The written version follows the original e-mail interview.
Simon Hadler: You work both in the field of graphic design and typographic filmmaking. Are these two totally different fields of interest for you or do you see similarities?
Richard Fenwick: Well, yes I work in the fields of graphic design and graphic filmmaking but I also work in the field of pure filmmaking too so I guess there are three areas really. The graphic filmmaking (comprising of typography as well as other graphic principles) is very much the centre point of this three pronged spectrum. And my plan is to continue working between all three.
In terms of how I approach this I do see relationships between them and each one certainly informs the other two, but in general the thinking process for each one is very different and therefore there is a natural boundary there.what I'm interested in doing is becoming as fluent in pure filmmaking as I am in graphic design so that the graphic filmmaking becomes as informed as possible - because at present this field is the one that is at it's most embryonic. It is still somewhat of an enigma - a riddle even; not just for me but for the creative industry in general.
The similarities between graphic filmmaking and graphic design are numerous - but I'm thinking perhaps superficial. Yes I use typography, grid structures, geometric shapes, etc., but I am also using a dynamic medium and filmmaking. The process is a composite of two different languages and my main concern is making them work together: that's where my thinking is. So I'm not thinking about graphic design and I'm not thinking about filmmaking: I'm thinking about how can I get this hybrid to interact within itself.
SH: so you say you work in three fields: graphic design, graphic filmmaking AND pure filmmaking. are you working as a "one man band"? If yes, how much time do you spend on learning to deal with all the different technologies/softwares/hardwares? +which software do you use?
RF: Well, yes I'm working as a one man band (creatively) but most of what I do requires a support structure - and my production companies give me this (see next answer) - however I do do a lot of hands-on stuff myself that most directors would delegate (I edit my own promos for example). But coming from a design background grounded me in mac software and the film industry is coming into line with this software anyway: so editing my promos was always a logical step to me because I already knew how to use media 100 and therefore Avid was an easy stepping stone too. In addition I tend to learn new technologies/software/hardware by trying to incorporate things I really don't know much about into my scripts: such as using motion control, playing with TK suites for hours to see what strange effects I can get out of them, playing with software I've never used before - so that I have no choice but to learn them - this is why I feel like I am just experimenting most of the time - and I am almost always learning. I can honestly say I never know what I'm doing exactly - but that at the same time I know enough. I often feel like an apprentice, but I really feel that if you do things that you truly know inside out then that is simply lazy, unimaginative and certainly non-progressive - and if you don't want to progress as an artist then there is very little point in being one. In terms of what software I use, for production of my graphic films and design work I use the following: Media 100, After Effects, Soundedit2, Freehand, Illustrator, Photoshop and Quark.
SH: When you work on a music-video like the one for all saints, do you have contact with these artists? Do they try to influence your work?
RF: The All Saints piece was actually a commercial and was somewhat of an anomaly - because I didn't actually get to meet the girls :(
But, yes in general I will meet the band. And whether they influence my work or not depends on whether I know them or not. For instance I know Dan Black - from The Servant and he's on my wavelength, so I'm happy to hook up with him and talk about his songs, his thoughts and what he's thinking before I start writing ideas for them.
If you don't know them, though, the system isn't really set up for collaboration. After you have pitched an idea to the record company the band will often be the ones that give the green light to the idea. If they don't like it they will not bounce ideas back to you, or want to meet you to discuss it's potential, they will just go and do someone else's idea instead
So, basically once you have the green light for a film idea it's because they like it and they pretty much leave you alone to do it the way you see fit: which works because you come away with your vision intact almost every time.
SH: Even in some of your films it seems that letters play a central role. Where does your fascination with typography come from?
RF: Well I studied graphic design and typography at college and it has always been a fairly central device for me. Once you know how to use it it is very hard to forget how powerful it is. I realised, early on, that it has the same advantages in filmmaking as it does in print design - it's communication is immediate. And for short form work this is invaluable. Messages - like in print work - can be relayed very simply: you can cut to the chase: avoid interpretation. Make an audiences' mind up for them about what they are seeing.this is why you probably see so much typography in commercials :) But this isn't why I use it. I like the fact that you can turn what you're seeing on it's head with the simple addition of some words.It can add a new dynamic to what you think you are seeing.
SH: in some of your works like for example "people" you deal with categories like privacy/media-presence, freedom/control. do you think that these categories will survive the "new-media-age" ore are the deviding-lines between these oppositions vanishing?
RF: I think privacy and freedom are vanishing at an incredible rate. Essentially we can all live on a world stage now (even if we don't want to). Global communications and globalisation in general has seen to that. Of course the negative consequences of this are as compelling, if not more so than the positives. Filming people covertly with my camcorder then letting Channel4 (UK) broadcast it could be deemed immoral on my part, but this is now seen as an accepted form of entertainment because it is mild in comparison to what is really going on. Many laws - privacy, protection acts etc - will find it virtually impossible to be effective in the near future because the advance of this debate will be in direct opposition to the progress of the technologies we are now nurturing. It is actually now a benefit to be on a database: to be hooked into a global society - to be known. Databases used to be behind closed doors: secret instruments. Now they are highly visible: the internet is probably the most obvious - and how many people do you know who don't want to have their own website?
SH: how do you deal with these subjects in your work?
RF: Cynicism is my weapon of choice. I find it very powerful. A lot of people are beginning to switch off right now and that's very dangerous. Cynicism at least jolts us all back into reality: makes us question what the hell we are all playing at. I mean there is no way back from some of this: we can't forget we know this stuff now: we have to deal with it. My RND# project is probably the most political and scathing work I've done to date - dealing with how technology and humanity are now facing one another head on.And this will be the main thrust of work that I will be showing at the künstlerhaus exhibition.
SH: what is your current business-model? work for record-companies? open up an own studio? work as freelance-graphic-designer and filmmaker?
RF: Well I see myself as freelance - my name is the most important aspect to my business plan, but I also have my production companies to ground me: for commercials + promos: Flynn productions look after me. They promote me to agencies and record companies, represent me, and do all the production for my films. for design and graphic filmmaking I have my own studio/production company called reference point (REF:PNT). I mostly do this myself.
Interview with Richard Fenwick
The written version follows the original e-mail interview.