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The Days of Rot

The film-maker Timothy Davey talks to Jordan Licht about scrapping the plot-line, the perks of graduating, and his upcoming show at the Norman Rea Gallery

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Tim Davey is a film-maker. He's studied at some of the top film and art colleges world-wide, including The Tisch School of the Arts in New York, and Edinburgh College of Art, of which he is a recent graduate. I spoke with him in the run-up to his latest show, 'The Days of Rot', which will open at the Norman Rea Gallery at the start of next month.

Tim edit

JL What are the main themes that underpin your work?

TD So for the films in this exhibition I'd say the relationship between the audience and the filmmaker, that's something I'm really interested in, and generally the romanticism of cinema as a spectacle. The themes tend to play around that. I'm really interested in symbols and music, music is a big part of what I do and where my ideas come from. I don't really approach a theme to make a film. It's usually a feeling or a place of music that evokes a feeling.

JL And do you use that as a starting point?

TD Yeah, definitely. So where I'm living at the time, immediately. Like, I think that's what my films are about, my experience at those times and the people I interact with, and characters are usually just embodiments of real people; they're like a synthesis of 3 people that are just forced together because those people are normally, like, really important to me, or interesting to me and I think would be interesting to other people. So it's not really that I approach a theme and like stick to it. I think that through doing that, and working kind of intuitively, the concepts kind of just evolve, you know as the films are being having an intention or an approach or a way of shooting, or a medium - I know it's film but it could be like an aesthetic or like a piece of technology, like a small camera - and it's a lot about play and chance really. So the theme comes through once I visualise the whole thing...or when it's become one thing, because a lot of the time it's like collecting, it's collective footage, it's like collecting ideas, and it's sort of building that and weaving things together until it's some sort of tapestry of, you know, one place or one experience.

Images: courtesy of the artist
Images: courtesy of the artist

JL Have you made films with linear narrative plots?

TD So sometimes I've done that in a very disciplined film way - sort of starting with a script and a story. But even that doesn't really start there - it begins with characters and moods and things. And, yeah, that becomes like a like a transcript or a translation of all those things. And I think that can close your work down sometimes. When you think about it, cos it's like one process, like one evolution and then the actual making of the film is another evolution and the editing of the film is another cycle and it turns into this thing where what you actually intended to do isn't what's on screen, or those things are sort of pushed through these disciplines and individual practices... people have being doing that through the whole history of cinema - like shooting intuitively or using the camera as a pen - that's, like, something a guy said during the New Wave. That was kind of revolutionary. But I think now it's more relevant than ever because everybody has access to that technology they can kind of just film with their phones or with whatever, and that's something that goes back to the 'theme' business. Because film as a document I think is really interesting.


JL What drew you to using film initially?

TD I've always used film, not film, video. I've always used video since I was like 16 making videos. I got a video camera since I was 15 or 16 and just started filming, like everything; I just filled tapes and tapes and tapes. And I dunno, just something about, like, archiving and stuff and I'd just have stacks of DV tapes. I had a friend that lived not far from me and he got this grant to make a film and I remember seeing his films - and I was quite easily influenced at the time - and was like, 'yeah, I wunna do that'. My granddad was a journalist. He was a film critic and he introduced me and my brother to good cinema since quite a young age. Like Buster Keaton and that sort of thing.

JL I also sort of grew up watching films. My dad has this big film library in his study and he used to show me films all the time when I was young, it was a kind of education for me. He still does it now when I'm home; he'll bring out a couple of films and say, 'these are your options', so we'll sit and watch something together.

TD It's weird we talk about watching films at home and stuff. That's strange because to a lot of people film is that experience buts something more, going to the cinema is like going on an outing, it's like an event, whereas that's not - I went to the cinema when I was a kid and I go now - but it's not like a big part of how I watch moving images, you can't really avoid it, you don't just have to go to the cinema to see film, great films , a lot of the time you have to avoid the cinema to see great films.


JL What are the main cinematic influences on your work?

TD To answer that kind of long-hand, I chose to study art because I realised that a lot of the time I was influenced by things that weren't films I was informed by other things that were informing my filmmaking anyway so in an art class I was constantly thinking everything's relevant or anything painters or...I remember seeing Caravaggio paintings and the sort of stories and the narratives, something so rich and obviously really cinematic about those paintings... and literature, things that are way more important than film in history. Film is obviously really young; it's just over 100 years old so theoretically there has to have been something more developed and relevant to influence film. So specific filmmakers or people that do stuff like me I'd say Werner Herzog, a really big influence. I went to a workshop where he teaches like 60 students - it's called The Rogue Film School - and it's all hidden away in like a hotel, and you basically write to him and send him some films - I mean it's probably a pretty clever way for him to fund his films - but I also got the feeling he didn't have to be doing that, like he genuinely cared. He's a great filmmaker, his films are really important to me... And people who are always like pushing it really. John Cassavates, a filmmaker who was really influential, really revolutionary. But other people that have really influenced me... there's writers, there's poets or people that just lent more to my way of thinking and working.

JL What is your next step, in terms of your work and career-wise?

TD I always thought it would be great to get a job in the film industry but since I've gone to arts school I just realised that's the last thing I want. Unless that's relevant to how you wuna work - where you can utilise the television medium in your way - which is really hard cos you need to a have a lot of muscle - but I'm not really interested in that as a career. Art is a business the same way film is but I think you have to be autonomous, like on your own in order to do what you really want to do, and there's ways of helping with that. Even if that means working in a post room, like, and just having time to think about your work all the time, something completely brainless, to just think about stuff. And that's what I'm doing now, and I've never felt more creative than I do now because one, I have to be more careful about my time - I don't have a lot of time. So I have to utilise that so I'm always either at work or working on my films. The only thing that kind of gets in the way is having to go to sleep or go to the shops. Either that or I take on a project that's really ambitious that involves a lot of people or I get involved in something else which is great cos you never really want to stop learning but yeah sometimes you just don't have the mental capacity to do both of those things. Working a really demanding job then becomes such a big part of your life that you don't dedicate any time to work of your own ideas. So it's finding a balance I suppose. But I'm, like, only 22. I don't think I have all the answers. I'm probably talking like I have all the answers but I think things have changed a lot, I think I've realised that there's another way of doing things or a way of doing things that's more appropriate to film-making. I think if you're around people doing similar things, you tend to just end up becoming really similar.

JL Yeah, I think there's a lot to be said for having the space and the time to just develop your own strand of thinking

TD And if you don't have the internet sometimes that's really good

Timothy Davey will be exhibiting a video installation at the Norman Rea Gallery from 4th-15th November. Opening Night: 4th November, from 19.00 - 21.00

Timothy Davey's website:

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