The world of non-commercial film and A-V
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Tony Jacobs is a Belgian moviemaker whose award-winning works include two which are very popular with UK audiences: the surreal story of a released prisoner's wedding, Yellow Tulips; and a ballet about climbing the corporate ladder: Career. He began making movies in 1970.
I began because I liked to do pictures but at that time I had no material. However I have always listened to music and imagined scenes to go with it. The first time I got the chance to join a film club I asked if I could take part. I told them "I have no material but I have some thoughts I want to do this I want to do that ... " That was the start. They were very helpful.
For many years I have done reportage / documentary work for the city. That way I learned to use the camera. That's where I found the spot for the opening shot of Yellow Tulips. I was in Brussels - I saw a place on a hill with stairs. When you stand on the hill you can see the whole of the city. I thought to myself that you could use Liszt's Preludes with this view. Whenever I saw something special I imagined music with it. I listened to music and created images in my mind.
Yellow Tulips began this way - listening to thoughts and music. The final shot of the man climbing the stairs has a meaning, but is more of an image with sound: Mozart's Requiem. The man goes naked up the stairs to a large iron door it clicks open and only then does he leave prison we have been watching unreality.
I can imagine that not everyone understands my films, though I hope they enjoy them. They deal with my thoughts. I try to make an image of my thoughts but it is possible you may not follow them. I try to make my thoughts as concrete as possible to put them on screen.
Career is not specially my film. It is constructed by several people. Anton Klee devised the scenario. The score was written by a music teacher. The choreography is by a dancing-school teacher. We are all friends of a similar age and so we get together, all doing what we do best. It is a specially devised ballet, not a piece that was done before on stage. We found the location first and it inspired us. The staircase and bridge were there so we planned the piece to use them.
The "murder" scene involved one dancer dropping from the high bridge and it was really high, so very dangerous. We did have two mountaineers who knew how to use ropes but there was no net. We had to make him do the scene four times! I had to be on a fairly dangerous position myself, on small steps hanging out over the bridge in order to get the shot.
Working with a Camera
For 21 years I worked in a Culture Centre so because of that I have seen many plays. Since I was in a film club when video came out I knew about it. The centre then got equipment from the Ministry and they said: "Tony, you know about this stuff "
BRT (Belgian TV) used to have an Arts programme on television where every week each Arts Centre, like mine, had to prepare two-and-a-half minutes of arts news. This was because they could not afford to send crews to each place. So, because BRT, had so little money they let me get my work on air!
I taught movie-making with schools coming in for 30 days spread through the year and working with one class per day. We made stories. They worked with three cameras and mixers etc. As a film maker I knew how to help them. I enjoyed it - though it could be pleasantly exhausting at the end of the day. Young people tend to copy television series or make very factual work - but done their way.
Now I work in a playing card museum. Where I live most of the world's playing cards are made. I do the museum's exhibitions. I make video for them about cards. I also do general video work for the city so I make pictures of all sorts of civic events.
I have made a film about the queen of Snowland, set many years after Snowhite. She is old and ugly. Standing in front of her mirror she asks "What can you do about it?" And the mirror says "There's nothing to do - you are old." The the queen gets mad and the mirror says there may be one chance if she can go to the 21st century. This she does, arriving in the swimming-pool of a beauty centre. The specialists offer her treatment and ... but you'll have to wait and see!
I have the text ready for subtitling now - I hope you will like it.
- Tony Jacobs Oct 2000
Still are all from Yellow Tulips.