FIDMarseille: Director Andrew Kötting On ‘The Whalebone Box’

Acclaimed director Andrew Kötting (Lek And The Dogs) arrives on Closeup Culture to talk about FIDMarseille and his latest film, The Whalebone Box.

Q: Are you looking forward to be bringing The Whalebone Box to FID 2019?

A: Indeed, very much. This will be my third time at the festival. I’m always inspired by the diversity and quality of work and along with CPH Dox in Denmark it is perhaps the most interesting experimental documentary festival in the world. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is the heat.

Q: This will be your World Premiere does this add any extra pressure on you?

A: No pressure at all. Sometimes when friends and family are not with you for the premiere it is easier. I’m hoping that the film will play the London Film Festival and that’s when things will get a little more stressful.

Q: What was your first film festival like?

A: That was many many moons ago with my short graduation film, Klipperty Klöpp. It played at the Filmmaker’s Coop as part of the London Film Festival. The building was wonderfully inappropriate and not fit for purpose which is what made it such a wonderful experience. I had to ‘mix’ the super 8 print by speeding it up and slowing it down using the projector because the soundtrack was fixed whereas the image wasn’t. I seem to remember that people were still riding around in horse and carts outside.

Q: Do you still get nerves ahead of your screening?

A: Intermittently. I’ve been projecting work for almost forty years now so what’s nerves and what isn’t nerves all blends into the same emotion. I’m very familiar with it. I suppose I feel slightly uncomfortable but there again I’ve become comfortable with the uncomfortable in life.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about ‘The Whalebone Box’? What can we expect?

A: The film is a journeywork and fugue. A delirium and experiment. It is a film about a whale bone box. A box made of whale bone. Entangled in a fisherman’s net and washed up on a remote beach in the Outer Hebrides. Once touched the box can change lives. It certainly changed mine. The box was given to my friend and writer, Iain Sinclair almost thirty years ago by Steve Dilworth, a sculptor based on the Island of Harris. It is dangerous thing. What is inside might produce good magic or it might produce bad magic but like the box that contained Schrödinger’s Cat it must never to be opened. And whilst all of this is going on my daughter Eden drifts in and out of the film, commentating and beguiling. It is a film which has within itself a strange secret. You have to stay to the very end of the film to find out what that secret is. If you leave straight after the credits then you will never know what the secret is.

Q: What was the inspiration behind this film?

A: The Whalebone Box and my daughter Eden.

Q: What was the most challenging part of bringing this film to life?

A: The edit took on and off two years. I was working on a couple of other projects at the same time. The film was also made without any money. Iain Sinclair and myself halved all the costs for the trip to the Outer Hebrides and to the French Pyrenees, but making sense of it in the edit suite became very difficult. The Whalebone Box possessed me and even though it had been buried on a beach almost eight hundred miles away I often felt its presence as if it was on the desk in my studio. It has power.

Q: How different is this film to your previous works?

A: It’s very similar to a lot of my Journeywork films. Films such as Jaunt, Gallivant, Offshore, Swandown, By Our Selves and EdithWalks which all take happenstance and serendipity as a compass when navigating an apparently straightforward expedition. I dig into the psychogeography of place and in this film I also dig into my daughter Eden’s psyche and dreamstate.

Q: With each film do you try to push yourself or set new goals/aims?

A: Goals and aims are in flux but I address them as they are presented. I’ve become more and more interested in ‘implied’ narrative as I’ve got older, perhaps because I’ve realised that I’m not very good at sticking to the plot or staying on track. It’s the metaphorical elsewhere that I’m most interested in.

Q: Has your approach to your film changed much since your debut film?

A: In may ways I’ve come full circle. I used to make films on super 8 for no money simply because I could and I had no need of the funding bodies that were out there to help. But having been supported very well by the likes of BBC Films, The Lottery, The BFI, Film Four, Canal + and The Arts Council I’m now funding things primarily myself. This film was also shot on Super 8 and an iPhone with Super 8 apps.

Q: Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

A: Not really, it came about through necessity. I was documenting performances that I was making and then seeing what was possible thereafter with the material. And because I rarely shot in sync or at 24 frames per second I quickly discovered the power of the soundtrack. Sound and image manipulation has alchemical possibilities and power all of its own which creates atmosphere and the potential of the hauntological…. This is where my passion lies.

Q: Looking back is there anything you would like to do differently or change?

A: I wish I’d eaten more road kill, grown more vegetables and milked more cows.

Q: How important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking for you?

A: Vital. Always has been and always will be. It’s a reflection of society and culture. Without it I/we am/are all lost.

Q: Do you have any advice for any emerging filmmaker?

A: Stay indoors. Don’t go out.

Q: And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?

A: Intrigue and curiosity.


Leave a Reply