This is the second of two films that I have made in collaboration with the poet Lucy English as part of her Book of Hours poetry film project (thebookofhours.org). As in our first collaboration, this poetry film began as a colour palette that I generated and sent to Lucy. Lucy wrote in response to the palette and sent me back the text and a voice recording of the poem.
I had some footage sitting waiting, so I got to work straight away. I wasn’t happy with the way the words and the film were rubbing against each other so I cleared the decks and went back to the poem. I listened to the recording over several months, trying to slip under the surface of the words. The poem began to play over and over in my head.
One morning over the summer I lay in bed listening to Odette, my eldest daughter, practicing the piano. As she played, the poem was also playing in my head and I was taken by how the two seemed to fit together. I recorded Odette and combined that recording with Lucy’s voice. This audio track then provided the spark of an idea, which in turn led to new raw footage. By the time I sat down to draw the images and the audio track together it felt as if I knew exactly what I had to do.
The most fruitful collaborations always seem to involve an element of serendipity, don’t they?
As her ambitious Book of Hours has unfolded, it’s been fascinating to watch Lucy English‘s poetry evolve and adapt to the online video medium and to the exigencies of particular film-making styles. Here’s how Stevie Ronnie, her collaborator for this film (along with composer Jim Ronnie), describes their process at Vimeo:
Lucy and I wanted to try something different as a way of kick starting the collaborative process for Dark Place. It started from a desire to work on something that was going to become part of Lucy’s Book of Hours poetry film project. Poetry films often begin with the words or footage or sound but we decided to start from a colour palette. I created a palette and sent it to Lucy and she wrote the poem from the colours. Lucy then sent me a couple of drafts of the poem and, after spending some time digesting Lucy’s words, I decided to respond to it visually. Using the colours that I found in Lucy’s poem I rendered the poem as a painting, where each mark on the canvas represents a letter in the poem. I then captured this process as a series of still images which have been strung together into the film. The soundtrack, performed by my father Jim Ronnie, was composed and added during the video editing phase as a response to the poem’s images and the words.