The Herring Trail was commissioned by North Light, based on the poem The Herrin’ Trail by Rita Bradd as part of my summer residency at McArthur’s Store in Dunbar. I spent 3 months there over the summer, working with the fishermen using wet plate collodion (a photographic process from 1851), 120 film and shooting with 8mm and 16mm. This film has scant relation to that, as I’ve used film given to me by the British Council, which is deliberately digitally extrapolated.
To be able to find such a wonderful poet in Rita was inspiring and I asked her to compose for the filmpoem on the Clarsach (or Lever Harp, if you’re not in Scotland) and I read the poem so that she might play. We premiered this at Sally Evan’s Callander poetry weekend in early September 2012 to a full house, with Rita playing live while i read over the film. Lovely to read in my native Scots, though not quite in my natural Galloway Irish/ Ulster Scots brogue!
Alastair works predominantly with lens-based media as an analogue photographer concentrating on antique technologies and as a filmmaker using 8mm and 16mm film, combining these with digital technology to great effect. His award winning film and photography is driven by his knowledge, skill and experience as an architect: this mercurial work is rooted in place and the intrinsic connections between people, land and the sea. Alastair trained at the Glasgow School of Art then fled the country, returning after a dutiful spell in London and a more relaxed time in Amsterdam; he now lives and works in Edinburgh.
(Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a good webpage for Rita Bradd.)
Twenty Second Filmpoem (the 22nd Filmpoem) is twenty 20 second Filmpoems; it was conceived when I was asked to do a pecha-kucha.org night. An interesting concept, you present 20 slides for 20 seconds; I thought I’d do something a little different, actually create some work for the event. I commissioned 20 writers, all listed below, to write flash fiction against some 1960s found footage I’d edited. It’s ambitious and inevitably some bits work much better than others, but for me it is imperative to push this a little, to leave my comfort zone. And invariable, all the writing is superb, and for that I am thankful.
I also took the opportunity of using Vladimir Kryutchev’s binaural field recordings, for which I thank him. His amazing binaural map of Sergiyev Posad in Russia is here: oontz.ru/en
See the rest of the description on Vimeo to read all 20 short poems. The poets are: Andrew McCallum Crawford, Mary McDonough Clark, Al Innes, Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown, Elspeth Murray, Janette Ayachi, Jane McCance, Donna Campbell, Ewan Morrison, Angela Readman, Gérard Rudolf, Zoe Venditozzi, Jo Bell, Sally Evans, Pippa Little, Tony Williams, Robert Peake, Stevie Ronnie, Sheree Mack and Emily Dodd. Dodd blogged about her part in the production. A couple of excerpts:
I received a link with a password for my film, it was number twenty (password twenty). The film was 1960s found footage and it was beautiful. Alastair had edited it to tell a 1 minute story.
I watched a woman in a white dress on her wedding day. She kept looking at the Best Man. I wrote my initial thoughts down and came back to watch it again, two days later.
My brief was to respond with a piece of flash fiction that could be read aloud within 10 seconds. Alastair wanted it to be short, two or three lines maximum, he said just a haiku in length.
When I was first commissioned I’d thought along the same lines as the bride… is this really me?
- What if I watch the film and have no emotional response?
- What if I can’t do flash fiction?
- What if my piece ruins the whole presentation?
And all of this ran through my head while waiting for a response from Alastair.
Thankfully, I had this reply within a couple of minutes:
No it’s bloody perfect x Baci x
I’ve been reading interviews collected around the U.S. during the Great Depression by the Federal Writer’s Project, and this poem perfectly captures my reaction to that heritage of hard times and lives cut short by poverty and dangerous work. This is Alastair Cook‘s 19th filmpoem, with a sound composition by Mark Walters.
Alastair Cook’s 18th filmpoem incorporates a text by Scottish poet Jane McKie which “won the inaugural Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition in 2011 and was praised by the judges as ‘spare, musical and wonderfully imagined,'” Alastair tells us. Luca Nasciuti was the composer.
This film came while I was concentrating on two other films, which will be part of my solo film, photography and glass show How the Land Lies in Edinburgh this spring.
This is also a farewell to Kodak, of sorts, as there’ll never really be a goodbye embrace- entirely made from Kodachrome Super8, wildly out of date. And a homage to my solace, Portobello.
Thanks to Erstlaub for the sound design, a drone star.
Slow Wave Through The City is a poem by Jacq Kelly, published by Colin Herd this year. It crossed my path digitally and I watched the film in my head as I read, my adopted city of Edinburgh speeding by.
Jacq lives in Edinburgh but dreams of moving to Sweden and becoming a viking. Until this happens, she spends her time writing poetry, fiction and trying to make a difference in politics as a campaigner.
Slow Wave Through the City was filmed in Edinburgh on 8mm film in Summer 2011 on a long walk with the poet; it was shot using Ektachrome Super8, processed in Kansas by Dwaynes.
By way of a coda, this is a first, a Scottish Filmpoem. Looking through all 15 films, this is the only one which has only Scots contributors for the film, narrative and music. This was not deliberate, but is fitting, since it’s devoted to Edinburgh.