From The Archive - Alice Dunseath’s Hunting for Hockney

This article was originally published on the One&Other website March 2014


With the Oscars now a distant memory, the movie industry continues on. A sometimes forgotten medium though is the short film. With only a short time frame it is sometimes difficult the perfect story, one that combines the true feelings that are sought to be captured in a full motion picture. Sometimes they have no true direction, trying to mesh numerous characters with a changing landscape resulting in a piece void of any real emotion. This is where Alice Dunseath’s short film “Hunting for Hockney” differs.  There are only three characters Alice, her friend and David Hockney. Although there are only three characters, the task of showing emotion is truly accomplished.  The feelings of grief are juxtaposed with brief moments of humour which are found in the witty observations of various Yorkshire inhabitants.

The short film documents the journey taken by Alice and her friend made. Battling with feelings of grief due to the loss of a loved one and the feelings of frustration and loss that accompany planning the funeral they decide to find the Bradford born pop artist David Hockney. To the surprise of those involved David Hockney has a residence in the Yorkshire town of Bridlington as well as his usual abodes of London and Los Angeles. Armed with this information they embark on their expedition in search of the illustrious painter. From then they are at the mercy of the locals, with their knowledge on the subject being vital to their cause. This had different degrees of success with some being able to provide the information they crave, with such lines as “somewhere around here” and “he live just up the road”. That last line was the true catalyst to their excitement, definitive proof that they were on the right track and that their dreaming would finally bring forth the results they wanted. Even when they were faced with more negatives responses from the public such as “David Hockney? Never heard of ‘im” they remained undeterred, with David Hockney now becoming their white whale. 


With the intrepid searching for him, Hockney is elevated to becoming some sort a mystical creature. A mere sighting was truly sought after, with problems fought head on. No matter the distance they needed to travel or the challenges they had to face, they had to catch a glimpse of the man and his Yorkshire home.

Alice Dunseath masterfully crafts the film so that the viewer feels a connection with those involved and throughout the film are willing Alice and her friend to conquer everything and meet David Hockney. The subtle balance of grief and witticism creates a poignant piece that highlights Alice’s talent.  With previous work including being the third assistant director of the Oscar nominated Wes Anderson film Fantastic Mr Fox, it should be of no surprise that the balance is crafted so perfectly.

We decided to have a chat with Aliceand ask her a few questions about “Hunting for Hockney”.

O&O: What made you want to find David Hockney?

AD: I was in Yorkshire with my friend, who had just lost her mother. I had gone up to be with her and to help her organise the funeral and she said she just wanted a break from it all. She asked if I had any friends in Yorkshire we could go and see instead but having never been to Yorkshire before, I told her the only people I knew that lived in Yorkshire were her and David Hockney. So we decided to go and look to him. It was pure escapism. I guess in the past, in times of grief, people went on a search or pilgrimage to find god. But we went looking for Hockney. In the film we find his house but decide not to knock on the door, but in reality we knocked on the door but it wasn't his house! Either way, the search was the important bit. It did everything we needed it to do.

O&O: How long did the film take to make?

AD: Just over 3 months...on and off. And that includes all the script writing, design, sound and animation, so it was all pretty rushed. It was for my first year film at the Royal College of Art, so I had to finish it to pass the year. In my eyes, it's still not totally finished and there are still bits I'd like to fix.

O&O: Did you base your style on any other short films?

AD: No, I try not to watch too many other short films so that I don't end up accidentally re-making a film I love

O&O: Have you heard any reaction from David Hockney?

AD: No, I wish! I have no idea if he's seen it. It would be nice if he did, I'd like him to see just how much he helped my friend out that day. But I'd be pretty embarrassed to know he'd seen my attempts to reference his work. Turns out it’s pretty hard to recreate the style of one of the world's best painters. 

O&O: With working on Fantastic Mr Fox, do you have any preference with short or long film?

AD: Due to the long and extremely time consuming nature of animation, I much prefer working on short animations than feature length films. Fantastic Mr Fox was a great experience, but I think I prefer working on projects for 3-4 months, rather than 1-2 years.

O&O: Have you heard anything from film festivals?

AD: I've only just started submitting it to Film Festivals. I heard this week that it has just got into Aspen ShortsFest in Colorado and Norwich Film Festival, which is exciting, but I'll guess we'll have to watch this space to see how it gets on.