So far the blog posts about my professional development bursary work have been about the upsides to the project. This time I’m getting real with a handy round-up of some of the challenges.
- Filming a whistling/ steaming kettle repeatedly in my kitchen during a heatwave. (Actually more fun than it sounds.)
- An unfortunate series of technical glitches which emerged on viewing much of our conservatory footage.
- Understandable delays as Simon adapts his working process in order to teach me the job of editing. (Penny drops – this is a two way learning process).
- A corrupted upload form a memory card.
Well. No-one ever said filming was going to be easy or without incident.
My response has been to dig back in to my own video practice to feel my way into the creative concept while I wait for our next shoot.
I’m such an immersive maker that I’ve found the systematic approach to film making fragments and distances my grasp of the film as a whole. I need to be able to see how it all fits together – image, music and voice work. This has been what got me into video making in the first place – a need to see and do for myself within collaboration. It’s ultimately why the editing skills I learn from Simon (on Final Cut Pro) are so important to me – ultimately I need to be able to make high quality videos on solo projects too.
So I made some basic capture on my iPhone and created a short iMovie to try it all out.
This was an opportunity to practice reciting my poem, and I’m so glad I did this before recording the voice work with Simon. I was nowhere near ready, and now resale that this is a new skill of it’s own and takes practice.
It’s been lovely to get back to making videos. I so needed to do this to articulate what I’m aiming for in my film collaboration.
I now feel we’ll need to pare things right back. The poem is the narrative engine and there could be a tendency to illustrate it and this would feel overdone.
My return to video has been hugely beneficial. I know exactly what I’m looking for.
I’m behind with blogging! A familiar sensation – if I don’t blog in the moment, the practice can drift.
So I’m picking up again, an hour or so before another meeting with Simon Haynes, my filmmaker and collaborator for this a-n professional development bursary. Our previous session wasn’t committed to ‘paper’ but I have a cunning plan. I’m going to sew two blog posts together. Aha!
I guess my lapse in recording the process from last week was in part due to the fact that we were filming again, in pretty much the same manner as my previous post describes. There’s a limit to how much anxiety over breakages, and the minutiae of filming tea cups you can get over without deviation, hesitation and repetition.
Suffice to say that our second trip to the conservatory for filming threw up the problems of working on a glass surface when there is intense yet intermittent sunlight. This time we worked on a list only basis for our shots, though we needed to be creative problem solvers – improvising fixes when our proposed shots didn’t quite work out in practice. Highlights included anointing Felicia Browne’s 1932 Berlin tea set with actual tea (brewed in a separate tea pot and cooled down to avoid the possibility of heat damage), while the definite low point was the failure of our steam shot. Shhh…though! I’m probably giving too much away.
…Several hours later…
What a fascinating experience looking over our shots proved to be. Although Simon explained that it can be tedious to do so, I can see exactly why it’s important to do this BEFORE getting stuck into the edit. So much of what worked and what didn’t can be gleaned – and it is possible to favourite clips, and even favourite excerpts of clips pre-edit.
Simon took notes while I clicked, to mark clips so that we can summon just favourited footage when it comes to the edit. We have a second round of clips to go through next week. I really get the sense of exactly how much work has to go into even a very short film.
At the moment I really can’t quite see how it will all come together. It was so very interesting (and surprising at times) to see how terrible some of our footage is. But equally how promising the glimmers of what’s good are. There are shots we’ll need to redo – but fortunately they’re not complicated.
Onwards – taking notes as we go.
Close up shot of the 1930s tea caddy which will feature in the film – Gift.
Pace has surfaced as a major theme in my professional life. I will be talking and blogging about it some more in time (appropriately enough), but it is also key to this marvellous experience of professional development thanks to a-n.
I wrote in my last post about how much I enjoy working with Simon Haynes. He is calm and measured and we take it ‘slow’. Only for ‘slow’ I’m beginning to realise that it would be more accurate to say deep.
And this is what is so brilliant about the self-led professional bursary. The artist gets to design the project and chose who to collaborate with – one aspect of my submission was about the importance of working within a previously established professional relationship.
Simon and I are comfortable working together for many reasons but I’m coming to see that the underlying sympathy between us is that of pace.
We’ve met a further two times since the last post. Once to download and begin to navigate Simon’s professional editing software (so much more sophisticated than my basic self-taught experience with iMovie), and a second time to plan our next shoot.
The brief taste of editing with this software has brought my ideas on about what could be possible, and it also informed our planning for the new round of filming.
I quickly realised that we’d do well to break down my poem into verses and mark out the visuals for each verse – and it is so much more more manageable in chunks. It also brought a surprise. A second narrative which I hadn’t quite identified before was lurking in the background waiting to be drawn out. I’m excited about this as it also brings in an element of ritual to the work which is important to my practice.
As it stands the poem narrates our principal story – but the visuals will now (we hope) both support it, and yet allow us to layer in a secondary thread.
