There is a silver birch tree standing in the Rose Walk at The Level, Brighton. It is decorated with ribbons, flags, and other decorations to commemorate the death of Caisie. Caisie died last year (2011) in Jamaica whilst on holiday, aged seventeen. As well as decorations on the tree’s branches, there are burnt out candles, flowers, empty champagne bottles and other paraphernalia around the tree trunk and a photo of Caisie attached to the trunk.
This year Brighton and Hove Council closed the park to refurbish it. This refurbishment includes cutting down the roses and trees in the Rose Walk. Caisie’s friends have raised a petition to stop the council cutting down what they have termed “Caisie’s tree”. They camped for a while near the tree but stopped after a while. A tramp found their discarded tent.
My idea is to film from the tree’s perspective. It’s just standing there being a tree and these humans come along and tie things to it, dump stuff around it and light candles underneath it. For years it stood without all this attention and now, because of Caisie’s death, people are fighting for its life. Does it care one way or the other?
To own my feelings about the tree: I feel a sense of outrage at the people campaigning to save the tree. They’re not saving it because it’s a beautiful tree in its own right. They’re trying to save it because of the identity they’ve projected onto it. It has become a gravestone rather than a living thing. The outrage I feel is on behalf of the tree. What is the outrage that I feel for myself and how is this connected to the tree or am I using the tree in the same way Caisie’s friends are? To project something of myself.
So, what is the film setting out to do?
To show the tree as morphed into something else by Caisie’s friends.
To reconnect with the tree’s natural beauty.
To give the tree a voice: “I’m a fucking tree not a gravestone!”
To show the true identity of the tree.
What is the true identity of the tree?
Visually speaking, it’s the tree in its natural state without the ribbons etc. tied to it. But then identity is affected and influenced by everyone and everything we come into contact with. So perhaps the tree’s true identity is actually how it is now – ribbons included. Maybe the tree feels more glamorous. Maybe the tree is enjoying itself.
Why was I outraged?
The tree was being used and not recognised as itself. And this is true of my use of the tree too. I’ve walked past it hundreds of times and not really noticed it. Now that a death sentence is hanging over it I’m noticing it but still from a projected point of view. I want to really see the tree.
Establishing shots of how the tree has been changed by Caisie’s death: ribbons, etc.
Macro shots of the bark, leaves, twigs, branches, earth and roots.
Shots from the trunk, looking outwards at what the tree can “see”.
How to show the untainted inner core? (Dream about this! And sounds.)
How does a tree hear? I’ve been making people’s voices run backwards because they might be unintelligible to the tree. But it’s not really from the tree’s perspective, it’s from mine. The backwards sounds played over shots of ribbons etc relate to Caisie’s death – she’s gone already and people are using the tree to look back. I could loop those sounds over shots of the ribbons etc.
Macro shots – natural, present, whatever’s going on in the moment.
How to link sounds of outrage to the shots?