Greetings from Wooda, an organic farm set on a steep, south-facing valley two miles from the sea at Crackington Haven in Cornwall, owned & run by Gary Whitbread & Max Burrows. I’m here for six weeks on an artist’s residency, supported by the Wooda Arts Award which is offered annually to original and committed artists working in any medium. By way of an introduction to what I’m planning on achieving over the coming weeks, here’s a few extracts from my original application for the award.
My films are characterised by surreal humour, non-verbal/visual storytelling, happenstance & chance as triggers for creativity in narrative, richly woven soundtracks, visceral editing, a love of & dedication to the art of Super 8.
I have two major film projects on the go. The first is a low-medium budget fiction feature film project combining live action & animation, Dummy Jim, about a profoundly deaf man who cycled from Scotland to the Arctic Circle in 1951.
The second is another long-form film which, like Dummy Jim, will playfully combine live action with a montage of experimental elements & techniques. It is also a journey film, this time documenting a walk along the 100 mile long South Downs Way, which I completed along with my girlfriend Lucy Brown & dog Tippy in May 2008.
The walk was originally undertaken as a tribute / homage to my Grandpa Eric who died in April 2008 (aged 96). Eric had spent much of his life in this gentle, chalky part of England. It seemed a good idea to film the walk & over time this has evolved into a major project.
The film has a working title, Follow The Master. Grandpa Eric is, if you like, the primary ‘master’ referred to here, although the title also references a line from the hymn of Psalm 23 (To Be a Pilgrim) which was sung at his funeral. Additionally, I am the master of our dog Tippy (although Lucy & Tippy may disagree).
The film promises to be a rich & bracing combination of poor map-reading, dogs (& many other animals), yarns, rumination, surreal philosophy, beautiful landscapes, ersatz veterinary science, Ladybird books, postcards, boozing, friends, blisters, piles & much unintentionally comical, anguished thrashing of a ukelele.
The vast majority of Follow The Master has already been shot, self-financed on a very tiny budget. There’s over 14 hours of digital video, 75 minutes of Super 8mm (B&W & colour) plus numerous digital stills, postcards, maps, field recordings, found objects, gifted objects, drawings, journal entries & really great stories to tell – about Grandpa Eric & from the walk itself.
To do justice to Follow The Master requires a self-contained period of focused creative exploration, reflection & hard work, plus I need to allow myself to go a little mad.
I am proposing to break the back of the edit & post production of the film at Wooda, in collaboration with a trusted friend & editor, Nick Currey & hopefully the musical / compositional input of Lucy.
Much of my work has been made in the landscape, or in response to it, which is why Wooda’s location is of particular appeal. I approach the residency with an open heart & open eyes, prepared for the environment to inform & lead my practice, ultimately taking from it a great draught of inspiration.
The curator of the international touring exhibition Figuring Landscapes wrote the following about a film of mine they had included in the show. The film, Sine Die, from 1994, was shot over two frantic days, with the Isle of Mull as my ‘film set’. (Incidentally, the film was made as a response to the death of my Grandma Joan, Eric’s first wife.)
‘The figure of the artist executes a time-lapse dance along a rugged seashore. His frenetic rush from rock to rock is part pantheistic hymn to the sea, part Pythonesque tribute to the inherited English madness that seeks out nature as a backdrop to eccentric rituals.’