: how did you both meet and at what point did you decide to create The Underground Film Studio?
DANIEL & CLARA: We met at the end of 2010 in Brighton, UK at the launch event of issue 5 of One+One Filmmakers Journal, a printed journal that Daniel founded and was running at the time, to which Clara contributed an article about Stan Brakhage. We were both looking for a way to make cinema that was deeply meaningful, personal and truly independent from the industrial mindset and processes that had contaminated the “independent” film scene. We wanted to dedicate ourselves completely to a process of exploratory, experimental and personal filmmaking and investigate all the endless possibilities of what cinema could be!
A few weeks after we met we began work on our first feature film together, Savage Witches. This film was created over 18 months of intense daily work, shooting, editing, animating, re-shooting, tearing it all apart and starting again. It was over this period that the dynamic of our collaboration was formed, our joint mission articulated and The Underground Film Studio was founded as a banner under which we create and distribute all of our projects.
GURCIUS: Is it possible to split the technical and creative jobs in a rational way when you create a film as a duo? When does working as a duo become a torture and when does it become total pleasure?
DANIEL & CLARA: We feel as if we are one artist split into two bodies, it is always a total pleasure to be creating films together, there is no division or separation in the work and also no fixed formula. On one film one of us may operate the camera and the other work more with performers, and then on another it may be the other way but most of the time we both do a bit of everything. We often work with lots of people but very rarely have a crew so we end up doing pretty much everything ourselves. The way we work is very intuitive and is made possible by the fact that we are in a constant dialogue in between shooting, our time is spent writing, researching and experimenting so when we come to the actual shoots very little conversation is needed and we can work very quickly and with ease. Generally speaking we both find verbal communication frustrating but in the moments of shooting somehow we both often seem to have the same thought at the same time, so a gesture or a single word is all that is needed to keep things going.
GURCIUS: How do personal memories and experiences mix when creating as a duo?
DANIEL & CLARA: Everything is put on the table and mixed together in the melting pot of our collaboration. Somehow everything we do is deeply personal but then also not personal at all, we could say ‘here is my heart and soul but it’s nothing personal’. We are both very self-centred but when we are in the process of creating our art we are servants, not masters. Of course we have egos as much as anyone but maybe by being two it has enabled us to switch the ego off in the moments when it really counts. It’s a very strange thing, this is probably why we don’t fight, we never feel we need to get our own way, it is more that we both try to tune into the film itself and understand what it wants to do, how it wants to be, and do our best to bring it to life.
GURCIUS: How do you define authorship in a film created with four hands and open to all kinds of improvisation with the camera and the actors? When you shoot, are you open to improvisation or is there a detailed plan that imposes itself?
DANIEL & CLARA: We always have a very clear plan but the plan is open to be re-written in every moment. We think of ourselves as mediums and protectors of the film, the film speaks through us so we take authorial credit for the film as it exists through our personal conditions, but deep down we know that the film is a set of images and ideas that needs to come into consciousness, we are just one channel through which it comes. Maybe the same film would manifest through someone else with a different style, rhythm and form but it would be the same soul in a different body.
For The Kingdom Of Shadows, we started with a four page script which consisted of notes for scenes and some reference images. We had access to the central location which was Clara’s grandparents house that had been closed up for many years since her grandfather died, and we had a cast of various people that we assembled by instinct and intuition, all non-actors but all artists in different fields, filmmakers, dancers, photographers, comic book artists and musicians. We experimented with creating their performances through improvisation, there weren’t any rehearsals at all, most performers arrived on set only having a vague sense of what was in store, we started with a visualisation exercise which created the atmosphere we were trying to invoke in this film and then we got to work! It all happened very quickly, the main shoot in the house took place over two days, and the rest in two or three hour blocks over a few more days in which we worked with only one or two performers. We worked slightly differently with each performer depending on their personality and the type of character they were playing. One of the reasons we shoot without synch sound is that our approach to directing is very much like a silent movie director, we talk the actors through each moment, guiding them through the scenes. But our process is very collaborative and requires trust on both sides, we direct clearly but the performer also brings so much, everything grows from the meeting point between our imagination and their physicality and creativity.
