This weekend sees the screening of Seaview and the premiere of The Rooms as part of the IFI’s Still Films season. Film Ireland talks to Paul Rowley, co-founder of Still Films, co-director of Seaview and The Rooms.
Tell me about your background and how you came to this point?
I started making experimental films on Super 8 and 16mm about fifteen years ago and got into working in video shortly after that. The films were showing both in film festivals and art galleries. Shortly after that I began to collaborate with American artist David Phillips on shorts and installation works. Nicky Gogan and I had been talking about making films together for years. Finally we did with Seaview in 2007 and set up Still Films then with Maya. These days I’m quite focused on long form films… docs, experimental, and drama. Nicky and I have just finished our first script, and David and I just completed 60 screen installation for LAX airport in LA… so I’m still enjoying working on a wide variety of projects.
Do you see your film and art projects as separate?
No not really. Each project begins with an idea. The concept drives the development and production of the work, so it’s usually quite clear from the start what type of film it’s going to be. Often times, especially with shorter pieces, the films end up simultaneously in a gallery installation and a film festival. I suppose the main differences really are the economic models and the audiences.
What was the background to The Rooms?
My friend Tim Blue and I had been invited to show a selection of films together in Berlin last year. As part of the programme we made a new short film together. It was really condensed and filled with ideas, so we discussed taking that short as a starting point for a feature length work. We were interested in ruins, the traces of human activity that linger in empty buildings. And we also talked a lot about rooms having a consciousness. We liked the idea that instead of us walking into rooms, that rooms actively form themselves around us as we walk. A kind of inversion of subjectivity somehow.
Can you explain what the audience can expect from the film?
It’s incredibly visual, shot on all kinds of film formats in about ten different countries. The locations range from Nazi holiday resorts to luxury hotels in Venice to an abandoned cold war spy station. And the soundtrack complements this visually driven approach, focusing on sound design and music with less emphasis on dialogue. The music was written by American composer Emily Manzo using everything from a prepared piano to bowed marimbas.
Do you prepare different mentally for when you’re approaching projects with more or less narrative?
Well there’s certainly a big difference between writing a script and the more investigative way my experimental films evolve. The Rooms being so modular was built block by block. There was a constant discussion between us while we were filming.
Could it be said that it’s perhaps a project where your art and film work meet?
It’s a film that really sums up a lot of my past work and a lot of Tim’s past work. Part doc, part experimental film, part art installation, part narrative. Quite an interesting hybrid really.
Seaview screens at the IFI on 21st August at 16.40
The Rooms screens at the IFI on 22nd August at 16.40 and will be followed by a Q&A with directors Paul Rowley and Tim Blue