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Mark Jenkin • Director of Bait

“People can see whatever they want to see in the movie; it's the audience's film now”


- We sat down with British helmer Mark Jenkin to unpick his latest, critically acclaimed feature Bait, which goes on general release in the UK today

Mark Jenkin • Director of Bait

Mark Jenkin’s Bait [+see also:
film review
interview: Mark Jenkin
film profile
goes on general release in the UK today, courtesy of BFI Distribution. Recently, it picked up both the Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the New Horizons Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland. Jenkin is one of several directors making waves at the forefront of the Cornish-British film industry, creating unique productions, which he writes, directs, shoots, edits and sometimes scores as well. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be anything he can't do. Bait is one of the most unique cinematic experiences of the year.

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Cineuropa: Is Bait a Brexit movie?
Mark Jenkin: No; why do you ask? Is that leading on from other things that have been written?

A lot of people have written about how this film deals with issues around Brexit.
I would say that logic has been reverse-engineered, which doesn't mean it's not valid. But certainly, it wasn't my intention. Having said that, I think any film that you're making at the moment is going to have some relevance to the current situation, and that current situation is Brexit. If I had made the film pre-2016, would people be saying that this film is about austerity? Whatever issue is prevalent at the time, people could link the movie to that. But it doesn't bother me, because people can see whatever they want to see in it. It's the audience's film now.

The picture is shot on 16 mm and is in black and white; it has this unique style, and you processed the film yourself. Why did you want to shoot on film?
I've had a passion for film since I was 17 or 18; at that time, I was shooting on Super 8 and sending the cartridges off to Germany and getting the film back. When the low-end digital videos came around, I really latched onto them, so I used to shoot in mini-DV, which is a format I still like but haven't shot with for years. Then I graduated to high-end digital cameras, but I didn't like the workflow, and I wasn't particularly enjoying the aesthetics. So I decided to go back to shooting on film, which was my early love. That was limiting in terms of how you could work because so many labs had closed. Therefore, if you wanted to shoot on film, you had to work out a way of processing it yourself.

You wrote the film, directed it, edited it, filmed it, made the score, and I presume you helped cast it: are you a control freak?
Yes! I've got a very childlike approach to making films. When I started out, I borrowed a VHS video camera from my local library, and two of us began making movies. So one of you had to be in it, and the other person was doing everything else: filming it, doing the sound and the script, all that stuff. I've retained that childlike joy of being involved in every aspect of filmmaking, which I think goes back to the early pioneers in film.

What was it like making the film in Cornwall? Is it a specific tale about that part of the country?
I live there, but the film is not meant to be set anywhere specific. We don't actually mention Cornwall in the film, although I know we have publicised it as being set there. But I think it could be anywhere.

You show a community that has completely broken down to such an extent that now the pubs only open in the summer months, as not enough people are around outside the tourist season.
Money makes the world go round. We live in a society where money is central, and money is really key in this film. I think it's represented in two ways: one as actual money, as notes and coins, and then the money that you don't see. I like to show money changing hands, and I do it in close-ups a lot. With the fisherman, it's only a small amount of cash changing hands; with Sandra, on the other hand, you only see her tapping away on her laptop. She's operating her business through that laptop, and that is moving her money around and paying her bills. There is no real cash until that moment she feels guilty about the stolen lobster, and she pays for something in cash, and to do so, she goes up the hill and enters their world. You can hopefully see the contrast between those two worlds purely through money.

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