GURCIUS: I love cine-manifestos, which made the reading and the watching of The Quest for the Cine-Rebis a very pleasurable experience for me. It made me think of the writings on cinema by the Kuchar Brothers and also of the book Manifesto Canibal, written by my friend Petter Baiestorf. All of these writings celebrate a heart eternally open to the act of creating and making cinema, and even though there are certain differences between them, what they have in common is the fact that it is the artist who makes the rules and these will always be in constant mutation. What is the motivation to write a manifesto?
DANIEL & CLARA: Our manifesto began life as a pile of notes that had been gathering on our desks for several years, these contained thoughts on cinema, creativity, the role of the artist plus other topics such as dreams, mythology, alchemy, tarot etc. Initially we were planning to write a book about cinema that would be one part autobiography, one part investigation of our films and the films we love, and one part a personal philosophy of cinema. And then in 2015 when we were crowdfunding for The Kingdom of Shadows and Black Sun we started making short videos for our sponsors as a way of saying thank you for supporting us and several fragments of our notes from the ‘philosophy of cinema’ section ended up used as voice overs on these short films. We made 27 shorts over two weeks in a manic burst of activity and by the time we were done it was clear we should do something more with all these short pieces, which somehow expressed in their images exactly what we’d been trying to put into words, so we set about creating the film and written manifesto summarising our ideas. It seemed important to us that if we were to have a manifesto that it should at least be in part a film as what we are discussing can never fully be expressed in words. We are still planning to publish our book one day too.
GURCIUS: How do you not go mad with the endless possibilities of creating and recreating images and films in the face of the brevity of life?
DANIEL & CLARA: We do go mad with this issue! If only you knew how deeply it plagues us and pushes us into constant hyperactive activity and sometimes irrational behaviour!! But then we have to calm down and go moment by moment and not forget to enjoy ourselves too! Every day we wake up and we get to work and we try to make every moment count. It’s amazing to be alive, in a body and to experience all these wonderful images and stories that flutter through our minds. We try to organise our life in such a way as to minimise the time spent on activities that are not important to us and maximise the amount of time we spend on our work. We really believe in discipline and craft and try to create in ourselves the best conditions for making art, it is incredibly important that we do this every single day, we are easily distracted so we have to impose some routines on ourselves. It is of course not possible in one short lifetime to create all the films we want to make but we’ll try nonetheless!
GURCIUS: Do you have the discipline to release a film right after you shoot it or do some of your works become prisoners of your archives and closets for an indefinite time until they earn their proper place in your filmography?
DANIEL & CLARA: We’ve been very lucky to have the incredible support of our dear friend James Mackay who programs the Microcinema strand of the Cambridge Film Festival in the UK, he has hosted the world premieres of several of our feature films which have usually been booked while we’re still in post-production so we’ve not often had to panic too much about the first screening at least. We do have several films though that have never been screened publicly and even some that haven’t been seen by anyone at all, this is not so much an issue of discipline or shyness but that they were made more for ourselves than for an audience, small experiments that fall out from the sides of other larger projects. Maybe if there were more screening opportunities we could show these but as screenings are limited we prefer to focus on the exhibition of the feature films.
GURCIUS: Some Exploitation directors are proud to declare that they shoot only for money, even when they produce works close to the art-house, often involuntarily. Many times, commercial failure makes these directors change direction, creating filmographies of extreme opposites. What is your experience of raising money? Is there a possibility for profit and distribution after the production of a film? Or do your efforts to raise funds always take you to the creation of another film, which will allow for the next film, and then the next, in the eternal loop of madness that is to make films without the luck of being a millionaire?
DANIEL & CLARA: Everyday we wonder if we’ll ever be successful enough to live with the luxury of minimum wage!
We’ve never had much luck in raising money, being quite shy and introverts means we are not great at going to people and convincing them to support us. We do have some skills for putting together a gang of like-minded artists and transforming limitations into creative gifts but we do also feel that we need to make some changes in order to progress into new areas with our films. We are currently planning some more ambitious projects that will need a bigger team and certainly some help in terms of organising and producing so we are on the look out for the right collaborators to make that happen.
