In April, I wrote and directed a silent short film entitled 'Strange Magic' with the Youth Cinema Foundation. It was screened at the Sound of Silent Film Festival at Hauser & Wirth Somerset in May. It was also accepted into the Common Ground Harvest Film Festival in October.
I have always been curious about film- I certainly watch enough of it- and hitherto lacked the gumption to actually make one. I think my initial stumbling blocks were resource-centric: I told myself I couldn't make anything good without a decent camera and sound equipment. That is not true. Although this project connected me with some amazing filmmaking tools, it is not a prerequisite when making anything to have shiny kit and gadgetry. Just enough love to be editing away at two in the morning.
The screening at Hauser and Wirth was accompanied by live musicians.
In order to be involved in the project, we were all initially interviewed by Jack Price. We then all had a meeting together a few weeks later at Hauser & Wirth to discuss various roles and exchange ideas for the script. The group was split into performers and crew, Jack taking the actors to teach them techniques for acting on-screen, leaving the rest of us to begin our research, ideation, and script outlining. We met again every week to continue this process for a few weeks until we were ready to film.
I have written a few scripts before, but writing Strange Magic was a fresh challenge for me as it had to be silent- something I had never attempted before, because I hugely enjoy writing dialogue. I thoroughly enjoyed this task, as it forced me to look at storytelling from a completely alien perspective- each scene a blank slate in a totally new way. Writing this script has enabled me to find new ways of checking myself that I am, however, not relying upon expositionary dialogue to tell a story. Every element of the story had to be explained solely visually, as we chose the score from a pre-selected list sent to us (a quirk of the project), so my writing was pushed into very much uncharted waters- a highly valuable experience!
While I was very happy to write the script, which took me a week or two to complete, I must admit I felt very daunted to direct, which I have always been fascinated by, but had never delved into. Needless to say, I have discovered a real passion in it. We filmed across two days on the land owned by Hauser & Wirth behind the gallery itself, which was beautiful, but filming outside presents its difficulties. From stepping so gingerly across the long grass and garlic flowers when resetting so that we did not crumple any stray blades and dent our continuity, to shooting in very narrow windows of time in order to catch the light, as the canopies of trees above us filtered the sunlight differently every thirty minutes or so, it was a somewhat delicate operation, but one which I fell in love with.
The film itself explores the fortitude of love and rage, and how both seemingly paradoxical entities can bifurcate us as well as unite. I borrowed some aspects from Shakespeare, always a safe pool from which to purloin- the story is set in another world wherein rival tribes become outraged upon discovering the love affair between our protagonists, Ornith and Cordelia. Their gender is not relevant to the anger of their families, although I imagine it may enter audiences' minds that there are parallels in the treatment of same-sex love in our world. I purposefully didn't linger on that aspect of their relationship, but rather how two opposing sides refused to see the honesty of the love between them, or choose the peaceful path, at their own peril. It parallels the Romeo and Juliet model, with some literal magic present, as well as that love being felt as a force, and thereby existing as an undercurrent of strangeness in its own right.
It was hugely meaningful to me to tell a sapphic love story which itself was directed by a woman with a female-strong cast. I am very proud to have been a part of this project, and found a love of my own whilst working on it.
Stills photography: Lauren Horrell.