Not ambitious for a 3 minute film! Haha!
Anyhow – suffice to say I am enjoying this project immensely, learning a huge amount about the work of creating a short film. This is down to the benefits of the a-n bursary design, which allows the artist to determine the pace and structure of the work. I’ll probably say thank you a-n each time I write.
Sorry if I sounds repetitive, but worth saying that for an autistic artist this is golden.
A migraine hovered all day on our first shoot, and I’m currently recovering under my duvet, but our first day of filming was terrific!
I must confess that I love working with Simon Haynes, and our location proved perfect in terms of lighting. A large airy conservatory in West Oxford provided all the natural light you could possibly want – even on a relatively overcast day. Due to the kindness of Simon’s stepfather I quickly saw that he’d found the perfect studio for our shoot. It doesn’t have to cost money – first lesson learned.
Stepfather (Derek) has my unending gratitude for his patience and hospitality – a passionate art lover who did not mind one bit us moving all his furniture and art pieces around (including one colossal painting and an array of figurines). I seemed to spend the day being VERY careful.
My greatest challenge was the tea set though! How many times did I wrap and unwrap it, move it here and move it there, take cups out of the cabinet (which will feature in our film) and put them in again? I truly don’t know. But I can tell you that each time I told myself – be careful Sonia Boué don’t drop it!!
I can now vouch for the fact that when you’re dealing with a unique and fragile object of historical significance it makes you hyperconscious, and horribly aware of your responsibility to keep it safe.
But there was an upside to getting up close and personal with the tea set Felicia Browne bought for her sister Helen as a wedding present in 1932. I realised that for all my gazing at it lovingly each time I pass it (in this same cabinet) as I walk through my kitchen – I have not seen a bloody thing! How could I have missed the delicate leaf moulding on the spout, and the artichoke detail on the teapot lid!
I’ve been a sucker for the gorgeously detailed and colourful blooms which are different on each cup and saucer, and I’m all about the adorable shape of teapot and cups both. These last two moulded details emerged under the light which Simon had insisted on – the natural light which is missing from my kitchen! And because I’ve been too damn scared to handle it for fear of breaking it I’ve missed what was in front of my nose.
These were not the only gems I learned about today. Watching over Simon’s shoulder and talking through each choice we made – as he lined up our shots and I helped adjust tripods – I began to grasp how much work goes in to making good footage. Each time we nailed a shot I found myself saying – let’s grab some more footage from this angle in case we need it. If this works for a tea cup how about the tea caddy!
The beauty of this bursary is that it’s enabling me to work with someone I know I can learn from in a hands on way. I probably wouldn’t be able to access this kind of learning on a course – the pace wouldn’t be right for me. Simon takes it slow, we chat amiably and I relax into watching and waiting. I know Simon will ask my opinion and answer all my questions. He assumes nothing and gives everything.
At the end of the day we had some new ideas in the bag (he lets me be creative), and a good number of shots on his carefully prepared check list ticked off too.
Thank you again a-n. I can’t wait for Tuesday’s download session where we’ll see what we’ve got before we shoot again. We’ve a long way to go yet, but this was a great start.
I’m also happy to say that the tea set arrived safely home in one piece and is back in the cabinet. Okay so I’m a nervous wreck – but the film is going to be so worth it!
Gift is my a-n Professional Development Bursary award project – and we just left the starting block! My introduction to filming and editing on professional software has begun.
A first meeting with Simon Haynes – my filmmaker – involved a tea set (his first contact with the historic object which will be the focus of our short film), a printout of my poem (which will form the voiceover for the film), and a great deal of enthusiastic arm gesturing. I may have nodded a lot. Simon too.
We have a plan. Simon has identified a perfect location for filming which will incur no extra costs to our budget and affords natural lighting. He’s keen for the detailed hand painted floral pattern of the tea set to be picked out in natural light under his macro lens.
We now also have a schedule. All being well we will begin filming on the 6th May. I’ve quickly learned that it’s important to download and back-up footage immediately (so we’ve factored this time into our first day). We’ll follow up with an editing session on the 11th of May. Simon’s practice is to edit as quickly as possible after the shoot. I’m looking forward to experiencing at first hand why this is beneficial – but striking while the iron is hot (as he puts it) makes sense to me.
Importantly, my short poem (polished lovingly with news skills honed on my last ACE funded project) narrates the story of the tea set and will form the backbone of our film. I’m excited by the logical simplicity of this arrangement. All that hard work on the poem eases our work at this stage – our structure is in place from the off.
So we looked at each short verse and ideas for visuals flowed. I have to source lose tea (easy) and a period tea caddy (the kind of research I love best!). We’re going to experiment with sound effects too!
This is wonderful – I’m in my comfort zone but I’m learning new skills. I am so very excited! My huge thanks again to a-n for allowing me this opportunity to bring Gift to life.