The arrival of the abstract – filmpoem week 8

A fascinating turn in the imagery this week, as new contributor Anathema McKenna picks up on the cut paper strips of week 7 and turns them into an abstraction. The choppy rhythm and ‘prison bar’ effect of the collaged lines is unexpected yet effective in conveying the actions and atmosphere of the verse, without ever becoming a direct illustration of the words.

We’d love to see your ideas for what might come next in this multi-authored film!

The verse you have to respond to is this:

alchemy: to transform berries and spice to dark distillation ready for winter

To help you get started, please do read this earlier blog about how to generate ideas for imagery, and this one about common mistakes to avoid.

Send your films to sleeperpoems@gmail.com by 5pm on Friday 29th May – thank you!

What to avoid when filming – filmpoem week 7

Hey hey, thanks for sticking with me on this one – week 7 of 11, and the contributor this week is…… me.

There’s a couple of reasons why it’s me. One is that I really wanted to create the ‘choking on strips of the Bible’ image idea I came up with in last week’s blog. Although when it came to it, I used newspapers to evoke the word ‘truth’ that is in the verse I’m illustrating.

The second reason is one of film quality-control. We received a couple of very intriguing concepts for imagery as a result of last week’s How-To guide, but unfortunately the execution did not do justice to the ideas. Common problems are:

Off-centre framing, or shots set up so that there is unwanted background detail

It can seem super-hard to get the framing right on a shot, but it’s worth playing around to get the perfect angle. It seems like most people would benefit from simply taking the camera closer in towards the objects and actions they’re filming. If you have a central action, you need to move the camera until the action or objects appears at the centre of the frame. This might take a fair amount of fiddling on! I’m lucky that I have a tripod, and a special attachment that allows me to put my iPad in any position I want. It wasn’t an expensive bit of kit, less than a tenner I think, and it makes a HUGE difference. It also completely eliminates the next biggest problem –

Shaky-cam and loss of focus

If you don’t have a tripod, then I really recommend you improvise some other ways to keep your device still, like propping it up on piles of books. It’s amazing how eliminating hand-held shake immediately makes your film look more engaging. And finally (for now) the other thing worth trying to resolve is –

Bad lighting

Of course we don’t have all the fancy-schmancy lights and reflectors that a serious film-maker has (although you can actually pick them up relatively cheaply). Nevertheless, you can make the most of the light you have and you absolutely should do so, because it makes everything look better. Arrange your cinematic composition so that it catches full sunlight, and add in more light using as many reading lamps as you can lay your sticky hands on.

So here is the latest version of Cherophobia – an Autumn Journal, with my 20 seconds added in. You’ll see that I’ve been a bit of a smart arse and have edited together a few different sections of film to make my 20 second clip. Notice how close in I’ve got the camera in order to get the effects I wanted – cropped right in on my hands, and then on my mouth and neck. Keeping the camera further away just wouldn’t have worked – the closer I am, the more intense the effect of the imagery.

And now it’s back over to you!

Below is the verse for week 8, for you to brainstorm into an eye-catching film snippet. Please send us your clips to sleeperpoems@gmail.com by 5pm this Friday 22nd May. And remember –

  • Illustrate/respond to the words and atmosphere of the poem – can you do this without filming someone chopping shallots??
  • Shoot in landscape orientation
  • Experiment until you have the shot framed right – come in closer, get things centred or in the right place, make sure unwanted details are kept out of frame
  • Keep the camera steady
  • Use as much light as you can

I slice shallots because this makes you cry. Juice spills all over the kitchen.

 

How to think up good imagery – filmpoem week 6

Welcome to week 6, the mid-point of this experimental project based on a poem by Jo Colley from her latest collection, Sleeper. The footage for this verse uses a combination of old photos featuring marbles, and video of raindrops falling on a dark puddle.

Every week we ask for contributions of film clips that might in some way illustrate or respond to the words, imagery, and above all the emotional tone of the poem. This last week we received several pieces of film, some very beautiful, but few seemed to really be in dialogue with the words of the prompt.

