ASFF Interview: Mark Davenport, Photoshopping

Featuring in the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) 2012, Mark Davenport’s Photoshopping is a film about fame, obession and cynicism. From 9 – 11 November Photoshopping will be screened with 22 other comedies at 1331 in the centre of York. The total number of films being screened at ASFF will be over 200 and will cover several genres, including music video, animation, documentary, artist films, experimental, drama and thriller. On 9 November York will also be home to eleven masterclasses from experts in the film field, including a discussion of art on film with Ed Atkins. We catch up with, Mark Davenport, to get the inside story on Photoshopping.

A: Photoshopping is a comedy, please can you explain what it’s about?
Photoshopping is dark comedy about a social misfit, Elaine, who’s hobby is collecting photographs taken of herself with various celebrities. We enter the story as her expansive collection is about to break the world record. Her story is being covered by the local papers and a young photojournalist arrives at the house to document the occasion. The themes it covers are obsession and cynicism really, but it’s all a little tongue in cheek.

A: Is comedy a genre you are particularly drawn to?
MD: I made a short film some years before Photoshopping, for North West Vision, which was also a comedy. I don’t know why really, I think I’m just keen to make stuff i’d like to see and work on – and they just turn out to be light-hearted and funny. I suppose I’m not drawn to, or maybe just don’t have an angle on, deep, dark, social commentary films, so I’ve gone for plot and humour. I do like the genre but I’d like to work in other genres too. The next thing we’re doing is actually a dark comedy as well.

A:Where did the original idea come from for Photoshopping?
MD:I had been thinking about the idea when working on film sets for years and seeing odd-ball characters who would show up regularly, no matter where the location, to help the crew out or get a signature from an actor. The real seed for the script came over a short period of seeing the same faces outside the gates of Coronation Street day-after-day with pen, paper and camera at the ready, desperate to meet the actors. I thought “what do these people do when they get home..what goes on behind their closed doors? How many signatures and photos do they need?” That was the basis for the character of Elaine and the idea came from that.

A: Which filmmakers and films inspire you?
MD: There are a lot of films generally. I love Paul Thomas Anderson’s stuff and Peter Weir. If you’re talking about Photoshopping – I had in mind the old Ealing type films, I love those, and that influenced the mood, pace and structure of the film, that approach was in the back of my mind when making it. I’m a big fan of Dennis Potter, but that has no relevance to Photoshopping whatsoever really.

A: Do you have any new films coming up?
MD: I’m directing another short, it’s called The Note and it’s another dark comedy! It has been written by a very talented guy called John Hartridge and we hope to shoot in early 2013. It’s a really nice piece, a character piece, very dialogue driven and very clever and witty. It could work on stage or the radio as well and the challenge is to add another dimension visually. We’re looking into other things after this project and connected to this project which may lead elsewhere – it’s impossible to know.

Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF), 8 – 11 November, across the city of York.

1. Fern and Elaine in frame,Photoshopping,Mark Davenport, courtesy of ASFF.