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Chris Wade - Interview

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 24 / 8 / 2018

Chris Wade - Interview


Dodson and Fogg multi-instrumentalist turned film-maker Chris Wade talks to Malcolm Carter about 'Cuentos', his intriguing new surreal short film.

Chris Wade did not set out to make a trilogy of connected short films but with the release of 'Cuentos' the talented multi-instrumentalist turned film-maker (not to mention author, illustrator and quite possibly the hardest working artist we currently have) has done just that. As with his previous films, 'The Apple Picker' and 'Seven Days In Never', the film is shot in black and white and is described as a dark comedy. 'Cuentos' can currently be streamed from http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/films.html and there are also links on that same page where it's possible to now actually purchase all three films on DVD. Like his previous films 'Cuentos' is a surreal journey: this time an elderly man is invited to stay at a friend's house only to find there is nobody there, but somebody has left instructions to make himself at home. He finds a book which reveals stories related to some of the people who have lived in the house, and the film tells those stories in the dreamlike, often disturbing manner that Wade employed in his two previous films. Trying to explain this film, or any of Wade's films, is almost impossible. 'Cuentos' is a film that is wide open to many interpretations. Some will walk away wondering what the hell they've just sat through, while for others 'Cuentos' will be 45 minutes of compelling viewing which bears repeated viewing, to take away something different from the film each time. Also recently released is Wade's latest album under his Dodson & Fogg music project, titled 'Tempus Fugit'. Where Wade finds the time to produce all this is a mystery but still he had time to answer a few questions we put to him recently: PB: 'Cuentos' is your third film. When you made 'The Apple Picker' did you already have thoughts that it would be part of a trilogy? CW: Well the answer is definitely a no. When I was putting together 'The Apple Picker' I wasn't even sure I could make anything of the footage I had, so had no view to make more films. As soon as I finished, though, I started to come up with new ideas and things that I hadn't explored, so that's when it began to look like more than a one-off experiment. PB: Despite three completely different stories there seems to be a connection between the films, a connection that isn't obvious. CW: Oh yeah, definitely. They are meant to link on to each other. That's why they all have the same kind of weird atmosphere, detached from reality, as if one big long dream. I wanted them all to be interchangeable as well, so scenes from one could have easily been in the others. PB: There's animation in 'Cuentos', a first in your films. What prompted that? CW: The idea just came to me to try out some primitive cut-out animation, and I really enjoyed doing it. God knows where the pie-shaped UFO idea came from with the tentacle and the big nose, but it seemed to make sense at the time. I had eaten an out-of-date yoghurt that morning, come to think of it. But no, I basically like to try everything and anything out. If I'm happy with it, it stays in. PB: Did you shoot in Barcelona specifically for this film? CW: I shot them especially for the film while on holiday. I knew I was going to have one of the stories set there, so when the locations looked right I got the old lad out... and I mean my camera. PB: As with 'The Apple Picker' and 'Seven Days In Never', 'Cuentos' is best described as a short surreal film. For those yet to view the film can you explain what it's about? CW: Well, it starts with a man going to stay with friends, but when he gets to the house they aren't home. He goes upstairs to make himself feel at home and finds a little book, which holds stories attached to everyone who has lived at the house. The film then goes into each tale: a man finding two fingers in a factory, an old man searching for a place of his own, a girl in the snow. But you get the idea that this little book isn't all it seems to be. That's the basic outline, but there's all kinds of things flying in and out, most of which are open to individual interpretation. PB: Was the music that soundtracks the film written especially for 'Cuentos'? If not will you eventually make it available? CW: Most of it is on my last release, 'Tempus Fugit'. It's been out about a month or two now. Other pieces are from previous Dodson and Fogg albums though. PB: As with your previous films 'Cuentos' requires repeated views and even then I'd guess that few people take the same thing away from the film. What impression do you hope viewers leave the film with? CW: I hope they find it funny and thought-provoking, but I'd love them to watch all three films and come away with their own interpretations. I welcome all views, even those who will say the films are amateur rubbish. It's all valid. For me they are dream films, existing in a mind, blurring consciousness with the unconscious, the subconscious and fantasy, dreams and nightmares. They are not supposed to be polished, linear films. Film is one of the only mediums where you can be totally free and experimental, and don't have to explain every single thing. It's a shame more people don't use it to its most mysterious and weird potential. PB: We've mentioned your sense of humour before. In 'Cuentos' there are scraps of paper with British comedy stars names written on them. Given your work with Nigel Planer and Rik Mayall the names are not those that immediately come to mind when thinking of Chris Wade. Why those comedians? CW: For some reason, I just find it funny to reference 1970s British actors, especially Robin Askwith, because he did those awful 'Confessions Of...' films where he was in and out of bedrooms bonking anything that moved. When I was younger I used to leave pictures of Robin Askwith