Spotlight

Morgan Quaintance

Filmmaker Morgan Quaintance tells us about 'artist's moving image' and what he's working on at the moment.

  • A mural which has been painted over with black paint.

Bataxaalu Ndakaaru (2019) by Morgan Quaintance

What was your first job in the film industry?
You know, I don't really consider myself to be part of the film industry. I work more in the field of film production that's known, for better or for worse, as 'artists' moving image'. It's a bit of a clunky term, but I don't mind it. It's a way to perhaps classify films that are made in a sometimes more oblique register, but that also sidestep the commercial requirements (in terms of narrative, finance, aesthetic, etc.) of mainstream film.

What are you working on right now?
I've just finished a film called Missing Time (2019), which is broadly about amnesia and memory loss. It ranges across territory as wide as alien abduction, Cold War spycraft, and Britain's previously hidden history of concentration camps in Kenya in the 1960s.

What has been your career high so far?
I don't have a career high yet. I'll have to get back to you on that one.

What’s your connection to the British Council? Any possible future collaborations in the pipeline?
I've got a couple of connections to the British Council at the moment. I just finished a film called Letter from Dakar (2019), which was made possible due to a recent initiative of theirs, focusing on arts activity in Sub Saharan Africa. Also another film of mine, titled Another Decade (2018), is in a British Council film programme that's currently showing in Kazakhstan. As of yet, there's nothing new in the pipeline, but hopefully there might be some scope to do more in the future. My experience in Dakar was great.

What/who originally turned you onto film?
It's difficult to say really. I think it's just a combination of me taking to film instinctively, in combination with really formative influences provided by my older brother and my mum. My brother had loads of European art house films, interesting action stuff ('90s Hong Kong, John Woo mostly), and classic American '70s films like Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Serpico (1973). I'd make my way through those on days I should have been at school. With my mum it was more watching things like Dr Zhivago (1965), the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Dangerous Liaisons (1988) or a bit of David Lynch.

If I knew then what I know now…
Don't be intimidated by any of the gear involved with filmmaking. That's probably what I'd say. I'd also encourage the younger me to move towards art and completely sidestep the commercial side of things (which is where I am at the moment). I didn't know there was a seperate professional world and my experiences of working on music videos in the '90s was just horrific. So that put me off things for ages.

What is your favourite British film?
I'll go for Babylon. It's a 1980 film about a young guy in Brixton. I grew up around there.

If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
I'm not sure I'd want to work on any films, but I'd like to be able to just hang around the set and see how things were made. If I could do that then the film I'd choose would be Kwaidan (1964). It's a Japanese film that's super stylised. I'd just like to see how they lit the set, what cameras they used, how they worked with actors, so that I could steal all the techniques.

What’s the first film you remember seeing?
I can't remember the absolute first film I saw. But I think Terminator (1984) sort of burned itself into my mind when I saw it. Everything was memorable about it. I mean it's Arnie, but also the rest of the cast were brilliant, the music was amazing, and the look of it was spot on.

What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
My favourite line in a film (I've got loads but this one sprung to mind) is 'the Kandinsky is painted on both sides'. It's from Six Degrees of Separation (1993), a brilliant film where a young post-Fresh Prince Will Smith, plays a gay hustler in New York city. Seriously it's one of the best mainstream films I've seen and a real glimpse of the dramatic potential of Smith before he went into all that action stuff. It's virtuoso performance and the script is next level. The line is one of the last in the film

Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
I think that'd be Salieri and Mozart in Miloš Forman's Amadeus (1984). The story goes that Salieri, driven to distraction and malevolence by the knowledge of his own mediocrity in the face of Mozart's genius, decides to kill Mozart. So in one sense you could class Salieri as the villain and Mozart as a kind of anti-hero, but I think it's actually more complex than that. In some ways you could argue that Salieri and Mozart (in the film at least) represent the two sides of any artist or creative person's psyche.