Jonathan Taylor is a BAFTA-nominated freelance documentary-maker specialising in observational films on difficult and sensitive subjects for the UK’s major TV broadcasters. He has a penchant for tackling subject matter that gets right to the heart of what it means to be a human being. He was widely celebrated for his breakout documentary on the issues surrounding families with terminally ill children at Great Ormond Street Hospital and more recently for his investigation into animal sentience: Koko: The Gorilla That Talks To People. His most recent project was American Justice for the BBC and National Geographic–a multi-perspective look at the US justice system that has been reviewed as a "compelling, current and cinematic TV documentary series." Here, he tells us why he would have loved to have featured in a painting by Jack Butler Yeats and how museums are going to become ever more personalised experiences in the future.
If there was one piece of art you could feature in, which would it be and why?
The Two Travellers by Jack Butler Yeats–brilliantly Irish Expressionism–captures a chance meeting of two figures in a bleak, dispassionate landscape. It freezes a moment that resists interpretation–two men connected but apart–there is joy in their meeting but sadness that they, like all of us, will part. And I’m a big fan of the hats.
How will museums impact future cities?
Museums in the future will be the fabric of a city rather the sparkling centrepiece. If they are to reflect society they must live in the walls where people live, not just in rarefied buildings. While there will always be a place for the British Museum, future museums of Britain will expand into new spaces where people feel greater ownership of, and affinity with, them.
What are your favourite emerging cultural cities and / or organisations in the world and why?
Three decades after theatre company Complicite formed it is still challenging what theatre is and what it can be. Simon McBurney’s last one man show Encounter used the latest audio technology to create a dizzying soundscape taking viewers to the heart of the Amazon and the dawn of time. McBurney encountered the story two decades before the play was finished–sometimes it takes time for technology to catch up with ideas. Theatre like this feels as though it’s been sent from the future.
Who do you think are the cultural innovators of tomorrow and why?
20,000 Days on Earth written and directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard was a completely new type of documentary. A fictionalised day in the life of Nick Cave it discarded the rules of Cinema Verite combining drama and reality into a brilliant new form. Forsyth and Pollard contrive scenes documentary makers could only dream of, which take us to get closer to Cave than conventional filming ever could. More of this…
What are you up to at the moment and where can we find it? (Please include a link(s) if possible).
I recently finished a series for the BBC called American Justice which looked at every aspect of the justice system in the city of Jacksonville, Florida. It will play on National Geographic in American in October. Currently, I’m finishing a documentary about three people under going a new cancer treatment.