All posts by mark

The Great Work (reboot)

Project summary

The aim of this project is two-fold. To first restore and then complete a set of films that was started during the late 1980s.

“The Great Work” is an alchemical trilogy in three parts. 1. “Homunculus” 2. “Terpsichore” and 3. “The Box”. The first two parts were completed but silent. The third part, “The Box”, was started, but was never completed. This film requires the most work and support.

In addition Strawberry Wasp is a 20 minute 16mm film shot in Cinemascope with “separate magnetic” soundtrack, it is complete, but un-showable in its current format.

Project Introduction

During the last few years of the 1980s, I was working mostly in film. These were very low budget 16mm productions, but with rich and complex iconography, often utilising animation, costumes, and simple camera effects. The works were shown to some degree as part of “performance pieces” with the soundtracks often performed live by musicians, creating music and sound effects. The films are strong visually and often dark and quite obscure. Although not narrative in the normal sense of the word they are strong on themes and live in a kind of dark and existential alchemical world of folklore and fairytales.

My application here is to upgrade the films, digitising them to 4k digital cinema quality, thus preserving them, and in the case of the silent films, adding music and foley soundtracks with a view to seeking a new audience, both online and projected at festivals and screen viewings. In addition I wish to complete the 3rd part (The Box) of “The Great Work” of which only a tiny portion was originally completed.

Goals

My primary aim for distribution would be initially indie cinema showings and festivals. “Strawberry Wasp” and “The Great Work” could be either shown together, as they have some artistic connections, or as two separate films. Showings would be in Nesoddparken and other cultural venues in Akershus, but I would also be interested in participating in for example Cinematekets “Dream that Kicks” experimental show-case, Grimstad, Tromsø and at foreign festivals, Rotterdam (IFFR) , EMAF (Germany), London Short Film Festival. Thereafter a permanent website would be produced that would give additional background information, photos, original scripts, sketches as well as the films themselves.

The Great Work

This is a trilogy of 3 mixed media films

Homunculus

Terpsichore

The Box

“The Great Work” refers to the work of the alchemists, who attempted to make the Philosopher´s Stone, turn base metals into gold, and investigate all manner of esoteric interests, albeit in a scientific and applied manner. The films “story” is not completely clear, as the three films, although obviously related (some characters, some locations) they concern different things, and could even be said to play in the wrong order.

In part one “Homunculus” an alchemist (that we referred to as Sir Eel) receives a wooden box, he eagerly opens it to find a phial containing a tiny foetus. This he places into a strange machine, which after some magical  effects produces a small and breathing child.

Part two “Terpsichore” (of dancing) is simply a chase. A princess runs through environments, perpetually pursued by two freemasons in full regalia, the “princess”(after a small animated dream sequence´), is eventually caught and torn in two.

Part three, ”The Box” (the yet to be completed film) concerns a box. “The Box” depicts beginnings and endings of the other two films, as well as a final scene. It could be seen as a re-working of the story of “Pandoras Box”. It shows the alchemist (this time animated using stop frame animation) at work, unaware that his creation (the Homunculus from the first film) escapes, it shows the Princess, still being chased, from a castle through woods and into a bowery. Also present are malevolent masonic rituals. The Evil that is finally released from the box into the world is shown to be the face of the film-maker.

Only the first two films were ever completed. Firstly they should be transferred to digital format, and as these two parts were silent, new soundtracks will be composed for them.

In addition I would like to complete the final part of this work.

“The Box” was started, indeed I have about 150 feet of 16mm film. Where the other two parts are a combination of live action and animation, this part will be wholly animated. The Box of the title is an artwork in its own right as it has drawers, each of which contains a tiny scene, which, after emerging from the Box, build themselves before the action in that scene can start. The characters needed for this film are unfortunately lost, so will have to be re built, using clay, wood and cloth.

Photos from the filming of “the great work” circa 1988

ORDO AB CHAO

Strawberry Wasp (restoration & update)

This completed 20 minute 16mm film needs only to be transferred to digital (the visual portion) the audio needs to be extracted from a UMatic lowband tape (the only known surviving copy, apart from a poor quality VHS) The audio will then need to be re-synched, and the video graded. 

This film was my degree piece at Portsmouth University Fine Art, gaining me a first place in practice. It was shot using a Cinemascope anamorphic lens giving a striking physical proportion of 2.66:1. Its somewhat melodramatic subject is no less than good and evil, and is a sequence of six scenes, one introductory scene, four “character” scenes, comprising one character in each (Thief, Witch, Priest, Princess), and a short  outro sequence. The music is loud, distorted and monotonous, with one musical theme per section.

I showed this film many times during the late 80s and early nineties, but mostly at art events and concerts. I could never submit it for festivals due to its format, both being Cinemascope and it having a “Separate Magnetic” (Sep-Mag) soundtrack. It was, however in great demand at one stage and I was projecting it, at various locations, about once a month for a while.

