In this blog I will be documenting the process of making a short film with the assistance and expertise of film maker Henrietta Thomas.

I have a collection of vintage music boxes and my aim is to make a film around the subject of ballet and dance. I will be recording the process in this blog as things unfold – the developing dialogue and creative decision making between Henrietta and myself.

This project is supported by a bursary from a-n The Artist Information Company.

Follow me on Twitter: @katemurdochart


It’s been a while since I updated things here. The editing process has taken up most of any spare time I’ve had, as the end of the year deadline for completing the short film has become more real. More recently, Henri and I, acutely aware that the Christmas and New Year break would get in the way, brought the deadline forward and have been aiming to have the film completely finished by 18th December. I’m happy to report that we’re well on course for that.

I was at Henrietta’s house yesterday evening to complete the final edit. Apart from colour grading and adding a new image that Ama’s sent through to us, the film is virtually complete. There’s been a lot of exchanges going on behind the scenes between Henri and myself; it’s been fascinating watching the process unfold, remembering how uncertain I felt in the beginning – how could it be possible to edit such extensive footage to a short 3-5 minute film?!

I can’t remember the last time I focused quite so intently on any given task. I’ve found the editing process intense and demanding – especially the sound editing – more so, because of my hearing loss. My hearing fluctuates constantly – what I hear from one day to the next can vary considerably. I’m always keen to get things ‘just right’ and am probably more cautious than most people about working to get things as perfect as they can be – happy to review things over and over, worried that I might have missed something, something that will irritate me in the future.

It’s hard to put the editing process into words, but looking back over the notes Henri and I have compiled and pored through, demonstrates just how thoroughly we analysed both the original and subsequent footage. The notes also show the terms of affection we ‘d started to use in order to differentiate the various ballerinas – Diana Dors, blingy, busty and gold – Sandy Shaw, rotating to the melodic ‘Puppet On a String.’

Photo: John McCormick




Photo: John McCormick

There will be more to report in the future, I’m sure – once the film is absolutely 100% completed and there has been time for reflective thinking. It’s been a really good, positive experience, working collaboratively with Henri, who listens properly to what it is you’re asking for, embraces new ideas and respects your creative decisions. This, at the same time as offering alternative ideas of her own and being very generous with her creative skills and expertise.

Henri and I spoke last night about how much we’ve enjoyed the process of working together. I knew from the start that we shared an interest in the music boxes and the ballerinas within them – appreciating their beauty, at the same time as recognising their darker, more sinister side; this mutual appreciation was a sound beginning to our collaborative partnership. I’ve learned so much about filming and editing through working with the music boxes, while for Henri, it’s been a reminder of how much she enjoys working on something that is creatively stimulating for her.

Having the resources to fund this project has been an absolute godsend and freed me up enormously throughout. Being safe in the knowledge that we could retake certain scenes if need be, and afford to take the time to keep on editing, was really comforting. My thanks once again go to a-n the Artist Information Company for their financial support in the shape of a professional development bursary for making all this possible. Thanks are also due, of course, to film maker Henrietta Thomas for her calm, patient and consistent input. Henri has been a real pleasure to work with and I hope we might be able to work on more projects in the future. And finally, Ama Rohatiner who provided such an amazing eloquent and honest narrative which came to shape the film.

A Christmas break and New Year celebrations in Scotland beckons – time for winding down, catching up on sleep and reflecting. I’m looking forward to showing the film in the New Year, fascinated to know what the response to it will be.


‘I Always Wanted To Be …’

I’m still trying to get used to this different way of blog writing – ie. writing about things before they’ve happened. I generally write retrospectively – it feels easier somehow, than speculating about what might/might not happen.

The short film is due to be submitted by the end of the year – as per the rules set out by a-n Artists Information Company who generously sponsored the project as part of a professional development bursary. I’m going to be back, working with the music boxes again tomorrow.

I’m getting myself psyched up for a 4.30pm start with Henrietta. We’ve planned an ‘however long it takes’ editing session – I will get back to you with the result.


Photo: John McCormick



Found image. (cropped) Photographer unknown.


