Most people have one obsession in their lives. Jason Staggie has four. They are – socially conscious transgressive fiction, the art movement fluxus, edgy dialogue driven films, and African renaissance. Quirky? Well, find out more about this globe-trotting Cape Town native and his debut novel, RISK, released earlier this month.
Afripopmag: Let`s start here, why the book?
Jason Staggie: Well, I’ve always loved novels by writers like Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis and Irvine Welsh. After writing scripts in Korea and feeling fairly happy with my work I decided to take on a novel, but just for fun. When I started writing it I couldn’t stop. I didn’t really know where it was going, but it allowed me a certain degree of freedom that the script writing just wasn’t giving me. The Risk game itself was inspired by thoughts I had at university – about playing the ultimate dare game. Once I hit a stride with the writing I started thinking about how I could make it a socially conscious transgressive work and this influenced the idea of the movement and the revolution that the main characters strive for in the book. I see myself as a Pan-Africanist and a very proud African, so naturally I will push those issues wherever I can in my creative works.
Does the book now qualify you as a writer/filmmaker, or you rather be known as a filmmaker?
I think that I can be considered a writer/filmmaker. I feel uncomfortable if I haven’t actually written the material, so the writing is considered part and parcel to who I am as an artist.
What is it about this city, Cape Town that makes it such an attracting well for storytellers from elsewhere in a variety of mediums – TV, film, literature etc?
I think it’s the multicultural pulse of the city that tends to inspire people. There’s a lot of characters here to work with, and the counterpoint of having such a stunningly beautiful backdrop for these stories is very, very enticing.
You’ve lived and worked in a vastly diverse set of locations: South Korea, Prague, Ireland to name a few. How did living in these countries influence your work,both in filmmaking and writing?
Travelling, and I mean living in a place, and not just being a tourist, does force one to engage with different thought processes. This is something that I find fascinating, and I’ve found that it’s made me more flexible as a writer and a filmmaker. I’m constantly willing to try different things and be spontaneous, because I am well aware that only looking at things from one confined perspective does not bode well for the bigger picture.
At your Cape Town book launch you referred a lot to the Tarantino style of of presentation. Is this something you aimed to emaulate when writing RISK?
Well, I’m a huge fan of Tarantino. I saw Pulp Fiction for the first time when I was 12 and since then all I’ve ever really wanted to do was make movies. But for RISK, I wasn’t really thinking along those lines bar for the writing of the dialogue. I know that I have a Tarantino-esque script in me, and I intend working on this in the next year or so. Although one comment stands out for me regarding Tarantino, and it came from my scriptwriting professor in Prague, filmmaker and writer, Diego Fandos. Diego said “Jason, you have to stop trying so hard to write like Tarantino. There’s only one Quentin Tarantino, much like there’s only one Jason Staggie.” Wise words.
You probably get asked a lot of you are related to the infamous Staggie twins. They are your uncles.How has their association with the Cape Flats` gangsterism in recent years enriched your own excursion, through your doc Hard Living, into understanding the culture?
That’s an interesting question. Making this documentary has given me a lot of perspective regarding the Cape Flats and indeed the way forward. It’s been a rewarding journey thus far, because in many respects I have learned about things that I had not thought of in the past. It’s my curiosity and perpetual questioning that drives Hard Livings as a film. I may be family, but I’m fairly sure that most people in Cape Town or indeed South Africa, are asking similar questions regarding gangsterism in the Cape Flats. And this is what is going to make Hard Livings a very powerful film.
Which African film and book has had a major impact on you as an artist?
One book stands out above any film and any other novel. Dambudzo Marechera’sThe House of Hunger. Marechera took me on a journey that no African writer had ever done before. In many ways he is the first transgressive African writer and his influence on me is very, very big.
Who is your best film/doc director?
That’s a difficult question. Tarantino would have to be number one. Then there’s a toss up between Werner Hertzog, Lucas Moodyson, Darren Aronofsky; Woody Allen; Stanley Kubrick; Park -Chanwook and Christopher Nolan.
Where to from here for Jason Staggie?
In addition to the Hard Livings documentary, I’m busy writing my second novel called Epic. Epic is about a breakup artist and his attempts to write an epic poem. One of my short screenplays got shortlisted for the Kevin Spacey Jameson prize, and I’m fairly sure that it didn’t win because it’s a little bit transgressive. This is a short film that deserves to be made so I’ll be working on this, too. Otherwise, I’m moving to Brazil next year to embrace a culture I’ve been fascinated with for a long time. I intend writing my Taratino-esque screenplay there as well as take on a secret project, one that I cannot really speak about at this time.