28th May2018

Interview: Director Paul Wright on ‘Arcadia’

by Philip Rogers

Arcadia is a new documentary from director Paul Wright, which has been selected to play at the Southend Film Festival on Saturday 26th May. I got a chance to ask Paul Wright a few questions about what we can expect from the film, the process of bringing together 100 years of archive footage for the film and what was the most surprising footage that they found.


What can we expect from the film Arcadia?

Arcadia is a documentary that is made entirely from archive material from the past 100 years, that looks to explore our connection to the land and to each other.

Complete with an original soundtrack by Adrian Utley and Will Gregory we hoped the film would show these different, at times conflicting versions of Britain in a visceral, sensory way.

What was the process for bringing the footage together for the film?

The first step was making a rough plan for the kind of footage to look for and to give the structure of the film some sort of progression, some sort of narrative.

An early breakthrough at this stage was the idea of splitting the film into the four seasons; so, as we move from Spring to Summer to Autumn to Winter the mood and energy of the piece also shifts and changes.

From there it was about watching hundreds of hours of the BFI’s rural archive and marking off, in a paper edit, anything that caught my eye, that I thought could be useful at a later date. We had some buzzwords for each season on the kind of material we were after but of course at this stage the material also inspired the ideas and themes running through the film.

We then explored further parts of the BFI archive as well as other regional archives, which I felt was important to enhance the contrast of the story I was planning to explore.

It was of course during the edit itself that things really came together. The editor, Michael Aaglund, and myself discussed our plan and what films and clips may work for each section then it was about putting something rough together and seeing how it felt. Initially some things worked, and some things did not, new ideas came to the fore and old ones died away. It became a pretty organic process of improving, discarding and experimenting as we moved forwards with constructing the film.

What was the most surprising footage that you found?

Every day going through the material there were moments that were surprising, that created a spark.

In the early days when I was watching around 8 hours of material a day, seeing those moments that took your breath away, that you knew was something that would be in the finished film, made the long viewing process worthwhile.

I think some of the footage of the folk celebrations and rituals were personal favourites of mine: they were just so full of otherworldly energy and had this complexity of being beautiful and disturbing at the same time.

If someone is looking to direct their first film, what advice would you give them?

I think it’s about just going and making something, even if it’s only one minute or 15 seconds to start with, even if nobody else ever sees it. It can be pretty crippling waiting until everything is perfectly in place to film so I’d advise to go shoot something this weekend – even if it’s just you and a friend trying something out in the park or your house. See what works and what does not, experiment, push your ideas to the limit, find what you’re interested in then keep going from there.


Arcadia will be playing at the Southend Film Festival on Saturday 26th May at 8:30pm. For more information on the event and to purchase tickets for the Southend Film Festival please see the website for details: https://www.southendfilmfestival.com


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