In terms of profit from films, we really don’t know, maybe that system is over, especially for small independently produced work. No one really pays for films any more and maybe that’s ok, we don’t have a solution to how the artist can survive but we shouldn’t let that be an excuse to cling to an out-of-date system, we need to keep exploring, investigate new production structures and support systems.
GURCIUS: I’ve read a public statement of yours once, letting out about all the difficulties of getting screenings, raising money and gathering critical attention to your films and how very frustrating that can be at times. To receive just a minimal return from the 100, 200 different correspondences, when you’re just trying to make the film itself exist. I identify with that and by making your experience public it became clear that there are many people out there who also identify. I know that this feeling of frustration becomes smaller when there are also good news, but there are moments when everything seems to be totally in vain. How are you feeling about this right now?
DANIEL & CLARA: The frustrations are still the same, we are always trying to find ways to deal with these things that will help our films reach more people but also make sure they are presented in the right way, and at the same time trying to protect ourselves and our energy, which we really just want to put into good relationships and our creative work. That is what we always try to do. We have found a great source of inspiration and energy from joining forces with other filmmakers, organising screenings of their work in the UK and Portugal and having them organise screenings of our work. Collaboration and community is the key for us, it keeps us going and is a means for survival! When we are in the position of programmers we do everything in our power to serve the films and the filmmaker, to show the films in the best technical conditions possible, respect the work and the filmmakers, have good communication and share our enthusiasm with the audience. It is always about the films for us, celebrating the work and making sure the magical encounter between filmmaker, film and audience can exist in the best way.
GURCIUS: Is the low-budget an advantage? Is it tiring to film with few resources? Sometimes I feel tired and I’d really like to shoot with bigger budgets, to understand how more money could give wings to my imagination and my team. At the same time, I am grateful for the environment of collaboration and intimacy between friends that maybe is only possible with fewer resources? Having said this, how do you see the future of your own cinema? Is it worth it?
DANIEL & CLARA: We have a stack of about twenty-five scripts which we’ve written over the past seven years that are ready to go, all of them need some kind of budget in varying degrees but all still incredibly low in relation to most productions. We really feel that with just a small amount of support we could create such beautiful unique visions, we are just waiting for the chance to bring them to life. So far we’ve made eight feature films and they have rarely exceeded budgets of one or two thousand pounds. There are of course many great benefits when making such small productions and we really believe that creativity can transform the most dire of conditions into something interesting and magical but there is also a great deal of frustration too. Sometimes we feel we are stuck making a certain kind of film, using certain kinds of equipment and always unable to pay our performers, which limits the amount of time they can give us, and in turn this impacts how we work with them, whether we can rehearse, do multiple takes of a scene or elaborate set-ups etc.
Sometimes these limitations can truly turn into gifts, The Kingdom Of Shadows was made for the most meagre of budgets, we just about had enough money to pay for travel expenses and food and that was it. The bulk of the film was shot over a weekend with a few scenes being shot on evenings over a week, but somehow this lack of time is what made it work, everyone was super focused and did exactly what was required of them and threw themselves in fully knowing we had only one chance to make it happen. It was incredible, an amazing atmosphere, very relaxed but driven, steadily working towards getting it made.
We have another film in the pipeline called The Cloud Of Unknowing, it is a four hour mystical-sci-fi mystery film set over a single night in the city of Porto in Portugal, some of the performers and characters from the The Kingdom Of Shadows will return. This film will definitely need some money to make, not a huge amount but enough to be able to get the camera and equipment we need, some access to locations and a few other special items which are hard to do on no budget like a hippopotamus, maybe a tiger and some other animals for one scene, and there are a few special FX too. We are really determined to make this film, we know it will be the best film we’ve made yet, it’s bubbling up from the core of our beings! So we’ll need to find some money for that, it can’t be made for nothing.
GURCIUS: I see you two as excellent archaeologists of cinema, involved in a great passion for making films, but also with a great love for film clubs and spreading the word not only about new voices but always in a constant effort and joy to celebrate the masters as well. In the virtual pages of FILM PANIC, besides promoting your own work, you celebrate the icons. In the printed editions of FILM PANIC you celebrate the new, in a poetic and dedicated labour that often reconnects me with the research and writings of Jairo Ferreira, author of the book Cinema de Invenção, the most beautiful book on Brazilian cinema, about the kind of cinema that makes me jump up and want to make films too. You also screen these films, carrying out a valuable service of discovering and promoting other filmmakers. Wouldn’t it be easier to just focus on your own work? Can you say what appeals to you in sharing and reflecting on films by other filmmakers? How does all this work relate with your own artistic practice?
