A PILGRIMAGE INTO TIBET: An Interview with Mark Gould


TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.

My name is Mark Gould. I am male, heterosexual and 71 years old. I have a partner of 50 years. She and I have two children and two grandchildren. I studied law, then literature and education before going to drama school at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. We are not rich, but we are happy. We live 500 metres from Bondi Beach in Sydney.


WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A FILMMAKER?

For ten years I worked as a theatre director – with considerable success. In 1980, my guru and teacher - Peter Brook toured Australia with his company. Managing this tour gave me the opportunity to make my first documentary film about that tour in 1980. ‘Stages’ gave me a taste for factual storytelling. Film making was a better world for me because:- 1. It was fundamentally a better place to earn a living for a man who wanted to raise a family. 2:- Unlike the theatre, it was not a world dominated by gay men who thought that it was impossible to live a creative life without being gay.


TALK ABOUT YOUR LAST WORK.

A PILGRIMAGE INTO TIBET is the fourth film, I have made about Pilgrimage. I am not religious, but I am curious about human behaviour under pressure and why people put themselves through ordeals to find and express their spiritual life. Human behaviour is endlessly fascinating.


A PILGRIMAGE INTO TIBET is the 7th film I have made about the Tibetan refugee situation. It was inspired by the idea that 60 years after the Dalai Lama was forced into exile in India by the invading Chinese (in 1959), that a group of Australians could walk the other way and go back into Tibet and see what life was like today in this illegally occupied country. It is not pretty. It is a confronting and conflicting experience. The Chinese genocide in Tibet has left many scars, many broken lives and created many social problems. Chinese surveillance in omnipresent and draconian. People whisper in quiet corners away from camera coverage.



WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING PRODUCTION?

The first challenge was finding a group of people who wanted to do this. With some false starts and research trip to Nepal, that took nearly two years. The next stage of planning was detailed and meticulous but not hard, but once on the road in Nepal, altitude brings its own difficulties and joys. Inside Tibet one needs to be discreet and keep a low profile. Surveillance is everywhere. The walk around Mt Kailash was a huge physical challenge, very demanding at up to nearly 6000 metres there is less than half the oxygen at sea level. The biggest challenge was bringing everyone home safely to their loved ones and not have them end up in a Chinese jail.


WHAT MAKES YOU WANT TO TELL STORIES?

Truth is stranger than fiction. Humans have always learned through stories. Stories teach consciously and subconsciously. Stories teach symbolically, musically, behaviorally, linguistically. All of our senses and every part of our imagination is engaged in a good story. Bedtime stories, tall stories, mythological stories, old and new stories involve every part of our being. Story is the simplest and most highly evolved human art form. Stories bring knowledge, empathy, compassion nd shared experience.


WHAT ARE THE THEMES/ISSUES YOU WANT TO INCORPORATE INTO YOUR WORK?

Nurturing the planet and all beings, compassion, truth, love, public good over private profit,. Gratitude and effort. The dignity of struggle and endurance, hatred of oppression and tyranny, the joy of laughter.



PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR VISION AND YOUR METHOD OF APPROACHING A NEW PROJECT?

There are two very different questions.

Re VISION:-I do not believe in the concept of “Vision”. To me is is a quasi-religious and fascist concept. It implies leadership that says “Follow me I know how to live’ in a manner that is Hitlerian or Putinesque. It is fundamentally inhumane. A director or team leader, in my opinion, must never use this word, but solicit collaboration, cooperation and consensus – while still leading with lofty parameters.

METHOD :- on the other hand implies structure, logic, planning, collaboration and sharing. Method is constructed consciously – but informed by intuition. I hope my method gets better every time I embark on a new work


WHO ARE YOUR FILMMAKING INFLUENCERS?

I am not sure if the question is about influencers or influences. So I will answers both.

Influences :- the great films of Stanley Kubrick, Peter Brook, Errol Morris, Reggio, Pat Fiske, Bob Connolly, Denis O’Rourke, Hitchcock, Fredrick Wiseman. Lindsay Anderson, Woody Allen, Ken Russell, Luis Bunuel, Francois Truffaut, Ferderico Fellini. Warwick Thornton and many more.

Influencers :- Peter Book and everyone else I have ever worked with. I thank you all, particularly my editors. … and Philip Glass.


WHICH ARE THE FILMS THAT WERE INFLUENTIAL FOR YOU?

Dr Strangelove, Cunnamulla, Rocking the Foundations, Black Harvest, Shark Callers of Kontu, Rats in the Ranks, Cane Toads, Dances with Wolves. Contradictions, Sherpa, Mountain and River,


HOW DO YOU THINK THE INDUSTRY IS CHANGING?

Big streaming companies are homogenizing subject, style and form. The individual small voice is being silenced. Film making is suffering as a result

“Genre” is an ‘after the fact’ critics and academics concept, but marketers, programmers and investors want films to fit into a genre before the fact. This kills creativity.


HOW HAS COVID AFFECTED INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING/CREATION?

Generally, positively. Production companies have been forced into collaborating across international borders, hiring stringers, interviewing by zoom trusting other s to shoot for them. Burning less fuel in planes and cars.


WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING ARTISTS?

Be true to yourself, be kind, be collaborative and inclusive. Listen, observe yourself and “do”.


WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THEY MUST ?

FOLLOW? Kindness, Compassion, Doubt and Intuition

AVOID? Insensitivity, Bullies, Bullshit and Mean people.


DO YOU THINK FILMS/STORIES CAN BRING ABOUT A CHANGE IN THE WORLD?

Of course. Why else would one watch, work and create stories?


WHAT DO YOU THINK PEOPLE LIKE TO WATCH THESE DAYS?

Mostly mind-numbing rubbish to take their minds off the pain of modern existence. Pap delivered streaming services designed not to offend, No drag queens eating dogshit, just the same old suspense dramas about murder. Risk free.



HAS THE PANDEMIC CHANGED PEOPLE'S TASTE?

I don’t know – however I did make a great discovery on Netflix a wonderful eccentric Japanese show called MIDNIGHT DINER. A wonderful comedy set in the small back alley diners of Shinjuku. Relaxing, engaging and uplifting.


PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS.

There are several. I would prefer not to discuss matters that are commercial on confidence. However there is a feature project, and several documentaries including more Pilgrimage films, both in Australia and internationally.

ROOF OF THE WORLD

TO A MOUNTAIN IN TIBET

TIBET- MURDER IN THE SNOW

Nothing Compares 2 Prince ACT1 SOH MASTER