Interview with Daniel Cook, director of The Bayview
Monday 7 February 2022, by ,
On the North East Coast of Scotland, an extraordinary family have turned the previously derelict Bayview hotel into a place of respite for international fishermen when they come to land. This film is a glimpse into this unlikely home and the transient guests who pass through it.
Tell us more about the Bayview. How did you come across the place? How familiar are you with the area?
The Bayview sits on the edge of a traditional fishing village called Macduff in the North East Coast of Scotland. Over the last few years, the local youth who live there are choosing other less risky options for employment and are no longer willing to work on the fishing boats. This gap has been filled by a new transient community of workers from the EU, and further away, more surprisingly international workers from the Philippines and Ghana. Many of these fishing crews often end up staying with Susie at the Bayview where they are made to feel welcome. I happened across the Bayview hotel whilst filming another project in a nearby village. The Bayview is a large building and stands out so it was not hard to miss. I had also heard through a friend that Susie, the owner, is ‘a character’ and that I should speak to. I was keen to meet her after hearing about the work she did for the fishermen and her generosity in helping others. The Bayview was previously a derelict hotel which Susie and her family slowly converted into their own home and a respite for overseas fishermen. Looking through the windows of the Bayview, as I approached the building, I could see Susie sitting on her rocking chair as I went to knock on her door. I was soon to learn that this was her favourite seat for relaxing and mulling things over. At the end of the day. I met her for the first time. I mentioned I was working on a film nearby. Susie said she had spare rooms upstairs where the fishermen stay and I was invited to stay next time I was up in the area. A few months later whilst I was up filming again, I took up Susie’s offer for accommodation. During my stay I could hear all sorts of accents and languages being spoken in the different rooms. All the fishermen came and went, referring to her as ‘Madam’ or ‘Mama Susie’. It was actually quite hard to leave the building since there were so many stories and people to meet. It soon became apparent that the lives to the people coming and going from and to the Bayview would be of great interest to others and the idea was formed for making a documentary.
Was everyone happy to take part in the filming? (The fishermen, the owners…)
It was a little difficult at first until I got to know the residents and gained their trust. Susie was insistent that I made the fishermen the focus of the film, but I knew that the building and Susie had something really genuine and interesting to offer in terms of narrative. Through time and a bit of gentle persuasion Susie agreed and as it turned out had great stories to tell however was a bit camera shy. I knew Susie was integral to the story to be told as she was someone who bonded all these different identities together. Similarly, some of the fishermen were a bit wary however over time I managed to form some friendships while I was up there and gain their trust. The great thing was there was no travel involved between locations since everyone came to the Bayview building itself. I just had to have my camera setup ready to go and see who would turn up in the building that particular day.
How did you decide on how to shoot interactions and dialogue? Did you let them get on with it and let the camera roll?
Yes, I was keen to avoid too many direct interviews. For me the film was not about pursuing an investigative story, even though there was plenty material for this type of film since I’m not a journalist. I enjoyed allowing people to just converse in front of the camera. Occasionally I would intervene, so I wasn’t filming something that was always totally spontaneous. It was an interesting way of working as you were never quite sure what would happen.
What’s your background as a documentary filmmaker? Are you keen to explore fiction?
I studied as a Fine Art student and came into film quite late on, in the last 3 or 4 years. I am still very much getting to grips with working in film. Most of my previous work had been for exhibition spaces or through artist-based commissions. I would love to develop projects that are somewhere between documentary and fiction. I think that would be a happy medium to work in.
Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?
Neil Beloufa is a great artist and filmmaker. I love his short film Kempinski (2007). It’s described as a sci-fi ethnographic documentary. Surely worth a watch based on that description alone.
What’s your definition of a good film?
Hard question – I like a bit of an ambiguous narrative in a film, something that confuses and has you thinking about it for the rest of the week is for me, a good sign. Emir Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies is great.