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SHOW AND TELL #12: Marc David Jacobs

Marc David Jacobs is a member of the Alchemy Programme team. This is how he introduced himself to Show and Tell readers: I’m a freelance arts worker with various organisations around Scotland and for the artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd. In 2016 I released an album called Songs for Thistlists and am doing more writing nowadays. I live in Edinburgh and last month my oven blew up.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Always listening: to people I love talking about their day; to unfamiliar music in the dark; to things I don’t understand. (Some would add: to the sound of my own voice.)

2. What lies at the heart of your own desire to make films?
I’m not really a filmmaker, but I do other creative things because they’re the only outlet I have for my strongest emotions. If I’m writing or singing or dancing, it’s usually because I’m at my highest or my lowest, or both. At all the darkest moments in my life, writing has often been the thing which kept me sane and alive.

3. What are the first things you do in developing a film idea in response to a subject?
Again, not specifically towards film, but for any creative act the first and only thing for me is just to do it. The more I think about the story or the song or the image, the less likely I am to actually carry it out. My attention span’s too short: I have to sit down then and there and write or sing or whatever. For me, the first draft is almost always the best, and inevitably the closest to whatever it is I’m trying to say. At heart, I’m an imperfectionist. The more instinctive, the less conscious, the better; the more I think about something, the more formulaic it becomes. Maybe it’s better objectively, but it usually ends up being the least interesting to me.

4. What’s your favourite film and why?
For the moment probably Sunday Bloody Sunday, due in large part to Penelope Gilliatt’s staggering screenplay – the only of hers yet produced. But the film I’ve watched more than any other over the past five years is Elli Rintala’s Kiitotie, which is a midlength documentary about Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. It’s beautiful, balletic, cold, human, remote, intimate, poetic, objective and very, very blue: literally all the things I love most in a film, all in the same film.

5. Choose 1, 2 or 3 of your all-time favourite music tracks!
Impossible! But here are three songs that, for three different reasons, have consistently brought me to tears over the past couple of years:
This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush.
Pauper’s Dough by King Creosote.
Beauty Never Lies by Bojana Stamenov.

6. From your favourite poem – could you give us a few lines that mean something to you?
These are (slightly related) passages from two poems which have been favourites at different points:

From Jaroslav Seifert’s All the Beauties of the World:

For our poetry we found utterly new kinds of beauty…
Be silent violins and ring you horns of automobiles,
may people crossing the street suddenly begin to dream;
aeroplanes, sing the song of evening like a nightingale…

From Veronica Forrest-Thomson’s Richard II:

In the joinery timbers there is new infestation
And a damp-proof course is urgently needed.
Say a few prayers to the copper wire.
Technicians are placing flowers in the guttering
They are welding the roof to a patch of sky
Whatever you do, do not climb on the roof.

7. If you were to die and come back as a person, animal or a thing, what would it be?
Less socially awkward.

8. What is your greatest extravagance?
I have bought an awfully large amount of Glenn Gould paraphernalia over the past 16 years.

9. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
In all three: collaboration. Sharing and reacting with other people’s thoughts, words, ideas, lives, directly – always new, always unexpected and, to me, always so much more interesting than my own. I’d much rather be asking you these questions than answering them!

10. What is your final word?
Hmm.

MARC DAVID’S FESTIVAL PICKS

I’m a big fan of work that uses humour in innovative ways. These three films from across the Alchemy programme do so whilst also exploring the nature of progress – particularly of the technological variety – in this shiny modern world of ours. Much like the above two poems, now I think of it. Although these may not be quite as complimentary about it all as they are.

1. I’m going to put my cards on the table and say that I think Karolina Breguła and Ela Orleans’ The Tower (Wieża) makes a strong case for being the first truly great Scottish opera – not to mention the most tuneful anywhere since Nixon in China. The film itself is Polish, but composer Orleans has been Glasgow-based for the past six years; she also lived there in the late ’90s, becoming a member of collage-pop group Hassle Hound. Breguła’s story and libretto present an Ionescoesque absurdist narrative about a tenants’ association whose members decide that the best way to improve their lot is through a massive new building scheme in which everything will be made of sugar (but definitely not sweetener). Things only get stranger from there, and the resulting allegory touches on everything from aspirationalism and gentrification to pretty much any recent economic boom-and-bust. And all of it is set to some brilliantly catchy electronic tunes, the subject matter of which includes modernist architecture, noisy neighbours, and, of course, what to do when faced with the prospect of eating your own construction materials.

The Tower trailer

2. Glasgow also happens to the be the base for Desktop Drama maker Myles Painter. I’ve got a lot of love for his film, both for its methods and its motives. Built entirely out of the bits and bobs sourced and acquired in the attempt to make a previous film, it presents the creative process entirely through the accumulation of ancillaries, all of which are eventually discarded. The film flits back and forth from shots of gently purring hard drives to piles of jauntily-coloured post-its to an entire cutting-room floor’s worth of abandoned video clips. Is technology helping this creative process, or barring its way? And are used teabags and empty crisp packets just as important to producing a piece of art as visual research and physical space? As you ponder these points, you’re treated to a soundtrack which is difficult to describe – and, anyway, it’d spoil the fun if I tried. Suffice to say that if you don’t know what a browser window sounds like when you close it, you soon will do.

Desktop Drama trailer

3. Jeremy Moss’ Death / Destruction / Some Other Terrible Fate reminds me of a news story that was doing the rounds on my 23rd birthday. Police in Germany were called to an apartment block to investigate reports of a loud crash; on arriving, they found electronic debris strewn across the pavement outside. It transpired that a resident in his fifties had grown so frustrated by his computer that he’d finally just thrown it out the window. The police let him off without a fine. Their rationale: ‘Who hasn’t felt like doing that?’ Moss’ film plays out like the tribute that man deserves: a set of truly transcendent moments of catharsis for anyone who has ever faced an uncooperative printer, the random deletion of hours of work and, of course, the spinning wheel of doom. Which is to say, all of us.

Death / Destruction / Some Other Terrible Fate trailer