The festival was only just wrapped when we heard the shocking and sad news about the untimely death of Anthony Minghella.
Anthony became a patron of BEV in 2003, before our very first UK tour of short films by emerging women directors. Always supporting the under-represented, he has made a huge difference to the development of BEV – acting as our spokesperson in the press and giving industry profile to our work. We are hugely honoured to have benefited from his patronage these years.
Anthony sadley passed away in 2008, below is the trascript from our interview with him from that year. Here he talks about the role of the director in the film making process, film’s own role in society and what a women’s perspective can bring to the craft.
What do you think the role of film in society is?
Well it’s odd because most of us who make films spend so little time thinking why we make them but when I’m writing I get obsessed by the why. If you try to explain to a Martian that what we are doing as a community is walking into a room, sitting in the dark and watching people pretend, to do things, pretend to feel things, pretend to be things it would be very hard to explain what was going on. But I think to talk about what is going on is vital, to understand what role film can play, and I think for me what’s exciting about film is the degree to which film fiction offers us the opportunity to enter into a world where we can see ourselves reflected back in other people. Our gestures are reflected back, our needs and wants reflected back but in a more inflected way so the rules don’t have to observed quite the way they do in life. So we can see the extremities of life’s events. We can witness births, we can witness deaths, we can witness other people’s intimacies, their regrets, their mistakes and I suppose in some way collectively we judicate the wisdom of those decisions. But most of all, I suppose classically what we are trying to do is to feel through other people and to experience things through other people and the great thing for me about film fiction, documents of film, is that they allow us to look at the world from entirely different perspectives, sometimes simultaneously, and we are able to inhabit points of view that we can never have ourselves in our very limited range of experiences. We have one set of parents, we have one partner, we have one set of children, we have one set of our own major life experiences and they are not really enough to extrapolate how the world works. Film fiction enables us to for a second be female, be male, be young males, be old males, be black, be yellow, be white, be in the 14th century, be in the 22nd century, to challenge us with provocations of how the world might look from a different country, or a different culture. Those experiences are invaluable and what they lead to for me is an imperative towards compassion. Once you shift your perspective, then you have to see that many points of view can be obtained at the same time, that from most peoples perspective, how they see the world is correct and yet all these correct positions lead to pain, hostility, and conflict.
How much do you think the director informs this?
Well I was a playwright and moved into film as a writer and it then became clear to me that the pen for a film is the camera and if you wanna write film you better write it with a camera as much as with ink or with, or as much as in the cutting room with a razor blade and so I think the whole process of authoring a film for me begins on paper and ends in the cutting room so if you’re a monomaniac and you wanna control the authoring of a film you better directed them as well as write them, that’s always seemed to me the organic process of filmmaking so the director is authoring the film. Its quite evident to me when I was just delivering the screenplay that the director was in charge of how people experience the film. How the director looks, informs how the audience looks. I always felt that in successful moments in movies, the director has a perspective and a need to look in a particular way and that purposeful look is understood across languages, across countries, if there is a purpose and when the director has a need to look.
Is there a way you can say more concisely about what we gain from a women’s perspective?
Well in a movie you can be forced suddenly to see the world from the perspective of a woman or through the eyes of a child or through the eyes of a very old person or someone whose colour is not the same as yours. You’re challenged to simply reassess the perspective. I mean the camera itself is an eye and an eye that can shift around so that you’re looking at the world from many, many different points of view and I think as you look at the world from those points of view, you move towards?. I think the role of film fiction is to move you towards compassion. I think one of the humbling things as a director is the number of times when you make a shot where your purpose is not sufficiently clear and it doesn’t travel anywhere so I think the challenge is always to know that how you look as a director, which means where you put the camera, why you put the camera, how you move the camera, how you’re viewing the performance is exactly in some odd alchemic way how the audience will look and understand the performance or the shot.
Could you repeat..how you look..
I think what’s clear is that the camera has a single eye and you’re looking at the world through one eye and that one eye is oddly the eye of the director. How the director looks at the performance or at the world is how the audience is going to look. In the theatre when you preset a series of interactions between actors and a series of staged pictures, the audience are scanning to determine what to focus on. Obviously the great director of the theatre helps you to look at a particular moment but you’re essentially making an election, choosing what part of the stage you want to embrace and think about. In film the director decides, so that perspective is what informs how you look and perceive that material.
Does it matter who’s making the films?
I think it matters in every possible way whose making those films because that perspective and that purpose is determined by all of the constituents of the personality of the director and it’s very alarming and odd that that’s the preserve largely of white men. And you wouldn’t want all the information to come from one distorted perspective. Its much better to have views from everybody, from all around the world not just women in England, women in Africa, women in India, not just men in England but men in Australia, not just young men but old men. I think that all kinds of ghettoising goes on? can I say all that again cos I feel like I finally know what I want to say.
Its absolutely critical that this news, this news from film fiction isn’t the preserve of one group of people – doesn’t matter what gender they are, its just simply a mistake if all we get is information from one perspective. I’ve talked about the fact that one of the wonderful things about the movies is that you’re forced to look at the world inside the world of the film from various points of view and look at events from various points of view. It may be good that those messages are created by people also with different points of view and different genders and different races and different ages. There’s so little opportunity at the moment for more than one tiny constituency, to speak on film. I think the most exciting thing that is happening at the moment is that the way that film is being collected and broadcast and made is gonna have a profound influence on the kind of messages we will receive as audiences because in the past films were enormously expensive to make, the equipment was expensive, the means of communication on film was very expensive, so of course it gravitates to one essentially white, essentially male, essentially middle class group who get to speak and get to have their say. And what’s gonna happen is that the means of production are going to be surrendered to almost anybody out there and what’s thrilling is that as I’ve been travelling – over the past year I’ve been to 25, 26 different countries, I’m seeing that this democracy of filmmaking means that more and more people are having access to speaking on film. I think soon because of the way that a film is delivered is going to change, we won’t necessarily need really expensive equipment to project film. We wont need enormously expensive equipment to collect film, to create documents, it means that more and more voices will be heard and that morality of speaking on film is a fantastic thing and something to celebrate
Do you think women bring something to filmmaking?
All I can say is that I come from a large Italian Catholic family and there were three sisters and two brothers and the idea that somehow in my family, the two boys could speak but the 3 girls would have gags on would make for a very peculiar household. So if that were the way that film speaks – that men are allowed to speak but women are gagged, then it seems rather an absurd way of running things. Of course it makes absolutely no sense at all that men should have some propriety right to speak on film and women don’t and I think it’s as big a mistake to assume something intrinsic about the feminine perspective as it is to say there’s something coherent or generic about a male perspective. I think there are as many points of views and sensibilities in women as there are in men. The fact is that we simply do not hear enough of any of them so I would hope that there wasn’t something distinctively male, as I wouldn’t want that to be the case as I hope there isn’t something distinctively female. What I hope is that there’s something distinctively human about all individuals and the idea that for some reason because of gender or race or creed those voices are denied is appalling.