Rules for editing film

After reflecting on John Cage’s musical compositional style, I decided to create some rules to compose my film edit. I brushed up onĀ reading musical notation by looking at Ken Davies’ website and Music Mind website. I labelled each of my forty six film clips with a number: 01 to 46. I took the first four beats from each clip and placed them in a ‘raw footage’ sequence in Adobe Premiere Pro. Here are photos describing the process I used to make my film:


I used six musical notes to decide on the length of clip; three of them were silent to represent black screen.


I cut out paper squares.


I wrote the numbers of clips and drew the musical notes on the squares of paper.


I folded the squares and placed them in cups (separate cups for film clip numbers and musical notes).


I pulled a number from one cup and a note from another until I felt I had enough for a short film sequence.


I added the clips to the visual track and if the note was silent I made the clip transparent (you can see this by the position of the yellow line).


I marked off each note so that I knew where I was in the process.


I did the same for the audio track.


I wrote some of the thoughts that I had whilst carrying out the monotonous repetitive work:

“as I drag the opaque bar down to zero, making the image disappear, a panic clutches me.”

“relief: the next note is not silent.”

“I imagine the final crit and Matthew dismissing the work in some way.”

“John Cage: “I have nothing to say and I am saying it”. HisĀ 4’33” consisted of actual musical silences and a pianist sat at a piano and read the music until it was finished.”

“doing this with the film footage might render my journey to obtain it pointless.”

“seems perverse.”

“I recognise some of the shots as ones I like and feel sad they won’t be seen.”

“I wonder what this will be like to watch.”

“I wonder if I will make meaning from the result.”

“it doesn’t matter how it turns out. It’s just a bunch of numbers and notes.”

“it’s just a series of repetitions: look at number and note type, select number of notes, copy them, paste them, turn opaque down if instructed, mark paper to show where I’ve got to.”

“I wonder how long the film will be.”

“images can be manipulated to show things that aren’t/weren’t there.”

“I know what that image is!”

“some of these tiny images look beautiful.”

“I’m near the end!”

“John in Bristol.”

“folly. This is folly. And so is everything else but stuff that’s purposeful appears not to be folly when it is.”

“motorbike sound outside: remembering the anticipation of John arriving on his motorcycle.”

“Edmund in his lycra outfit scootering around Enterprise Point.”

“Lauren in fairy wings scootering around Enterprise Point.”

“Father Christmas.”

I watched the visual track once I’d added the notes. I wrote this: “it’s a bit like setting up a line of dominoes; the anticipation has been building during the editing process.”



Sound and vision: lean on me


I realised the voice over I recorded during the puppet making was perfect for an emergent practice film. The audio tells a personal story of how unhelpful beliefs can form when blindly trusting the word of an authority figure; questioning snips away the ties that bind the belief in place allowing a realisation of some of the reasons why I make art. This realisation will help me to experiment with the purpose of art in future projects.

The audio fits nicely over the speeded up footage of me making the puppets. My words are not scripted and there is plenty of space between questions and answers. The slowness of the audio contrasts with the fast speed of the visuals, although there are occasional clips played at normal speed (23.967 fps), and this creates breathing space in the visual track. The third audio clip is different from the previous two in that tearing sounds can be heard, which do not match the visual images. I like this because it shows the temporal mismatch of the visual and audio tracks; it’s a reminder of the constructed nature of film.

After putting the sound and images together I thought about bringing the puppets to life. I wanted to use them in a way that was fun and nonviolent as an alternative to the domestic violence usually advocated by Punch and Judy professors. There is a song, Lean on Me by Bill Withers, that I’ve sung at parties or (ahem) in the kebab shop or in the street and people join in singing with me. It makes me smile and it feels good to sing together. I decided the puppets would sing this song. I phoned Justine and she agreed to sing for Delores, the female adult. Andy agreed to sing for Bill Senior. I recorded myself singing as Bill Junior then Justine listened to me through headphones and sang along as I recorded her. Andy did likewise.

Next I filmed the puppets (Andy and Justine moved them around in realtime) dancing and ‘singing’ against the backdrop of a large picture frame; the frame has marked out holes for pictures but it’s empty. This links back to audio during puppet making in the film where I talk about the effect of believing I wasn’t good enough to do art: I stopped drawing and painting for a long time. Judy had suggested, during a tutorial, that I film the puppets in my wardrobe with painted scenery backdrops but that was before I was ready to work with the puppets and, of course, now I was ready it didn’t tie in with the emerging story.

Sound and vision: letting go of the script

About a week ago I wrote a script for the puppets based on the adults talking to me as I make the child. The child has wings but the adults don’t because they ripped them off each other in arguments and I’d grown tired of making them. I recorded myself doing the voices for the puppets and tried to edit it into the film but it wasn’t working; it felt like the story was the baseline holding the film together. In my journal I voiced a new idea: to make speeded up footage of the making of the puppets and then go with the stop motion animation.

I suddenly felt at ease; I could let go of the script and put the footage together in the order I shot it as I made the puppets; it would be a chronicle detailing emergent practice. The story made by the puppets interacting will emerge when I play with and film them tomorrow.

Opening sequence – rough edit


This is a roughly edited opening sequence to my film for the fictions brief. I used the end from the telecined 16mm film to overlay the image from the DSLR shot, whilst the sound remains from the DSLR footage. The film begins with a white screen, but it’s not pure white – there is some flickering. After a second or two, the colour begins to flicker. I’m going to make a title to overlay these first frames.

The sea flickers into view. This is the scene from Alice’s Adventures at Black Rock where there is complete silence after Alice remembers the sexual abuse committed by her Uncle. The sea is stormy. I think this is an important way to open the movie – if you haven’t seen the previous movie you wouldn’t know why it was there but it does lend an air of coldness with its blue tint and stormy weather; the warm yellow of the room in which Ali is sitting to talk about the abuse contrasts with the cold blue of the 16mm film.

Recorded my voice

Yesterday I filmed stuff that was on my dining table. The sun was streaming through the window onto it and I had in mind the words I wrote yesterday in response to “yellow sky draped itself over everything lazily”. This evening I played around with that footage in Adobe Premiere Pro 6 but am not satisfied with it. I recorded myself saying the poem – eight takes – all with different tones. I chose the first one. It’s interesting how a tone can change the feel of something. I tried to rid my voice of emotion in one of the takes and it sounded like a child learning to read but uninterested in the task.

Viewed rushes again

Went to St Peter’s House LIbrary this afternoon to look at the rushes again to get an idea of what I want to do in the editing suite tomorrow. I have the whole day set aside for editing. I came away with a plan. And I did some of the required reading for this Wednesday’s Film History seminar; overall, a good afternoon. I am still filled with much self doubt about the film. However, at work on Friday I was reminded that I’m at university to learn and as long I learn from what I’m doing it’s okay if it’s not the best film in the world.



Overcoming procrastination, I headed to St Peter’s House Library today and imported all the footage from the MiniDV tape to my network space in the computer pool. I chose not to use Final Cut Pro, which wouldn’t start up. It didn’t recognise that the video recorder was attached to the rather lovely iMac I was using (dear universe, I would like an iMac. One of the older white plastic ones with a white keyboard and wireless mouse and speakers and remote control. In return I promise to serve you in the best way I can). I used iMovie instead and, after I fiddled about with the wire, it “saw” the video camera and imported the footage. I sat there for just over an hour, watching the footage as it transferred. That helped me get to know the shots a little better. Being a newbie to iMovie, I watched some YouTube tutorials to help me in the next step of pulling out the bits of film that were chosen at random the other day. Looks pretty easy to use. I’m looking forward to the edit.