Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sandy & Iain discuss "A City You'll Never Know", the past, and the future...

I Anderson:
You have recently completed what you consider to be your first film, titled A City You'll Never Know, can you give me a brief run-down of the plot?
A Peacock:
Yes, well.... the plot has kind of grown during filming one of the advantages or perhaps in this case - disadvantages of not beginning with a firm script. As the film is now, it tells the story of a young man who after leaving an aspiring singer to a beach, well he tries to take advantage of her, she runs off, her chases her, loses himself in a city he had briefly been in before, meets all sorts of "bad" people, one in particular who tries repeatedly to recruit him, and eventually he just gives up on life. I guess...that's how i would summarize it. 
I Anderson:
I see, I understand this film was a big leap forward from previous projects, what new film-making techniques did you experiment with during the filming and editing processes?
A Peacock:
Well for the filming, it was my first film using live dialogue, I had recorded live sound very briefly in my second film, but that's the main technical achievement you could say. Also I used a far larger number of people to assist with the camera; the lighting was more sophisticated than before due to having to use streetlamps but yeah... As for the editing I used much more advanced software which allowed me to do a lot, and I of course worked with you on the music editing a few scenes at a time then sending them to you for you to write music for. This close collaboration during the editing was something new and helped get through some of the tedium of the long process of the editing; it also was good to hear a second opinion on the scenes as they were being edited.
I Anderson:
Okay. How long did the film take to write, film, and edit? And do you feel that the production length worked to the films advantage or disadvantage? Do you feel the time spent on the film was justified in the end?
A Peacock:
First question, the complete production period lasted I’m guessing 3 and a half months with the majority of the time spent editing and filming small scenes which I had left till after the 3 week filming period. The production length certainly was advantageous... but not justified, I suppose most narrative filmmakers - Fassbinder excepted - don't edit their own films - and it really is a long process and hard to keep yourself focussed on, ideally I could have skimmed off 3-4 weeks and edited faster but I suppose then the music wouldn't have had enough time to be perfect, so... my next film, the one I’m currently editing 'Let's Go' about a man leaving his partner in an attempt at becoming a successful artist, is being edited much faster, but of course it's easy to say that near the beginning, perhaps a couple of weeks down the line it'll be a different story.. But no! I'll keep the momentum and hopefully have it finished mid October. To return to Fassbinder, he churned out 4-5 feature length films a year - all brilliant - in my eyes anyway- writing, acting, editing, directing; definitely someone I look up to in that sense. But yeah I’m writing a script right now, doing it this way will probably speed everything up, the editing and the filming, as well as making the final product much better. I suppose I just don't have the knack, yet, for improvisational dialogue.
I Anderson:
Since completing A City You'll Never Know, you and I have both shown it to friends/family (some of which are interested in also pursuing filmmaking) - some criticisms have been that the film is self-indulgent, that it is focused on the filmmaker rather than the audience, how do you respond to the criticisms?
A Peacock:
Well the film is self indulgent, and not in the way I would have hoped, another flaw with not using a script - for a person like me that is. The last scene should have been half the length it is, the wandering scenes should have been much shorter or had something going on to link them, I'm not sure about the criticism about the music being at times self indulgent though. The film is quite stylized and certainly the music fits with that. But as for the film being for the director, ignoring the audience, well that's personal cinema, that's what i aspire to create, however for it to be personal one must leave clues and use tension although in a quieter way. I didn't, the clues were there in my head as I acted and I therefore had no reason to reveal them, which of course doesn't work, it means if i watch the film in 30 years time I won't understand the subtleties of the story, because I didn't leave any hints at what they were. But certainly personal cinema, exploring things which the director is interested in, is the most pure and important type of cinema.
I Anderson:
Okay, let’s look at your filmmaking in a wider context, how many projects have led to A City You'll Never Know? And in what ways have you progressed as a filmmaker since your first project?
A Peacock:
Ah a big question, A City You'll Never Know is my 6th short (although it's 25 minutes longer than any of the others), finished just under a year before I first began filming them. As the films have progressed dialogue has slowly appeared, the camera work has become more confident, with less continuity problems... ideas are at last getting more full and strong in my mind no longer do I imagine the romance of the self hating dumb male whore with the female go-getting whore, but I develop the plot around them. This is due to making all these films, and addressing the faults in each one and trying to improve on them for the next film. This last film, my last in Aberdeen, has been incredibly referential to the previous films stories and characters which has been interesting for me as a director and something I want to carry on doing, to create a film world and if something does not make sense in one film, well maybe in a film 5 years down the line the same scene might make more sense, or a character in an earlier film might be seen in a younger film in another film. But yes things like that. I've progressed a lot as far as technical ability; I would like to now work on rehearsing with actors their lines and the scene, also lowering the number of shots down in a scene, cutting out any useless ones - and cutting out most establishing shots which slow the pace too much I feel. I'm now looking into the theory behind tension and conflict, trying to figure out how to apply them to future projects whilst making art cinema and not entertainment cinema. It's certainly been a fun and interesting journey, and I'd recommend any aspiring filmmaker - or indeed anyone at all - to make their own films, even one or two, about themselves to treasure forever. Each film you make on your own you improve so much. Now I begin film school where i can fine-tune this foundation in specific areas. But yes, you can expect a lot more small films (although not necessarily short) over the next 2 years.
 