DANIEL & CLARA: The screenings and publications and general research into films and filmmakers is essential to us, it is an extension of our own work and feeds into it. Every filmmaker we interview in FILM PANIC is an inspiration to us, they open up new possibilities of what cinema can be. We interview them because we genuinely need to know more about them and their work, and we feel driven to share it in the hope that this will reach others who will find them interesting too. Cinema is our daily life, it occupies most of our thoughts and our time so it feels natural to put out the magazine and put on the screenings, especially as our main mission beyond making films is to champion those whose work we find exciting and who might not find it easy to have their work shown because it falls outside of the categories of the various cinema establishments.
GURCIUS: It was on one of those meticulous archaeological quests through hundreds of unanswered messages, in search of the same things you vented about, more screenings, more ways of making my film exist, more possible readings coming from other thinking heads, that fortunately I found you. I was attracted by the name of the magazine, reminding me of the movement created by Fernando Arrabal, Jodorowsky and Topor, and by the stated intent to share a cinema that was surrealist, experimental and underground. I was generously received and was very honoured to be interviewed in your magazine. You also trusted me to book a date to screen a film that I hadn’t finished yet, taking the risk to screen the most unpredictable deliria, without knowing if they would even exist. I took this to heart during the editing and it was a further incentive to explore the freedom in editing the film. The certainty of a kind of support which is not just concerned about commercial success, as this success comes together by understanding what is the audience for the film and finding ways to reach them. My love for the kind of cinema that drives you to madness and loses itself in its own symbols made me at ease with your ideas and very happy to be a part of your project. I see an optimism about the certainty that there are new things springing up all the time, that I think is very important in a world so often full of darkness like our own. This encouragement and madly optimistic confidence is refreshing and enlivens the utopia that we all need, not to give up. Is it possible to be an eternal incentive to utopias in the filmmaking world, which is often a selfish world?
DANIEL & CLARA: One thing that we are currently very excited about is that we are finding more and more filmmakers who we feel an affinity with, there are people dotted about around the world who seem to share our passions, drives and excitement for a certain sensibility of cinema. There was a time, maybe five years ago, when we felt totally alone, it was very disheartening, the kind of films we were making and striving towards didn’t seem to exist and were being totally rejected by nearly all screenings and festivals, but over time people have come to light. We have written about this in the latest issue of FILM PANIC, we feel that there has now emerged a new avant-garde movement of sorts which we are calling The New Visionary Cinema. It is not a movement in the sense of being organised around a fixed group with a stated objective and plan, it is an international movement that has materialised organically and spontaneously out of the conditions of our time. It is in part a reaction to the dominant ideologies of our age but also made possible by the technology available to us now. It is a fascinating time to be making films, there are a lot of incredible creative and surprising things happening in the world of cinema right now!
GURCIUS: To be able to influence people to make films from nothing, to become fully free and dedicated artists bound by a love for cinema, is this an incentive for you to continue with FILM PANIC and The Underground Film Studio? Do you ever feel that the utopia will not work most of the time, everything is in vain and nothing new will emerge in the horizon? Is it really necessary to always search for what is new?
DANIEL & CLARA: If we can go through life creating cinema that we are passionate about, collaborating and spending time with other artists who inspire us and whose work we believe in, then that is all that we need for a rich and fulfilling life. If we also in anyway inspire an artist to follow their own path and fulfil their own creative desires then this would be an incredible honour! We are not seeking to create a utopia as such but simply to carve a niche where we and other like-minded cine-eccentrics can create, share and exchange. Every time we finish a film it is a success, every time we discover a new artist who excites us it is a triumph against mundanity and conformism. For us creating something new for the sake of newness is not the goal, but creating a space for that which should exist and doesn’t is. It doesn’t matter if what we do is only useful to a very small group or to hundreds of people, what matters is that it genuinely creates a support, a resource and an inspiration for someone, anyone, maybe just for ourselves. Our feeling is that it is a miracle to exist, and that each of us is totally unique and the goal of life is to manifest that uniqueness, our films and our projects and the way we live is our way of doing that!
