I walk in to the familiar smell of coffee bubbling on a camping hob, mingling cool with late night notes spinning lazy from an old turntable. Strips of film spindle from the roof like black bunting of some strange parade, whilst a dog-eared postcard of Kerouac eyes the whole scene, square jawed and indifferent to the bric-a-brac and books that stuff each shelf to the brim. I eye an amalgam of cameras lurking in every corner; some small and clinging curious to the wall, others sad husks casting great shadows across the floor, like the bones of prehistoric beasts in a dust-licked museum. To my right is a sink still wet with yesterday’s water, to my left a low desk where a number of notebooks sprawl, the pages wrinkled by hasty scribbles of thought locked in an inspired fervor. But behind the stacked shelves and crowded boxes is a sense of indescribable order, the kind beyond our comprehension, like the hissing foam of a breaking wave, or the bulbous cut of cloud drifting dense above – an arrangement of cosmic infinity, and here I stood at its nexus. At the centre of this storm stands the conductor of it all – yet this is a symphony not of strings, but Super 8.
This is the realm of Mark Jenkin; celebrated filmmaker, screenwriter, and all round creative brilliance blazing like a lone lighthouse on the distant shores of Newlyn, Cornwall. Clad in tattered navy jumper and matching flat cap, he looks less visionary artist, more train driver meets timeless fisherman. In his hands he cradles a cushionlined box that arrived this morning: another short film festival, another award. I admire his collection as he hands me a coffee, then we shoot the cinematic shit – from the dark of David Lynch to the hidden subversion of The Lego Movie, before arriving at his own work. Mark begins with his mantra – ‘film is an art form first, entertainment second’ – and his are a conscious combination of the two. Mark’s creations range from the life of a fisherman backed by a beat generation monologue, to brooding features critiquing the stark realities of second homes in a housing crisis.
The latter, titled Bronco’s House, was shot on 16mm stock and developed in a concoction of cheap instant coffee and vitamin C, heaping spoonfuls of unorthodox innovation into the experimental genre pot. His upcoming release, Enough to Fill Up an Eggcup – an unashamedly Cornish examination of a landscape threatened by our changing climate – is chocked full of long takes, raw with dust marks and lingering hairs giving testament to Mark’s tactile methods. When I ask about the unpolished appearance of his work, he smiles and remarks on how humanity is imperfect, yet that’s what makes us unique.
Driving home along the coast, the sun struggling behind a bleak sky and traffic building, my mind wanders in uncertainty – humanity, imperfection, the impossible order beyond our basic perception – what did it all mean? Or did it mean anything at all? Although I didn’t have all the answers from Mark, and probably never would, I was glad to be asking more questions.