When it came to my parenting, my step-dad had one solemn rule: I was never ever to tell him how certain things in his favourite movies were accomplished. Accordingly, behind-the-scenes documentaries were forbidden. My breathless chatter about puppets, animatronics and green-screen wizardry were quickly curtailed. For my step-dad, movies are real, dialogue arriving in the actors’ mouths spontaneously and as required. Special effects are nothing of the sort – they’re documentary footage. For this reason, watching a good film with him is one of my great pleasures; watching him watching movies returns me to the powerful magic of cinema.
That said, I think even my step-dad would enjoy Daniel Jewel’s wonderful The Secret World Of Foley, for though it certainly lifts the curtain between appearance and reality, it’s a backstage secret serving only to re-magic the illusions of cinematic storytelling.
I am always left invigorated by this short film. It never fails to get me off my arse.
While Lost Boy didn’t pick up any gongs, the festival organisers provided Graeme with a YouTube-based compilation of audience feedback on his film. Genuine, authentic feedback on early-career work can be notoriously difficult to come by for young creatives (and old creatives too), so I was heartened by this particular festival’s commitment to capturing it and giving it back to the artist. Making time for the giving of feedback is a powerful act of pedagogy.
I asked Graeme for his thoughts on the value of the festival’s feedback. He had this to say:
Graeme:Listening to the feedback from the festival was amazing. I had a smile on my face the entire time. The people in the video added a lot of interesting ideas to my understanding of the film, as in when one audience member describes the look of Lost Boy as being almost “like a pop-up book” or when someone else says “it’s very lyrical to a man’s perspective of life”. That’s what’s great about getting feedback – be it negative or positive (I’ll take either!). It gives me space to think about the work from a different perspective, and a fresh pair of eyes can highlight things you’ve never seen. I always craved feedback like a sponge when I was in uni. I could see some students found it hard to take sometimes, but I always wanted it, because it’s there to improve your vision and you can never be too precious. There will always be people out there who see things differently.
It has to be said I’ve never experienced a festival like FEEDBACK. The majority of times I just get an email back from a festival saying my film has, or has not been selected; the festival happens and then you’re notified if your film has won something or not. FEEDBACK was a different ball game… and a better one. Feedback is so transformative for artists – as I said, it opens up a cornucopia of lateral ways of thinking about your piece, especially now I’m no longer at uni and not surrounded by so many inspiring people. It can be hard, wanting feedback and not receiving it, when it’s essential to all creatives, and now more than ever. FEEDBACK festival has got it right. I can’t thank them enough for putting all of this in place and actually taking the time to provide feedback. It’s given me even more steam to get on with The Green Glider. This little video will be something I will cherish forever.“
Stop-motion has a very special power of strangeness; stop-motion is to motion what the undead is to the living – not an opposite state, but something not quite opposite enough. The Brothers Quay understand this with their hollow-headed dolls and imminent toys. Jan Švankmajer understands this with his clawing clay heads and dancing meat. Robert Morgan understands this too, and in his celebrated 2001 short, The Cat With Hands, the substantive horrors of the story are all the more unsettling because the technique manifesting them has an exquisite queasiness of its own.
I’ve rarely written poetry. Songs yes, poems not so much. I can’t remember what was going on in the first few months of 2001, or why I felt it necessary to commit these three short verses to a word processor and save them. They read like break-up poems, though who was breaking up with whom I really can’t recall.
my sense of dread is small it’s not impending like a train rather, it trails behind me like a length of wet, grey wool where now and then it snags in things, and tugs harder at my cuff.
nothing distresses me more than when a person takes a question mark and without consent they straighten it so from love? making love! another bend now my u-turn.
it is broadly encouraged is it not? for lovers to make a gift of the moon for my part I’ve managed the craters the airlessness and the cold when what I wanted to give was the brilliancy and orbits I planned to devote. but if we cherish the moon on account of its surface on account of its beauty on account of its knocks I’m left wondering now about craters about what else might be given when two worlds collide.
