Archive for the ‘Words of inspiration’ Category

“My first memory has always been of me and my mom on a cold grey day down at some beach in Washington, along the Puget sound somewhere near Seattle. I would be around two or three years old and we’re with a friend of mine from the neighborhood and his mom. Walking around among the driftwood looking for crabs. Even now, I can remember the smell and temperature of the air, the feeling of the sand and the swaying tall grass I can even remember looking over at my friend and how his face looked when he smiled back at me Another memory that I’ll sometimes recall as my first memory is dressing up in the dead of winter as Jack London with tennis rackets on my feet and wearing my dad’s hiking pack, in the middle of summer after seeing Disney’s (terrible) version of White Fang. or There’s the memory of stealing my neighbor’s big wheel and riding it halfway down the block before getting caught and having to turn around defeated, or of wearing a fireman’s outfit while washing my parent’s car, or eating an orange popsicle from the ice cream truck.

These are and have always been some of my most distinct and persistent memories of childhood, so i came as a disappointment to me when one day as a teenager I opened up a photo album and found pictures of each and every one of those memories. I didn’t have a single memory that didn’t belong to or somehow grow from pictures my parents had taken of me when I was growing up even the scenes I remember so clearly in my head are from the same angles as those photographs and I don’t really know what to to make of it. I’m going to guess that I’d seen all theses photographs at some point, forgotten they were just photographs and over time made them into my most tangible memories. That’s scary to me in a way.”
Excerpt
Warren Gamaliel Bancroft Winnipeg Harding
Chicago, Illinois
April 6th, 2008

When I first read that, my thoughts immediately turned to my childhood. My first real “distinct” memory being my third birthday. We gathered around the glass-topped octogon table in the lounge room in the morning. My first tricycle, pink with white foam or rubber wheels, was my gift. It was small and light enough that it was sat upon the table.

Before that, vague moments exist. Snippets of a holiday to Perth when I was 2 and a half. Burning my arm on a hot iron at 18 months. Sitting in a green shell pool in the side garden by the carport at less than a year old. I am not even sure if those memories are real, or if they have been ingrained into me through photos and retellings over the years. Particularly my burn. I can picture the event from start to finish, from pulling the cord from the ironing board, to being thrown screaming into a bath with running cold water. My mum half dressed for work. I believe that it all stems from being told the story dozens of times over.

Yet these moments still feel a part of my history as real and tangible as what I ate for breakfast this morning. They might be insignificant in the grand scheme of who I am, but they still feel real. Our memories are biased, self-serving and at worst, completely false in some cases. Our memories lie to us every day.

If we try hard enough, and look back long enough, our history changes and distorts itself depending on our later needs and experiences. Stare at a photograph long enough, and it can be whatever you want it to be.

The camera never lies is a lie unto itself. So long as the human memory is fallible  the camera creates its own truth, to be reinterpreted countless times over.

No biggie. Just exploring the themes of my film. Several things have occurred to me:

  • Post-mortem photographs were important to those left living

but

  • A life lived is more important.

Which leads me to my question: What is the point in memorializing a life that has not been lived?

A quick piece I cobbled together from various snippets I have written over the last few days. This is not so much a story but a brief look into the world of the people I want to write my script about. I am not too sure on the technical aspects of the photography, such as the mechanics and exposure, but the sentiment is there. There is a story behind every photograph…

The old man’s eyes looked off into nowhere in particular. He sat slumped, his fragile spine crumpled under his dead weight. He’d been dead not twelve hours, but the sickness had already drained most of the colour from his face. His shoulders still seemed tense, even in death. The only part of him that seemed at peace were his eyes. He had resigned to his fate, he had reconciled with all his demons.

I turned to see the waiting family. A casket was open, and ready to receive him. This was the last of the formalities. I tilted my head, imagining the photograph. “Shift his head about, he looks like he is all twisted up”. Wordlessly, his wife obliged. His head was turned, and he gazed over to his family in a sort of dignified silence. His wife sat down next to him, supporting his drooping body.

His hands lay in an open bible. If one had only briefly glanced in his direction, one might hve thought he was reading, deep in thought, only to be disturbed by some sound or movement. One could imagine him reaching up to adjust his spectacles, or perhaps scratch his wiry beard. But of course he did not move. His wife placed her warm, wrinkled hand over his cold and work weathered hand for the last time.

Satisfied, I pulled the slide out of the wooden holder and placed it the camera. It slid home with a satisfying click as the metal clips snapped around it. I nodded wordlessly at the old man’s wife. She gave a tiny smile. “Stay completely still, this is the most important thing”. Feeling she had understood, a reached around the camera body, and quickly removed the lens cap. In the sunny sitting room, four minutes ought to be plenty of time for exposure. I checked my watch. The wife sat with absolute stillness, as though it was the most important thing that she had ever done.

