Today: May 28, 2024

The Art Of Documentary Making

Marc Quinn – Making Waves is fascinating new documentary about a year in the life of one of the UK’s most celebrated and controversial artists, Marc Quinn. Shot by Quinn’s long time friend and collaborator, the BAFTA and Grierson documentary award winning director Gerry Fox (who made the critically acclaimed South Bank Show about Marc Quinn in 2000) Making Waves delves into the very nature of creativity, art, inspiration, fame and, following its selection in the 2014 London Film Festival, celebrates its 2015 theatrical release with a series of screenings and Q&As with both Marc and Gerry. Paula Hammond caught up with the duo in London where she quizzed Gerry about the art of making a documentary about art…

Can you tell us a little about your background?
I started making films at university. I made a couple of arts based films and I was quite interested in being a film maker. But and at that time – in the late ‘80s – there were very few places to make films in this country. One of the best places to make intellectually challenging films was the South Bank Show and I fought my way onto there. That set me on my way for about 20 years. I created a lot of television series – worked with a lot of young directors, making films that tried to be different and creative, showing art in new and exciting ways. I was there until 2008 when it ended and since then I’ve been making full length films with artists, because television has become very presenter led. It’s all about Alan Yentob’s piece on somebody but I’ve always been more interested in non presenter work.

What let you to make “Making Waves”in the first place?
Marc and I had made two films together before. One in the ‘90s one in 2000s. The one we did before, for the South Bank Show, was very theatrical, very staged. A big production. So we thought it would be quite interesting to make the opposite kind of film. This coincided with the development of new cameras which make it much easier for one person to do the whole thing. So I felt like we could do a different kind of film. Something with a handheld camera. Also, because there’s no huge investment, we thought that we’d start and see what happened.

Was it always intended to be a year in the life?
It seemed like a nice arc of a structure because really, you could go on forever. And oddly it’s quite interesting as yesterday I filmed the opening of Marc’s new show, just because there were a couple of works in it that he was working on at the end of the film and it seemed like a great idea to to put those into the context of the show. I eventually added that an end credit sequence, so that you have the sense of how the whole process keeps going and going and never stops.

As a filmmaker you obviously have your own creative ideas. Did you find that – working with another artist – your ideas clash?
I did much more more on the last film more, because that was more theatrical and artistic. We were using stop frame and slow motion and time lapse sequences. It was a much more stylised, creative film, so we had to collaborate artistically. But that’s the sort of thing you could never do today because film is expensive and television isn’t really commissioning art. But this is much more observational. Then, I had much more power, but now I’m just the man with the camera! However, it’s lovely to be able to do something over a much longer period with an artist and also show all the things being an artist involves … how you set up in the gallery, how you talk to all your potential buyers or museum directors… It’s all part of being an artist. It’s not just sitting in a studio.

How does it work – filming for a whole year…?
You have to find a way to tell these different narratives. There are no big stories – but there are different stories about art being made and the processes over the year – and in order to tell that you have to edit a lot of stuff. You have hours and hours of material and you edit as you go along. Otherwise it would be impossible.

The finished film is very immediate. Very informal…
It was one of the things we set out to. A lot of films about art are very highbrow, using a language that doesn’t really appeal to the vast majority. But I think people can really get a grip on this… see how powerful it is.

The release of Making Waves coincides with Marc Quinn’s major new show, TOXIC SUBLIME, at the White Cube, Bermondsey, July 15th-September 15th.

MARC QUINN – MAKING WAVES is distributed worldwide by Starline Entertainment.


Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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