Video Notes / Videography Notes

Jonas Mekas

from Jonas Mekas – In Focus – The Artist’s Studio by MOCA

I’ve just launched a new blog of occasional writing on video culture, videography and film-making called Video Notes (the url is videographynotes because video notes was already taken). The first post explores how Jonas Mekas, ‘the godfather of the avant-garde’, could be seen as the original vlogger, and the parallels between the 1960’s experimental film scene in New York and contemporary online video culture. To be honest, I didn’t set out to write that post at all – I just wanted to explore the idea of diary films, but that is where the reading took me.

Mekas was one of the founders of the Film-makers’ Co-operative in New York in 1962. After writing the post I embarked on a crazed rummage through my notes and cuttings trying to find the brochure for the Tate retrospective screenings of the work of the London Film-makers’ Co-op entitled ‘Shoot Shoot Shoot’ from 2002 (Shoot Shoot Shoot: The First Decade of the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative and British Avant Garde Film 1966-76). I didn’t find it but had fun looking. But it did lead me to find this brilliant collection of films from the London Film-makers’ Co-op free to view on the BFI player.

I’d had an awareness and interest in Jonas Mekas from my time working at the National Film Theatre (this was my film school). But it was when I was trying to work out what to do with the 4 hours of footage from the walks I did for my book This Other London that artist Bob and Roberta Smith suggested looking at Mekas’ work for inspiration. Although I wasn’t able to make anything from that footage (here’s one of the failed edits) – it did lead me down the path of studying YouTube vlogs more closely which then, via a meandering route, led to my ongoing series of Walking Vlogs that has been running for 3 and-a-half years now.

Jonas Mekas – A Walk (1990)

I shot a new ‘walking vlog’ yesterday – attempting to follow the footsteps of the characters from Patrick Keiller’s seminal film London – on their first walk, from Vauxhall to Strawberry Hill. I shot this in the style I make all my walking videos, on the hoof, talking to camera as I walk, grabbing quick hand-held cutaways as I go, placing the experience of the walk ahead of the necessities of film-making – a style that Iain Sinclair described as ‘grunge Keiller’ (back in 2005). Stylistically this is about as far away from Keiller’s studied locked off 35mm cinematography and beautifully crafted and delivered commentary as you can get. But it’s a style that works for me. Keiller had screened his early short films of London at the London Film-makers’ Co-op (Stonebridge Park and Norwood) – a further link between these worlds. It’s a pleasant surprise that this urge to write about online video making and culture (partly instigated by the brilliant Shane Dwason series on Jake Paul) has led me in this direction – back to some of my original film-making influences at the confluence of my interest in and study of London.

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(there’s a further thread that takes in the films of John Smith, and the Paul Kelly/St Etienne Keiller-inspired films of London but I think that would be over-egging the pudding and I’ve already explored that in other posts – for example an article I wrote in 2006 for UEL’s Journal of East London Studies – Waves of Disappearance: cinematic topographies of the North Eastern frontier )

 

In the Shadow of the Shard – watch the full documentary

I started making this film around a year ago, with a shoot walking around the Canada Estate with the brilliant Barry Ducket. Straight away I knew we had a film right there. The aim was to make a documentary celebrating the work of Tenants and Residents Associations in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. We wanted to tell a positive story about the communities based on the area’s council estates. This is a community with a proud working class heritage, borne of its relationship to the docks, the tanneries, and other industries that flourished along this section of the Thames. But it’s an area, like the rest of London, that is experiencing enormous change, most obviously symbolised by the building of the Shard. However, perhaps an even more potent symbol is the construction of a block of 100% council flats by Leathermarket CBS on the Kipling Estate, right in the shadow of the Shard. And that story of hope sits at the heart of this film. If they can build council flats there, we can build genuinely affordable socially owned council homes anywhere.

 

In the Shadow of the Shard – premiere

Here’s a selection of images and reactions from Twitter taken at the premiere of my new film In the Shadow of the Shard, made with community activists and organisers in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. The screening at the magnificient Magdalen Hall, organised by Leathermarket JMB, was followed by a lively panel discussion that included local MP Neil Coyle and Southwark’s Chair of Housing, Johnson Situ, alongside members of the community. There was a really honest and open exchange of views. Details of further screenings below.

In the Shadow of the Shard

In the Shadow of the Shard

 

In the Shadow of the Shard

In the Shadow of the Shard

In the Shadow of the Shard

There are two further free community screenings followed by a panel discussion

5th July 7pm – Mayflower TRA Assembly Hall, 1 Neptune Street, London SE16 7JP

14th July 7pm – Bermondsey Village Hall, Kirby Grove, London SE1 3TD

In the Shadow of the Shard – documentary screenings

Shadow of the Shard - film

This Sunday sees the premiere of the documentary I’ve been working on with tenants and residents in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe over the last year. The film grew out of my interest in Leathermarket TMO building a block of new 100% Council flats on the Kipling Estate, right in the shadow of the Shard. In the context of the London housing crisis, this was an incredible story on its own, bucking every trend we are told dictates the shape of housing in our city. But initial conversations with the people involved in this amazing project revealed that there was a bigger picture in the old London Borough of Bermondsey. The area is a thriving hub of deep-rooted commnity activism, and the film takes us to meet some of those dedicated people working to keep the spirit of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe alive in the face of enormous change.

