Last summer, I had the tremendous opportunity to interview the legendary Alan Moore. Yes, I was intimidated! It was a phoner, which I always find to be trickier; not being able to gauge a person’s visual cues. But within seconds of talking with him, I felt at ease.
Somehow, we ended up talking for over 90 minutes and I was almost late for work. It was first thing in the morning for me (Boston) and the afternoon for Moore (England). The interview was to run on Examiner.com, a website I had been freelancing for. Without much notice, Examiner was bought by AXS, and I found myself with an interview and no place to publish.
Until now! Hooray for self-publishing! And a thank you to my west coast bestie, Erin Fitzgerald, for encouraging me to start this blog.
The impetus for this interview was the recent release of Moore’s multimedia art venture entitled Show Pieces. The crux of Show Pieces is its short films. I found them to be witty and terribly haunting.
AMY: Good morning from me!
ALAN MOORE: Good afternoon from me.
AMY: I just want to start off by saying that it’s my brother’s fault that I like your work.
MOORE: Oh, so he indoctrinated you, did he? Good man.
AMY: He did! He had to do mail order for comic books, because it was the eighties when there wasn’t a comic book store near us. He had The Killing Joke and he also liked Pop Will Eat Itself’s “Can U Dig It.” That was the first I heard of you was on that single. I was still into Dazzler and Wonder Woman. Your writing just opened a whole world for me, so I want to say thank you for that.
MOORE: Thank you very much for that. That is great, Amy. Unfortunately, myself, I’ve kind of become very, very distant from all of my early work. All of my work that I don’t own. But I’m always glad to hear that it did the job that it intended it to do and that people enjoyed it.
AMY: In your collection of short films, Show Pieces, I found the character of Faith to be very relatable. What led you to feature autoerotic asphyxiation as kind of a starting point for Faith.
MOORE: As with a with a lot ideas, it came together from a variety of sources. Initially, it was Mitch Jenkins just calling around to my house for a cup of tea, as he does occasionally. He got an idea about making the photo shoot [that] he’d recently done for my underground magazine Dodgem Logic. Because we had a lot of fun doing that, he’d like to do a little ten minute film. Just to remind people that he has done an awful lot of film work in the past. And that he does do something other than take high-end celebrity portraits.
I asked if he wanted a short screenplay, if it could be useful. He said that it couldn’t hurt. The initial brief was that it would be the characters that had been featured in the photo shoot, or characters like them. Mitch said that he wanted to introduce another character; an actress. He’s friends with Siobhan [Hewlett]. He said that he got an image in his mind of a woman’s mouth in lipstick, pressed against the inside of a polythene bag. I said, “Okay, well, I’ll see if I can work that in.”
The initial story, Jimmy’s End, was the first thing to be written. That was written before Act of Faith and it was written before the other three short films. I was putting together a bigger story in my head while I was doing it. I didn’t know that we would get to see much more of Faith than just these ambiguous glimpses of Faith briefly pressed against the window.
AMY: That part is fantastic.
MOORE: Yes-when James is entering the club where it’s so quick that you’re barely sure that you’ve seen it. And then Faith’s general demeanor during the scene where she’s talking to James and Mr. Matchbright, just that frightened cowed kind of behavior. And then the dialog between her and James when they’re dancing, you get a suggestion of a bigger story. But back then it might’ve ended up as a suggestion. As an atmospheric suggestion.
Now, by the time I had written Upon Reflection and A Professional Relationship. These were originally intended as short pieces. This was when the entirety of Show Pieces was planned as an app. Show Pieces has a very, very bizarre history of making it to the screen, largely because me and Mitch were insisting all the way through that we should keep full creative control. We weren’t asking for very much money, but we were asking for something rather unusual in terms of control and ownership. At one point, we’d got a software company interested in making the film as an app, which would have little short films as Easter eggs, I think the term is.
MOORE: That was how A Professional Relationship and Upon Reflection came to be written. At this point, we were a couple of years into the process and we hadn’t gotten anything done. Apart from a lot of scripts and a lot of meetings. I was, frankly, at the end of my tether and so was Mitch. It was Mitch who said, “What should we do?” I said, “Why don’t make a little short film to show was we can do.” Mitch said, “Yeah, that’s not a bad idea. Perhaps it could be a trailer.” And I said, “Yeah, alright, it could be a trailer, but it will be my idea of a trailer in which it will show nothing of what is actually going to be in the film.”
AMY: “I’m a big fan of that.”
MOORE: Yeah. Trailers. It’s like a speeded-up, nonsensical version of the film. A version that actually spared you the discomfort of actually going and watching it. So, we thought, “What if we did a trailer that was a little, self-contained film itself.” I started to think that we didn’t want to show anything inside of the club. That would have been giving it away. So I thought, “Why don’t we deal with Faith? Why don’t we show how she got into the club?” We could do a five or ten minute thing. One actress. One room. That sounds cheap.
So I began to focus upon the character of Faith. I started to work out her history: Who she was. Where she worked. Where she’d come from. There’d be a reference to her father being a vicar. I started to think about her career as a journalist. That’s why we open with the shot of the newspaper, The Mercury and Herald, which actually doesn’t exist anymore. It was the oldest newspaper in the world, I believe. A few years ago, it changed its name to The Herald and Post, which is a right shame. We’ve decided to keep The Mercury and Herald as a as a real entity in our imaginary Northampton.
I suppose that the character of Faith seemed to me, well, I wanted somebody who has her own sexual identity. I wanted to show that, but not as a flaw. I wanted to show that as part of her personality. I was a little distressed by some of the commentary on Act of Faith which seem to think that it’s about a young woman committing suicide. I thought it was pretty clearly not. This is about somebody who is taking part in a ritualized form of sexuality and something goes wrong.
AMY: Still touching on Faith, I loved the Faith No More CD in the film.
MOORE: I’m glad you noticed that! We tried to pay attention to everything. Like the bottle of vodka she puts down is Tunguska, which is where, in 1908, a meteor or something, impacted and completely devastated the area. It looked like a nuclear attack. So we thought, “Tunguska Vodka: It will flatten you.” Everything that you see is something that we invented, with the exception of the Faith No More CD. It was an irresistible pun.
END OF PART ONE