Monthly Archives: November 2006

Yankee Sleeper

I went back to Yorkshire for the weekend, on my return I found this note in my room. Turned out “the crazy American” – whom I’ve never met – had slept in my room.

By all accounts I was relieved to have been away. She sounded quite a handful, my friends and sister all ended up and a very dodgy Belle & Sebastian disco in Salford… or something.

She is from a town in the mid-west called “Normal” and thinks that the Trafford Centre is the biggest mall in the world.


Learning Agreement: VJ Project

This is my first learning agreement and covers something that may break into various smaller projects.

I have really enjoyed making music videos, mainly to my own music, but I would like to explore “Visual Jokey-ing” which is, in essence, making a music video live or on-the-fly. Its not quite that simple though, VJs normally exist at music events or in clubs, and often the aim is to create someting to help people feel at one with the music they’re listening and/or dancing to. I have no experience of this but would like to explore it.

Never-never Land, Abu & Mr Bukhari

Over the last 2 or 3 weeks, we’ve been set group tasks. Firstly we had to decide on a name a place and an object, then basically we were asked to flesh out the situation we had created with back stories and further information.

From the notes we (Bryn & Johnny) made in the initial session, I came up with this as a concept:

Mr Bukhari is thinking:

They never understand. They never understand. I am never understood. I understand them though. Why do they never….. I should have some tea. Its the right thing to do. Tea and a cigarette, then I’ll be able to think clearly. They NEVER understand, the simplest thing! If the light goes out you fix it. No sauce means no sauce- I understand! Why… they never! Bloody Tuesday. Tuesdays, if I write a sign, why do they never read it? Sign read. Read sign.

I think its a sign. Why would the almighty decree it, if it were not a sign. Never does a thing happy without a good cause. Never. I told her that and she never listens to a thing I say. “Never does your lip move without good grievance” is what she said. Never a useful thing. And they’re never easy, never move without a problem, never do they clean behind the sink at 22 or the downstairs utility on the avenue. They never get 200 quid though. Huh.

I never think clearly these days. I used to never be angry, I’m sure, never now though. Well, I never. Those happy slapper, little posh girl with bloody miniskirt. They underestimate me, they never get money back and got once in life-time, never-again chili kebab sauce. . . Huh.

Tea good though! I need my tea. Why people never know that I take 8, and black. Stupid bloody people. Understand…. never you do. Why I never have tea when its needed and it always last never long enough for me. I never going to explain myself again if they never understand me, never explain. Only to Mr Bukari, he is the only one that will understand my never land. Why is he never here any more? What size are my shoes?

Pan to shoes and then up to a fast-boiling whistling kettle that has been silent until then. Maybe it should be visible throughout, but the sound only becomes audible right at the end. The full story is this; Mr Bukhari has been talking over the noise of his kettle constantly boiling. He has slowly descended within himself and become mentally ill, taken over by his own anger, temper and contempt for his customers, his friends and his family. Shot from “within” Mr Bukhari’s head, so hold the camera to some one’s face looking out. Throughout we can cut in relevant clips to the things he is talking about.

We never actually filmed this and it didn’t go any further, but I’m still quite fond of the idea, despite its obvious use of ethnic stereotyping I think it could become an evocative short film.

The name Mr Bukhari was my initial contribution- it is the same name as my landlord. However, my own Mr Bukhari is an excellent landlord and doesn’t share any of the fictional one’s character.

Robin Hood’s Bay; It was my birthday on the 21st October, this is one of the two cards I got (both from my parents, albeit on separate occasions). I really love the image, one reason is that the place is familiar to me (Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire) and invokes many childhood memories and the other is the aesthetic qualities of the image itself. This is actually a photograph across the bay, amazing.

As a second part to the video project I wrote about above we had to do exactly the same thing as before but use somebody else’s words rather than coming up with them ourselves. We ended up with Abu Baker, Amsterdam and a pair of shoes. Having failed to complete the previous task me and Bryn were extremely keen to get this done (unfortunately we failed to hook up with Johnny and include him, I think this was down to his work commitments).

This is my initial idea for the concept, but again we didn’t use much of this in the final product.

Abu in Amsterdam

[the name is meant to be Abu Baker, not Abu Craig]

Fast opening sequence, showing some running [pan from the chaser’s feet to the person being chased] (chasing “the victim”), traffic, city scenes and finishing on the canal (which is the scene of the crime). Focus on a pair of shoes (maybe could get the same red shoes that Aliyah and Emily used).

Fade into the interview room.

Concept notes;

Abu Craig is a suspect in the killing of a prostitute and a mob boss in Amsterdam. The police have been tipped off anonymously that the man behind the incident was called Abu Craig, the mystery caller also said “He’ll know Cecila”. They have no further information in relation with the matter, no witnesses or anything else that be constituted as evidence. The police are basically run by the mob, and they’re after someone’s blood to avenge the death of the leader. They’ve tracked down all the people on their intelligence network of the name Abu Craig.

The real story is that a group of Russian gangsters are trying to muscle in on the crime revenue to be gained in Amsterdam, particularly interested in people trafficking and importing large quantities of cocaine and heroin. They think that by killing a particular Dutch mobster they can unsettle the community so much that they’ll be able to move in without too much of a fuss. They murder the boss and throw in a dead prostitute to add to the confusion. At the crime scene mysteriously there are a pair of red high-heeled shoes. These turn out to be the shoes that the Russian boss’s wife was wearing the night she slept with Abu1. His wife is called Cecila.

The middle of the film is comprised of interview footage of several people, all going by the name Abu Craig.

