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  • Travis Lee Ratcliff


This interview was done in the lead up to the release of IN THE SPACE BETWEEN AGES. The documentary debuted through Short of the Week, received a VImeo Staff Pick and was featured in SXSW.

What Inspired the Film - What interested you in the idea?

When I was approached about doing a film on Dony's work I found myself in an interesting position.

Dony's views on art, his rejection of much of the contemporary art world’s direction, challenged me to question my own views.

My personal taste, my interests, and my passions are different from Dony’s. I love contemporary art and don’t crave a return to renaissance ideals the way that Dony does.

However, the more I began to listen to him talk about his craft and the direction of the culture, the more I found myself intrigued by this man’s commitment to stand against the currents of our age.

I have always been wildly fascinated by individuals whose dedication to personal integrity drive them to extreme places. Dony struck me as one such figure.

At times, he seems like a man born in the wrong time.

What began to fascinate me was the role time and history, both personal and cultural, play in defining our experience of reality.

How do we define ourselves in time?

And, as a natural consequence of this question, what agency or freedom do we even possess in the first place?

Investigating our relationship to the forces that shape us and our desire to control them became my obsession in making this film.

What were you hoping to achieve with the film? Why did you make it?

I have made a few documentaries about artists in the past. It seems to be one of these genres that has taken powerful root in internet-cinema culture. At times, I am frustrated by the level of storytelling in the artist films I see.

I wanted, with this film, to try and subvert the form a little bit. I wanted to try and go a little deeper with our themes and tell a story about a person who happens to be an artist rather than a story “about an artist.” Hopefully, we created a film that aspires to a more substantive emotional core than the typical artist film.

But much of what I see in this film now is actually just my frustrated desire to return to making narrative short films.

At every turn in this film we tried to bring the language of narrative cinema to a story that might not ordinarily be told that way. For the last several years we’ve made many documentaries out of economic necessity and pushed away our real desire to tell character driven stories of a more experimental narrative nature.

Completing this film has made me realize that I can’t ignore those desires anymore. It’s the reason I chose make films in Texas, being inspired by the work of Shane Carruth, Augustine Frizzell, David Lowery, Yen Tan, and others.

As I look forward to the next films I hope to make, I think my main impulse is to confront the stories and films that genuinely frighten me.

If I’ve learned anything from working with Dony on this film it’s that you have to stand up for the work you believe in, even if you’re unsure that it has a place in the world you live in.

How was the film made? What was processes, techniques, or new methods did you use in making your film?

In both our documentary and narrative work we are committed to what we call a process-oriented methodology.

This philosophy takes an explorative approach to our filmmaking process and the stories we tell.

While we plan the film in advance as much as possible, pre-visualizing and developing what we think the core emotional or visual structure of the film will be, we put a large emphasis on actively listening to what the film reveals to us as we engage in the process of making it.

Inevitably, we find that the film begins to transform into something more interesting than what we began to produce.

What this means in practice is allowing the community of artisans who work in the film’s production to be active participants in a creative dialogue about what the film is revealing to us.

The power structure of a film doesn’t have to be a dictatorship. It can, I hope, be a laboratory of invention, discussion, and exploration.

In the case of this film, that meant that we lived with our subject for much of filming.

We didn’t know Dony before coming to Ireland, and over ten days we spent with him we began to become close friends.

Our interviews took place over several days, usually after many hours together filming or exploring important parts of Ireland where Dony grew up.

It was in these conversations and these long days that we felt like we started to discover a clearer sense of what Dony's experience of the world really is like.

This, in turn, helped us flesh out the structure of the film, something which we imagined as a kind of escalating dance across time and space.

As Dony’s experience of time became more and more important to the film finding the right rhythm for the non-linear structure became crucial to articulating that on the screen.

When we began to get to know Dony better, we were very surprised as he began to tell us about his experiences as a boy with dyslexia.

It was a familiar story to both myself and my cinematographer, Brody.

Growing up in Dallas, we both were diagnosed with severe dyslexia. Hearing about the physical abuse he suffered and his desire to escape into art moved us deeply.

While we never experienced anything close to the abuse he experienced, we did struggle, and it was cinema that became our own means of escaping.

I think that core experience of trauma informed much of the emotional reality of the film from that point forward. It certainly became a focal point for myself and my own sense of what made the film feel urgent to me.

Interweaving Dony’s early awakening to art from trauma with the broader themes of time and our place in it became the central mission of the film from that point forward.


director's notes


travis lee ratcliff

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