I attended the awards ceremony of the Lowestoft Film Festival recently, and what a superb evening it was. Although I was disappointed not to make the London Film Festival this year, it was terrific to attend a local film festival set up by two young filmmakers with the community at its core. I had judged one of the animation categories, so seeing the winning filmmaker collect his award was incredibly touching. It took me back to when I was first making short films; winning an award is crucial for the life of a film and its ability to get into other festivals.
My twin sister, Lucy, came to the awards ceremony with me. Afterwards, we started to talk about my documentary, Identical and being a twin (which we often do over a glass of wine as it is a big part of our identities). Lucy has a much more analytical brain than me and is very good at structure, so I started to talk about some of the difficulties I am having with the documentary and she offered to look at it. Strangely, in all the seven years that I have been working on it, she hasn’t seen the full edit. I feel sure she will be able to help me pull out the main themes of the story. I always told her she’d make a great producer!
I am meeting with an editor next week to discuss how I can move forward to achieve the final edit. I love editing, but I do find a feature-length film somewhat overwhelming at times, so being able to sit with an editor will be wonderful. Film is such a collaborative medium, but because Identical is such a personal film for me, I have gone solo for a bit too long. I am excited about growing my team and collaborating to finish the film.
We did a call out for 4-year-old twins earlier in the year and were inundated with twins and parents of twins wanting to be involved. So, we have a small number of interviews and visual elements planned for early next year.
Swimming - the beauty of just directing.
I swim three times a week, although I’d love to swim every day.
Recently, I was approached by a producer I know who was working with a local writer on a short script about swimming. He asked me to read the script, which I did, and after talking to the writer, I agreed to direct it as it had such simplicity and elegance. My short films are often so full of story, as that is how my brain works. I find it hard to focus on just one element. But this story was well crafted and resonated with me.
I re-read the script and gave some notes, mainly on making it more visually descriptive. I process information by speaking it aloud, so when I was talking to the writer, I started to hear the film. They say the sound is as important as the visuals in the film, and this is so true. I often work on the soundtrack at the writing stage with scripts, as it can lead the story.
I started to think about films that deal with the theme of water. There is something hypnotic about being in the water and its obvious association with rebirth and healing. I have always loved the work of Bill Viola. I remember stumbling across The Messenger, his video installation at Fabrica Arts in Brighton in 1996.
I heard the work before I saw the large-scale video projected in a disused church, now an art gallery in the North Lanes in Brighton. The video is of a man underwater coming up towards us, breaking the surface of the water and exhaling. It lasted for 28 minutes, and I remember being transfixed.
Now, this is a switch, but please bear with me. My sweet dog, Junebug, is almost 14 years old, and for the last year or so, I have been taking her to hydrotherapy each week. I often film her and sometimes in slow motion as I love the sound of slow-motion water. I often use the sound extracted from the video in my Visual Poems moving image work. It can have a disturbing and intriguing quality to it, and so it’s an excellent sound to mix into a multilayered sound design.
Here she is in show motion 🙂
These slow-motion qualities reminded me of another film by the fantastic director Lynne Ramsey.
Swimmer - Lynne Ramsey’s sublime and hypnotic film travels the waterways and coastline of Great Britain. I remember seeing the queue to watch this film at Cannes 2012 when it played as part of the directors' fortnight. The film had been made with money, in part, from the London Olympics 2012. We didn’t attempt to get in as the queue was too long. If there was a film to see on the big screen, this is the one. But you can see it here:
So, thinking about directing again, I have started with the sound. I’m not a fan of too much music, but Lynne Ramsey does it beautifully in Swimmer. I like to hear the story and the reality of location. So, I am excited about directing again, and it’s such a treat to work from another writer’s script and hopefully bring it to life in a way that honours the story she wanted to tell.
Retro Toys and Childhood Contained
I’ve been planning some workshops recently for primary school children around traditional toys, now called retro toys, the ones that I grew up with in the 70s. Does anyone remember the Fisher Price Pocket Radio Music Box? It was a wind-up music box. Here is a photo of the one I had as a child, and when I turn the dial, Pop Goes the Weasel plays and takes me right back to being a four or five-years-old.
I want to design workshops that link with my visual arts practice and the making element within my practice. I like the idea of children’s work forming part of a future exhibition I am planning called Childhood Contained.
I also want to work with children to improve their dexterity and fine motor skills. I love traditional crafts and sewing, and that’s very much what I grew up doing. I think I learn through doing rather than reading. Unfortunately, children’s fine motor skills are deteriorating, which has been happening due to their early introduction to watching and playing on screens. In a 2018 Guardian article, Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, stated that children don't have the hand strength and dexterity they did a decade ago.
Making was a big part of my school days; as I struggled with Maths and English, I was often allowed to go and make things. I remember a vast arts table always being set up with old cereal packets, egg boxes and pots of thick white PVA glue. I used to make horses, big and small, either out of shredded wheat boxes or matchboxes and scale their manes accordingly. So, I thought I’d bring this element of making into the workshops, along with 2D cut-out animation and group drawing exercises around ownership and sharing. To inspire the children, I plan to bring in some of the toys I had as a child, such as the music box and the Mattel Talk Up Doll ‘I lost my head over you’, another firm favourite from when I was young.
Childhood Contained is a progression of my Visual Poems work, which started initially from the two balloon print dresses my mother made for Lucy and me. I used these dresses as a pattern to make them in other fabrics and out of paper, so they became more physical and could hold a projection. Slowly, the work has developed across making, projection and coding. I am now looking ahead to planning my first solo exhibition incorporating installation and live art.
I have recently uploaded more of my Visual Poems work onto my website.