Monday 25 September 2017

Videos: Everything sleeps..., Orphanage, Don't Talk About It

Since my last update here a few months ago, I've put together two new videopoems and a music video. Some notes on the making of them...

Everything sleeps but the night

Full credits

Recently I've started going to a monthly poetry night, 'Alternator Poetry'. It's held at Currumbin on the Gold Coast, Australia, within driving distance of home. Through our mutual interest in this event, I've come to meet poet and musician, Matt Hetherington, and to collaborate. This is the second video I've put together incorporating his poetry. I'm writing about it first, because it was the closer collaboration between us. To get the ball rolling on this one, Matt sent me over a selection of audio via email. I was immediately drawn to the poem, 'Everything sleeps but the night', and Matt's vocal performance of it. It also came with an ace musical soundscape, composed by Melbourne producer, Miles du Heaume, and Zaziz (Matt himself in another guise). After more initial discussion by email, I set to work on an image track, first sourcing stock footage from the royalty-free site, Videoblocks. I went for night-time shots and interiors, layering different shots together like collage. A few of the image components were stills sourced on Creative Commons licenses from Flickr. One key shot was from mskrzyp via the Mazwai Creative Commons video site. I selected the images for associative resonances with the poem. I put them together in editing and added fx, aiming for an abstracted narrative, in sympathy with my perceptions of the poem's content. After I'd completed a first draft video, I sent it to Matt. He gave helpful feedback and I continued into further drafts of the video, refining the visual metaphors and the way they melted together into a flowing and complete piece. I sent the video back to Matt and, after a few more suggested changes, it was complete.


Full credits
Read the poem

Jumping back now to the first video I made with Matt Hetherington's poetry. I saw him perform for the first time at 'Alternator Poetry' and, afterwards, went searching on the net for more of his writing. Up came an arresting voice recording and poem, 'Orphanage', published at 'Qarrtsiluni'. At this time I'd not personally met or had contact with Matt, aside from seeing him perform the one time. As I've sometimes done before, I decided to put together a video with the poem 'on spec', ready to keep the project just between us if Matt didn't like it. I found footage from a 1954 marriage guidance film called 'Who's Right?', at The Prelinger Archives. I cut this together with Matt's voice and poem, along with a music track ('Massive Ambient Face') from Steve Kelly aka SK123 in the UK (by permission). The cutting together of music and voice came first in the process, followed by the cutting of the visual narrative. With the images, I selected only those parts of shots where the characters were not speaking. I refined this to moments when there were minimal gestures happening (eg. the turning of a head, standing up from a chair, spilling the contents of a glass, entering or exiting a room). I tried to construct an abstract narrative with these fragments, and paid a lot of attention too to the visual rhythms of these gestures, cutting visual movements, to movements in the sound, and to words and phrases in the poem. I chose to use a split screen, partly to maximise resolution on the low-res images, and partly because I felt it suited the 'he said/she said' narrative structure I was working with. Once I had satisfied myself with the editing, Dave Bonta (editor of Qarrtsiluni for the time it operated), was able to put me in email contact with Matt. I then sent Matt the video. He made some comments and I made a couple of minor changes. Then the piece was complete. During this communication we agreed to collaborate more closely on a new video, which became the one mentioned above, 'Everything sleeps but the night'.

Don't Talk About It


Steve Kelly, who I've already mentioned above for the music in 'Orphanage', has a number of musical identities on the net. One of them is Douglas Deep. For his latest album release under this moniker, 'Cytokinesis', Steve asked me via email to put together a music video for one of the tracks, basically giving me free rein to select as I pleased, and an open book on what to do with the images. I tried first of all with the title track of the album, but all my efforts led to a creative dead end there. It sometimes happens with videos. I have quite a number uncompleted. I look on them as practise for the better pieces. After that, I took a long break and tried again with this, the first track on the album, 'Don't Talk About It'. It's a great electronic dance track, one that I can happily hear over and over, as happens with video editing. I went to Videoblocks and sourced multiple versions of vintage and contemporary film/video 'countdown leaders'. I shuffled the shots around, slowing some down, speeding up others, to fit with the bars of the music. Then I started building up some image superimpositions. I played around for quite some time with this process, adding some fx to make the words and numbers that appeared in the shots more abstract. This relates to the theme of the spoken word fragments in the track, which are about listening, not talking. This is the video that finally emerged. I sent it to Steve for any suggestions. He liked it in its current form, and here it is. The whole 'Cytokinesis' album is available to hear and download at

There have also been a number of videos at festivals and events over the past few months. 'Anatomy' screened at the Juteback Poetry Film Festival in the US, and at the MiX conference at Bath Spa University in the UK. 'Sometimes the Water' also screened at the Juteback festival. Both will be screened again at a Juteback encore screening on 7 October. 'Dictionary Illustrations', 'One Dream Opening Into Many' and 'Joining the Lotus Eaters' were screened again as part of the Ó Bhéal touring program at the Clare Island Film Festival in Ireland. On the net, my bio-filmography has been updated at the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers site. Candida Baker profiled me for Verandah magazine. Moving Poems featured 'Everything sleeps but the night'. Gnarled Oak featured 'In the Temple' and 'Death Meditation'. Writing Without Paper featured 'The Last Days'.

There's been exciting news about selections for forthcoming exhibitions too. I'll save that news for next time. Thanks to all involved in these projects!