Richard Jobson’s career began initially in the Scottish punk band Skids when he was just 17. After a few years in the music industry, he put down his microphone and pursued a modelling career in the 80s. Next he moved on to presenting film shows for Sky TV before starting to make films himself.
He’s been writing and directing for a decade and has just made his sixth feature film, Wayland’s Song, about a man who returns from the Afghanistan war only to discover his daughter has vanished without trace. As he tries to find her, he soon realises how lost he has become, and the film centres on him finding himself as a person while continuing the desperate search for his daughter. Flicks And The City caught up with Richard to talk about Wayland’s Song, his filmmaking inspirations and his career path.
What inspired you to make Wayland’s Song?
I wanted to do a film about people who have post-traumatic stress from being in some sort of conflict, and I wanted to also tell a story about people who are in conflict in Iraq and people in this country not really caring very much about them. In many ways it’s a sequel to my previous film The Somnambulists which dealt with the conflict in Iraq and problems with the conflict in Afghanistan. But essentially, like with most of my stories, it’s a story about a family and a family falling apart, and a man who’s got to try and bring it all back together again.
The film centres on the character of Wayland finding himself. How far is his character based on your own experiences?
Elements of it are my personal experiences; he suffers from seizures because of his post-traumatic stress and that’s something I’ve had. I’ve had the condition of epilepsy most of my life, so I used that in the film. I wanted to explore the audio/visual effect that has on people and, obviously, I’m in a better place than most people to examine that. Other than that element, he’s got nothing much to do with me; he’s a man trying to find his soul and I guess that’s got a lot to do with me, he’s finding his identity. Essentially, it’s much more of a story of a man searching for who he is after he’s lost himself in that conflict, he’s on a search for the truth of ‘who am I’.
Wayland’s Song is the sixth feature you’ve made; how have you developed as a filmmaker since your debut 16 Years of Alcohol?
Well, I used to get lots of money and now I don’t get any money! I think what I’ve done is stick to my guns about making independent films that are very truly my vision and the characters are the characters I want to present on screen. Most films are made by a committee, by lots of people making lots of decisions and obviously I know how a story should work and how a character should work. I don’t really have that problem; I just try to get on and make my films. But the downside to that, of course, is you’ve got to try and make your films with very little money. That has helped me find creative solutions to the problems I face. You try and create a high production-value film. The cost is irrelevant; the public don’t care about what a film costs, they care if the story is any good.
You were a film reviewer and interviewer for Sky TV. Did this influence or encourage you to start making your own films? And have you been inspired or advised by any directors you interviewed?
Yes, I was on the set of lots of movies and interviewed people that were involved – directors, producers, to technicians and actors, of course. Along the way I tended to dabble in short films and quite experimental films and some of the directors I met who thought I had an opportunity to have a go at something really encouraged me. But the best advice was from Wong Kar-Wai, a Chinese director who said to me, ‘just do what you want to do, don’t do what other people want you to do’, and that’s been my mantra really. It makes it difficult to finance my films but at least when the film is done I can say its something I’m proud of and I feel strongly and passionately about, rather than it being a film that’s hugely disappointing to me because there were so many changes made because of all these different voices and thoughts. It’s harder these days for filmmakers to just go and make a film because there’s so much risk involved financially so they end up having to compromise, and I don’t compromise at all with my projects. So if they don’t work it’s my fault and if they do work it’s my fault; I can go to sleep at night knowing that the project I wanted to make, I’ve made.
Tell me about your lighting and colour choices in Wayland’s Song.
It’s a story about people hiding from the light; in various scenes people have their curtains closed, they’ve got the lights off, the bar he goes to is an underground bar with no windows, so everybody is hiding from the light. I wanted to play with a metaphor of the light representing some kind of truth. Wayland is searching for the truth, the truth of his story and who he is. What’s happened in this movie is that it’s a messed-up world. There’s something very metaphorical and spiritual going on in that aspect of the story and it had that very noir-ish feel. If you really analyse the film, you will see it’s actually, probably a black-and-white film, although the film is in colour. The only main colour in the whole story is red; Wayland’s world is very red and, again, that’s giving you a sense of the corporal and bloody mess and the hell-like world he’s been in.
You’ve had a varied career, but where does your passion ultimately lie and what have you found most challenging?
I think filmmaking is the most difficult of all the things I’ve done. When you’re in a band there’s only a couple of people involved and with other things they’re passive experiences, you’re just reacting to what’s open to you. But with movies it’s a huge big thing, even when you make small films like my films, there’s still a lot of people involved. I’m very ambitious with my films so I use a lot of special effects and you can’t do it all yourself, you need to collaborate with people. It can be challenging and difficult, there’s definitely days when I feel like I can’t do this anymore. Then I pick myself up and dust myself down and get on with the next one.
Tell me about your next projects.
The biggest one is a film called Helter-Skelter about two men who are parachuted into the Scottish mountains and you quickly realise they are duelling for each other’s kidney, so it’s pretty dark stuff. I’m going to make another film before then, a tiny film called Fixations which is about a man who’s being kept captive in a basement, but he doesn’t know why or who by; it’s a very strange movie. So, I’m hoping to have two done by the summer of next year.
Wayland’s Song is available on DVD now from Amazon