Creating 70+ : Film Production
Process as Relational Acts
Author: Catherine Gough-Brady
Affiliation: Snodger Media
Title of work: Creating 70+: Film Production Process as Relational Acts
Length: 11 minutes and 43 seconds
This film is in the form of an audio-visual diary that explores the connections between the pandemic and film production. Underlying this connection is the way in which films are affected by the time and place in which they are made, the experiences of the people who make them, and the people who will view them. Included in this relational understanding of filmmaking is the experience of filming with an iPhone, as the equipment used affects the relationships captured in the footage.
A part of the essay film documents how the inbuilt iPhone algorithms stopped me, the filmmaker, from being able to capture what I was seeing. Egyptian skies, filled with sand from the Dragon storm, almost instantly became blue in the iPhone. Marsha Berry describes the use of mobile phone filters as adding a “poetic dimension to photographs and video shot” and as being “reflective of a desire to evoke the corporeal aspects of being in a place” (2014, 65). Although being in a pandemic and a desert storm become so strange to me and to the camera that there was no in-built poetry to capture it. I had approximately a second to photograph the world as I saw it before the iPhone saw it, and changed it to a factory set ideal of the image. The result is that I quickly snapped still images using that very short time I had to capture what I saw before the iPhone saw it. These images, which are sometimes blurry, suggest the chaos unfolding around me from the storm and the pandemic. In the end, it was the physical “hacking” of the phone, by not letting it know what it saw, that created the poetry.
In his article “The Temporality of the Landscape”, Tim Ingold claims “Telling a story is not like weaving a tapestry to cover up the world, it is rather a way of guiding the attention of listeners or readers into it” (1993, 153). COVID-19 had changed the lives of the filmmakers and the lives of the audience, so the film 70+ needed to adapt to this new situation. The experimental film was completely recut so that the images reflected this new, separated, alone, state of being. In the process, most of the shots, which were filmed on various types of cameras, including the mobile phone, hit the cutting room floor. Now, they only exist in this film about the film.
Analysing a film as being a relational form that emerges from those relationships is a tool that can be used to understand creative production processes.
PEER REVIEW 1
Which aspects of the submission are of interest/relevance and why?
The film Creating 70+: Film Production Process as Relational Acts by Catherine Gough-Brady is a gentle, poetic and touching view into the production of a short film 70+. It explores the relevance of dealing with the iPhone auto-levels algorithm within the context of an emotional story. The author employs the theoretical lens of guiding viewers into story as a framework to establish editorial choices. The outcome is demonstrated through influence over the final cut of the main film - and the decision to use a series of facial establishing shots over voice over to illustrate the story. The result could not be more engaging and interesting. Within the setting of Covid-19, which wreaked such havoc into film production schedules across our industry, the author has identified an approach which not only fulfills the story, it serves as almost a ‘lens to the souls’ of the film’s participants.
Does the submission live up to its potential?
This research probed the way in which films are affected by the time and place in which they are made, and the knowledge gained has served the author well in terms of an advanced understanding of participants and viewers, and building the connections. In particular, the pacing of both the research film under review and the main 70+ film is poetic, relaxed and fixating. The author’s voice-over technique demonstrates her grasp of the power of the slowly spoken word, and the depth of space within phrases and sentences. In an era of short and at times overly edited screen content, an open and calm voice-over represents a return to natural thought, appreciation of time and space, and promotes film as a relational form.
How does the submission expose practice as research?
Whilst the challenge of shooting on smartphones is familiar to many, the understanding of how the shots affect story and emotion is worthy of study. The author has engaged in cycles of practice, reviewing and adapting in response to non-controllable events (Covid-19), and with creative editing choices being influenced by the cycles. The end result is a beautiful, raw, and honest audio-visual essay about what it means to be 70+. The edit decision to discard the first full cut and restore the raw establishing shots of the women has produced a new meaningful and authentic experience.
