Tag Archives: Adam Curtis

Jon Ronson in Conversation with Adam Curtis January 15, 2015

Jon Ronson in Conversation with Adam Curtis
January 15, 2015

Jon Ronson: I’ve known you nearly 20 years, but I have no idea how you spend your days. I have a mental picture of you in your own special archive room in some BBC building, day after day, hacking through arcane archive like Doctor Livingstone, trying to find some marriage of your ideas and someone else’s pictures. Is that what it’s like? Do you have a special room? If so, what does it look like? Does it have windows? Do you get annoyed if people disturb you?

Adam Curtis: I don’t have a special room. Most of the archive I watch is stored down in a giant series of anonymous sheds in West London. A lot of it I can borrow and watch in giant BBC open plan offices. It is a bit odd, because as well as ordering up films directly related to what I’m researching, I also order all kinds of other stuff that I think might have images that I could use – guided by my instinct and imagination. So people walking past see me watching this endless strange collage of material. From a film about Mrs Thatcher giving fashion tips on how to dress well in 1987, to a programme about people who had visions during epileptic fits, to a documentary about Hells Angels taking a weekend mini-break on a canal barge in the British countryside in 1973. I do get people asking why I’m watching this odd mix. It can be difficult to explain because, to be honest, I don’t really know myself sometimes. I’ve just let my mind drift.

What I look for in the archive are shots that I can use to create a mood that gives power and force to the story I’m telling. So much factual stuff on television and film is so insistently literal, like doomy Arvo Pärt music over pictures of bad things that have happened. And they think that’s emotion. But those are cliches that actually make you feel strangely unemotional.

What I don’t tell anyone about are the hidden levels in the BBC archive – the stuff that’s there that isn’t on the normal catalogues. The secret levels of images from, what, 70 years of continuous filming?

Continue reading Jon Ronson in Conversation with Adam Curtis January 15, 2015