I was asked to create a showreel with the purpose of being screened on loop at a launch party in the Basement Bar in Brighton.
The brief was quite open with a few specifics: there would be ten artists displaying kitsch / fifties work, 2 DJ’s playing and a Lindy Hop teacher hoping to be tutoring Brighton’s biggest class and finally the title of the evening was ‘Phwoar’. The video work should be in keeping with these elements and no less than two to three minutes long.
I saw it as a great opportunity to be involved with something fun, that stretched my skills and would unquestionably make me approach the software I had been using in a completely different way.
I went straight to the library to look for books on fifties: kitsch, architecture, décor, fashion, and films. Whilst I was looking through shelves a little square book about signs and symbols caught my eye. It was a book full of simple black fill characters and objects, and seemed to perfectly fit the imagery I had imagined when I wrote the proposal. Even though it wasn’t fifties related it would turn out to be a valuable part of the edit.
The next day I started the arduous task of digitising the images I had gathered the previous day. It hadn’t been the most modest lending of books, and I had left with a whole armful of potential material. As you might imagine, this part isn’t terribly interesting to read about and consisted of, ‘turn the page, choose the image, scan the image, save, repeat’. A process much punctuated with tea, it took me a full three days. At one point I had discussed with my flat mate what I was working on, and she proudly and rather generously produced another three books, to which my heart sank, as I knew I couldn’t resist the urge to leaf through them…just in case. They were, of course, fantastic and I added them to the pile.
The scanning over with, I felt that a few hundred found images, when put together, might seem a tad two dimensional, in the descriptive sense, so I started to look else where for treats. The Internet seemed the next obvious place to route around in and I added a few more hundred images and footage from old films to my already diligently sub divided and titled folders.
At this stage my head was buzzing with ideas and full of ways to approach the edit. I was ridiculously keen to get started, having spent so much time preparing the material.
My first day was by no means a waste of time but I didn’t achieve much more than putting every single idea I had into the timeline. It looked like an utter muddle, but it was a starting point at least. Among the ideas that didn’t make it were using footage I created. I had fresh in my mind the ‘Sledge Hammer, Peter Gabrielle video’ and thought a talking animated head might look quite cool. It didn’t quite fit with everything else I had gathered and it was cut early on. Other ditched ideas consisted of a free-floating pair of sunglasses to wander across the screen, and elaborations on certain ideas, that when simplified, worked way better.
I knew I wanted to create something that constantly moved and entertained the viewer, even perhaps make them laugh, so I started to go though the images one by one and discounted any that didn’t fit that criteria. I quickly realised that purely by accident I had quite a few images that could be run sequentially and perhaps even lend themselves to an animated style.
I had really started to enjoy the edit and everything was just falling into place, which is a real blessing for us creative types, as we do tend to get disheartened and indeed blocked when an obstacle presents itself. Much like a writer trying to achieve a certain amount of words for an essay, after a full day I decided to look and see how many minutes I’d managed to fill. I was, to put it mildly, rather shocked when I discovered I’d edited a whole 35 seconds. Big sigh followed!
Still I was enjoying what I was working on and that’s a major plus for me. So often I work on an edit with tight constraints and I have no creative freedom, or the subject matter is so dull it could send you to sleep on five red bulls. This edit, on the other hand was actually keeping me from sleeping through the night with ideas and drive, I hadn’t felt this excited by a project for a while.
Four days later I had a finished a 2 minute and 30 second piece of work I was proud of. I still changed tiny details for the next three days of course, but finally managed to let it go and sent it to my client.