I Anderson:
And then?
A Peacock:
And then...........
So now i'd like to ask you a few questions about the musical creation process of A City You'll Never Know, and the upcoming film Let's Go. Is that ok?
I Anderson:
Yes. Please go ahead.
A Peacock:
Well what equipment were you using for 'A City'?
I Anderson:
Well, for 'A City' I used a Fender 70s MIM Stratocaster electric guitar alongside a Line6 POD Studio GX guitar interface - which I used to connect my guitar to my laptop - and then I used Adobe Audition for mixing and editing.
A Peacock:
Lead me through the creation process, from the beginning, how did you come up with the theme of the music?
I Anderson:
When you approached me about composing the music and described the plot outline to me, it became very clear of the film's episodic structure. I decided then, that the music should reflect that structure ,in that not only should there be individual "episodes" of music, but that there should be a common theme linking these episodes during the transitional scenes where the main character is moving between episodes. The theme itself started off as a simple guitar riff using only 6 notes, this idea developed through time, and although the simple 6 note riff does appear once in the film, it usually appeared in its more developed form during the film.
A Peacock:
Anything you'd go back and change?
I Anderson:
In terms of composition, I am very satisfied with my effort, in my opinion the music matches the film, but that is just my opinion. What I would perhaps go back and change is some elements of mixing and production, I feel that more effort could have gone into sound quality and equalisation. There are sections of the film where there is a noticeable hum and some where perhaps there is too much bass in the guitar parts.
A Peacock:
What are you doing with the new film Let's Go? Is there anything in particular your doing differently from the previous film?
I Anderson:
Yes there is, I am hoping to begin using keyboard in my recordings in Let's Go. I am hoping this will bring variation to the music and allow for me to experiment with different types of music, although I still want the music to be guitar-focused. I am hoping to explore different influences in Lets Go. While A City was influenced by a mixture of 70s Psychadelic Rock and modern Progressive Metal music, I am hoping A City will include (but not be limited to) more melodic and jazzy influences of mine. I am also concentrating on trying to make the music less coherent with scene structures, but more coherent with the content of the scenes, in a bid to move away from the episodic structure of A City.
A Peacock:
I see so when you say use of a keyboard we're not talking 80s style synths but more piano-esq? Is this less episodic structure harder to compose for?
I Anderson:
Yes, definitely more piano-esq, I am hoping that the piano sounds will compliment the acoustic guitar I have already written, I do hope that one day I may invest in a synthesizer to create weirder sounds/effects, but that is definitely not the approach with Lets Go. In answer to your second question, yes it is harder to compose for a less episodic structure. With an episodic structure such as A City, the structure of my music is already there, it has effectively been created by you- the filmmaker. Whereas, with the musical structure of Let's Go, I need to create a musical structure of my own, one that is independent to the film, but at the same time compliments it and works alongside it.
A Peacock:
Interesting... What are you future plans with film composing? Both stylistically and is this a career you could see yourself doing?
I Anderson:
Stylistically is a difficult one. Although I come from an orchestral musical background (learning trumpet and playing in bands from a young age), I feel very inexperienced when it comes to composing and arranging for orchestra. I think in the short term future I want to develop myself as a multi-instrumentalist/composer since I get a big thrill from not only composing music, but playing it all myself, it is self-focused I know, but playing is just as big a part of my interest in film composing as the composing itself. That said, I don't want to put boundaries on my composing future at all! I would definitely like to experiment with orchestral (and other large group) composing, but I don't see that happening in the short-term future.
Career-wise? Yes.
A Peacock:
Thank you.

(A City You'll Never Know can be viewed at Vimeo here: A City You'll Never Know - part 1)

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