PEER REVIEW 2
Thank you for submitting the creative work. The submission presents a few important areas of interest and relevance to Sightlines, particularly on the special issue of “Mobile Filmmaking.” Firstly, it offers some insights into mobile filmmaking during COVID-19, which affected the methods and approaches to film production. Secondly, it brings forward an interesting observation regarding the creation of a poetic dimension through experimentations in image filtering on mobile devices, such as the iPhone. The final outcome embodied in the audio-visual diary, Creating 70+: Film Production Process as Relational Acts, therefore, is a timely submission that covers two essential elements in mobile filmmaking during this post-COVID-19 period – people and technology.
Does the submission live up to its potential?
The audio-visual diary produced by the author brought the viewers on a journey to understanding the connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and film production. The scripts were well-crafted and appropriate for the creative work. To improve the submission, the author may consider expanding on the following two areas:
Provide some reflection on how COVID-19 affects the author’s personal practice as a mobile filmmaker, what has changed, and how it shapes the author’s perspective on mobile filmmaking post-COVID-19.
Provide more details on the physical “hacking” experiments performed on the mobile device or any other media editing software while producing the creative work submitted for Sightlines.
How does the submission expose practice as research?
The submission presents practice as research through the process of navigating challenges and opportunities in mobile filmmaking during the unprecedented COVID-19.
From the research statement, it was evident that the problem explored revolved around the uncertainties when COVID-19 interfered with film production, particularly during the film phase in Egypt. The situation was exacerbated by the quarantine order, lockdowns and closing of international borders during the period. They present pressing issues for mobile filmmakers who need to travel abroad to complete filming. The audio-visual diary provides viewers with an opportunity to explore and understand the connections between COVID-19 and film production practice.
When comparing the images with and without filters, it would be better to use the same images to show the differences. For example, the author included an image of the train station without a filter at 06:35. However, the filtered image processed by the mobile device's internal filter that made the sky blue at 06:43 is a different image. The author may revise the work to reflect this observation as evidence of innovation. This work has the potential to offer an alternative interpretation and understanding of the creation of poetic dimensions in mobile filmmaking through filters.
I do not see myself as a “mobile filmmaker,” more as a filmmaker that uses various cameras, including mobile phones, depending upon the situation.
I have used the making of 70+ as an example of how my filmmaking practice was affected by COVID-19. In the essay film, I discuss how the final edit needs to reflect the times in which the film is created.
The effect of COVID-19 on my filmmaking went well beyond 70+: I had to halt production on an ABC TV series I received development funding to create because I was unable to film it during the lockdowns. I am only just returning to the TV series this year and re-imagining it as a quite different project.
I found the iPhone I used has automatic filters that turn the sky blue. I suppose this is a way of hiding the pollution in the skies of cities. To be able to take a still image that depicted the true colour of the sand-filled sky I had to quickly tilt the phone up and take the shot before the phone knew what was in the image. I generally had less than a second before it would filter the sky blue. This means I do not have versions of the same shot with and without the filter. They are either shots I took quickly, or shots I took after the filter took over.
I find these filters problematic: they make the sky blue, or our faces simultaneously blemish-free and younger. The phone attempts to smooth out an ideal of us and the world, but sometimes the world is far from perfect, and that also needs to be depicted. And so, I had to “hack” the phone filter to capture the chaos around me.
Sadly, one of my drives died, and so I am unable to re-edit the film as I have lost some of the shots used in the film. It must exist as its less than perfect self. I would usually “do another pass” on the film after peer reviews, taking the comments into consideration. And yet, I feel it is apt that a film capturing the chaos of those times is itself affected by events beyond my control.
Berry, Marsha, and Max Schleser, eds. 2014. Mobile Media Making in an Age of Smartphones. New York: Palgrave Pivot. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137469816.
Ingold, Tim. 1993. “The Temporality of the Landscape.” World Archaeology 25 (2): 152-174. https://www.jstor.org/stable/124811.