“LA Shorts International Film Festival ranks among the most prestigious and largest international short film festivals in the world. The festival is accredited by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Now in its 24th year, LA Shorts is the longest-running short film festival in Los Angeles.“
Another glorious Summer’s evening, another impressionist monocrop! This time we parked up beside an undulating field of flax, with closed-up flower heads like small pale pearls. The sun was already lowering when we arrived, the shadow of a large tree lengthening across the field, sunlight escaping through gaps in its canopy to here and there feather the flax with gold. Disappointingly, I was too preoccupied with my camera to hear the lark, which my husband says was singing high above us, ascending.
Back in late April, we took a walk into the local woods to see the bluebells and green frills of young Spring foliage, but I was very much more drawn to the sullen pond sitting in shadow below the eaves of the trees. The soupiness of this small body of water shouldn’t have been in any inspiring, and yet it seemed to slow and melt and warp the world reflected in it. The few photographs I took of these reflections possessed qualities that excited me; here was the oiliness and the grubbied silk, and the near-metallic sheen produced by the grey bloom of the water.
The Orpheus portal prompt for the Kick-About #4 sent me hurrying back to the sluggish pond in one of those rare moments of knowing exactly how I wanted to respond. The notably dry Spring meant the pond was rather smaller than before – and the water even blacker and more viscous. The atmosphere was the same – mysterious, solemn, and silent. The lone figure who haunts the resulting images was just the thing to push the idea a little further. Friend or foe? Past or future? Living or dead? I don’t know. This scrying mirror is keeping its secrets.
“The sea is often described as a mirror and the mirage (Fata Morgana) on the horizon is literally looking/entering into another space. These are caused by layers of successively warmer air (shown as horizontal lines) working like a series of eyeglass lenses. It is a world that does not exist but is utterly real to the viewer.” Pencil on Fabriano. 56 cm X 56 cm.
“A Saturday stroll in the blistering summer heat turned into search for other-worlds and distorted realities, which I found in the ripples and reflections of the Ooka River in Yokohama. My final stop on this little solo journey was a lovely park that sits on the edge of Yokohama harbour. I’ve always found the waves and colour of the ocean here completely fascinating. It’s like staring into a thick undulating soup, and it was here where not so long ago the ill-fated Diamond Princess was moored up, quarantined, and its unfortunate passengers cut off from the outside world. It was as if it too had gone through the mirror where things would never quite be the same again.”
“This response evolved from the idea of Opheus entering into an eternal dance of seduction with death. The folds start to talk about ideas around the eternal, where there is no beginning or end just what happens within the unfolding of the middle. Hence the title ‘…and…'”
“As long as there have been mirrors, humanity has wondered what they are really seeing in them – spirits, shades,(usually not so happy) or alternate universes. We gaze in the mirror – and we muse. And being human, we muse about how such mirror worlds might affect us personally.”
“I attempted to illustrate the moment where Orpheus entered the underworld to save his wife ‘Eurydice’. Orpheus stands readying himself for what’s to come as the the dark forces of the underworld surround Eurydice in the depths. This sparked all sorts of possible dark scenarios to illustrate, but I went for a poster-like iconic angle to enhance the drama and jeopardy for the hero of the piece.”
“Mirrors and reflections often feature in my work, but I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach the mirror as a portal. I first tried a collage but it seemed too busy. The folded Rorschach paintings I do are already mirrored, soI decided to try that approach.
As often happens, this was not the painting I had in mind when I began. Although the paint didn’t layer the way I envisioned, it took on its own life in the process and I followed along. This is the second painting I’ve done using handprints…perhaps the start of a series?”
“I began by looking at an old children’s book called The Mirrorstone (Michael Palin, Alan Lee and Richard Seymour). In this story a boy walks through his bathroom mirror, and what I like about it are the illustrations, which include holograms. With this in mind I used some mirror card for my shapes and made shadows using some black organza material from my stash. The pink card is actually sparkly, but this was very hard to photograph and get the same effect. Lastly I drew around my hands and stuck some chiffon over them for a more ghostly look.”