GURCIUS: When I was fifteen, I’d often watch five or six films a day. At the moment I see myself struggling to find time to watch films all day again. Sometimes I decide not to watch anything and I feel relieved. Other times the act of rewatching or watching something for the first time saves my day, and more often than not, my life. How do you organise your time for the pleasure of watching films?
DANIEL & CLARA: A couple of years ago we realised that it would never be possible to watch every film ever made, I think unconsciously we’d been trying but even if no more films were made from this moment onwards it would be impossible to watch everything ever created. So this realisation let us off the hook! We usually watch one film a day, often something relating to our current research or projects and of course sometimes just for pure escapism too. All films have a purpose and they can serve you in different ways at different times, some films offer intellectual stimulation (often things such as documentaries and essay films), some inspire you to some activity (porn and political films are in this category), some numb the mind and tranquillise you (most mainstream films are here but any film with a gripping narrative that sucks you in) and some hold you in a sublime mystical arrest (another word for this is Art). It is that latter type we wish to make but all films are valid and serve a purpose.
GURCIUS: The Kingdom Of Shadows features many special guests in acting roles, functioning mainly under the scheme of work between friends. I see you have a constant exchange with Rouzbeh Rashidi, you’ve been in his films and vice versa. How did you first make contact and started the partnership with Rashidi and EFS (Experimental Film Society)?
DANIEL & CLARA: There are lots of friends in The Kingdom Of Shadows but also some people we met only on the day of filming. We’d had contact with everyone beforehand in one way or another but some of them we hardly knew at all so we took a chance on them by inviting them to take part and they took a chance on us by agreeing to join us for this strange production without really knowing what they would be getting into! Rouzbeh was someone who we’d been in contact with for a little while beforehand, we’d spoken a bit online and exchanged our work with each other. We had all already felt that there were strong connections between what we were doing in our films and the direction we wanted to go in the future so in retrospect it seems inevitable that we would collaborate at some point. When we were planning the shoot and the character of the Inspector materialised we felt that Rouzbeh would be perfect for the role, we had no idea if he’d be up for it but we offered the part to him just to see what would happen and he accepted! This turned out to be such a wonderful thing, not only for the film but also because we have become such good friends over the past two years and we’ve now collaborated on a number of projects, including performing in his latest film Phantom Islands and also working on screenings and publications together. We have a lot more projects in the pipeline which will be announced soon, including the return of the Inspector!
GURCIUS: Is it possible to make money with films made outside of the hegemonic patterns and narrative structures of mass culture? Does it really matter to make money? And are there really people who care about the existence of filmmakers like Gurcius Gewdner, Clara Pais, Daniel Fawcett or Rouzbeh Rashidi? I feel that for everything that is created in this life there is someone somewhere whose heart is open to receive it, but how do you reach those people? And does this connection really mean anything when the most beautiful reviews many times come from those people who don’t like these films?
DANIEL & CLARA: Part of our mission is to seek out the people who really do care about the films and join forces with them, to work with them for the survival of ourselves, those like us and most importantly for the films themselves! The films will eventually have a life of their own, they’ll find themselves in the hands of people who want to see them and who will be excited by them, there’s not much we can do other than make the work available in the way that feels right to us. There’s no right way to go about this, some people like to release their work online for free, some like to show only in cinemas, some only in festivals or galleries or straight to DVD, only the filmmaker can decide what is right and that in turn will impact on who the film reaches and how it is experienced. There certainly are people who care, we for one care deeply for your work and for a number of other filmmakers, we wait with great excitement to see what you will make next and will do anything in our power to support you. We also know that there is a handful of people out there who really do care about our films too and this keeps us going through all of the tough moments.
In regards to making money, we have no idea, we just about survive and scrape together enough to make the work, at the moment we don’t know what more we can do. One thing we do know is we’ll never stop making films! So we keep creating, keep supporting those we can and see what happens.
GURCIUS: Thank you for your wonderful work.