I felt that I had had a pretty hectic two months, entirely my doing but still hectic. The late nature of January’s film and the amount of prep needed for February’s fun and games left me a little... tired. This is still a good idea right?
This month I will admit I was a little stuck. The film I wanted to make got moved to next month and to be honest I didn't have every month thought out in any real detail. So I had to improvise. With a deadline of needing to shoot something but having not really planned anything I took inspiration form a strange selection of films.
If there is any one reading this knows who knows whom Ron Fricke is then you know where this is going. If you don't then I will fill you in.
Ron Fricke is an experimental Cinematographer who has built a career around the 'simple' idea of shooting the world. His work started when he shot the film ‘Koyaanisqatsi’, which is at its simplest a collection of shots that don't really follow a traditional story. At its most complex it’s a look into the world that we don't see or perhaps take for granted. You don't realise it when watching the film, but the non-linear approach really sinks in after. You may not feel exactly what the makers wanted you to feel but that, I believe, is also the point. Please check it out, as it’s a very interesting idea.
In truth I do not like this film as much as I like his later work. After ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ he broke away from the films’ Producers and joined up with Mark Madison, and this is where things got really interesting.
They set out around the world and started to film in the way they saw best. This produced two more films; ‘Baraka’ and ‘Samsara’ which I believe are by far the superior films. It took 14 months to shoot ‘Baraka’ and over three years to shoot ‘Samsara.’ A little self-indulgent but that’s what makes it so interesting.
The ethos they implemented (more so as they made ‘Samsara’) was to try and film in the best way they possibly could. Many of the location are remote locations, which is great as it’s a viewpoint you may not have seen before. However the remote locations would normally be a problem; it’s expensive and there are few productions that can afford to go to them, (especially for just one shot!) That’s where this film set itself apart. What you get from this film are powerful images that no one has really seen before. Yes it’s going to be a pain to carry the kit up the mountain but that’s where the camera needs to be. With ‘Samsara’ they also made the decision that, 'If you are going to go to all that effort, why not film it on the best medium you can?' ‘Samsara’ was all filmed on 65mm film (that’s basically IMAX to you an me) that gave the film massive scope and made it a film that really needs to be seen in a cinema. It unfortunately had a limited release, as this isn’t a mainstream film, so if you do ever see it being played out on the big screen I strongly urge you to check it out.
That’s all very dramatic and the films are incredible...this is however not exactly something you can just go and copy. I do not have the skill to do what they do and so getting hold of a bunch of expensive kit I don't really know how to use seemed pointless. This was also intentionally going to be a solo venture so I needed to travel light. I had the good old Canon 5D's and Oxford isn't exactly an ugly city. It’s also very important when making films not to be held back. What I mean by this (and I have been guilty of it in the past) is being held back by the things you perceive you don't have. You don't always need the best camera, kit, location, cast, crew etc. If you wait for all this to appear on your doorstep you will never make anything. What you need to try and do is look at what you have and use it. Grab your phone and use the camera. Whatever you have, pick it up and then think 'what do I want to film?’
I wanted to film Oxford from my perspective, I had a Canon 5D and with a few early mornings and long days see if I could create an emotional reaction. Would what I think is interesting, captivating and beautiful be those things to anyone else?
On a more technical note, the Canon 5D gave me more freedom to not be disturbed. If you have a large camera and take it out on the street people are going to stop you from doing what you want to do! The 5D looks like (because it is) a stills camera so people just assume you are taking a picture.
Check out a few stills below.