In SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, Paul Saxton reflects on a long life behind the counter of his North London newspaper stand, 365 days a year at 4:40 a.m. for the last 36 years. The film won the Londonist Award for Best London Short Film at the London Short Film Festival.
Ahead of the film’s AFI DOCS screening, AFI spoke to the director, who started his career as an artist making moving image work for galleries. “My video works have always had an observational documentary element to them, so the transition to documentary filmmaking was very natural,” he said.
How did you find Paul Saxton?
I noticed Paul and his paper booth as I walked passed his stall every day on the way to my studio. At first, what grabbed my attention was the appearance of the stall: quite dilapidated and ramshackle, standing out on a busy London high street. I then noticed Paul himself, his striking looks, his weathered face and distinctive coat and hat. As I got to know Paul, I learned about his life.
What was a particular obstacle you faced while making the film?
At first, when I started filming Paul and his paper booth, my concern was that the static nature of Paul’s work, standing in the same spot every day, would make it difficult to create an interesting and varied-looking film. I soon figured this would dictate the style and look of the film and would create a unique viewpoint.
What do you want audiences to walk away with after screening your film?
I would like people to walk away from the film reflecting on their own lives and thinking about the things we all take for granted and the choices we make in life. I wanted to draw the viewer’s attention to people like Paul, who are often left in the shadow, overlooked by the passing crowd.
Why do you think Washington, DC, is a valuable location to screen your film?
The film takes place in London where, like Washington, DC, people are in a constant rush to get somewhere. The film invites us to stop for a moment and take notice of the people who make up the fabric of the city.
What documentary films or documentarians have been the most influential to you?
There are many great documentary filmmakers who I am inspired by, but the ones that have recently been an influence on me include Frederick Wiseman, especially the films DOMESTIC VIOLENCE and PUBLIC HOUSING. His films have no interviews or added music, and are poetic and direct; also Vittorio De Seta’s short documentaries, for their poetic beauty; and lastly, Heddy Honigmann’s films METAL AND MELANCHOLY and THE UNDERGROUND ORCHESTRA. Her compassion toward her contributors and her portrayals of people and their struggles to make ends meet have been an influence on my second short documentary film, which I am currently working on.
SEVEN DAYS A WEEK plays AFI DOCS as part of the Shorts program THE END OF THINGS on Sunday, June 26, at 11:00 a.m. Buy tickets here.