It can be hard to put images to words, but for this to work there must be some sense of connection. Here, the roundness and clustering of the marbles are a visual echo of the berries in the poem, described as “beads”. The rain on water stands in for the “cider vinegar”, and the sinister hints of the word “drowning” are suggested by both the darkness of the water and the earlier glimpse of a doll positioned face-down in a disturbing posture. Take a look, and see if you can catch what I mean.

So, here’s a hint for how to approach making a film clip for this week’s verse, because there are very few visual references in it!

  1. Take three or four of the words that seem to you to be most important for the atmosphere of the verse. For example, you might choose ‘sharp’, ‘catches’, ‘throat’ and ‘truth’.
  2. Write them in a random way on a piece of paper, and then start to make a spider-web of associated words, images, objects, colours even. It might look like this:20200511_104749
  3. Now try connecting two or three of your associated images together (ideally three), to create a possible moment of footage. For example:

20200511_105030

  • Connecting ‘knife’ (sharp) with ‘stroking neck’ (throat) gives a strong image. Too strong?
  • Connecting ‘drop something’ (catches) with ‘broken glass’ and ‘plasters on fingers’ (sharp) suggests a scene of letting something drop and shatter, perhaps filmed from above; or a scene of injured fingers picking up shards.
  • Connecting ‘twitter feed’ (truth) with ‘broken glass’ (sharp) makes me imagine swiping a broken phone screen – perhaps the images on the phone could be staged to be relevant to the poem’s atmosphere of a relationship in trouble – photos of the couple in happier times?
  • Connecting ‘tear’ (catches) to ‘Bible’ (truth) to ‘mouth’ (throat) gets us perhaps the most art-house image, of someone ripping up and chewing the pages of a Bible.

Have a go yourself, and see where your associations take you – and remember, ALWAYS film in landscape orientation, and send us your clip to sleeperpoems@gmail.com by 5pm this Friday! Here is the full verse of poetry to inspire you:

 

the sweet sharp smell catches in the back of my throat, sticks like a truth I can't swallow

The patina of old film – filmpoem week 5

This week a contribution from Bernie McAloon takes us back towards imagery of nature, but purple and grainy with age. The road up through trees is the ‘Bank’ and perhaps the ‘challenge’ mentioned in the verse, the tint of the film stock is the stain of the burst berries.

Cherophobia: an Autumn Journal from Joanna on Vimeo.

 

Next week is our midpoint, verse 6, and we would love you to contribute a 20-second clip of video that responds to the following text:

Renga 6

Here is your challenge – can you send us something that shows neither forks, nor pots, not vinegar, but still illustrates the mood of the poetry. Repetitive action, the suggestion of unspoken hostilities in the word ‘drown’?

Send your landscape-oriented footage to sleeperpoems@gmail.com by 5pm Friday 8 May!

Archive splices – filmpoem week 4

Our film-poem takes a new turn this week, as archive footage contributed by Wilf Wilson is spliced into the mix. When imagery of war appears inside the confines of what has so far been a domestic setting, what is the psychological impact? Where is this story going? Take a look at the film so far, and then read the verse for week five. We want your 20 second film clip to take us forwards!

Cherophobia: an Autumn Journal from Joanna on Vimeo.

Week 5 prompt is this –

Renga 5

We need 20 seconds of footage that reacts to this verse, but it doesn’t have to be a direct illustration of it. Bring us something that speaks of challenge, or bursting? Remember to film it in landscape orientation, and email it to sleeperpoems@gmail.com by 5pm on Friday 1st May.

 

How images and words collide – filmpoem week 3

This week’s clip is provided by Lilly Flypchuk, whose daily lockdown walk takes her along the banks of the upper Tyne.

Looking at how the film is progressing, it’s really interesting to notice how the mind forges links between the words of the text and images that may seem quite unconnected. In week one, there was a clear link between Ali’s film (light shining through a glass tumbler) and Jo’s words “dim light on a glass of brandy”, but also the way the light twisted and turned seemed to fit well with the text “incoherent babble”.