(source: photo.net)

Occasionally her eyes would flick to her dead husband, but mostly she stared straight down the lens of the camera. I could see how in life these two would have sat around the fire, or held each other close in the evenings.They seemed to fit so comfortably into one another, despite one having moved into the next world. I imagined them laughing together, their wedding day… This was their final moment, and the memory that would last for many years to come.

I placed the lens cap back over, sealing the image away from the destructive light. I would process it momentarily. The wife’s lip quivered as her daughter tried to pull her hand away from her husbands. Two strapping young lads lifted the frail old man’s body easily, and he was laid into the casket as though sleeping. The bible was tucked into his hands. I saw the wife bend over to kiss her husband goodbye. Her hand trailed across his forehead, tucking away loose hairs.

I tucked the slide holding the precious plate into its case. I would return in the morning with the last picture of this husband and wife, the only picture of this husband and wife. I tipped my hat and paid my final respects, before turning and leaving for my studio.

With my most recent film, My Boy finally finished and off to be sound mixed tomorrow, I can finally take a load off. It is such a relief to be finished with the project I have been working on for nearly a year. It is interesting now that I have finally created a film in which I haven’t compromised anything in the script. It has been far more encouraging and interesting to write whatever the hell I wanted and take some risks, rather than play it safe. It has been a while since I did that. Perhaps that is because I now know the reality of the filmmaking business. The costs to do everything, the requirements, the festival submissions, the distant glimmer of paid work…

I’d say the last time I made something ambitious and really enjoyable was when I was blissfully naive, and armed with nothing but a video camera and an idea:

GET OUT – A short film by Stacey Quine

 

This short film, which uses a combination of live action and photographic stop motion footage, was created and submitted for VCE Media in 2010. It recieved top marks and I submitted it to Top Screen, but I was unsuccessful there. I now wish I had thought back then to try some more avenues. It was for a while exhibited in the Gippsland Art Gallery, along with other artistic works by secondary students in the area.

I developed an interest for surrealism in cinema, and always intended on using stop motion animation in some way. I chose to explore the meaning behind dreams, and the importance of facing up to fears. It was quite a simple idea and story really.

It boggles to think, now compared with what I am doing, that this film was made with around $50, two cast members, and no crew other than myself over the course of several nights over several weeks. All the lighting was done using a couple of flood lights, prac lamps and burning through a lot of cellophane.

My actors were friends, begged and bribed, and most props I either had on hand or borrowed. Editing was done on basic software and the music was free and found on the web (Thanks Kevin Mcleod!).

I remember racing against time as I was trying to avoid kitchen/lounge/laundry renovations that were happening at the time that I shot. You can see stripped back concrete floors in some shots if you look closely.

I had very minimal technical skills at this point. I had recently worked out the powers of white balance, and I try to use it creatively. Did it work? You be the judge. The stop motion was shot on a gutsy “compact” camera with a zoom lens. I just kind of made up how to use the manual settings as I went along.

I’m not sure that if I tried to create this film again, it would work so well. Sure, I could really boost the production values, an maybe even make the storyline clearer (it isn’t terribly clear), but I quite enjoy the ambitious, amateur feel about this. It’s optimistic and I like that. I used this film to get into my course at VCA, so I quite literally would not be where I am today without this film.
This was when I really became excited about film making. Lately I feel like I’ve been bogged down in the reality and technical side of film making, but I think I am getting excited again.

I spent the morning out in my street, running up and down the footpath in different pairs of shoes like a  manic running late for a very important date, recording sound effects for my film. I then stood there and waved the boom microphone around, getting a few atmos tracks. A got a few stares. A pizza delivery guy seemed very amused by my antics.

I’m not crazy, I am just a poor film maker!

I’ve been hoping to start collecting interesting photographs  (particularly post mortem ones), and that all began today when I picked up a few curious bits and pieces for not very much. I hope to share some of my more interesting pieces.

I have found what I think is a post mortem photograph (for $7, a bargain!). I’ve been studying them quite closely, so I have developed something of an eye for spotting them. In this, there was something about the eyes…

Probable post mortem photograph of a little boy. There is something not quite right about his eyes and positioning in the chair.

The photograph didn’t scan so well, so I have brought up the contrast with Photoshop. It was found tucked away in a box of old photographs at the Chapel St Bazaar in Prahran.

I dearly would love to know more about this photograph, but there is no information on the back. I can only hazard a guess that it looks like very early 20th century (but I could be wrong, if someone could shed some light, I’d be grateful!). The chair seems reasonably modern.  From first glance, the boy seems to be quite healthy. I wonder what it was that led him to his untimely death. It seems that the family have decorated the sitting area with tree fronds. The oriental fan at the bottom right hand corner is curious too. Perhaps it was a souvenir?

The more I look at the photograph, the more haunting it seems. This little boy’s image made it all the way through history, his likeness preserved and finally digitized. Such a wonder is photography.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of research into the history of photography in between post-production for My Boy (which is going quite well if I say so myself). As a result, I think I will be shifting the era of my film next year from the 1880’s to around the 1850’s. The photography then interests me more.

