Tattoos have been around for thousands of years—archaeological evidence suggests that humans have been inking their bodies for at least 5,200 years. While historians continue to debate the reasons different ancient societies chose to mark themselves, most tattoos today serve as a form of personal expression, be it lighthearted or serious.
In Mr. X, a short film from director Alex Nicholson, we get an unusual and visually striking portrait of Duncan X, a London-based tattoo artist. “I view tattooing as a bit like scratching away at the surface and revealing what’s underneath,” says X.
In addition to the verbal story that he reveals, the film uses incredible makeup, digital design, and camerawork to remove and remark X's stories through the tattoos on his skin.
In an interview with The Atlantic, filmmaker Alex Nicholson discusses the short film.
The Atlantic: How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Alex Nicholson: It was a combination of things really, summed up by one event really: I once saw Duncan walking down the street. Fifty percent of the people walking past almost got whiplash from turning around to look/stare at him. I was wondering what was going through their heads. I have been getting tattooed by him for a number of years and the way he speaks, his manner and personality all smack of a man who wouldn't make people walk into lampposts if they knew him in this way.
Do you personally have a connection to tattoo art?
Only in the way that I have tattoos really. Duncan once said in an interview (paraphrasing here) that getting a tattoo was like getting a (actually very cheap considering) work of art that you can't give away. That resonates nicely with me.
What’s the process for digitally removing and then re-illustrating tattoos?
Well I have to heap praise on my make-up artist (the lovely and talented Denise Kum) here who relentlessly edged out his many tattoos during the course of the day. We put them back on (when they animate) digitally. The process of removing the tattoos was a mind blowing process that I'd probably get killed for talking about in detail.
Did you have a favorite tattoo on Duncan X?
His Cat Nipples.
What projects do you have in the works now?
I've had a few scripts come through recently so I'm pitching on a few bits. I have a feature to start (hopefully in March) but next up is an animation I have written and will direct with the help of Chris Martin and Liam Brazier. Hopefully you'll see it about (after the watershed) in March next year.
To see more work from Alex Nicholson visit meatgrinder.co.