In this and the next few posts, I will look at how I made some of my films for the festival. In later posts, I will summarise what I learnt from those experiences and suggest how you can make a film.
I made The Fence for the fifth festival in 1996. It developed over a period of nearly 10 years. It began when I noticed the fence one day as I rode by in a bus. It caught my interest, so one day I went out and took some stills of it. I thought about it from time to time, but never thought of anything more I could do with it.
When I decided to make my first 16mm film, I was stuck for an idea again. I thought about the fence again. I still wasn’t sure what I could do with it, but decided to take some film of it. Fortunately, for me, the fence was still there and I got some images of it. A few months later I went back and got some more.
By then, I had begun to see how I could use the images in a film. Over the next few months, I collected more images, at different times of the year and different weather. I also shot some of my old stills to get a greater variety of images.
The one thing I feared was that someone would tear down the fence before I finished my film. It just so happened that I couldn’t see the fence until I got to where I shot it. Until I got there, I didn’t know if it was still there. It was still there several years later, but eventually they removed it to build a condominium.
I did a time-lapse shot for the film, but this time I didn’t have an Intervalometer. Instead, I sat there and every few seconds I pressed the cable release. It wasn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon on a warm sunny day.
For the most part, the monologue is a description of how I felt. I did fictionalize the comments somewhat. I didn’t know how to end the monologue and wrote some words as a place keeper. I planned to write the actual ending later. As so often happens with my work, the positive feedback I received about it convinced me to use it, rather than develop a new ending.
When I developed the monologue for the film, in my mind the voice was female. That didn’t seem right to me, so I used Steve Hanon. He had access to recording equipment at his work, so we recorded the sound there.
I finished the film on 16mm with a negative cut and synchronized sound. The negative cut allowed me to do some nice dissolves. The original rules wouldn’t allow this. You can achieve a similar effect with an optical printer, which the rules would allow.
You could make a similar film today without the fancy dissolves and synchronized sound. It would depend on the nature of the film though. If you accept the limitations at the outset, you can develop your idea so that you don’t need them.
The Fence was another successful film for me, with screenings in Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Los Angeles, and Adelaide. More important to me though, was the comments that I got from individual people who saw it.
I noticed an odd pattern. It seemed that most women who watched it liked it, while most men didn’t. As I mentioned earlier, when I developed the monologue, the voice I heard was female. I often wonder how the film would be different if I had used a female voice. Maybe I should try that sometime and see.
In my next post, I will look at My Next Film, the film I made for the tenth annual festival in 2001.