Saturday, October 21, 2006

Answering Laughing Gull's questions about the film

Some time ago Guanaguanare asked some questions about 'Emily' and I said I would answer in a post. (To recap): Unfortunately, due to that earthquake a few Fridays ago and the subsequent nationwide loss of electricity (the day I flew out to St. Lucia), 'Emily' and my other two pieces, as well as some works by other film makers were not shown as advertised at the Film Festival.

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Opening scene: Joey Clarke (as Elliot) broods in the dark.

I'll give a little background before I answer the questions (in red). In terms of the story itself: 'Emily' has been through three incarnations. I first wrote it spontaneously at age 16 as a two-page short story (more like an idea). Even then, I envisioned it in a filmic way. Years later (1995) I was chatting with a friend from Switzerland (Corina) and told her the story and she said “That would make a great play.” We therefore did it as a one hour play, starring Bernard Hazel as Elliot, Corina as Emily and I was Jessica. The play included a filmic music soundtrack and slides as backdrops for the diary, projecting memories onto the stage. Had video been as accessible to us as then as it is now, we would no doubt have projected the memory sequences in video format. Then years later (2002) I was chatting with Cauri and Elizabeth who said they wanted to produce a short film and asked me if I had a script. I said no, but ended up telling them the plot of 'Emily'. They liked it and asked me to write it as a screenplay. I took a few days and did that - the result being the 22 minute film which now exists. Each time (as short story, play and film) elements of the story changed, but the basic plot and turning points remained the same. In retrospect, I can say that people's emotions were more visibly stirred by the play which was more intense and not as subtle as the film version. There were nights when people cried or were visibly moved during the play . (I won't go into the differences between the play and the movie now. That could do with a whole post of its own).

How was that experience?
Due to unforseen and/or unavoidable circumstances the film took longer than it should have: i.e. a few months when it could have taken a few fortnights. In the face of various challenges, it was a good learning and growing experience on many levels (not just in terms of making a film but in terms of life).
Working intensely with a crew and with many different personalities all in one place is not something one gets to do frequently - and that in itself was a multidimensional learning experience. Also, as a 'first time director' and a person who operates emotively/intuitively/spontaneously, there were times when I found it challenging to translate my feelings or visions to the crew, who generally operated from a more technical perspective. It was like learning to speak another language - emotive, intuitive and internal translated to technical, factual and external.

I haven't seen it but what does it feel like to sit and watch a movie that you have created?
In the case of this particular movie, by the time it was finally completed, the dominant feeling was relief. As I said before, it had taken longer than anticipated, with quite a few stops, waiting periods and re-starts. There were parts of the final product that were not as they had been envisioned 'on paper' ... but this is to be expected, as every creative process is organic and has its own life and input beyond that of those who created it. Many times I found myself thinking: "I am not 'the director' ... God is." It felt like we were being directed by something larger - the Cosmic Director - and the film was at times just an incidental.
It has been interesting to sit in different audiences and experience people's diverse reactions. I was present for the Trini audiences when it showed a few times here. Of the international festivals which screened 'Emily', I was only present at the Manchester (UK) one.

Was it difficult to direct the actors??
From my perspective, the actors' personalities already had elements of the characters'. I therefore felt they didn't have to go much further to 'become' them. Since it was my first time working with a crew and directing actors in that capacity, yes, at times it was challenging, but it got done. It's a learning process that can't be grasped at once and there are things that will be different the next time.

Are you planning to continue?
Yes. (Sometimes life leads us down different roads, but right now I will say yes). I've already told myself that from next year I want to focus more on film - creatively and technically (and the operative word will have to be focus). I want to return to/begin developing further 'Lily', which I started some years ago, envisioned as a feature length arthouse type movie (and multimedia book). In future plans I will also explore 'Emily' from scratch as feature length trilogy. I think shorter pieces, whether films, videos or abstract experiments all go towards developing one's style - visual textures, rhythms, etc. The little things I do now, in addition to what I learn (and will learn) along the way, are a part of my preparation for longer works in the future. In working with a team or crew to manifest larger works I ultimately want to connect with professional people who have similar visions and sensibilities and to develop a trusting, flowing, creative working relationship with them to get it done.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Elspeth. I anticipate many more successes.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Elspeth said...

You're welcome & thanks.

5:25 AM  

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