AB: The way that I felt looking at this movie for the first time, was like looking through a peephole, in that I was aware that there were all these veils and layers that I was peering at this story through. I know that you have a very elaborate process, and this particular film was made with stop animation with thousands of frames. Tell me about your process and how you put the film together.
TJW: The films are primarily shot frame by frame, so it' s many thousands of frames, and then they go through this elaborate transferring process. They are shot on Super-Eight, transferred to video, and then they are edited in video and then they' re transferred to 16mm film. I always liked this crazy circuitous route in the construction of these things. The elaborate process has as its result this kind of spectacular image. It' s this surplus of labor; its " value " is this kind of really ephemeral visual pleasure that is its result. There' s no other way for me to get my films to look the way they do. You know, there are conventions for how we see different kinds of cinema so that it' s not just that this does this stuff automatically because of the way it' s shot, but it plays with conventions of cinematic fantasy, like how we read fantasy, or how we read a dream sequence or whatever. But, then it also, I think, takes advantage of film. I try to really play up film as this really kind of gorgeous medium. I always try to kind of exaggerate the filminess of the films, so that that becomes a part of the meaning of the whole thing.
AB: If asked, I would begin to explain your work by saying that you are obsessed with obsessiveness. Because you focus on these characters that have this very specific way of life, or thing that they are about that includes a very lengthy or sometimes painful process, and then you make your film about them through this very lengthy and painful process.
TJW: (laughs) That' s true.
AB: So there' s this mirror of you always in them in this way that you make your work, in the way you feel about these people and in their actual life.
TJW: You know these stories often come to tragic conclusions. Or, at least, even if they don' t really, that' s the interpretation of them that' s been superimposed in a top-down manner. Maybe I' m trying to propose a reinterpretation of some of the ways that these things are generally considered. The worlds that these people were able to create took so much time and work that it' s worth this labor on my part to begin to approximate their depth of investment in this thing they constructed in order to participate in it myself; I have to go that far with it too.
AB: It' s like when you were first talking about Stephen Tennant and whether or not his particular way of life is a lost lifestyle, can that exist anymore?
AB: A theme for you seems to be taking this thing of the past and how it exists now, or how it exists for you. There' s this mystery behind these people' s worlds.
TJW: Well, it doesn' t seem possible now. I think of these people, or these ideas, almost more as heroes in a way, as kind of utopic, maybe. I' m not trying to erase the fact that the First Emperor was also an incredible despot and he enslaved this huge portion of his country, but stories are more complex than that. So, usually it' s people that are archetypes, or really over the top examples, or alternative models that I think people should have available for their own aspiring. At least they' re the ones that work for me. It seems like often there is a moral attached by the contemporary chroniclers of these stories, that somehow these people met their miserable end, or something happened--there' s this spin put on the story, that of course this couldn' t resolve happily because this was so corrupt, or whatever, or so ephemeral, or so obsessive, or whatever it was and I either try to ignore that kind of moral or give it a new spin, or something different.
AB: Or give your own.
TJW: Or something.