Collaboration: journal 31 October 2013

Chris, Helen and I went to Devil’s Dyke on Sunday 27 October to film. Chris wore a business suit and Helen was dressed appropriately for the weather in a North Face jacket, leggings, Hunter wellingtons and a hat and scarf. Chris brought his tent with him and we were to film them trying to put it up in the derelict building at the top of Devil’s Dyke.  I asked them to use dialogue as little as possible (I wanted gestures and facial expressions rather than dialogue), but if it felt truthful to the emerging narrative then speaking would be fine. They spoke during most of the filming and were unable to realise the purpose I’d imagined for the film.

I asked Helen and Chris to research and let me know about their characters’ backgrounds before the day of the shoot but had received no response from Helen and Chris gave a little information before suggesting we talk about it in the car on the way to Devil’s Dyke. In the car, Chris shared the backstory for his character, Hugo: the land belonged to him – a legacy from his father, who was an abusive man – and, as a child, he used to go there to get away from the violence at home. Helen’s character, Cate, it was decided, is Hugo’s sister-in-law and her husband killed himself after their divorce. Her income has dwindled and she is considering downsizing to a smaller house with her three children, who she pulled out of boarding school before the divorce. Neither Helen nor Chris could understand why their characters would self reflect and come to take responsibility for their parts in the unfair socioeconomic system.

A narrative was created whereby Hugo asked Cate to move in with him and his elderly mother; he needed someone he could trust to look after her. Cate felt affronted at becoming a “glorified housekeeper” while living rent-free. Later, Hugo stated he has a terminal illness, which he’d like to keep secret from his mother because the death of another ‘child’ would “break her heart”. He tries to coerce Cate into pretending he has gone on a long business trip but Cate refuses; she gives him an ultimatum: if he does not tell his mother, she will. He agrees.

This narrative ties in with the idea of ‘woman at the heart of the home’, but it is not the narrative I wanted to work with. There were some ideas around money present in the dialogue, particularly with Cate telling Hugo she doesn’t care about money – truth is more important to her. Death seems to be an important theme and it is a subject I wanted to explore in film, so I’m going to play with that and see what I can do with the material I recorded. I’m not sure, at the moment, how this film relates to the Homemaking and Unmaking module or whether it should be included for assessment for that module. As an aside, the seminar was upsetting; it was about home as an unsafe place, and the nature of exile and displacement. The artist, Mona Hatoum, struck me; she made things to represent the feeling of living in a refugee camp. The things looked like household objects but they were slightly off in ways that were potentially dangerous.

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