You’ve worked a lot in Los Angeles, and with some well-known Hollywood actors. Are there any underlying themes or messages that connect the pieces you’ve made in LA?
Growing up in Los Angeles I was constantly surrounded by the film industry. Long before I knew that I wanted to make films myself I was observing films being made, and noticing that anything was possible in the film industry. Then, when I started making my own pictures, that was always there, the idea that ‘anything was possible in the film industry’. I could never allow myself any excuses as to why I couldn’t make a picture the way I’d imagined. It was an important lesson, I think.
Los Angeles is also just a great place to study that line between reality and fiction that I mentioned. It’s full of strange characters that exist in real life, with the rawness of real people – with real goals, purposes, intentions and struggles – who make up the underbelly of the city, on top of which are the layers of glamour and pretence that you see and imagine. And, of course, the mountainous background that seems like a set. It’s strange. Buildings go up and stay up for just as long as the movie is being made; then suddenly the cafe you thought was real has disappeared because the movie’s over and it was only a set. There are just so many layers of artifice in Los Angeles. It’s a very unreliable city in that way, but it’s also very beautiful. I love how it’s never quite what it seems. All of that, I think, is really there, somewhere, in my work.
You see all of this in Hollywood too. There are so many levels of gloss and colour, from the lighting and the glamorous actors and the layers of makeup way down to the made-up ‘mid-Atlantic’ accent (historically used in films to make them more ‘poppy’, ‘snappy’ and inviting) – Hollywood is masterful at luring people into a world that they might not otherwise want to be a part of, but because it’s so beautiful they’re drawn in. All these layers, these ‘tricks’, are used to get people to watch films, and when a filmmaker has the audience’s attention they can say whatever they want. I find that side really inspiring; maybe because I’m always interested in my audience and about communicating my ideas to the widest audience possible – which is why I wanted to publish my book with Thames & Hudson. The use of film ‘trickery’ to communicate ideas, and to make certain darker subjects accessible to a wider audience has always fascinated me.