admin On aprile - 22 - 2014

by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Garnet Frost embodies the hopes and fears of our specie: human kind is constantly in pursuit of meaning. The talented young British film-maker, Ed Perkins, conscious of this decided to capture the fantastic modern tale of an older man setting off on a new journey to find a mysterious treasure.

For the past two decades, Garnet was haunted by a memento from his doomed trip, that made him believe that an unusual wooden staff was a marker for a spectacular fortune once owned by Bonnie Prince Charlie and lost since 1746. Ed decided to accompany him on the trip and capture through his sensitive lens the story of man who finds an existential gold mine.

Through this Exclusive Interview Ed Perkins and Garnet Frost account their fantastic adventure:

ED, How did you first get to meet Garnet?

We first met four years ago, when I was a developer producer for a company in London and I was actively looking for stories for TV, who had potential to hold a feature film documentary. Through a film-maker friend I heard about this rather extraordinary eccentric man who a dream of going up to Scotland and find a treasure which was worth a billion dollars. Garnet invited me round to his house, so I literally showed up out of the blue on his front door with a film crew standing behind me; he invited us in the kitchen where we spent three hours talking. Garnet’s initial idea was going up to Scotland and having people dressing up with re-enactment gear for a historical film, but I felt that wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to tell. I suspected there possibly was a more human and interesting story to tell. So I kept coming back every month and became quite addicted to Garnet and his amazing world. I realised there was more than a mere pot of gold, and that’s the excitement of making a film like this: you never know what’s going to happen. For a filmmaker it’s amazing: you’re following a person and you’re getting a bigger adrenaline rush. Things happen live in front of you and it’s very exciting not to know what’s going to happen. I became  addicted to the process and felt very strongly that Garnet’s story was one that threw bigger and important themes and that people could empathise and relate to him. I’m completely indebted to Garnet: he’s allowed a film crew in his life, he bared his soul and dropped his barriers, trusting me completely, I feel very privileged about this.

GARNET, How did you feel when Ed said he wanted to make a film about your quest?

It was a complete surprise for me. It somehow came out of nothing so I really didn’t have any kind of expectations. I knew I wanted to go back to Scotland and the idea of making a movie about it incentivised me to make sure  it happened. It wasn’t like I was pitching out an idea for a film. Actually it was a learning experience for me, a rather fascinating one. The remarkable thing of this film is that it came from nowhere and we just had to let things unfold, there was no question of it being storyboarded: whatever happens in real time is going to be the material. Of course there was no money so Ed and I had to put our hands in our pockets, but at the same time we didn’t have anything to lose, and that gave us particular freedom.

GARNET did you ever have doubts during the journey that you would actually find the treasure?

No I wasn’t to be honest. But I thought it was definitely worth a try. It seemed very much like an outside chance, but worthwhile trying. If not the gold there’s got to be something there and I am pretty sure there is something there, some archeology. I also knew, having been there before, that the landscape is such an astonishing place to go. I suppose I am a bit of a dreamer and allow myself to be drawn in the idea that I would have found something out there. I think we were close. After we’ve been up there I did get anxious when we didn’t find the gold and started wondering what the film would have been about. At that point I completely entrusted the story would have made sense through Ed’s vision. I actually sensed that he was more interested in me personally than in the idea of finding the gold, so I was confident he would have managed to tell a story with meaning. I felt I could trust him. And when I finally saw the film, I felt my trust had been repaid. I’m thrilled and very proud of him and of what he made of it.

ED,  was your intent to tell the story of people’s need to find meaning in their lives?

Yes, although I don’t want to be too prescriptive about what audiences would take away. I wanted to create a film that kept a level of ambiguity. I didn’t want to fall into (what I’ve done a lot in the past and what several documentary films do) putting a camera in the face of the person at the centre of the story, during the poignant moments, and ask “how do you feel?” I didn’t want to go there because it didn’t feel right. I wanted the audiences to ponder. I usually like to go see a movie and come out the other end feeling more questions have been asked than answered. I love going away and having a film stay with me and I wanted to try that with Garnet. I felt his story touched themes very close to human condition: I think that when we all look at our lives we wonder if we made something of our lives. I think Garnet’s story can be seen as a mirror, where we see our own hopes and dreams.

Can we consider it a coming-of-age story, ED?

Of course it is. Absolutely and you can see by the way Garnet speaks that he thinks a lot about his own life and the journey he’s been going on. But one of the fascinating things about him during this trip was that I don’t think Garnet exactly knew the emotions he was feeling. His mum for example acts as a sort of oracle when she says “I hope he finds whatever it is: if it’s not gold it’s his heart’s desire.” And from talking to her and Garnet’s friends I started to figure out what was going on and I think that he had that epiphany in Scotland. He was going on a real life journey and one of the tricky things for me as a filmmaker was I didn’t want him to be too aware and think his own story. I just wanted him to be in the moment and react to the landscape. So I didn’t ask too many questions and I just let him be. With that said I think this film could have been done in various ways, like cinéma vérité for instance – where I pretended I didn’t have any impact, hiding into the bushes and watching him from afar – but I feel that could be disingenuous. By the very nature of holding a camera six inches from him, I know I’m having an impact in his life and am willing to accept to be part of the story. I wanted to make a film that was more cinematic and I think Garnet went to where he wanted through his own volition and if there is any truth to his story and relevance to other people’s lives it’s entirely because of Garnet.

It felt very much like a modern fairytale, GARNET, did the setting help since the Highlands evoke the Brigadoon magic allure?

I think you got a sense of it in the film: it’s like stepping into a portal. It’s very different out there. I also thought about Brigadoon, and this idea of a land where time stands still, compared with London it’s such an amazing contrast. You feel like you enter another world and get in touch with this preserved ecosystem that pervades your soul, where time doesn’t matter and you get the feeling that dimensions have twisted. So that’s the interior sense of how that affected me, and of course visually in the film it’s spectacular and you lose yourself in that landscape. It’s all more primitive, natural, ancient. It’s very refreshing to be a whole with nature.

So GARNET, did this experience change you somehow?

It’s very hard to separate it from the business of the making of the film. Except that being here in New York is a magical thing for me and being surrounded by people who enjoyed the story. I feel very flattered and it’s invigorating me. What we did in Scotland was a cathartic experience for me. I’m 60 years old now and I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity of doing something like that ever again. The idea of the gold did haunt me for all those years on a profound level and to go back there and follow it through gave me a sense of accomplishment and an extra level of self-fulfilment.

ED, how does it feel to have shared Garnet’s story with the TriBeCa audience?

I think that Garnet for a filmmaker is somehow of a hidden treasure. He is well read and so poetical, and surrounds himself with this very enigmatic evocative world and amazing characters. Being here is like a dream come true and I’m so glad that Garnet had the chance to be here and talk to people and being loved. It’s very rewarding for me to see him getting the attention and love he’s deserved for so many years. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a fun journey for him.





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