Free Screenings:

17th June 2.30pm – Magdalen Hall, London SE1 3BQ – film launch and panel discussion – reserve tickets

5th July 7pm – Mayflower TRA Assembly Hall, 1 Neptune Street, London SE16 7JP

14th July 7pm – Bermondsey Village Hall, Kirby Grove, London SE1 3TD

 

 

Unearthings: On and Off Watling Street with Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting

Just under a year after the premiere of our film, London Overground, Iain Sinclair mentioned joining him out on the road again with my camera. This time he was walking a section of  Watling Street, the Roman road said to have much older origins, in the company of the great film-maker Andrew Kötting, from Canterbury to London. I joined them one morning along Shooters Hill Road in South London where they were accompanied by artist Anne Caron-Delion. This first walk followed the road to Westminster (another branch goes across London Bridge to the City) – passing over Blackheath, through Deptford (the ‘deep ford’), New Cross, Peckham, Elephant and Castle, along the way.

Enroute Iain had mentioned a second passage that related to Watling Street but branching off from Shooters Hill to take in the Shrewsbury burial mound and follow cult author Steve Moore’s ‘psychic circuit’ down to Woolwich. This brings Alan Moore into the story and led to a second walk. Steve Moore had been Alan Moore’s mentor, teaching him both the arts of magick and comic book writing. Alan had celebrated Steve’s territory of Shooters Hill in an essay published in London, City of Disappearances, entitled Unearthing. This seemed like the perfect title to appropriate as the title for the film.

 

The film that I made from the two walks ‘on and off’ Watling Street with Iain Sinclair was premiered at an event at Kino-Teatr in St Leonards-on-Sea last October, where Andrew Kötting also premiered his film of the whole walk, A WALK BACK TO THE LAST LONDON BY WAY OF WATLING STREET.

The event was called, Lights Out for the Last London: Down Watling Street with Iain Sinclair, Andrew Kotting and John Rogers.

“To pull away from its gravity, he sets off on a Watling Street pilgrimage with long term collaborators (and filmmakers) Andrew Kötting and John Rogers.
Their adventures, told through differing and contradictory memories, become a live performance, a conversation, a film of record.
The collision at Kino-Teatr in St Leonards is a unique coming together for the three walkers. Anything could happen.”

Kino-Teatr John Rogers Iain Sinclair Andrew Kotting

The video above captures the discussion with Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting after the screenings.

Edith Walks on DVD – Andrew Kötting, Alan Moore, Iain Sinclair, Jem Finer, Claudia Barton

edith walks dvd

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a number of pinch myself moments in my life (chatting about Liverpool FC with childhood hero Ian Rush was one), but having the opportunity to participate at the beginning of the journey and shoot some footage for this magical film, Edith Walks by visionary film-maker Andrew Kötting was certainly one of them. The performance event this summer at the East End Film Festival featuring the cast of this film – with Andrew, Iain Sinclair, Claudia Barton, Jem Finer and David Aylward was one of the highlights of the year. Now you can take the journey home on DVD.

Edith Walks Andrew Kotting Iain Sinclair

“Following the Director’s bestselling Swandown film (2012), Edith Walks is a 60 minute 66 second feature film inspired by a walk from Waltham Abbey in Essex via Battle Abbey to St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, in Southern England. The film documents a pilgrimage in memory of Edith Swan Neck. Bits of King Harold’s body were brought to Waltham for burial near the High Altar after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and his hand fast wife Edith Swan Neck is seen cradling him in a remarkable sculpture at Grosvenor Gardens on the sea front in St Leonards. The film re-connects the lovers after 950 years of separation. The 108 mile journey, as the crow flies, allows the audience to reflect upon all things Edith. A conversation in Northampton between Alan Moore, Iain Sinclair and Edith Swan Neck is also a key element to the unfolding ‘story’.
With images shot using digital super-8 iPhones and sound recorded using a specially constructed music box with a boom microphone the film unfolds chronologically but in a completely unpredictable way. Music by Jem Finer with David Aylward, Claudia Barton and Andrew Kötting. The numerous encounters and impromptu performances en route are proof, as if needed, that the angels of happenstance were to looking down upon the troop, with EDITH as their hallucination. Starring David Aylward, Claudia Barton, Anonymous Bosch, Jem Finer, Andrew Kötting, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair.
Extra bonus film included: Forgotten the Queen (11 min) is a short animated film that digs into themes inspired by the life of Edith Swan Neck. In this, the Director’s daughter, Eden’s drawings and collages are brought to life by renowned animator, Glenn Whiting.”

(- from the Cornerhouse website)

Lights Out: Iain Sinclair, Andrew Kotting and John Rogers

Andrew Kotting Lights Out

Looking forward to presenting the film of the excursions I made with Iain Sinclair, Andrew Kötting, and Anne Caron-Deline along Watling Street with a fascinating detour following the trail of Alan Moore from Shooter’s Hill. The event will also include a new film and performance by Andrew Kötting, plus readings and conversation with Iain Sinclair and whatever else occurs on the night.

Here’s the information for the event at Kino-Teatr, Saint Leonards 29th October 6pm:

“Lights Out for the Last London: Down Watling Street with Iain Sinclair, Andrew Kotting and John Rogers.

The Last London, described by Alan Moore as ‘the masterpiece in a career of masterpieces’, is Iain Sinclair’s final reckoning with a city stretched beyond its limits.

To pull away from its gravity, he sets off on a Watling Street pilgrimage with longterm collaborators (and filmmakers) Andrew Kötting and John Rogers.

Their adventures, told through differing and contradictory memories, become a live performance, a conversation, a film of record.

The collision at Kino-Teatr in St Leonards is a unique coming together for the three walkers. Anything could happen.

The collaborators will be happy to sign copies of books (including Last London) at the event.”

Tickets are £12 available from Kino-Teatr box office and online from Ticketsource