Abu1 is from Birmingham and turns out to be the man they’re after. He is being framed by the Russian mafia who are the real culprits. The only reason they picked him is because he once slept with one of the bosses mistresses many years ago and has no other connection to the incident. He did once meet Abu4 in Camden during the 80s. He will cooperate fully with the police.

Abu2’s girlfriend lives in Amsterdam and he lives outside the city. He’s always thought it would be cool to be a drug dealer but doesn’t have the connections. Apart from petty things he’s never committed any real crimes so has nothing to fear from the police.

Abu3 studied economics at Oxford and went to public school. He doesn’t have a shady side at all. He is however not accustomed to being in police interview rooms and so is a bit shaken by the whole thing. He doesn’t want his girlfriend to find out that he slept with a prostitute (who called herself Cecila) when he was in Amsterdam for a business trip. He used to enjoy wearing women’s clothes, and did have a pair of shoes similar to those at the murder scene.

Abu4 is a drug dealer from London (this is how he met Abu1, in his early days he pedalled 10 bags of weed in Camden). He was in Amsterdam trying to do some underworld networking to find someone to import dope directly from the Netherlands to London. So, understandably he is quite edgy about the fact the police have called him in (he doesn’t know it’s purely because of his name). Although he failed to make any business connections as he had intended, he did manage to pick up quite a bit of the underworld gossip. He has heard about the district the incident happened in, and knows it is where most of the mobs major deals go down. He knows the Russians are trying to shake up Amsterdam because they’ve been pushed out of a lot of eastern Europe since the fall of the USSR.

Abu5 is nothing to do with anything. He is an part of the Saudi royal family (so therefore incredibly rich) and is disgusted he was arrested on landing at the airport. He came to Amsterdam for kinky sexy and sexy drugs, and he’s not ashamed about shouting it out loud to the police just so long as they let him go. He wants his Ambassador. He has a fake passport with the name “Clarance Richardson”.

Interviewer: Confirm your full name please.

Abu1: Abu Craig [repeat for each Abu we interview]

Interviewer: Were you in Amsterdam on Tuesday of last week?

The idea is that the responses aren’t scripting (as they’re written here) but we will record the response to all of the questions here after actors have been given their background information.

Abu1: I went through Schipol on my way to Birmingham. I have my tickets still in my brief case.

Abu2: Yeah.

Abu3: Yes.

Abu4: I’m not answering any questions without my lawyer present.

Abu5: This is an outrage. I came to see vice and colours. Let me out of this shit hole now! I want to see my Ambassador. There will be repercussions if you do not co-operate.

Interviewer: Excuse me sir but I must insist things are quite different to that- if I were in your position I think you should be cooperating with me!

You are familiar with the Vondelstraat area?

What was your business in Amsterdam?

Do you know a woman called Cecila?

Have you ever met a man called [dead guys name]?

Do you know who he is?

Do you take drugs?

Have you ever used a prostitute?

Have you ever met [prostitute’s name]?

Would it shock you if I said she was dead?

Did you drink or take any drugs that night?

What were you wearing last Tuesday?

Are you the real Abu Craig? What other names do you use?

What is your business? How do you make your money?

Would you like me to call a lawyer for you?

etc etc

[continue contrasting different reactions to the same question until the truth is clear, or a version of it. Whodunit style…..]

These are some of the notes from a brain storming session me and Bryn did before filming. Click on them for larger images.

The film we finally made was about a British Tourist who was named Abu Baker. He is on a visit to Amsterdam, claiming that it is a “pleasure” visit, his motives are never clear. Although its not immediately obvious, the film tries to convey a sense of Abu’s obvious guilt. I play the police interview and Bryn is playing Abu.

I was really pleased with the end result. Bryn plays the guilty man really well, especially as the whole thing is entirely improvised. Mixing the video footage we took (in student halls) with shots of Bryn walking around the darker parts of Manchester city centre, the film achieves a prolonged sense of dread and uneasiness. All of the non-interview shots are sequential still photographs that have been animated. The whole sound track of the film is encompassed with a huge reverb sound, so the relatively few words you hear sound distant and haunting. In addition the entire video has been processed to have a dramatic aura, the makes the dark parts and as black as they can be and the bright parts are unnaturally vivid.

This is the first non-music video that I have filmed or edited (let alone both), but I’m extremely pleased with the end result. Having said that, I was happier with a previous cut (that was nearly two minutes shorter), but unfortunately due to a brain-malfunction I deleted that version. I feel that where the film really comes into its own is where the animated sections are cut in (and the timing of when they’re cut in) and with the extremely fast digital zooming and panning onto Abu’s nervous twitching and guilty eyes. I’d really like to make another film, maybe (definitely) less black, but using the same techniques. I’m also really pleased with managing to fuse “proper” video and animated photographs. Most of my films use photographs as their basis but having the possibility of using video and photos is the next area to explore is something to relish.

You can view the end result (at degraded quality, unfortunately) on YouTube here;

This is a shot of Bryn (playing Abu) walking along a canal near Deansgate locks in Manchester. We chose the canal because of the obvious parallel to Amsterdam. Fortunately there were some CCTV cameras there which fitted nicely into the eventual plot. Also I feel the lighting and colours contribute well to the general feeling we were trying to achieve. This is one of the still photographs that were animated and cut into the video at appropriate moments.

As a result of posting the film to YouTube I’ve been approached by a television broadcaster based in the United States, requesting a copy to include in one of their programmes. This has come as an unexpected, but welcome bonus!