London Overground film – edit notes #1

Iain Sinclair Overground film

Screen shot from the edit

So the editing of my film of Iain Sinclair’s London Overground has formally begun. I’ve previously casually spooled through rushes, and even put together a 7 minute short cut from the first shoot for a couple events Iain has done and at which we’ve spoken about the film – but today is the day I mark the edit as beginning.

It can be a lonely business at times working as I do alone on the film-making side, although I have become so conditioned to this process now I don’t think I could work any other way. I say ‘alone’, but the shoots have been a thoroughly collaborative process with Iain and Andrew Kotting. But it’s at this stage looking down the barrels of what will become a 3 month edit that it can feel slightly daunting – the edge knocked off with each clip you view. It’s looking good.

So I wanted to share this as I go – with you – the readers of this blog, the single piece of work that links all my projects together.

I worked on a ‘big’ documentary once – one with a proper ‘big’ budget and a team, a team that changed and grew, then shrunk, as the project endlessly lumbered on for years. There was a period that must have lasted for about a year (if not longer) where the core team of 4 of us sat in a small edit suite every day viewing rushes, cutting, discussing, despairing. I took to calling it ‘the group therapy room’. This partly explains why I work the way I do on my own projects – no budget, no producers, no crew, just me and the people I’m working with in front of the camera.

Serendipitously that edit suite was next to the Overground and we passed it on the recent Night Walk for the film – it felt like a moment of redemption for all those wasted days.

Now I sit in my box room alone at midnight slowly working through the footage I’ve shot on and off over 7 months with a festival screening in the summer to aim at. From the first shoot, with Iain and Andrew Kotting walking from Rotherhithe to Queens Road Peckham, the biggest dilemma was always going to be what to leave out. There is a conversation between Andrew and Iain in La Cigale cafe in Surrey Quays that runs for about 12 minutes – I must have watched it through 4 times and I still can’t see a cut, it’s all great stuff (and if you are a fan of either of their work then it’s priceless viewing).

Tonight I’m going through a walk with Iain from Haggerston to Shadwell. I am less than half-way through the bin and there is 24 minutes on the timeline. Assuming I carry on at this rate, if I follow the old edit adage of ‘Kill Your Darlings’ then this will make the Slaughter of the Innocents look like an exercise in passive restraint.

Iain Sinclair Overground film

screen shot from the edit

At this stage I feel that the film will take multiple forms. There will be the ‘feature length’ cut of no more than 80 minutes for public screenings. And I think we’ll try and find somebody to put out a DVD. But after the initial run of these I can see it as a YouTube series that could run for several episodes.

Both my previous feature docs – The London Perambulator and Make Your Own Damn Art enjoyed great runs of screenings (that continue to pop up). But they’ve also had a second life online with London Perambulator clocking up over 50,000 views on YouTube. After some successful screenings Make Your Own Damn Art was distributed online by Curzon On Demand and was also on a continuous loop at New York’s prestigious MoMA PS1 for 6 months. It was odd to sit at home in Leytonstone and imagine my film playing for 8 hours a day to passing art liggers in one of the world’s great galleries.

Independent film-makers today are spoilt for choice – as long as you don’t want to make money – and if you want to make money then you shouldn’t be making films.

Ok, I enjoyed sharing this with you – thanks for listening. There are going to be a lot more nights like this over the coming months. I better get back to the edit, Iain is just arriving at Hoxton Station – this is a really good bit.

By Our Selves – Andrew Kotting & Iain Sinclair back on the road

Last night to the Hackney Picturehouse – the cinema occupying a building that was squatted in recent history by some of my old associates from Frampton Park Estate. The occasion was a rare one – the chance to see some work-in-progress footage from the latest Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair collaboration, By Our Selves.

The project is a retracing of the ‘peasant poet’ John Clare’s Journey out of Essex when he walked from the asylum at High Beach, Epping Forest, where he was a patient, to his home in Northamptonshire. Sinclair covered this ground in his book Edge of the Orison but the film and associated live art events are no mere wandering documentary from page to screen, no BBC4 style lecture with occasionally moving images. Nor is it simply a sequel to their brilliant two men in a swan pedalo film Swandown. Kötting does the 3-day schlepp dressed as a folkloric Straw Bear led on a string leash by celebrated actor Toby Jones playing Clare. Sinclair appears by the roadside in some of the footage – English Heritage should really pay him to continuously walk around the M25 and up the Great North Road. Jem Finer once again contributes a jaunty, haunting soundtrack of synthetic birdsong and refracted instruments. Alan Moore manifests on a bench reading Clare’s poem I Am.