Natalie’s footage used spoons, which weren’t mentioned in Jo’s poem at all, but their silver shininess chimed with “kept for best”, the domestic nature of the object matched with “cupboarded”, and of course their Hall of Mirrors reflections gave us the “face…but folded”.

This week we see a river whilst reading “pond reeds” and our mind puts the sense impressions together. When the text gets to “fresh out of the cellophane” the transparent glisten of the water becomes the plastic wrapping – or it at least it did in my mind!

Have a look for yourself, and then please do spend 20 seconds this week recording a clip for verse 4, using these guidelines.

Week 4 prompt:

Renga 4

Finding the surreal in the domestic – filmpoem week 1

The collaboration continues with verse 2 of Jo Colley’s poem Cherophobia: An Autumn Journal (from her latest collection Sleeper) and a film clip supplied by Natalie Scott.

At the end of this 11-week renga, we will smooth out the final edit, record a definitive version of the vocal track, and add a unifying musical score. But for now, take a look at how the draft is developing…

…and then why not try your hand at a little phone-video-clip for the next verse? Read the full instructions for how to submit a piece of film, and the next verse awaiting your visual responses is right here.

Renga 3

 

Through a glass darkly – filmpoem week 1

Huge thanks to Alison Raybould, who provides us with the very first piece of video footage for this new collaborative project!

Take a look at what we’ve got so far:

You now have until 5pm this Friday 10th April to send us the next 20 second clip, responding to verse 2:

a face I know to be yours
but folded away, cupboarded
kept for best

Full info and instructions on how to submit your film snippet are here. Really looking forward to seeing what comes next in this visual daisy-chain!!

 

Join our film-poetry renga

Friends, I am delighted to invite you to contribute to a new digital project while we are all in lockdown, and hopefully beyond.

I have been asked by the wonderful poet Jo Colley to work with her on some activities to launch her fourth collection, Sleeper from Smokestack Books. It’s a glorious book full of double lives, Cold War spies, masked relationships, and emotional distances.

While we can’t bring you a physical launch (yet), we would very much like you to take part in a film renga. A renga is a long poem of linked verses that are created by several poets in collaboration,  under the guidance of a renga master. The renga master directs the flow of the chain, and will select each verse in turn from the selection put forward by the poets.

In our renga, we are providing you with a weekly prompt, which is a short verse from a long poem in the Sleeper collection. We are asking for a 20 second video clip that complements the text rather than directly illustrating it, and which also responds to the images already accrued. Each time we release a new prompt, we will also show you the film so far.

Here is your first prompt:

the table in your house
dim light on a glass of brandy
incoherent babble, justifications

And here are the instructions:

  1. Read the prompt
  2. Watch the film so far (applicable from week 2 onwards)
  3. Take a 20 second piece of footage (to allow for editing)
  4. Your video should contain images that complement the text, but not necessarily be a direct illustration of the images in the text
  5. Your video should be responsive to the feel of the composite film so far
  6. Please hold your device in landscape orientation when filming (like a TV screen)
  7. Please email your video to sleeperpoems@gmail.com
  8. Prompts and the film so far will be released every Monday for 11 weeks, and deadline for each week’s submission is 5pm every Friday

 

House of Abasement

Ah! A little something dark and twisted comes flowing forth today, from me and from my two contributors. Enjoy this very Strange Prompt…

12

From Julie Easley, a poem:

I thought I might be dead

waking up in this shrunken room.

The walls seem elastic

to my touch, bending with my body,

as if breathing on their own.

A small window beckons me,

desperate as I am for light,

for signs I am living.

There is movement, a momentary

glimpse of hope as images

flash before my eyes.

But I am just a mirror,

a reflection of my past, playing

out on repeat until I learn.

And from Jo Colley, a prose-poem:

It’s so light, but there are no windows: the light comes from a series of ultra violet bulbs, giving the impression of daylight. Light making an effort to emulate the sun, to be real, to improve your sense of well-being. But the effort is too great. And there’s nothing to hide under or behind: all open plan, wooden floorboards, floor cushions. You feel so exposed. It makes you want to prostrate yourself face down on the tasteful rug and list every one of your inadequacies. You suspect this might take some time.

Delicious!!