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The Art of Change: Community – Richard Dixon Wheatley

Throughout 2018, we’re working with The Smalls to present twelve new short films directed by emerging filmmakers in response to the themes explored by The Art of Change.

This month, Richard Dixon Wheatley’s film, DYSTOPIA, uses spoken word to reflect on what ‘community’ means in today’s society.

We catch up with him to learn more about his work and how he interpreted the theme for his film.

About Richard Dixon Wheatley

I come from a small ex-colliery town in the North East of England and after studying art and design in school and college, I got hooked on film. I then I attended the Northern Film School in Leeds where I studied writing and directing. Since then I’ve been working in London within film production, working on a diverse range of projects from TV commercials to experimental feature films. I’m now a filmmaker and creative based in London specialising in ideation and development within short-form film production.

How does your film respond to this month’s theme – Community?

DYSTOPIA responds to the theme of community by subtly exploring the issues that face the sprawling communities of London. The poem touches on a few elements including gentrification, identity, multiculturalism – shining a light on issues that are affecting our communities.

Art can shift the paradigm, change perspectives and enlighten people to ideas and concepts that could be ignored otherwise

Can you explain the process behind the making of your film?

At the time of reading the brief I had been looking into the work of Gregory Crewdson, the renowned photographer. His work conjures so much story and emotion within a single tableau. You can unravel an intricate story if you look at his work long enough. It’s brilliant. I thought this could be an interesting to approach The Art of Change ‘Community’ brief.

Originally the idea was to film multiple vignettes of characters around London, creating a sense of ‘dystopia’ through various stories with a spoken word artist performing a piece on community with a dystopian twist. I then went through a process of boiling the idea down to its core idea, stripping away anything that wasn’t needed and keeping things simple and true.

After finding the spoken word artist, Jolade Olusanya, we began to work on the script and poem. It was a collaborative process of making sure we hit certain notes and include elements that would lend themselves to cinematic storytelling. We then refined the poem over a couple of drafts until we were happy.

When we had the script in a good place we began the production process. The ironic challenge was trying to find a classic ‘greasy spoon cafe’ in East London… unfortunately a lot of them have closed but there’s a couple hidden away here and there. At least this was a good indicator that the poem was speaking the truth!

Exposure to the arts is invaluable within communities

Do you think art really can be a vehicle for change?

I guess art can shift the paradigm, change perspectives and enlighten people to ideas and concepts that could be ignored otherwise. It’s a great way to engage people in a subject or idea that they might not be confronted with in their everyday lives. I’ve seen how much change an art gallery can do to a small town, so I think exposure to the arts is invaluable within communities.

Next month, our theme is ‘LGBTQ’.

Subscribe to the Barbican YouTube channel to see more short films throughout The Art of Change.

Part of The Art of Change, our 2018 annual theme which explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.