Elements of my Place film


Working linearly with a script creates a feeling of resignation in me; it’s as if I feel I have to stick to the linear narrative. When I realised this I lifted those parts I consider essential to my film from the script and my journal and listed them in no particular order. Since my film is about place and memory this way of working connects with the fragmented way memories push their way into consciousness. I like, also, that I have these elements I can collage with. I get a sort of childlike pleasure from collaging: with paper I like to rip, rather than cut, and I suspect that a later part of the filmmaking process will see me tearing this piece of paper, separating the elements further, and moving them around so I can see what goes where. It strikes me that the process of filmmaking tends to be self referencing / fractal in that the film’s essence dictates the way of working as well as the aesthetics, narrative (if there is one), equipment, locations, people, etc.


Place: research


Lewis Carroll’s connection to Sussex Square intrigued me so I Googled him. There is an academic debate that exists around whether he was a paedophile. He took photographs of little girls, some of them nude. He apparently asked the parents if it was okay. Some academics are stating it was the norm in Victorian times to photograph naked little girls and that makes it okay. However, my mother states the same thing regarding hitting children. Just because “everyone” was doing it, it doesn’t make it okay. Also, the girls in the photographs are posed provocatively; here’s an example:


It is obvious Carroll arranged the child in the pose. This is a photograph he took of himself and Alice Liddell, the inspiration for his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She is kissing him with her mouth open. To me this suggests she has been groomed to respond to him in this way.


I find this photo disturbing. It also relates to my film: the main character, Alice, was sexually abused in childhood but has suppressed the memories of the abuse and, instead, hero worships her abuser. It is synchronous that Lewis Carroll has a connection with the place I want to make a film about. I spent some time making notes about books I could borrow about Lewis Carroll to try to get a better handle on it. I could also research paedophilia in Victorian times.

Carroll’s connection with Sussex Square is this: his sister lived at 11 Sussex Square for four years and he was a frequent visitor. It is said he thought of the idea for the downward journey into Wonderland because of the tunnel that leads from Sussex Square gardens to the undercliff walk:


You can just make out doors in the tunnel walls which relates to the corridor in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I thought about how I might incorporate Carroll into my film. I know someone who lives at Sussex Square. Perhaps I can gain access to the gardens. In the group crit yesterday my tutor stated the Freudian idea of a downward journey as a trip into the unconscious or uncanny.

Group Crit: Place

I presented my film idea of using Volks Railway Station at Black Rock as a location for the story I want to tell. I received the following feedback:

There’s a film using a desolate location on the Diversity and Place film festival of Canada website. It’s set at an old mill.

In relation to showing altered states of consciousness, there is a drug scene in Midnight Cowboy.

It was suggested that I make two pieces so that one is about place and one is about the autobiographical story I want to externalise and look at. I wonder if it’s possible to combine two films in one?

There was a swimming pool to the east of the railway station: Brighton Lido that was built in the 1930s and destroyed in the 1970s. Perhaps there is screen archive footage of this. I could overlay sounds of people at the Lido as a way of juxtaposing different entertainment styles in different ages – my film includes a free party scene.

There is a book, Out of Order, showing photographs of free parties.

During a classmate’s crit, Tim stated “you only really use your imagination when you’re confined.” This made me think about the main character’s self conscious episode in the middle of the dancers. Perhaps there’s something about place within a group and what happens when there isn’t enough space.

The link between Sussex Square, adjacent to the railway station, and Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was pointed out.

It was suggested that if I do get a sound system to the railway station the police might be called. We discussed ways of dealing with this and even calling them myself. Rees stated that if you tell the police you’re filming they are powerless to stop you and less likely to be brutal. Perhaps I could get them on my side before the shoot by talking to them and asking them to be part of it or is this a digression?

Tutorial with Nick Collins

This afternoon’s tutorial with Nick Collins gave me the following food for thought about the film I’m making about place:

Volks Railway Station is an interesting location. I could capture the emptiness of the station and superimpose flicker shots of people dancing, gradually adding more people. Nick suggested filming the shadows of people dancing or taking time lapse shots by getting people to move a tiny bit then freeze as I take a shot and repeat this process.

Because I want to include colour shots of a still photograph it might be difficult to use 16mm film on this project. Colour film is expensive to process. Also, it will cost money to print black and white 16mm film. The negative will run through the projector which could prove interesting anyway: blacks and whites as seen in reality will be reversed. And the negative can be transferred to video via telecine but Nick advised thinking about the reasons for shooting on 16mm film if it’s going to be transferred to video.

