What doesn’t is as important as what does? The selection of material for this film has been a rather organic affair. Ordinarily when you edit down a project it is something done near the end so you have a large body of work to choose the most powerful images from.This film seems to have grown and morphed and developed as I went along. I had an idea of specific shots that I required in order to set the scene and reference the environment (ie Cornwall).
So I was looking for signs and symbols that represented Cornishness so that the viewer would be in little doubt where the narrative was focused; tin mines, seagulls, boat trips, pasties etc (see above). I amassed a collection of still images and some video clips that I could use to lead the mind. As the project and film built up, however, I soon came to realise these shots that I considered the foundation stones of the final piece really did not fit…they were far too trite & obvious. Even though they were there to set the scene they didn’t really add to the whole. Many of the individual shots & clips that I had captured within the interviewees home environment were a lot stronger…I think this was probably down to the fact they were more mysterious and raised questions rather than just stating an obvious object.
As with my previous project I was looking for an extended portrait from the domestic scenes, something that spoke of the character of the person; that also portrayed a feeling of calm and safety (see above). Bearing in mind the subject matter of the film it was important to normalise in order to destigmatise…show these people as ordinary folk and not the Lepers we are still perceived to be.
It was also important to me not to hide away from their sexuality, but to actively promote them as sexual beings as this is part of the fear and stigma (see above images). Just because we carry this disease it does not mean we should ignore or deny the sexual side of our nature; we have as much right to a love life as the next man. Part of the ethos of the exhibition is to educate the current facts that, thanks to antiretroviral drugs we now have the potential to be completely non-infectious.
Rather like a complex jigsaw it became a case of trial and error to see which pieces fitted together to create a whole. I know I was hoping for a great deal of happy accidents. By building up and overlaying 5 layers of imagery while mixing the blending mode in Premiere it was not always easy to control or predict what the outcome would be. It was also necessary in some instances to match what the voice was speaking of with a relevant image…or more to the point to avoid using an image that had the potential to slander the speaker?
There is a clip & a still taken within a public toilet which hints at the uses these spaces are occasionally used for (see above). They work well within the sequence but I had to choose their placing very carefully to avoid defaming any of the participants.
As the film built up I had to lose some initial stills to replace them with stronger shots and also had to re-visit two of the interviewees in order to expand the selection of images I had within their sequence.
The limit of a 3 minute film which was set by the organisers ensured that there could be no padding to the film…this forced me to choose only the best and relevant content and therefore has probably created a much stronger piece of work.
From the outset I was looking at Derek Jarman’s Blue where the deep blue blank screen re-enforces Jarman’s voice so that you are drawn into his narrative without the visual distraction. I looked to reproduce something similar whereby the background images, while not a blank screen, were not distracting but there to support and re-enforce the voices of my participants and therefore strengthen their words and message. Using the background sound of the sea I could add to the calming, cleansing reputation of the waves to help to create the right overall atmosphere.
This version of the final film which will be shown at the Exhibition on the 1st December has now been submitted to the organisers to join with the other 13 artists. Initial feedback from one of the organisers was “I just wanted to say congrats… it is compelling, captivating, accessible, powerful and very thought-provoking.” which is a relief that the work I have been put in has not been in vain.