So today I began to upload my work to my Film Annex web TV channel. Much of my time was spent thinking about and looking back on my early experimental short films. Doing this has prompted me to write about my work in more detail than I have ever previously done so before, hence this blog post. Below are the written summaries of my first six uploads to Film Annex:
Primate is one of my final university year films. Shot entirely on location in Stoke-on-Trent in 2001, the central idea of this film was to explore mans inhumanity to man. As a species, we present ourselves as advanced, and part of a civilized society. However, often (sadly, too often) human beings act out aggression in a more primitive way that reminds us of just how aggressive and dangerous we can be. These notions are explored in a conceptual way in Primate. Primate has won Best Short Film at the Stafford Film Festival in 2002 and was placed 2nd in the Experimental category at the Twin Rivers Film Festival. Thanks to Daniel Hopkins for technical support, and Nick Stubbs for creative support and feedback.
LEFT OF THE BORDER FILM 1
In 2002 I formed Left of the Border Films with two good friends – Oliver Branch and long time collaborator Jan Los. Our remit was simple - produce productions that fused our collective passions: experimental electronic music and abstract visuals. Left of the Border Film 1 is the first of these productions. For some reason, I’m not exactly sure why, I have always found concrete structures visually interesting. Maybe it is the clean lines, or the muted colour tones. So I discussed with Jan the idea of taking these lines and manipulating them in post-production, visually combining concrete structure and artificial light. Jan produced a soundtrack in response to these visuals and so Left of the Border Film 1 was born. This was to be the first of many collaborative projects with Jan.
LEFT OF THE BORDER FILM 2
In early 2003 I worked with my oldest and dearest friend David Corbett to produce Left of the Border Film 2. Around this time I was regularly travelling between Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham and on this journey I would travel through a very distinctive tunnel as I left Stoke. Every time I travelled through it I couldn’t help but notice the lighting and surfaces of the tunnel wall so one day (with someone else in the driving seat) I shot the tunnel lights and surfaces using my own consumer camera. Once I had the footage in post, I began to experiment with manipulating and cropping the footage to create abstract visuals. The light sources and surfaces seemed to take on a life of their own and before long I had the visual part of Left of the border Film 2 complete. I handed the film to David who proceeded to produce an abstract electronic soundtrack in reaction to what he could see. David used Max MSP software to achieve this, essentially creating his own software effects manipulators designed specifically for use with this project.
LEFT OF THE BORDER FILM 3
Later in 2003, after two collaborations for Left of the Border Films, I decided I would produce a solo project. Film 3 continued my fascination with artificial light and introduced a more processed look to light sources I had video captured. The other noticeable image in Film 3 is that of the barcode. The idea behind the use of the barcode image for Film 3 is this – every barcode you see is a random design, made to be linked to a random product. Light by its very nature is random and complex, yet it exists within a specific visual spectrum and surrounds us constantly. While at first it may seem to be a tenuous link, as I developed Film 3 in post-production, I began to notice that the grouping of seemingly random light sources into what could be described as an everyday random (but familiar) shape led me to conclude that light and barcodes share some similarities. That is, barcodes only function through the use of light, both light and barcodes are everywhere around us, light feeding our bodies and impacting our mood and feelings, and barcodes being one of the ways we acquire objects of necessity or desire. They have a somewhat symbiotic relationship to one another that I only realised after I had started Film 3.
Copyspace was produced as a solo Left of the Border Films project during my first year of teaching in 2003. I was teaching vocational media production at a college in Lincolnshire and was still in the process of finding my feet when something occurred to me. This was that I spent quite a considerable amount of my non-contact teaching time at a photocopier. While I greatly enjoyed my teaching practice at this college, the seemingly endless amount of time I spent stood by a photocopier started to grate on me. So I thought I would exorcise this particular demon by producing an experimental short that I hoped would creatively reflect my mood at the time. After shooting my footage, I embarked on a process of creating individual sounds that would be linked in the edit to specific shots of the offending photocopier. This quickly developed into an extremely complex ‘mirror’ edit where the duration of my sounds exactly matched the duration of my video images. By editing this way, I found a new found respect for the precision of video editing. In retrospect, what I now realise this video represents to me personally is the hectic nature of teaching, where many days on the surface may seem similar but are very rarely actually the same. This, it turns out, is one of the things about teaching I like the most.
In 2004 I collaborated with my long time friend and mentor of sorts Daniel Hopkins. I met Dan in 2000 when he started work as a media technician at Staffordshire University. Dan, it turned out, was quite the experimental sound designer and video artist and I became familiar with his music and abstract video work during and after my final year at university. With Tunnel 8, I wanted to explore another visual fascination I had with enclosed spaces. Like my other Left of the Border Films collaborations, I shot and edited a sequence (shot in Newcastle-under-Lyme) of a tunnel that I had walked through numerous times before. What was always notable about this tunnel was the sense of foreboding I always felt whenever I walked past it or through it. Dan seemed to pick up on that emotion with this film and produced a soundtrack that encapsulates that feeling of uneasy dread. Tunnel 8 is quite a reflective film for me and I have tried to visually represent the idea of ever shifting emotions that I often feel in enclosed spaces.
So there you are, a retrospective account of my early work. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed writing about it. Until next time. Cheers.