I have finally gotten around to putting a name to this particular picture I have always been interested in:

Boulevard du Temple, Paris by Louis Daguerre 1839

Inadvertently, this early photograph by Louis Daguerre was the first photograph of a human being. The exposure time was so long that only the figure getting his boots polished was still enough to expose in the busy street. As exposure times decreased from a staggering 8 hours to 30 minutes and less, photography became a much more accessible medium. I cannot imagine living in a time to see the first photographs. It would surely have been mind-blowing.

It is my intention over the enormous break between uni, that I will follow and replicate the early processes of Daguerre and Joseph Nicéphore Niépce whilst writing, to gain a fuller understanding of how photography came to be. There is a sort of nostalgic pleasure that I have found this year working with film, so I am excited to take yet another step back to a more organic process. I shall eventually share the results. Stay tuned!

Victorian era post-mortem family portrait of parents with their deceased daughter. (Source: Wikipedia)

Now that I have shot my latest film, it is never too early to start with the next one. I have been fascinated by post-mortem photography for many years, so it only seems natural to explore it through film. I would love to know the stories of these families.
This photograph is very interesting. You can tell that the young woman is deceased by the stillness. Photographs of that era took a long time to expose, so living people are always ever so blurry. But the dead are completely motionless, crisp and sharp for the photo.

Here is a short piece. I met a particularly colourful character whilst waiting for trams tonight. His name was Ray, he owns a whitegoods store, was about forty-five, wore a suit, had been drinking, and was very friendly. Here is what happened when he found someone else to talk to. We’ll call him George. This has mostly been taken from memory, though the last part, mostly involving John Travolta, came from a discreet voice recording I tried to get. I have attempted to copy the conversation as best I could, but unfortunately there are gaps. But never mind, Ray had some interesting things to say:

Ray, on Marriage and Whitegoods

This is a piece that was written on the journey to and from VCA on the tram today. I haven’t written the script yet, and I’m using this spare time to try and get right into the back of my story, and explore the origins of the characters. This is a diary entry from the protagonist, James, probably from a time after the period in which my film ill be set. It explores the first night he suffered sexual abuse by his mother, and some back story to their relationship. This isn’t a back story set in stone, but it gave me an interesting insight into the psychology behind the Mother-Son relationship in my story.

22/5/12

It wasn’t that weird at first. She used to come into my room some nights after I had gone to bed and show me pictures of my Dad. Ones from when he was younger, fooling around with all his friends, and ones of him and Mum, before stuff got bad. She won’t show me the later ones. I always wondered if there ever were any. She told me over and over, and I had to admit I shared a certain likeness to my father. I looked nothing like her. There was something in the eyes, and the chin.
This one particular night she came in. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the night of what would have been their tenth anniversary. I think she’d been crying. Her face was still a bit red, and her voice slightly haggard as she came to say good night. She tried her hardest to hide it, though some of the photos were stained, and still slightly damp. I tried to hug her, but she felt stiff, strange, distant. And then in a moment she became like water, and fell into me, squeezing me tight. She wore that exact same perfume that night I would come to dread over the coming years. Light and fruity at first, then fuller, richer beneath.
She pulled away from me, as suddenly as she had fallen, and looked me dead in the eyes. “It’s been ten fucking years, and now he still won’t leave me alone! Bastard!” she slapped me sharply across the face. My cheek stung, but I sat for a moment, too stunned to say anything. Then I sobbed, unsure of what was wrong. She grabbed me and pulled me in tight. She stroked my hair softly, just as she used to when I came to her, fearful from some nightmare. I quickly hushed in her warm embrace, still confused about her reaction to the hug. She spoke quickly and softly. “It’s okay, darling, I’ll be here. You won’t leave me. I love you, don’t fret. You can’t leave me”. She rambled on. I think she was comforting herself more than anything else. I felt her free hand begin to trace to bones of my skinny chest. Her caressing touch was so soft and gentle. I didn’t move, but as her hand moved with more urgency, I shifted back. She held me down tighter. “It’s okay darling, I’m here” she cooed, trying to abate my agitation. Her hand then went lower, reaching my leg, though I didn’t move then. My mother knew what to do, and I loved her. She was all I had. But somewhere in the back of my self I knew this was something I couldn’t tell anyone else. It was something so intensely private, but I’d never felt so exposed in all my life.
After what felt like an age, but was really only minutes, she left me. “Now go to sleep honey. I’ll see you in the morning”. She smiled and tucked me in as though nothing had happened. “It’s okay, not many people know what it’s like to have to grow up without a daddy. We’ll keep this in this room, special yes?” I nodded mechanically at this, not knowing what it entailed. “I love you James”. She kissed me on the forehead and left me alone in the dark. I lay awake for hours afterwards. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so exposed and ashamed and love at the same time. I tossed and turned, weighing up the feelings in my mind that I knew I could share with anyone. I finally fell into a restless sleep. I was ten.