Catalytic Elements

Director and visual artist Daisy Dickinson’s experimental short, Man on the Hill, transcends the sound and visual of the drum, using nature’s most powerful forces – fire and water – as catalysts for destruction. Accompanied by music by E-da Kazuhisa, the film creates a mood piece of raw, ritualistic, drumming phenomena. With a run-time of approximately five minutes, the piece was chosen to screen in the Aesthetica Short Film Festival’s Official Selection in November 2016. We speak with Dickinson about the inspiration behind Man on the Hill, and why, as a filmmaker and visual artist, she is drawn to the natural elements and the art of collaboration.

ASFF: Fire and water act as catalysts for destruction in Man on the Hill. What drew you to use these two elemental materials?
DD: I’ve always been drawn to the natural visual elements that exist on earth. For me, fire is transcendental, it’s erratic and unpredictable and its movement is truly eccentric. Both fire and water are very strong visually, constantly moving and evolving and I think they make really interesting characters in a film.

ASFF: The sounds and visuals of a drum enforce a sense of primitive ritualism within the film. How do you hope audiences will engage with the piece?
DD: The drums are such a primitive instrument, dating back to when man first discovered rhythm, and they do hold a certain ritualistic element. I hope that through the sounds and visuals of the piece, me and E-da can transport the audience and provide them some temporary escapism.

ASFF: Working within the experimental genre, your films have no or few boundaries. Can you talk about the positive nature of the genre, but also the challenges faced when practising within an open-ended discipline?
DD: I think it’s a wonderful genre as it allows for total freedom of expression. But it’s also difficult to even define it as a genre and I would almost go as far as to say that it’s a non-genre as it’s a category that the films that can’t be defined by normal cinematic conventions are placed into. I don’t say to myself “my next film is going to be an experimental film” but rather “my next film is going to be a true projection of what is currently manifesting in my mind.”

ASFF: What is so valuable to you about film, in particular the short form?
DD: Film is such a magical art form as it combines so many elements and provides opportunity for infinite collaboration. I think short film in particular is so valuable because it doesn’t take years to make. It can take months or sometimes even weeks to complete a short film which allows for frequent manifestation of new ideas. This is amazing if we are using our art as a tool to process things that are happening in our daily lives as it allows for constant expression.

ASFF: Can you talk about your previous projects, and how these feed into your upcoming works?
DD: I’ve been working on a lot of live audio/visual performances recently and have been using a microscope to create some of the visuals for the shows. This imagery is much more abstract than my films and I feel like this abstract element has been feeding into my recent short films. My latest project is a With Teeth commission, produced by The London Short Film Festival and I used my microscope to film a majority of the dream sequence.

See more of Daisy’s work:

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1. Still from Man on the Hill.