PIG Magazine Interview (Translation)
Italian version here: http://www.pigmag.com/it/2012/06/05/almost-famous-jesse-ewles/
1. Hi Jesse, where are you now? What are you doing at the moment?
Hi! At this very moment? I’m eating a piece of spelt-bread toast with humus that my girlfriend Jessica Rae Gordon made me.
2. You’re very young talent. How did you find your passion and when did you start to work?
My enthusiasm for the work gets renewed daily. Mostly because I’m curious and I have a good internet connection…
Originally I was attracted to film because it encumpasses all of the arts I was curious about. Filmmakers curate experiences by combining sounds and visuals in interesting ways. I think the internet is allowing filmmakers (and everyone else) to take that curation several steps further. Urban-noir filmmaker David Lynch for instance doesn’t just make movies anymore. He doesn’t just combine sound and image to give an audience an experience. Lynch’s website offers many different items, some digital some physical, that can be considered “Lynchian”. He makes ambient music mp3s that will make you feel unsettled, even while strolling around your friendly neighbourhood on a sunny day. He sells dark roast coffee to sip on before a transcendental meditation session. He has a video that teaches you to make his favourite food, Quinoa. It’s the same world-building a great director would do when creating a film, but it’s been made more real. Lynch is helping curate real people’s lives.
This opportunity to do real life world-building is exciting. My world view is that of a tinkerer. I like to take things apart and put them back together again, leaving out a few screws to see if the thing will still run. Sometimes stuff doesn’t work (I have a whole blog about stuff that didn’t work) but that’s what experimenting is all about.
3. What is the gap between the first feeling you have when you start to work on something, and the feelings you have when your project is completed? Does your work fit perfectly with your idea / imagination?
No project arrives into the world exactly as conceived… and that can be a very good thing. Filmmaking is collaborative medium for most directors and you’re hope is that the great people you’re working with will be able to elevate your ideas. You hope they can take the direction they are given, and create compositions that are much better than what the filmmaker could have done on their own.
I think filmmaking can be approached like gardening. You have a seed, that is the idea. You place that seed into comfortable conditions — comfortable conditions vary depending on the idea. Action sequences for instance, seem to “want” to be shot in circumstances that are somewhat precarious for the crew. A scene when a character is ruminating on this future is best shot in a quiet place with a locked down camera.
As the seed sprouts and grows, the gardeners job is to train the plant up a lattice, gently steering, while letting it grow in natural directions. By harvest time, you probably don’t have exactly the plant you were imagining, but you’re still happy as long as it’s healthy and bears fruit.
4. I often see animals in your videos. How do animals inspire your virtual worlds and concepts?
People have always had a fascination with animals, especially those of us who live urbanized lives and see animals rarely. You tend for instance, to find more die-hard vegans in urban areas as opposed to on rural farms. The situation reminds me of Philip K. Dick’s book Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep. In the book as the natural world hovers on extinction humans keep both real and synthetic animals as status symbols. The pets are badges of empathy and demonstrate that the owner is still capable of love and compassion.
For my part, I find animals interesting for the same reasons ancient people did. They’re good tools for storytelling. If you look at old fables, animals were often used as stand ins for humans, so the story would not be held up by the details of the protagonists background. If a wolf is central character, most people in the audience have an idea of what a wolf is and how it acts, the storyteller doesn’t need to explain where the wolf is from, or its philosophy.
5. I think every kind of project in life is like a pregnancy: what is your favourite phase, and why? (I mean: when you start and finish a project in your life -not only professional stuff- what is your favourite moment according to the metaphor I gave you)
Hmm. Well… much like pregnancy, conceiving is the fun part. Labouring to bring the idea into the world takes the most effort. Watching how your children make their way in the world after their born is the most scary and rewarding part.
Some other thoughts I like…There is no sharpness without friction. And… Seek out difficult challenges. Things that are hard to do are rare (and therefore valuable) because they are difficult for people to copy.
6. In your work, how much is “handmade” and how much is “digital manipulation”?
It’s 50/50. My images are almost always real objects or paintings I have photographed and animated in the computer. There are very few 100 % computer generated images.
7. I know that Svankmajer is one of your favourite artist: how he influenced/influences you?
Svankmajer is cool. I was really into his work when I came out of college because it was so tactile, and I had just spent a year making an cold CGI student film. You could see Svankmajer’s fingerprints in the clay, and can imagine Svankmajer, this mad filmmaker, down on all fours strangling the clay into place.
8. What’s the difference between making a video for a band, and making a video for every other kind of client?
There’s no real difference I can see, apart from the fact that musicians usually have a taste for fringe work and business people generally like more commercial stuff. As far as the ease of the process goes, the personalities of the clients make more of difference than their backgrounds. Dream clients are typically patient, curious and brave. They take their time selecting a director who they really love, and then dive into the project. They generally don’t stress about deadlines because they know if they don’t have time to do a project right, they probably don’t have time to do it over.
9. When I appreciate an artist, I like to know something personal about him, like how his standard day is, what he reads in the toilet or the safety valve he uses to vent his anger. Would you tell me three things about you personally? (not necessarily the same as I suggested)
This might give you an idea of my personality… I was in an open-mic storytelling show last winter. My story was about porn. NSFW https://vimeo.com/23015659
My personal life is pretty quiet. I’ve tried to build a simple life, so that I can take risks and attempt to do hard things in my work. I have unique group of crazy, irreverent friends that are my only valuable asset. Everything else I own could go up in a fire and I wouldn’t really miss it.
If you’re looking for more specific details… I cut my own hair and I like to make Gordon Ramsay’s F word recipes.