Paul Speirs is a very deep, pensive, perceptive individual – who also likes French arty films, sits at Truth on a Saturday exploring the realms of creativity on the digital landscape (aka internet) and reads Aldous Huxley. He’s also a fun, interesting, friendly creative. A filmmaker…
Filmmakers tend to be pensive and introspective, with a light sense of humour on life (hopefully). They make comments about culture, society, humanity, relationships, existence, joy or sadness through visuals and metaphor. Their art is, in essence, a metaphor.
I had the opportunity to pick Paul’s brain about his latest creative venture, a personal project called ‘There Is No End’. I encourage you to watch his film, right now, experience its essence, and then read my interview with him…
There is No End from Paul Speirs on Vimeo.
In your own words, how would you describe ‘There is no End’?
‘There is No End’ is a visual essay, with thirst being a central metaphor. It subtly explores the patterns of conditioning that creates the unmanaged expectations we take into life and love. This is represented through generations of women, all different, and yet intrinsically linked. It is set to the words of the poem Arkansas Good Friday by Franz Wright, words that touch on similar themes – searching for meaning, regret and learning to be present.
To give you a brief understanding of where this idea was conceived and assimilated…
Three years ago I was visiting people in hospital, a mix of individuals whom I had never met and many of whom had no friends or family – according to nursing staff. I met one elderly gentlemen who had TB, a host of illnesses and AIDS (unconfirmed). He was in incredible pain. When I greeted him, in his mother tongue, of which I am able to communicate fairly well (although it is not my first language), he was taken aback and very surprised. I thought it was mostly because I was a young white South African speaking Zulu to an older African man, but soon found out the surprise was because I was just speaking, visiting and talking to him.
When I explained my intentions to purely “vagasha” a word in Zulu that means “to visit/get to know” and I held his hand, his surprise turned into tears, tears that where mixed with the agony he was in and the fact that I was sitting by his side, touching, talking and listening to him. He was very sick, could hardly move and besides his failing body also suffered from bed sores. I could do little for him but talk and listen, though he begged me to help him out of his bed, to open the windows and help him drink water – he was constantly thirsty, very thirsty!
I returned, a week later, to visit again. He was worse off, had no visitors and again cried in tears of agony begging me to help him out of his bed. I sat and stroked his arm talking, listening, praying and sitting in silence as he would shift slightly, try get up suddenly, then rest again, doing his best not to move for the pain it caused.
A few days later, I returned again hoping for improvement, but found his bedroom empty. He had died that morning – alone!
I sat in my car crying. Less for the man I would not see again, more for the situation of life and the state our mortality holds us to.
This short film and my writing began after this experience – it begins with a glass of water and the metaphor of thirst is continued throughout. The practice of loving, unconditionally, resonates as one of the most powerful forces on this earth, as we search for meaning in life and question what this life owes us. I think the answer we forget may lie partially in the – “what do we give without intent, love without return and live for another…” These resonated as broad themes worth exploring…
What inspired you to use this particular poem by Franz Wight to create this film?
“And I am flowing back to the Before, the infinite
years which transpired while I was not
here, and did not know
I was not here”
This quote sums up the connection I sometimes feel with the poet – the danger of holding onto the past, without seeing the repetitive nature of life and the ability to derive joy from living in the present; more particularly, loving in the present. I think his words complemented the visuals and story that I wrote months before finding the perfect poem.
What does your art and artistic expression mean to you?
Expressing creativity is linked closely to my fulfillment and joy – the more time I spend writing, creating and being creative, the better I feel as a productive individual making a contribution to this world. Whether this is a noble or worthy contribution is yet to be decided or seen.
When creating personal pieces, like this one, do you have a target audience or intention in mind?
In this case, not really. I’m aware that this type of film’s audience is in the minority. Writing it was mostly an exercise for myself. But, like poetry, it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.
You made a mood board for this film. Are there any images or influences that come up repeatedly?
The colder, drearier shots in the mood board are closer to the treatment that I had in mind. This image is one that speaks volumes to me, particularly the blue, cold cloudy treatment and composition. The expanse of head room isolating the figure against the world – a theme/look that I stuck to quite purposefully.
What drives you as a creative/filmmaker?
This is difficult – is the fact that it is very enjoyable enough of a drive?
Maybe it’s that working and creating something that [hopefully] at least one person will watch and feel infinity with; a visual expression of something they felt locked from expressing. Similar to a powerfully apt poem, the viewer will, in the moment, derive the pleasure of unnamed identification – in essence, a connection to the human condition that is this life in which we all suffer (and flourish), often simultaneously.
What is it like doing what you do in South Africa today? What are your biggest challenges and your biggest inspirations?
I think it is amazing doing this in SA – there is so much more available and possible to do, it feels like there is less red tape or stringent cost parameters to pull together a little short film like this.
What are you most proud of so far, career-wise?
I am a feature film editor “by trade/profession” and I would say the greatest opportunity to edit a feature film was the “The Good Man” – an incredible project. It’s currently doing the film festival circuit around the world.
The Good Man – Trailer from Paul Speirs on Vimeo.
What can we expect next?
Hopefully my next short film will be more narrative-based and less “deep, sad and introspective” – I have an idea for a fluffy pink teddy bear who gets hiccups and can’t stop laughing… what do you think?
For more of Paul’s incredible work, visit paulspeirs.co.za. Also, check out the work of New Creation Collective, started by Paul and Richard Bolland in Cape Town.
Thank you, lovely Paul, for agreeing to an interview