From film Landscapes of the Heart to transgressive performance art

11th June 2024

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An interview with Andrew Finch, director, writer and curator, whose work has formed part of this year’s Brighton Spiegeltent programme.

What inspired you to become a filmmaker, and how did you start your journey in the film industry?

I was a student at South London Gallery’s Film School, a radical film school for underrepresented filmmakers in 2019, led by Palestinian-British director Saeed Farouky.

The course gave me the confidence to think outside the box about how to make a film, away from big production teams and budgets. Just doing it yourself without asking permission and collaborating with friends and other like-minded creatives.

I made my first film, Landscapes of the Heart, which explored Brighton’s subcultures over the past thirty years in 2019. It got picked up by local and national film festivals and I co-founded an independent film festival in London afterwards.

Last year, I received a BFI-funded mentorship and a small grant from Cinema For All to establish a film exhibition in London, called Carousel, which I’ve been curating since at Photo Book Café in East London. It invites emerging and established filmmakers to showcase their work around a changing theme.

Since then, I’ve been working on my own films, writing for arts publications and programming the fourth edition of Carousel which will premiere later this year.

How do you approach storytelling and character development in your films?

I’m less interested in making narrative films that follow a typical arc and structure, although I enjoy watching them. As a director, I try to move toward a sense of feeling or emotion that can be carried to the audience whilst remaining close to the heart of the subject matter.

My films utilise on-screen text, archive footage, found images, audio field recordings and, most recently, AI-voice in Deer Park, to tell a story through the bricoleur method of using what’s to hand to build a tapestry within the work.

Where did the inspiration come from for your latest film Deer Park?

Last summer, Mike Sefton, organiser of Nothing Short of a Total War!, approached me with the idea of a night dedicated to transgressive performance art at Brighton Spiegeltent.

Sometime after, No Hawkers Gallery in Brighton exhibited the archives of Kim and

Lee Oliver based around the group’s Coil and Crass. I attended and had the idea of

bringing Lee’s written correspondence from John Balance (of Coil) to life through

AI voice-cloning within a film.

I visited many of the places which the group occupied over their history and

Deer Park developed around ideas of pilgrimage, psychogeography, music

fandom in a pre-digital age, the occult and subcultures within East Sussex,

London and Somerset.

How did it feel to have your film played in the Spiegeltent as the main event compared to last year when your work was presented in the Mobile Cinema Van?

It was great! We filled it out despite the English summer rain.

I love small, unusual venues to show films. The Vintage Mobile Cinema Van suited the intimate nature of my first film, Landscapes of the Heart, which is about Brighton’s free party scene.

This year, screening work alongside work by Mike Sefton, Jill Westwood and Coum Flakes, all of which had a performance element, Spiegeltent was perfect. It was beautifully chaotic and the roof of the neighbouring Bosco Tent blew off during the night, a first in its century-old history.

What are your thoughts on the local film industry, and how do you see it evolving in the next few years?

Brighton has always been fortunate to have a strong independent film scene.

CINECITY Brighton Film Festival has been running for over twenty years now and they show a brilliant body of work each year. They’ve always been supportive of young local filmmakers such as myself.

I’d like to see more collectives of young people developing a programme of their work in smaller, grassroots spaces. Perhaps merging with visual arts spaces such as the Phoenix Gallery, Fabrica or John Marchant Gallery. More life to experimentation of films and spaces in which to screen them!

Can you share any advice for aspiring filmmakers who are just starting? 

‘Find what you love and let it destroy you’.

Ideas can take time to germinate and you can sit on something for years. Things occasionally fall from heaven, but not often. Trust the process and allow yourself to be open to the world, new environments and people.

Don’t get bogged down by thinking you can’t make a film because you don’t have the resources. It’s ideas and depth that make a film, not expensive cameras. There are no rules.

Begin anywhere. Take time to find yourself and your audience will eventually be there.