John Smith – A Hastily Written Transcript

The avant-garde film maker was talking at the Arnolfini, Bristol on 25/02/15.

Thank you all for coming.
I’m going to mainly show film.
Don’t worry its mainly looking at film…
…and of course you can only show a certain amount before people fall asleep.
Basically I’ve been making film since the 1970’s…
…towards the end of last year.
I’m going to show three short films then talk a bit.
…death threats…

Om 1986, Gargantuan 1992, and The Girl Chewing Gum 1976.

Gargantuan was made when BBC2 had an arts magazine – The Late Show.
The brief was to make a one-minute film.
I always like a brief.
It’s one-minute long.
I’m very interested in ambiguity.
…and film is a very good medium to contextualise things.
no editing visually.
I really always play The Girl Who Chews Gum.
When I made that film…
…um, were making work that had its own ambition that one is looking at a film.
Where mainstream cinema didn’t.
…through denying the existence of cinema.
Through that denial of cinema…
I refer to a red jaguar car.
The length of one 16 mm film.
I wanted to see two cinema.
I didn’t direct anything.
When I started to put the sound and the image together…
…how powerful it was.
There’s a kind of power…
…wondering if something might be true.
How we are told what images mean.
I think he’s got a helicopter in his pocket.
Of course you know you are being messed around.
…used a voice over.

The Black Tower 1985-87

I’m often not sure what I’m going to do.
…uses a voice over.
The Black Tower, 23-minutes I think.
Can we dim the lights?
This film is really about being in the dark.
Um… thank you.
…you wondered there was only one tower.
I’m just filming it from different angles.
It’s quite autobiographical.
…across the graveyard.
It’s the view from my bedroom window.
…like a hole cut out of the sky.
…also there weren’t many tall buildings around in Leytonstow.
It’s combined with the sinisterness, but… hybrid work.
So I try and mix lots of elements.
The narratives just written and ultimately its very abstract –
you are looking at nothing on screen.
It is nothing.
There is probably eight minutes of black.
…and of course we all had children’s radio.
They did this survey.
Its ok, but the pictures are better on the radio.
…not give too much.
I always lose interest in a horror film when I see the monster.
I’ll get my piece of paper to remind myself.

Jump forward 25 years.
Dad’s Stick 2012, White Hole 2014 – 7 minutes, and unusual Red cardigan 2011.

…had an immediacy to it.
No I’m not going to f**king change my name.
Most things I film get demolished.
The cup and the stick I would take when the house burns down.

(He did talk very quickly, said a lot more than transcribed here, and I wrote very slowly – Stephen Monger)


John Smith - Om 1986

John Smith - Gargantuan 1992

John Smith - The Girl Chewing Gum 1976

John Smith - The Black Tower 1985-87

John Smith - Dad's Stick 2012