Ben Rivers - Origin of the Species

29 January 2009

- Please tell us a little more on the background of the film project ? How did it start ? It began with a friend telling me about a man who had spent 20 years reading On The Origin Of Species by Darwin, which turned out to be a slight exaggeration. In reality S. is a very intelligent man who just happens to have left school at 16 and then found out about things by himself, based on a sense of wonder he felt about the world. I wanted to see what could be found in his small patch of isolated land, and how that connected with his understanding of the world. - Why was it important for you to make this film ? Making films is a way of working through ideas I can't seem to articulate in any other way. Every film I make is important in this same way - to work through things, try to understand the world and my place in it, to become more adept at expressing ideas through film and somehow surprise myself and hopefully the audience. - Is the way you worked on this film similar to your earlier works ? Pretty much. I start with an idea but allow the film to develop naturally, without too much pre-production in terms of storyboards, schedules etc. This has been the way I've developed working over the last few years, where the film really takes shape in the edit, the filming is a gathering of material rather than an end-point. This film ended upbeing my longest edit yet, and changed a lot, but now I think it's the film I'm most happy with. - Can you tell us if you get inspiration in your work also by watching at film by other filmmakers ? Who are they ? In what way do they inspire you? I get inspiration from all sorts of films, not just The Greats, depending on what mood I'm in or what projects I'm working on. Just recently I've been watching a lot of post-apocalyptic films, many from around the 70's. Many of these films might be considered trashy, but they're full of great ideas and lovely shots of deserted towns and landscapes that I want to re-visit in some way (this is what I'm trying to do now). I have some friends who are filmmakers who I find inspiring, like Ben Russell and Michael Robinson. I also really like reading about films I've not seen and imagining what they're like. - Can you say something about the techniques you used, your use of film, the relation between the image and sound? Using film there is an anticipation and a kind of responsibility you put upon yourself which I like. There is a tangible relationship between the film going through the camera which relates more fully to an idea of a merging of space and time through film - projector as time-machine. The delay between filming and then working with the material also becomes key to the process - allowing a distancing from the material which consequently opens the possibilities of what the film can become. The sound, recorded separately from the image, is freed from being illustrative back-up for the image, so then can work with images by playing against them - in this way I hope to create surprises for the viewer and open up the meaning found in relationships between images and sounds. It’s hard to define how a sound and image come to work together, I don't have an exact formal procedure - I try things out and wait for those eureka moments. - Is it important for you to have your film screened in a competition programme. Why is this ? The most important thing once you've spent time making a film is that it gets seen - showing in competition is one way of helping the film have a life. Winning a nice wad of money would always be useful too, best not to think about that. I just saw the line-up of filmmakers attending Rotterdam and cripes, there's more than one filmmaker I'm a fan of in there! - Could you please tell us something about the next project you will be working on. I'm travelling around the UK trying to make a film - it's called I Know Where I'm Going, but only because I know the end of the journey. The best kind of journey I thought, is one of meandering, getting lost and not really knowing what you're going to find next - which at the moment makes for uneasy filmmaking, because I have no idea what the film will be, this is the way things go. It may be a film about the world after humans, it may also have lots of lies in it.