in places for people to find. Don't ask me why. Maybe it's a dark psychological thing. I don't want Askwith to get spooked by this act. So that was just a little private joke really. PB: Of the seven separate sections in the film, which was the most difficult to shoot to get across what you wanted to capture? CW: None of them were difficult really because they were all so much fun to do. I suppose the one in the snow with my daughter could potentially have been the hardest, but then she was so into it, just playing around in the snow, that it was probably the most fun part of the film to make. Actually, the bit in the factory with my friend Shawn was difficult because people were watching us from the road side thinking we were fiends or druggies, and we were laughing so much at the idea of these two 33-year-old blokes messing around with severed fingers that we had to re-shoot bits again. PB: Given that the actors are all family or friends do you have problems asking them to act certain parts? I'm thinking particularly of the rabbit ears here. Well, my dad just put those ears on at that minute, I think he liked wearing them actually. The good thing is that these films are done for fun and nothing else, so there is absolutely no pressure at all, and everyone who takes part wants to do it. Everyone is up for whatever I say, at least so far. I might ask something of them one day that pushes them too far. John Waters and Divine spring to mind. PB: Are there parts of the film where you've let the actor just improvise a little to see where it leads and left it in because it worked? CW: I always tell them what to do, but there are little bits that are spontaneous that I keep in. That said, they are mostly going along with my instructions and trying not to laugh or act surprised by my latest request. PB: You seemed to arrive from nowhere with Dodson & Fogg and then we discovered you are also an author and filmmaker, and now it turns out you're not too shabby as a painter either. What's your background? At the minute my background is a cupboard. Seriously (wipes tear from eye) I have always enjoyed drawing and writing and playing music and have done so since I was about five or six. I wrote my first book at school at the age of six on a really old PC they had set up for me. I used to make comics too and draw for hours, write songs on a guitar I made out of an ice cream tub and rubber bands before getting a real one. I have always been a film buff too, so it was a dream of mine to do something to do with books, art, music or film. I never thought I would, so I am chuffed I've managed to explore all these areas and that I get to do it as a job. I didn't enjoy school at all. I couldn't wait to leave, actually. But I remember my sixth form teacher saying he knew I was going to quit further education, and he also said he knew I wasn't just going to go get a normal job. He said I'd do something I really wanted to, but I'd get there myself, not through academia. I thought he was mad at the time but now I see what he meant. He was one of the only teachers I liked. Mr Beach was his name. After school I worked in shops: a toy shop first and then a stationery shop, but I didn't enjoy it too much, though I had some great laughs there, and found that I'd be distracted by thoughts, be off drawing in the toilet or having ideas I didn't know what to do with. I decided to quit and try writing first, which started off OK and then began to include the music, which is where it took off into a job. Since then I've never looked back and just keep working. It helps that my dreams were modest, just to make a living out of my passions and being able to get on with it, rather than some unrealistic vision of fame and fortune. For me, it's about being with my family and working on projects. PB: Of the three films you have so far made available for viewing which has been the most satisfying for you, the one that you felt really represented what you had in your mind? CW: Definitely 'Cuentos'. It was smoother to make and edit and I feel it's tighter and has more of a flow to it. The first one got good feedback, but Stanley Kubrick's assistant Anthony Frewin saw it and said that although it was good and interesting, it needed about 15 minutes or so chopping off it. I kept that in mind and made Cuentos shorter and more structured. It's definitely my favourite one. PB: It seems that you are quite happy for your films to reach a limited audience. 'Cuentos' seems to show a more confident filmmaker, so do you think there will come a time when you will want your productions to reach a wider audience now that you've had some success and experience in making films? CW: Maybe, but these kinds of films are probably hard to sell and promote. I like them as a hobby really, something on the side to do for fun. That way I don't get stressed out about them. I like that people discover them and they stay rather obscure, because the audience for this kind of thing is limited anyway. But you never know - I might make a zombie superhero movie set in space next. That's what you have to make these days to be popular. PB: We know that there is a new Dodson & Fogg album out. It wouldn't come as a great surprise to hear that you've started on another film or at least got ideas for one. Are there any plans? CW: Yes, I have a new film in the making, but it's something totally fresh for me. It's a documentary on the jazz singer and surrealist George Melly. It's such a fun project but I am really just getting started on it and there is a lot of work to be done yet. I am really enjoying it, something new and challenging for me. I have also started recording a new album, and am working on some book projects on the side. It's great at the minute because I am getting satisfaction from loads of different areas, creatively, and I really enjoy the freedom of going from one medium to another. I love my work, and it means a lot to me, so it's brilliant that I can still get on with it. PB: Thank you.

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