Working methods and style

Visually, I think my work has an interesting feel to it, in some ways it feels hand-made, naive and charming, at the same time, dark and eerie. I have, often out of necessity, built strange devices and rigs to achieve shots that would normally only be possible using expensive equipment, I have hand-developed 16mm film in an old Russian Army developing tank, build a DIY film printer, punched holes in the film, filmed on Standard 8 film gauge and used it in a 16mm film (without getting cut) I have hung cameras from kites, swung them on rubber inner tubes and shot scenes backwards. Due to the physical handling of these earlier films, I expect them to be scratched, faded and aged, almost coming from some strange and distant past. I am, however, always concerned with good picture quality, strong visual imagery, strong audio, and filmic pace.

There is an element of the “gothic”, as in the films of The Brothers Quay or Derek Jarman, of “pop culture”, as I was and am a professional musician in experimental circles with my band The Cranes, and this forms part of my worldview, as well as a folklore or occult element, particularly as “The Great Work” features an Alchemist, two malevolent Freemasons, and an innocent Princess.

Life is Strange

Im not one for being totally current and with it, so today I finally got around to playing “Life is Strange” a game I’ve been meaning to play since 2015.
Absolutely wonderful, i really loved everything about it, with some caveats that I’ll mention first,  so I can get on with the gushing praise.

Firstly, the subject matter is not totally my cup of tea, you play a teenage girl hipster, with a emo friend, and the language therefore is excruciating, so full of one liners and “cool” expressions, that its extremely obvious that the scriptwriters, not only have never been anywhere near these type of kids, but actually have “made up stuff” that they think kids might say. like the Blue haired emo keeps saying “hella”  as in “thats a hella cool thing…”  or ” I got a hella fucking headache”… I know its supposed to be “hell of a” but is hella even a thing? Maybe Im the old one? There lots of this.. and it grates.

But the pretty ordinary story of bullying and teenage depression/suicide, drugs in a poor, run down nowhere town, is quite convincing, and the one single weird “game play thing” being that the protagonist “Max” can rewind time, which helps in most of the puzzle section. This works well and is actually extremely cool in  one or two cases.

Graphically it’s just gorgeous, not super realistic characters, but the lighting and colour and depth of field is fantastic, and very filmic.

And thats the whole point of Life is Strange, its a REAL, PROPER and very successful interactive story. We just make choices for the characters, there almost no “computer game” physics, you get to choose where to walk about in a few places, but on the whole it’s about branching storylines and a story that can vary quite considerably. At the end of episode 2 a girl throws herself of the roof of the school and I failed to save her. I replayed this section to see if I could, and I could, which was nice. The protagonists ability to “turn back time” help in situations where you accidentally shoot your friend while playing with a gun, but big story line changes are mostly about your decisions.

The end of each episode gives you a run down of the decisions you made with percentage “score”. On the whole basing a good score on “being a good person” ethically.
the music i lovely, not my cup of tea again (me being electronic noise repetitive beats and maybe mumbled effected vocals) with very American Hipster coffee bar indie rock, but it works, and the extended ambient cutscenes force you to sit back and listen and watch.
Its not a very hands on, button masher of a game, so might be deemed boring to the… well… to the target group. But maybe the target groups isn’t really the “cool kids” depicted in the game but us parents of the same, re remember the retro clothes of the “alternative 80’s” we were there when grunge popped up from Seattle and are “with it” enough to know that smoking dope and blue hair isn’t the end of the world for our kids, but are concerned enough to engage in the issues that our kids have to face, like internet bullying, spiking of drinks, putting embarrassing videos on YouTube, and uncertain futures and incomes. etc

Im only at episode 2, so lots to go… There’s the missing girl Rachel to find, the tornado that we have dreamed about will hit the town in a few days time.
Love it.

Fractal Films 2

Having a lot of fun with this now.
The rendering takes forever though. This film, called Islamicfly took 4 days to render.

But now I have my PC set up as well, I can render on both! Its pretty clever, as long as both machines can see the same network folder, they dont over write each others files, so Im rendering a png sequence and depth matte (forgot that on the above film) and each computer tackle alternate frames.

Inescapable animation in video by Jennie Vee

Old friend of the Cranes, Jennie Vee, has released a video with some of my animation in it.
Great song, a collaboration with John Fryer, who coincidentally once engineered a remix by Ivo Watts Russell of a Cranes song.
The animation footage was nicked from an old video for the song inescapable, there’s even a few frames of MY HAND playing the violin in it ha ha.

We first became acquainted with a very young Jennie, when she was to young to get into our gig at Lee’s Palace in Toronto and stood outside the fire exit with her frozen ear to the door.