“I knew exactly what I was going to create when I saw the new prompt… Twas the night before my birthday and I was sitting out in the tiny garden in my previous London apartment. I was drinking red wine and smoking a cigarette and frankly feeling rather shit – not sure if it was the birthday blues or if it was an amalgamation of other things, but my neighbours behind my house were having a party; they recently installed some outside lighting that surrounded their roomy garden in a blazing warm hue that lit up the brick of their apartment like a beacon in the night. In my garden there was a full length mirror perched against a rickety garden shed that was full of art supplies and spiders. The light from the neighbour’s garden was reflecting brilliantly against the mirror – it looked otherworldly placed against the black shed and darkness of my garden, as if the light didn’t belong in the darkness. I thought to myself, I wish that was a fucking portal so I could step through it, leave this place and see some happy faces. The neighbours next door continued to dance and sing into the night.”
“A few weeks back, I discovered a large stagnant pond in the woods, its water black, viscous and a little sinister. All this talk of magic mirrors and portals to the underworld saw me hurry back to this enshadowed pool, as haunted and obsidian as any scrying mirror…”
“This has been some challenge, having chosen the mirror’s reflection as focus throughout, with three quite different self-portraits beneath this final slightly worrying impression of entering a hot (not tropical) world. Too late for dodging the inevitable, I suspect.” Oil on board 20cm x 20cm.
“Mystic portals and doorways to other realms have often appeared in my work. I guess that’s why I chose the clip from Cocteau’s Orphée for the prompter’s this week; to me, they represent imagination, dreams, and promise.
I made the images by painting 2D elements on card, setting them up on a table-top with a painted background and then photographing them. It was all pretty low-fi; the lighting is a little torch, a candle and my iPhone, and I used a few basic photo-editing apps to add atmosphere and texture. I enjoy seeing how the painted shapes transform during the photographic process. It sometimes falls flat and occasionally something quite satisfying emerges. I’d like to continue to develop these ideas; add sound perhaps, or use video to introduce movement.”
“I have finally finished Orpheus. This is the second version. I must confess I am using these Kick Abouts as experimental ground, trying techniques and styles very different from my usual. Probably because I am working on a topic and with a story, I don’t usually do that in my paintings, I let images, feelings and random thoughts settle down in images and try to capture them. Only when I design for work I follow stories where there are characters and environments detached from me. For this one I used my usual abstract painting style and superimposed a baroque doorway from Puglia; an olive tree, aside from the Mediterranean feel it also represent longevity and, with the flowers, life renewal and Orpheus looking through his fingers at Eurydice who then has to turn back. I used Acrylics Inks on hot pressed watercolour paper. 30 X 40 cm.”
“The first thing I thought of was “mirror neurons” – which are special neurons found (so far) only in primates and birds that activate either when the animal does the behavior or they see another animal doing the same behavior (mirroring them). No one knows why we have them or truly what function they serve, although there is much speculation. It was fun to get out some of the science images I’ve saved over the years for this collage.”
“I did go back and do another interpretation of the theme in collage – inspired by the line ‘and in it, I see an unhappy man.’”
“Went a bit pencilly on this one, I wanted to capture Orpheus at the moment where he mourns the loss of Eurydice, the light of the surface world Illuminates him as the omnipresent darkness of grief and the underworld threaten to consume him.”
With thanks to fellow Kick-About artist, Kerfe Roig, I’m happy to announce the brand-new prompt for our fifth run-around together, Alice Kneel’s 1932 painting, Symbols.See below for the painting, and for our new submission date, and if you’re reading this and want to join our (very) loose collective of intrepid creatives in our continuing mission to make stuff we otherwise might not make, just get in touch.
Directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, Solipsist is as arresting as it is difficult to categorise. It’s the film David Cronenberg would make if David Cronenberg was big into craft, or it’s a Frank Oz cheese dream.
What I relish about this film is the way it combines physical costumes and puppetry with green screen/cgi augmentation, which produces some wildly uncanny effects and a proper sense of ‘a happening’. For your interest, I’ve included the ‘making of’ video, which is delightful, in so much as it showcases a lot of technical wizardry – and also some reassuringly lo-fi aquatic feather boas.