The world of non-commercial film and A-V
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By summer 2004 the abstract experimental movie, Moody Waters,
which compares different water scenes with human emotions, had won:
- A Gold Seal award at the British International Amateur Film Festival 2002.
- The Acorn Silver Cup for best in show at the Kent Film Festival 2003.
- Awards at the ARSfilm Festival in the Czech Republic 2003.
- A Bronze Bear Festival of Nations in Austria 2004.
I bumped into Pam Martin in Orpington Market, in May 2001 and she told me about an idea for a water based film with human comparisons. Loving the idea I asked Pam to list all her ideas. I showed this list to fellow club members at Spring Park Cine & Video Society and after a discussion was encouraged to make the film. Through my acting connections I knew I could find quality performers so I agreed to take on the responsibility of making Moody Waters. We thought it might be a contender for our “2002 North v South” entry, but Derek Toft’s fantastic water film was completed in time and entered.
The production team was formed: Phyl Denton as Director and Casting Director, Jean Collins as producer who approached club members for any water based videos. Our Chairman Eddie Edwards, Jean Collins, Pat Hilderly and I would be available to film the actor sequences. Whenever possible I was going to try and use two cameras to give the editor a choice and avoid moving the camera too much. Pam's list of concepts was stuck into one of my working diaries as a constant reminder of where I was taking Moody Waters. Though other suggestions were often made I was determined to keep to her agenda come what may. Jean Pam Eddie and I had production meetings regularly.
Pam contacted the IAC for copyright free music and explained the concept. IAC’s Music Adviser (then Gerald Mee, now Richard Curry) made a compilation of different musical pieces as possibilities. We felt that this wasn't connecting the sequences enough and needed more music. I then approached a tennis friend who was composing her own music. We discussed the “Scream” and “Anger” scenes as an example. It would mean she would have to compose some very different music from her usual tranquil style. She was willing but not free to start in time. Eventually Mike Shaw, the editor, cleverly composed and generated the different musical themes on his computer.
Jean amassed many cassettes of water footage from SPCVS members including ours. She then selected the best for consideration. Our members had been able to supply us with most of the footage we needed.
Pam and I were determined to have Moody Waters computer edited. At first Gerald Peksen agreed to do the editing in September 2001. We had a number of sequences ready for edit so I went to Gerald's home and assisted him. The editing equipment was playing up and eventually we had to abandon the project. The cost of repairing or replacing this equipment was such that Gerald has given up on his film making and has gone into a completely different field. In 2002 a wonderful opportunity arrived: a new member joined who not only could computer edit but was creative, imaginative and experienced. Mike Shaw was a gift from heaven! He not only edited Moody Waters but his additional effects ideas and creativeness is a major factor in its success. We had started the film in 2001 and it was completed January 2003. Pam and I agreed to wait to have the film edited the way we had perceived it, how ever long it would take.
When it was relevant I sketched a frame of the scene into which each actor would be superimposed. I took this with me on the shoot so I could match the actor to the frame. For a period my camera jammed and I had to find another one. Brian Stone kindly loaned let me his spare High-8 camera until my digital one was repaired. I knew we needed rain falling and it would be useful if I could get the sound too. So, when there was a really good downpour during a stormy thundery afternoon I took a large Ferrari umbrella, stood in the road outside my house and videoed the rain. I found suitable puddles and I could hear the rain pounding down on the umbrella!
The Lost Scene
I didn't use the Energetic sequence in the end as the effect I wanted didn't happen. But it had taken weeks to arrange. Bewl Water Sailing Club had a suitably powerful motor boat and we tried different methods. The best was when the camera boat turned in a tight circle, filming the other boat circling us in an ever decreasing spiral. To shoot the bow-wave required the camera person (me) to have her legs held (tightly) while she leaned over the bow as the boat gradually moved to full power. As much as I wanted this shot this was too much even for me, my nerve gave way. Brian Baker volunteered to do it and I had to hold his legs. What the rest of the Sailing Club must have made of this I cannot imagine. The footage was great but just not right. The film did use footage of Bowie both in the Tranquil and Energy sequences but none of the material we filmed on those days. Four senior members of Bewl Water Club took time out for Moody Waters and I am forever grateful to them. Roy, my husband took up the post of Treasurer at Bewl which makes me feel better.
I choose four actors from my drama class [Re-Act] at the Churchill Theatre Bromley. We were in our second year of intensive training and sometimes individual classes with an experienced drama tutor. I was really pleased to have actors well able to handle the demanding roles they were to play. Other actors I found were the best from the general public.
