Tapes From The Revolutionary will be televised and streamed on NPO DOC (Dutch Broadcaster), in association with Breaking Grounds on 1/11 at 17:25pm. On the NPO Doc website there is a interview between myself and Laura Hisken from Breaking Grounds, which I speak in fluent dutch. Below is the English translation.
What is it like to see the world through someone else’s eyes?
Filmmaker, Scott Willis discovers Andy, a self-proclaimed communist revolutionary that documents his life on a Hi-8 camcorder. In Tapes From The Revolutionary , Aiming to understand the purpose behind the tapes Willis picks up his camera, however Andy has his own agenda for the project.
You say in your documentary, you and Andy first met when he was filming in art college where you were studying. How was this first meeting?
I invigilated an exhibition when Andy walked into the gallery. An intriguing figure, with a Hi-8 camcorder in his hands. He filmed everything that caught his attention. I could imagine that there was a certain roughness to his unconventional way of filming so I wanted to see the tape.
He hesitated to give me his tape and began to test my knowledge of Marxism and Communist cinema. He invited me to his apartment, which I did, but unfortunately I left without a Hi-8 tape. When I left he ran after me. He gave me his tape and agreed to work on my project. He said he noticed that I was genuinely interested in him and I think he finally just trusted me, which was a big step for him.
Could you talk about how your film became experimental, playful and reflective instead of the observational documentary you initially wanted to make?
Since this is my thesis film, there was an expectation that the film should look polished an go to plan. I always knew there would be an experimental element to the film stemming from the self-reflexive/participatory footage that documents the films own creation aspect. However this would all be used to show observations of an elderly man who documented his thoughts on film.
However it wasn’t until production took place, Andy began to direct/argue with me and the theme of control (lack of) surfaced. Though stressful, the tension between us was comical and created an interesting dynamic. Our persistent clashes left me with no choice but to include it into the film. I became a character.
Do you feel you got a chance to see the world through Andy’s eyes?
By looking at his tapes I did get a clear insight into Andy. There were sections that I did not want to use in the final film. Some moments were a little too weird… he does have a very imaginative mind!
Do you recognize yourself in Andy as a filmmaker ?
There are parallels of my younger self and Andy. The first parallel that comes to mind is that they both address an imaginary audience within the camcorder. However the film concludes with Andy filming alone in his bedroom, he self-reflects and articulates the personal conflict he has as an artist. My present self identifies with the Andy you see at the end of the film.
After Tapes From The Revolutionary I have never seen Andy. However one year since the film, unexpectedly, Andy phoned me to thank me for raising awareness on his activity as a revolutionary. He said he would have not agreed to be in the film if he knew the films outcome, though he does feel it is a unique and creative film. The phone call can be heard here:
I learnt a lot from making Tapes From The Revolutionary. One of the main points was, ironically, to be less controlling. By stepping a side it makes room for serendipity to occur and with that brings unplanned, unrepeatable moments that make the films stronger.