What triggered the desire to make your film Faces?
Faces came at a time when I was able to recognise and understand how far I’d come in my own skin. I’d become much more comfortable compared to my much younger self. I wanted to explore that, and the unique anxieties that come with belonging to two or more cultures, as a largely under-represented area of race. I think for this reason, a lot of people are unable to truly comprehend its anxieties.
You’re essentially sitting on the fence, wondering which race or nation to align yourself with. It’s an identity struggle that can carry forward into adulthood. Many mixed-race individuals will rock between cultures, not feeling they belong to either. Oftentimes, you might choose to identify with the country of your upbringing for ease or default. “Who am I? What am I?” I wanted to explore these elements as part of my own personal understanding and healing process, to close the gap on who I am, and why I am.
Filming the faces not speaking is a far more effective and poetic device than talking heads. What inspired this technique?
When I think of traditional documentary devices that might feature a person sitting talking to camera, I shiver. For me, it always seemed so boring. How can we break it open? Could we shoot them lying down and talking, do they have to sit on a chair in front of their fireplace? It’s tried and tested and works, but if you can find a way to askew the talking head into something that might give a little extra, then great. I always knew that I wanted to have the people, myself included, stare and address the audience as their voice overs play out. I wanted to have the camera move around them, to be more active, and for their eyes to follow the camera. I always knew this was the films grounding, particularly in contrast to the Super 8 visuals of the interracial couple.
It seemed more weighty and powerful, and perhaps even contemplative, for the viewer to have direct eye contact with the individuals. It directs the viewer to properly look and listen to people whose experiences they might not have considered otherwise. Through this, I could control the tone to a specific outcome, which proved much more effective for something of this scale.
There’s a melodic pace to the film – how did you go about creating the music?
The music was created by Johnny Lillis, he’s a friend and musician, who’s played in a lot of bands over the years, but now focuses more on creating melodic, and oftentimes electronic, soundscapes these days. With most projects, I never really know what I want from the music until I’m presented with something to tweak or feedback on.
I like to edit where I can, and so I’ll use a temp track where necessary, and for the earliest cuts of the film I was using Mica Levi’s Pre-Barok, which is a short 1-minute violin/string-led instrumental which set the tone for the film and its pace. Ultimately, what we ended up with was so much different and more suited. I think my only notes for Johnny at the start were for something bittersweet, that was bridged between joy and melancholy. I think we achieved that.
Were there any major challenges with the production of the Faces?
The project was conceived in February 2019, and then shot over May, August and November of that same year. It was stitched together over several months purely for the fact we were working on a nothing-budget and myself and DOP Katie weren’t available for a straight run of it. The length of time in which the project elapsed was probably the trickiest to deal with. It’s been a labour of love. I’m quite impatient in that respect, really. Like most directors, I want everything now! Still, the change in weather for each person benefits the film and adds a sense of variety and colour – sun, clouds, night, you name it!
Please tell us briefly about your background which led you to filmmaking?
I was making stop motion with my Star Wars action figures and remaking The Lord of the Rings with my friends at a very, very young age. I’d essentially commandeered the family camcorder, this little Sony DV/Tape camera. I hear they’ve been very vogue these days…
What’s your next project?
I recently finished editing my latest work that I’ve also directed titled Nars, which is Filipino-Tagalog for Nurse. Much like Faces, the project was conceived as a way to learn more about my heritage and to feel closer to my mother, a Filipino nurse.
The film was funded as part of Satellite Film’s Skip/Intro commission, combining scrap-book like collages with Super 8 visuals to illustrate the thoughts, stories and opinions of four UK-based Filipino nurses, as they discuss the Philippines’ emphasis on family, care-based culture and their marginalisation within the NHS, as the largest exporter of nurses worldwide. I’m very excited for people to see it, especially against the backdrop of COVID-19.
Patrick Taylor website