Sound can be added to silent film by making small marks in the first few millimetres at the top of the strip with a white pen or by scratching the film. Or the film can be developed so that the picture goes into the sound portion and the projector will read that part of the picture as optical sound. I love this idea. It could make the jarring/jangly sounds I need for when the main character is smoking a cigarette.

It is possible to run video and 16mm projectors so that two images are superimposed on one screen. I like this idea too. If I go down this route I imagine Rich (my film score composer) playing live as the film is screened.

Nick voiced a concern about whether the audience will understand the intention of the film. He suggested using titles to point the mind. I agree and I also feel okay if the film isn’t understood; my sense is that people tend to put their own meanings on films depending on their beliefs and life experiences. I am making this film as a way of externalising my own experience in order to look at it and understand it.

Place: a few thoughts

I’m really interested in making a film that explores a way I tried to escape a part of me that needed my attention. I connected it with place because the project brief I’m working on is about place; you can’t explore this stuff without a place (can you?).

Place is where the action is situated.

Place invites or suppresses action and an individual’s response or reaction occurs from a place inside them.

The intended use of a place can be subverted.

When a group gathers at a place a societal norm for that group is created, consciously or unconsciously. This, in itself, can become a pressure and create a desire to fit in and be accepted, creating conflict with the desire to express individuality. But if the individual is suppressing a part of her/himself it is impossible for her/him to feel accepted by the group.

Sounds: a conversation with Alex

I phoned my son, Alex, to ask for help with my film, It Burns And Turns To Ash. I asked if he knows anyone with a sound system that could be rigged up at Blackrock. The sounds I’d like to capture are the generator, the sound system buzzing as electricity flows through it, the first tune breaking into and dominating the other sounds and people cheering. He suggested these could be obtained elsewhere: a car engine could replace the generator, for example. He also suggested using a car with a loud sound system in it – he has a friend, Ben, who could supply this. The conversation has given me food for thought and inspired me to look more closely at the shots I want to take; breaking them down further will help me get to grips with exactly what I need to achieve my aims.

Watch “TimeCatcher” on YouTube

On Wednesday morning I met with Richard Morton to discuss collaborating on my next film. He is a film score composer. We discussed my initial idea and agreed some deadlines: I aim to get the filming finished by Saturday 15 December 2012. We will look at the rough edit together the following week. Then we’ll agree a final edit deadline so that he has something definite to work with. I’m thinking the first week of January. The final deadline is Tuesday 22 January 2013 (my birthday). The video is one that he devised the musical score for.

Place: It Burns And Turns To Ash


Maya Deren’s film, Divine Horsemen, made me think of the free parties I used to go to at the temple room cut into the undercliff opposite Volks Railway Station at Blackrock, Brighton. Unfortunately, the temple room is fenced off and seems to be undergoing renovation but I did find an alcove (see photo above) that might do instead for my next film.

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Maya Deren’s Divine Horsemen


The following text came from The Tate:

The experimental filmmaker Maya Deren spent significant periods of time in Haiti between 1947 and 1951. The footage she made of Voodoo rituals and rites was left unedited on her death and only assembled later as the film Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti 1947–51. The commentary, composed of extracts from the book of the same title Deren published in 1953, was also added posthumously.

Conceived of as a ‘film-poem’, Deren’s film reveals the ongoing merging of art and ethnography which was one of the legacies of Surrealism. Nevertheless, it also stands as an important cultural record of Haitian Voodoo – a religion based upon West African beliefs and practices, combined with aspects of Roman Catholicism.

Deren’s intention was to use montage editing techniques in order to contrast Haitian dance with ‘non- Haitian elements’ in a series of dream-like sequences – an approach which testifies to her Surrealist interest in alternative realities. As the project progressed the focus of her interest shifted from dance to the complex nature of Haitian ceremonies. Thus the film celebrates Haiti for its hybrid culture as well as for its symbolic importance as the site a successful slave revolution in 1791–1804, which resulted in Haiti becoming the first modern black republic.

The Escape by Josh Keyes


This painting, The Escape by Josh Keyes, arrested me with its immediacy. I didn’t know, at first, that it was a painting. It could be a 3D model; he has captured the light and shadow so realistically. It looks like something has happened. It’s intriguing: the more I look the more ambiguous it becomes – there are so many options and possibilities for what has just occurred. It’s dramatic and touching. I became involved immediately and wanted to know more. How can I relate this to my next film? Composition seems key: arranging people and props so that it is obvious something startling has taken place. Perhaps it doesn’t even have to be startling. It could be mundane but show that the action in the film began way before the camera started rolling.