Sunday, June 26, 2005

raison d'etre

Had my annual filmmaking-existential crisis yesterday. There are other ones that occur more regularly but this one seems to be tied to my attendance at the Sydney Film Festival and the Dendy Awards in particular. The 'what-am-I-doing-with-my-life' was compounded by a comment from a fellow festival goer ("so your films aren't entertaining?") and by the imminent death of my partner's father/my father-in-law (filmmaking isn't a cure for the cancer of which he is dying). So the question becomes, "Why do I make films/videos?" and "who am I making them for?". I do love films' power to touch people, show beauty, inspire thought and debate, and summon up feeling. The utopian in me hopes that it can make some difference. It isn't a bad thing to be made to think about the entertainment value of the work. It doesn't seem terribly productive to subscribe to the medicinal model of filmmaking - "you should watch this even though you don't like it because it's good for you" - the moral highground and self-righteous should-ing all at once...ick!
What filmmakers are good models then for ethical, engaging, beautiful, feeling filmmaking?
Agnes Varda - I saw a wonderful collection of three of her films at the festival under the title of Cinevardaphoto. I'm in awe of her work - its warmth, it confidence and the way she manages to weave so many strands into such a beautiful thing.
Werner Herzog - The White Diamond was at the Sydney Film Festival. I walked out of the Friday night screening into rain and the transition between the city emptying itself of workers and people coming in for play. Even incredible traffic (half an hour to get from Circular Quay to Martin Place by bus!) couldn't dim the glow I felt after that film.

To make films that have heart, films that soar, to share the feeling of connectedness, transcendence and hope that films that I love instill in me.

Yeah, blah, blah, blah - I'm boring myself now.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

What is 'place'?

Ok, so here's my homework. My starting point is the definition that I found in the Collins English Dictionary (Third Australian Edition), HarperCollins Publishers, Sydney Australia 1991 (hmmm I'm going to have to brush up on my referencing skills!).
It said "place n.1. a particular point or part of space or of a surface, esp. that occupied by a person or thing". There was, of course a hell of a lot more - 47 different points to be exact! - but I really like that as a starting point, that it is about people in space (and I would add not just physical space, but social, emotional, mental) that makes a place. People make places. People have memories of being in place. The place in memory exists in connection to but separate from the actual, physical, tangible place. That doesn't mean that one is more valid or real than the other but it does point to a notion that experiences of place are individual and subjective. And if people make places then what we each make of a place are connected but individual/separate recollections. The trick is, how do we then, again make connections. The work of William E Connolly is really important on this point.
In this project my responses to people's descriptions of and objects from places will form part of the process. It would also be good to include their responses to my responses - a kind of feedback loop that continues to alter and adjust the artifact of the project. Perhaps I need to think about incorporating some kind of interactive component such as a website to enable this kind of feedback process? I'll need to decide though, where the drawing off point will be. Perhaps it will be about the time limit of the PhD project if I get accepted?


Have to start somewhere I guess. Part of my problem is sorting out what I want to do with the project so maybe I should start with what I know I want to do.
I want to make some short films that deal with people's memories of different places. The films would be grouped around particular places, whether that is a particular country e.g. Brazil, a particular location, e.g. Central Australia or a more specific place like a gaol. Not sure if I'll do anything about less tangible places like social place, emotional place, etc. So perhaps the starting point should be to come up with some kind of working definition of place. Homework for the next blog!
Objects or mementoes from places will play an important role in the whole conjuring process. I imagine that they will act as some kind of stepping off point for going into the remembered place. So it's about quite subjective experiences of remembered places rather than hard evidence or physical documenting of places. Rather than going to the actual place to gather images and sounds it will be about creating a representation of that place through objects, photos, music and verbal recollections.
I'd like to work with some animation/motion graphics so that the project takes an illustrative approach to representing the place. I think that will also help to put it firmly in the realm of the remembered.
I'd also like to take a collaborative approach to the process so that the storytellers have an influence over how their stories are illustrated.
I'd like to create something that is beautiful and with which people will connect. That's something that really interests me - how do people connect with other's stories of places or things they may never have experienced?