PICTURE STORY “The Journey”
Working Guidelines This project is to be shot over the next two weeks. You must attend the first crit session with either an initial take from the the story or comprehensive details of what the story you plan to shoot for the next week will be. This project is completely open : take the opportunity to do something you really want to do. Try to work on something you feel a real personal response to, whether of love or loathing, and most importantly work on a project you can go back to and continue after your first crit session. Go for something with real visual potential and with good access so that you can work freely over the two week period. This is important. You should expect to spend at least two days each week shooting this project. Make some time to look at the work of others before you embark on your own story. Final submission should be 10-12 captioned pictures and accompanying text of no more than 500 words. The work can be presented in any form you like although we do not recommend any unnecessary expenditure at this stage. However we would like to start seeing evidence that you are starting to consider the final ‘package’ or end product in your work both in terms of presentation and concept.
“All Tomorrows Parties” Story Outline A man wakes in bed accompanied by a red balloon. He dresses and leaves the house with the balloon. The man is seen travelling around a variety of locations in London. As evening approaches he enters a building and rides in an elevator to a corridor where he spies several red balloons tied to a door. He pushes the door half open to reveal a crush of balloons floating together in the room. As he enters the room he triumphantly releases his balloon into the crowd. A single yellow balloon is also at the party and he sits with it on a yellow sofa. The closing shot is a repeat of the opening: he wakes in bed with the yellow balloon. My response to this assignment was inspired by a film I saw as a child. “The Red Balloon” (Dir. Albert Lamorisse 1956) is a wonderful piece of film making, charming, funny and beautifully shot around the now completely disappeared district of Belleville in Paris. The soundtrack to my version of this ‘Journey’, which you can hold in your head if you wish, is “All Tomorrows Parties” by The Velvet Underground and Nico. A paean to a (vicious) cycle of drugs and ugly love – or that’s how I read it anyway. Its plodding, insistent rhythm, slippy bass and stuttering guitar; overladen with Nicos’ weary Germanic tones, seems to suit the expression of perversion and loneliness I wished to impart here. This song also popped immediately into my head as a response to the assignment and a way to visualise the journey.
I am attempting to suggest that the man in this story lives an internal, parallel world, which involves him forming relationships, perhaps sexual, with balloons. He is a ‘serial balloonist’ who travels the city in search of parties populated entirely by balloons. Each night he attempts to pick up a different colour balloon. Other people in this story are ciphers: out of focus and in motion – he is still, although on a journey he remains photographically static when surrounded by others – he does not see them, he himself may not even exist. However photographically and for the purposes of the journey; he and the balloon can be seen as emblems. They underline the narrative of this journey until very near the end where the true nature of his affliction is understood. The opening shot also suggests that the whole journey is a dream he is experiencing, this notion is however challenged in the last shot of the series of twelve.
Evaluation A few days before I shot the scenes I scouted the locations. I found the primary coloured staircases on the South bank and also decided upon the bridge as a convenient, nearby location. I decided early on that other figures in the story – people – would be shot as blurred, rushing souls who interact not a jot with our hero. To achieve this effect I made several exposures of people moving up and down steps and for one of the shots placed our actor in the centre. I used a 9 grade ND filter for this purpose to allow for a good depth of field, a longer exposure time and also to maintain the colour balance needed. These multi-shots were later merged in Photomatix and saved to Photoshop. Other shots on the Southbank were achieved as single exposures. For the rest of the story I shot in a TV studio to which I have occasional access. The party he arrives at is held in a completely black space, a void. This was intentional for two reasons, I did not want to include a sense of interior that may detract from the implied ‘spaced’ and dreamy mental state of the man and also I needed to use Photoshop to multiply the 20 balloons I had bought for the occasion. A black background would make this infinitely easier. I had to “Kill Some Babies” – photographs that I was very fond of but did not fit the narrative – this was painful, however the brief demanded a 12 picture edit, so there we go. I have made a further edit of around 25 images for the Photofilm I will be making of the story. The Journey was very enjoyable to shoot, it was conceived very early after the assignment was announced and I wrote the shooting script on the same day. It was a relief to be thinking in an abstract manner after the objective reportage work so far submitted for the course. I embraced the opportunity to engage in a fantasy story but this exercise did not mean that the techniques learned in our previous assignments were redundant. The forward-thinking required to access and plan a story, use functions of the camera to better express elements of the story, and attention to the single image as a tableau in itself but leading to the next shot, were all very much at the forefront of my mind as I went about creating this Journey. I hope you enjoy it.