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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with The Cabinet of Living Cinema’s Rob Parkinson

Über-cool screen/music collaborative join forces with film label Future Shorts, and take their show on the road

Written by Kat Phan


Courtesy of The Cabinet of Living Cinema

The cinema has certainly evolved since the early twentieth century when the first silent black and white film appeared on our screens, thumb accompanied by a finely dressed man tinkling the ivories at a piano. In stark contrast to these humble beginnings, cure we seem to live in an age now where the flashier we can get with our Dolby Digital sound and 3D, more about the better. So where do we go from here in terms of creating a more enriching cinematic experience?

The answer in short is: live film-score performance (or perhaps adding a modern twist to the concept of the old dude sitting behind the piano). As part of the Becks Vier Music Inspires Art UK Tour, The Cabinet of Living Cinema, in collaboration with Future Shorts, is fusing the worlds of live music and cinema across England on their Cabinet Tour 2010. The Tour features some of the most innovative short films of recent years along with surrealist experiments, Czech claymation, Russian animated oddities, British Transport films and other obscure masterpieces from the last century.


Courtesy of The Cabinet of Living Cinema

Founded by Rob Parkinson and Kieron Maguire in 2007, The Cabinet of Living Cinema is an artistic initiative, providing artists with a platform to showcase their film and music… together. By blending live music performance with short films ranging from rarely-seen animation to the avant-garde, the result is the creation of a “living cinema” experience.

Currently on tour in the UK, I managed to track down one half of the brains behind The Cabinet of Living Cinema, Rob Parkinson, to quiz him about an old idea given a brand new makeover…

How did The Cabinet of Living Cinema come into being?
Future Shorts asked us to rescore the music live to some short films in 2007 and it went down very well. So, we went on to play major UK venues on the Future Cinema tour. At this point, for us it was a realisation that a new way to present performance was an important thing and something to explore.

What has been the general response to your work so far?
The audience comes towards us after a show, of whom most are either really into film or music, or both (who isn’t?). We have a lot of conversations with our audience.


Courtesy of The Cabinet of Living Cinema

How do you go about commissioning films for the project?
We work with the film-makers, they submit work, and we perform the music live. They tend to appreciate the platform. We also always try to feature cutting edge directors and Future Shorts are instrumental in our film selection and commissioning.

What do you look out for in particular in work that is submitted for consideration?
Work that inspires. We spend a lot of time watching short films, looking for potential material. We generally sit watching with instruments at hand; it could be said that the films choose us when we all reach for instruments at the same time.

What do you think is lacking from the current cinema-goers experience?
A lack of understanding of where films originated from. For example (Jan) Sjvankmajer pioneered the claymation and stop-motion technology, but it’s only a handful of people who know about the impact he had on modern day cinema.

In your mind, what cinematic experience do you want your audience to walk away with after they have been to one of your shows?
To have experienced something different and unusual. 3D is big at the moment and maybe we are the 3D of the film-score world. I’d like to think our audience walks away with a soundtrack to wherever they go next.


Still from ‘Ballad of a Broken Vow’ by Carla Mackinnon for The Cabinet of Living Cinema

Tell us about The Cabinet Tour 2010 and Future Shorts collaborative.
The tour has been amazing; cool people, cool bands and excellent audiences. We’re lucky that we see familiar people that are touring the same venues as us and are able to share our energy. It’s a good, positive vibe amongst the artists.

Regarding Future Shorts, they are pioneers who have whole-heartedly supported our vision and are a wealth of inspiration.

What can we expect to see on The Cabinet Tour?
Beautifully directed films, amazing animation, musicians working on a different level, instrument swapping, happy accidents and bubble wrap (it’s perfect for making the sound of the sea).

What has been the most exciting project that you have worked on to date and why?
Hmmm, tricky…We performed at Fabric in 2007 in association with Future Shorts. The space was set out with old-school cinema seats, front to back. We played a few films through and people started to stand up, it was very emotional, there were tears.

Since then there have been many exciting moments, but that’s the thing with film and what we do. It’s all about the moment. To say a particular gig or event is more important than a specific moment isn’t appropriate in our world.


Still from ‘Ballad of a Broken Vow’ by Carla Mackinnon for The Cabinet of Living Cinema

Who is the most exciting live cinema guest you have worked with and why?
Without a doubt: The Paper Cinema. They are a hand-drawn paper puppetry live projected theatre show…and they are amazing.

How do you see Cabinet of the Living Cinema evolving?
New film-makers submitting their work for us to rescore. That’s where it’s at. A friend of mine strapped a waterproof camera to the front of his surfboard and went out to sea for a couple of hours. The resulting film was amazing, which we use as the backdrop to all our gigs. We want more!

What’s next on the Cabinet of the Living Cinema agenda?
Music and film festivals including Larmer Tree, FAIF ISFF and The Big Chill. We are also performing rescores to feature length films over August in London and very importantly, again, we are currently looking for new film-makers to submit work, so we can dedicate an event to new and up-and-coming talent due for performance in Autumn 2010.

In partnership with leading film pioneers Future Shorts, The Cabinet of Living Cinema bring live scores and animation to cities across England, including Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Bristol and Bournemouth on their Cabinet Tour 2010 throughout June, July and August. For more information, see here.

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