 

The day after I’m still haunted by the sounds and images – the procession of masked figures beating drums behind the straw bear parading through Epping Forest, John Clare/Toby Jones reading a boxing magazine sat on the side of a field-path (Clare was a boxing fan). The psychogeographers dream ticket of Kötting and Sinclair looks set to deliver another vital  post-millennial vision of England.

 

The project is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to finish the edit – you can back it for the price of a couple of pints.

Here’s Iain Sinclair talking about his journey for Edge of the Orison on Newsnight in 2005 which includes a snippet of footage that I think was shot by Radio On director Chris Petit

 

 

Colour film of Leytonstone 1938

This fantastic 8mm Kodachrome amateur film of Leytonstone was shot in the same year as the photographs of the cyclists in Leyton (below) were taken – 1938. It’s tantalizing to imagine one of them is cycling past the camera at some point – or even that they knew the man who made this brilliant celluloid topographical record.

It’s interesting to see Harrow Green, little changed, the War Memorial to the dead of the First World War and soon to gain more names carved into the granite.

The Academy Cinema (0.36s), like all of Leytonstone’s cinemas, is sadly no more. They’re showing William Powell in Double Wedding and Conrad Nagal in Bank Alarm.  Waltham Forest now stands as the only London borough without a permanent cinema (the Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema organises monthly screenings in the library).

The Police Station at 1.50 is boarded up now. Alfred Hitchcock was locked in the cells here as a young child at the behest of his father to teach him a lesson for some misdemeanor. It apparently left him psychologically scarred for the rest of his life – but I suppose, on the upside, he did turn that trauma into a lucrative career.

I’m going to watch it again to see if I can spot any of my Leyton cyclists. And a huge thank you to Mr S. Redburn for sharing his father’s film on Youtube.

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Persepolis – Leytonstone Library 1st October

The first Wednesday of the month will hopefully become firmly enshrined in the collective psyche of Leytonstone as Film Night. Tomorrow is Leytonstone Film Club’s second proper screening since launching in the festival.
I’ve got to try and think of a few words to say before the film about why we chose ‘Persepolis’.

Truth is a dear friend who happens to work in the film industry – so is rarely impressed – said to me “you must see this film – you must”. So that’s the real reason although I’d better come up with something better. Maybe something about the rarity of an intelligent, entertaining film aimed at an adult audience that is animated and dealing with the not altogether comedy-laden subject of the Iranian revolution. Reckon that’ll do.

I’ve posted up a clip here from the screening of The Lodger that we did for the Leytonstone Festival with the brilliant improvised rescoring by Fabricio Brachetta.

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Leytonstone Film Club

Spent the morning at Leytonstone Library setting up the new kit for the first night of Leytonstone Film Club‘s first season. Exciting stuff. The launch event in the Leytonstone Festival went so well that we are possibly feeling overly optimistic. All were impressed with the quality of the projection despite having to run it through a single video cable. Although with all this hi-tech latest release digital wizardry the event of the morning was when Kevin went and dug out the dusty old projection table that dates from the opening of the library in 1934.

So all looks good for Wednesday’s screening of The Counterfeiters and the subsequent events on the first Wednesday of the month. Although we’ve got a good list of films that we’d like to screen in the rest of the season we’d also love to hear what you’d like us to show. Cinema is coming back to Leytonstone – maybe Hitchcock can finally rest in peace.

The Counterfeiters, Wednesday 10th September 2008, Leytonstone Library, Church Lane, E11

Leytonstone Fest Film Night


The film night was a great success. The thrill I felt seeing the Black Tower flickering on the screen in the upstairs room of the Heathcote then looking over my shoulder at the same E11 roofline, the room packed the audience enthralled. The Q&A with Ian Bourn and John Smith lasted over half and hour and could have gone on longer if we all hadn’t been in bad need of a pint (at some point I’ll transcribe the recording and post it here). What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? seemed to really strike a chord and it was satisfying to test my thesis that you can draw a line through from Black Tower, Lenny’s Documentary, Keiller to Mervyn Day. It was interesting to discuss this with Ian and John. I even managed to find an audience for my propaganda film about Marsh Lane Fields in an effort to drum up some support to save this corner of the Lammas Lands before it’s too late.

It was great to meet some of the readers of this blog – John Heron and Inspector Juve and members of the L&LHS (sorry John for missing your call on Tuesday – I’m not sure what happened there). It looks like we may have the momentum to build this into a regular event and form a Leytonstone Film Club, if anybody is interested please get in touch email:jmrogersit@yahoo.com
Thanks to John, Ian and the Mervyn Day team (Paul, Andrew, Bob, Pete), and big thanks to Philip Wray of Leytonstone Festival – a gent.