1. Destruction (completed 25/6/01) Rowena Mafham a journalist was to act
out the moment before being
murdered. Row was costumed and made up as a lady of the night! She half lay leaning on a tree trunk surrounded by shrubbery, with two cameras filming. Row screaming in terror did not seem to worry Joe Public – no one bothered to investigate! Jean Collins had found this ideal spot in Bromley Common isolated and deep in the woods for the murder scene. Camera - Pat Hilderly, Jean Collins and Phyl Denton.
2. Heat (6/8/01) Pauline Watkins a professional singer agreed I could film her at home. I encouraged her to “build up from a calm disposition to verbalising absolute anger.” This required her to use her voice in an unnatural manner and after five takes she appealed to me to relent. Camera - Jean Collins and Phyl Denton.
3.Cold (2/7/01) Hemma Patel a school teacher - played a shivering, homeless down-and-out. The scene had to suggest a bitterly cold atmosphere on a warm and sunny morning. Hemma wore a long black wig, hat and heavy overcoat. For this scene I found a very large flat piece of cardboard in a skip, brought newspapers, pieces of blanket and a container of rock salt. Jean found an area outside s shopping precinct for us and bought along a hot flask of water and cups. I created the scene before Hemma arrived much to the amusement of the public. To avoid the sun and heat I set up in a shady corner. Shaking rock salt over Hemma and giving her a polystyrene cup filled with very hot water created steam and a mid winter atmosphere on that warm, sunny morning. One passer was quite upset that this homeless woman was living in Letchworth Shopping Precinct. I did my best to explain what we were doing and why, but she wasn’t at all convinced. Camera - Eddy Edwards, Jean Collins.
4.Tranquillity (7/8/01) Lisa Martin a teacher and trained ballet dancer portrayed the dancer. I met Lisa while attending a mime course at the Churchill Theatre. I was able to use the Aerobics' Hall at Midland Bank grounds in Beckenham for free. The room has mirrors along two walls which were bright orange. Not the ideal colour. Light came from a window above us. Using two cameras and without music Lisa created beautiful movements interpreting my requirements perfectly. I sent her a tape of all her dancing set to music. Camera - Jean Collins and Phyl Denton.
5. Power (19/8/01) As a regular member of West Wickham Swimming Pool Gym I had been on the look out for a suitable weight lifter. After several weeks I spotted Peter Hassan. He was golden brown, wore a bright blue vest, had a heavy gold chain round his very muscular neck and sported a shaved head. He was my man! I waited for my opportunity to pounce. He was more than happy to be filmed working out. The Gym authorities had already given me the OK to film and were quite amused but not surprised at my choice! On the day I used my camera on a tripod. With a blue blanket over a weight machine, I sat Peter on a stool & continually sprayed him with fine water to give the impression of sweat. As he worked the dumb bell I was particularly pleased with the veins protruding in both his arm and neck giving the sequence weight and effort.
6.Energy (12/2/02) John Rayfield - business man, professional musician and Barber Shop singer was a real find. I had been looking for weeks for a drummer. Iris a tennis friend is also a Barber Shop singer and gave me his name. I caught up with John playing the drums at a Scottish Dance display in some sheltered accommodation for old people. John is well over six feet tall and agreed to do what ever I wanted. I used my tennis club tea room. Having been advised to use black-out curtains as a background (not the right colour) I put John in front on a small stool. With large windows along two walls I had plenty of light and placed my camera on a tripod in front of him. The tennis players in the bar area ignored these strange goings on in the club. Camera - Phyl Denton.
7. Erosion (19/8/01) For the erosion sequence we needed a real old wrinkled face. I decided to go back to the sheltered accommodation and discuss old ladies and the film with the senior officer. She was most obliging. We walked around letting me observe the residents. I was eventually introduced me to a 100-year-old lady and her 84-year-old friend who looked far more wrinkled. I returned and prepared the lounge which had large windows allowing in lots of natural light. They knitted and read a book like acting professionals. I also filmed 99-year-old Kitty Roper who is our Aunty in her flat in Felixstowe a willing sitter – and began with Lisa Martin as the youngster. Camera - Phyl Denton.
8. Humour Ben was the baby of a friend of Pam. Leaving the family a camera they were able to capture a few seconds of little Ben laughing while lying on the grass. It was an editing feat to get the effect we wanted from just a few seconds of footage.
Editor - Mike Shaw, Director & Casting - Phyl Denton, Producer - Jean Collins, Concept - Pam Martin.
Jean Collins, Phyl Denton, Eddie Edwards, Pat Hilderly.
Wal Airey, Jean Collins, Dudley Davey, Phyl Denton, Bill Goddard, Ron Martin, Gerald Pecksen.
Special thanks to Dave Watterson for his help on the preparation of this article.
- Phyl Denton July 2004