Artists’ Film: Ecological Perspectives

Jack Friswell’s Comet Perfume is a folk tale of an ecological catastrophe set in a place outside of time and history. Filmed within the subterranean sulphur networks of a Volcano the narrator draws on similarities between the odour of space and that beneath the Earth’s crust. It appears in the 2017 ASFF Artists’ Film strand.

ASFF: When did you begin filmmaking, and what influenced you to start?
JF: I come from a family of cameramen, my granddad, dad, and brother …  Endless hours of home movie tapes and recordings of doc’s and dramas they worked on over the years must have made some impression! It was at college though that I became interested in experimental cinema, when I was exposed to more animation, structural and performative filmmaking.

ASFF: How did you begin the process of making your film, where did the idea come from?
JF: Sicily was somewhere I wanted to visit ever since reading the short stories of Leonardo Scia Scia and watching La Terra Trema (The Earth Trembles) directed by Luchino Visconti. His film which is set in a small fishing port of Aci Trezza along the of the Cyclops Riviera, is a place drenched in social conflicts, cinematic history and mysticism so that was enough to buy a plane ticket. While I was out there though I read an article discussing a space project to capture the smell of a comet and that began shaping the film.

ASFF: How does this film in particular differ or relate to your previous works?
JF: The last couple of films I made have been re-working found and personal archive material, looking mainly at human – animal relations in various natural and unnatural environments. In Comet Perfume, travelling to the place and collecting stories became important in the production. Layering poetry and text into the film is also something new, which I enjoyed and plan to explore and play with more in future films.

ASFF: How do sound and visuals relate to each other in your short?
JF: Sound has always been a bit of an Achilles heel. I can listen and record the sounds I want but I don’t have the technical knowledge to sculpt it in post-production. This film was the first collaboration with composer Luca Nasciuti who just took away the sounds, key frames and words for the film and created a wonderful tapestry of sounds.

ASFF: What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
JF: I’m amid the midst of writing a new film in collaboration with my sister whose an astrophysicist based in Edinburgh. This will be a longer format work than previously and the most ambitious production to date. It’s based in a small village on the North-East Coast it weaves theories and tales of dark matter, poaching, exploding whales and burning ships.

ASFF: How does the short form allow for experimentation / innovation where feature length falls short?
JF: I think both feature and short forms enable experimentation and conceptual innovation. The difference lies in short form being far more accessible to filmmakers working with limited means including time, budget, crew, equipment. The short form means you get a breadth of people working across many disciplines and that’s where an interesting break through can occur. Everyone in the crew has a voice and filmmakers are more willing to try new approaches and techniques regardless if they fail or succeed.

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