I have just uploaded some digitised super 8mm cinefilm footage I took in 2003, of the anti-war demonstrations in London.
I sent the original reels to the producers of the We Are Many documentary. They have crowd-sourced footage of the biggest mobilisation of people in history. Sadly, my footage did not make it into the final cut (too much panning, maybe!?) but they provided me with the digitised footage anyway. I am making it available online under a Creative Commons Licence.
Watching the footage a decade after I took it, I am amused by how the vintage cinefilm adds an extra sheen of history to the images. Its also serendipitous that I received this footage back just as Instagram launched its video service. The quick cuts and grainy film in my clips are mirrored in the new content being produced today by social media enthusiasts. I was using Instagram Video before it was cool!
The impulse to create art is as powerful as any other thing that drives us because art connects us to experiences and to one another. Good is besides the point when the need behind it is to create something honest and true to the way we see the world. It’s not about realism. The vintage-tinted Instagram filters are derided for adding a nostalgic cast to the mundane, but what they do is allow users to share their world in the same emotional shades they see. The photo becomes not just a document of a moment, but a story told from a point of view.
This speaks to why I chose to document the protest with Super 8mm cine-film in the first place. The political mobilisation of early 2003 felt historic, and I wanted to convey that in my personal record of the day.
The Vimeo Awards and Festival are coming up. I’m in London and the awards are in New York, so my participation is limited to watching some of the shortlisted films on Vimeo.
I think the above ‘Moments‘ video will begin a trend in both amateur and professional production. There is always something so unsatisfactory about the way a conventional video renders, especially camera phone videos. While the scene you are beholding is panoramic, the resulting shot is boxed and restrictive. Even panning doesn’t quite capture the expanse of the view provided by the human eye. Few of us have access to IMAX projection screens.
These Hockney like clips by Ian Gamester manage to capture a little bit more detail and are a little bit more like panoramas. I know that split screen effects have been around for generations, but these renderings feel very new (part of The New Aesthetic, even?) I think this is perhaps because the constituent shots are all filmed portrait (probably off an iPhone), which is unusual for video.
Most of my public filming these days is for literary events or family gatherings. I think this technique may just work for those kinds of documentation. I hope the guys at Fifty Nine Productions, who use multiple projection surfaces in much of their work, watch this too.
‘Get Well Soon’ is a short film by BRAG Productions. Its a quiet, visceral horror starring Gresby Nash and Laura Howard. I saw it last year at The Exhibit in Balham and thought the combination of cinematography and sound design were particularly effective.
The film has finished its festival run and will be released online on 13th June. Here’s a short video of the cast and crew, talking about the making of the film.
Its the London Book Fair this week, and China is the controversial ‘market focus’ country. To mark this, English PEN staged a day-long forum on Chinese literature and invited artists both from inside China and in exile.
One of the visitors was Ou Ning, who introduced his film about forced demolitions in Beijing, ahead of the 2008 Olympics. During the Q&A I asked Ou Ning about remix culture in china, and then followed with a rather loaded question about film vs literature. You can watch the event below or see my particular question on YouTube.
There wasn’t time for me to engage him in a debate, but I’m not sure I agree with Ou Ning’s assertion that film beats literature. Both are important. In the short term, I agree that film and video are superior in showing fellow Chinese people, and the rest of the world, what is actually happening. However, I’m not sure that providing that enhanced knowledge is sufficient to bring about lasting change. I think literature has an essential role in bringing about change, whether that is through an Arab Spring style uprising (a ‘Jasmine’ revolution?) or a kind of Chinese glasnost. A fundamental shift in mindset is required for either kind of reform, and I think the depth and nuance that long form literary work brings is essential to inspiring such a change.
In my youth, I would go skydiving at weekends. My take-up of the sport was round about the time that digital video was coming onto the consumer market and into the world of freefall. Most electronics shops sold high-end mini-DV units for four figure sums alongside VHS camcorders. All units were relatively bulky and you required a homemade helmet with a camera-mount bracket on the front.
The films we produced then were rudimentary. They were washed out and a bit shaky, and any that were edited were typically very basic montages set to some kind of dance-music sound-track. Here’s an example I made earlier.
Compare that with this beautiful thing from design studio Betty Wants In, advertising a skydive centre in Melbourne. Its in a different league to what I saw being produced a decade ago, even from the professionals. Chief amongst its virtues is the focus on stillness and calm, and the relative stasis that you achieve in freefall (relative being the operative word). By contrast, when I was doing this sort of thing, the entire culture revolved around speed and the iconography was all cliched lightning bolts and flames. It shows how the practitioners of this relatively new genre have evolved, helped of course by the reduced price and size of HD video.