‘I Always Wanted To Be … ‘

Work continues behind the scenes as the deadline for completing the short film (‘I Always Wanted To Be …’ ) grows ever closer. I’ve left things in the capable hands of film maker Henrietta (Thomas) this past week while I’ve been in the throes of yet another studio move. Famous last words, but I think I might have finally settled, having gone full circle, back to the studio building I first started making work in, some 7/8 years ago. I’m really excited by this move – improved natural daylight, more physical space and finally, back in Deptford, within walking distance from home. What’s not to like …

While shifting boxes around, I’ve had time to reflect on last week’s meet up with Henrietta and how working alongside someone else can feel infinitely easier than working alone, especially given my tendency to overthink ideas and make things a lot more complicated than they need be. Decision making is so much easier when there’s someone else around to share your thoughts and ideas with – what’s better? – this (or this) version? And Henri’s filming knowledge and skills means that I have immediate, to-hand answers to my queries about what’s possible/whats not in terms of editing.

Together, we compiled a comprehensive list of what we’d like to be included in the final film, acutely aware that within the time constraints, not everything can necessarily be included. Until the next time we meet, Henri has taken on the task of compiling the various parts selected for the try out ‘final’ version. None of this is set in stone and there will be another round of amendments (and certainly, cuts) to be made, I’m sure.

Brilliantly, the budget allows for this time and flexibility – for experimenting and playing around with different versions. (Once again, thanks are owed to the support in the shape of a Professional Development Bursary from a-n The Artist Information Company for making any of this possible). We won’t be able to go on forever, of course – decisions will have to be made and we’ll need to crack on with the process of creating and crucially, completing a short film within the required deadline.

It’s getting exciting! I felt really encouraged by last Friday’s meet up – namely because, however vague it might be at this point, there are signs of some sort of structure developing. This feels important to me, for two main reasons – firstly, because there’s a deadline to meet and secondly, because I’d started to feel slightly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of footage. Just one editing session with Henri has dissipated a lot of the anxiety and made me feel more reassured that we will complete the task in hand.

I can’t wait to get into the studio to start making work again, but yet another ear infection means that with the studio move now over, I need to take it a bit easy and give a new course of antibiotics more of a chance to work. And lovely as the new space is, artists’ studios have never been renowned for their warmth. I want to stay warm! And of course, I want to give the creation of this short film my absolute best shot. There is limited time now in which to do that and I can foresee needing to devote most of my time and energy to creating a final film version – ideally, by mid-December, but certainly, by the end of the year. My energies need to be reserved.

So, here’s to staying well and working hard in the next few weeks ahead … I’m already looking forward very much to meeting up with Henri again in the very near future.


Photo: John McCormick

I’m going to be meeting film maker Henrietta (Thomas) again tomorrow to talk through the editing process for the making of ‘I Always Wanted To Be …’

I’m filled with a mixture of excitement and apprehension; I’ve never done anything like this before and I don’t really know what to expect.

It’s all a bit precarious at this stage, but Henri and I came up with a vague plan of what might be included in the film last time we met. Henri’s task for this past couple of weeks was to put together a rough version of what we discussed. I’ll see it tomorrow for the first time – that excitement combined with apprehension rears its head again!

On top of everything else, we also have a time limit imposed upon us by a-n Artist Company (who, as part of offering me a professional development bursary) have provided the funding to realise this short film. I keep reminding myself to go with the flow and to make a conscious effort to enjoy the process of creating the film, rather than fretting about the end product. All easier said than done, of course, but I’m making a big effort.

We’ve put aside three hours tomorrow, to sit together and go through the tape and then talk through any necessary amendments. I’m sure there will be some – it’s all par for the course, I’ve realised and I have to say that I find the open- endedness and flexibility quite refreshing, albeit slightly nerve-wracking.  And, not for the first time, I feel lucky to be working alongside an experienced film maker who appears to be totally unphased by any chopping and changing of ideas. This is extremely reassuring in a situation in which I’ve often felt quite a bit outside of my comfort zone – and truly, at this point, with no real vision of how the final film will look.

My task in the meantime, has been to listen (and re-listen) to the recording of an interview with an ex-ballet dancer which Henri and I taped right at the start of the project. I’ve had this person, Ama, in mind from the very start of thinking about the making of this film, following the fascinating conversations I had with her some years ago, when I first showed my ‘I Wish’ work in an open studio event. Henri and I now have an interesting, first hand account of what life in ballet school was really like for a child growing up in the 1950/60s and Ama’s narrative has helped us start to form some sort of structure for the foundation of the film. Like everything else, though, it will be fascinating to see what makes it into the final version of the film.

I will of course, be reporting back on how everything evolves in due course. Meantime, I look forward to seeing what tomorrow brings …

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