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Untold stories of war, pt2

Tue 16 Aug 2016 In: Entertainment View at Wayback View at NDHA

In the second part of our interview with filmmaker Welby Ings, he talks about his unique process of film-making, evident in his new project Sparrow. Tell me about your film making process I don’t initially write scripts. I draw the worlds I make into being. By this I mean I create hundreds of sketches. Some are in attentive detail and some are just quick scribbles. These drawings help me to think through a film’s story as a visual artifact. This is because I think of movies as ‘talking pictures’. I guess this process of working through drawing is why my work is often described as so visually rich. Once I can ‘see’ the full story and all of its emotional and narrative arcs, I translate the content into written form. How do your sketches inform the work. What process do you go through when sketching? Although when people see these drawings they think of them as artistic, they are just pushed together with pencil and twink pens and coffee. That’s crap instant coffee granules I am talking about. The ones that make a cheap dye when you add water. I often write all over these sketches while I am drawing. Perhaos this process evolved because I couldn’t read or write until my mid teens so I developed alternative, visual thinking methods. That’s all I see the drawings as though. They are just the residues of thinking. I throw most of them away once I have an idea in place. You can see examples of these drawings on the film’s Facebook page: The teaser for Sparrow is beautiful, what influences your aesthetic? I don’t really have aesthetic touchstones. I coloured the teaser with a palette of cyan and tobacco because I was influenced by the light at Kingseat psychiatric hospital where we shot part of the film. I guess though, it would be fair to say that I am intrigued in the way that music video sometimes plays with time and motion so we see things in a flow that could not normally be experienced. This may be why at least 80% of the film was shot shot in slow motion. I am also a painter so the images in the film are very, very carefully considered and constructed. Generally we see the world front on, as if we are looking at an artwork. How do you work with the actors to fulfill your vision? On set I normally establish a plot point with actors and let them work with it. So I don’t lock down the dialogue or actions and reactions before I start. In this regard you could describe the approach as co-creative. It is especially powerful when working with child actors because you can record very deep, authentic performances. You see this very clearly in the film because the 10-year old boy [Merrick Rillstone] gives a very still, deep performance. But this is because in most instances he was ‘feeling’ the scene rather than acting it. How important to you is a collaborative film making process? Sparrow exists because of the talent and generosity of very talented people. Although we had a tiny budget, when they saw the screenplay they just came on board and offered to help. I think there is something universal in such a story and people warm to it. I treat film as an artwork, not a piece of drama. This attracts a particular kind of crew and a specific kind of actor. I am a very consultative guy but I also have a very detailed vision. You don’t have the luxury on a low budget film of pontificating for hours, but I have always found asking how people to share the way they envisage something is a much richer way of working. Tell me about the filters you made to lay over the edited footage, what are the benefits of working this way as opposed to purely digitally? Although I love, and actively explore the potentials of digital technologies, I see film as a craft and I often return to ‘hand rendering’ when problem solving. I don’t like trite special effects so often our postproduction effects team will create filters that have not existed before. We are working on these at the current time and in the film they will be particularly evident in the depictions of shell shock. A single image can be made up of 5-6 versions of its self, all running at slightly different times on the same surface and ‘held’ together with cellotape and fragments of old photographs. If you want a look that nobody has ever seen before, sometimes you have to rely on something more than a palette of digital options. What draws you to film as a medium for storytelling? In my time I have worked in portraiture, theatre, literature and design. Film draws all of these together and creates multilevel, permanent stories. Creatively it is wonderfully challenging because you have to work between and through multiple mediums. So you will ask what the colour of a sound is. You will have to assess the pace of an emotion or the resonance of light on a plot point. Behind all of this film is political for me. It is the way I contribute something to raising and preserving stories as both visceral and beautiful. It makes the invisible visible and it can touch the poetic heart of a life in a way that documentaries can’t. There are stories of our people who I believe derseve this level of artistic respect. They are not just incidents for expository documentary making, they are something essentially human and neglected that warrant the grace that poetic storytelling can afford them. Read part one of this interview here. Sarah Murphy - 16th August 2016    

Credit: Sarah Murphy

First published: Tuesday, 16th August 2016 - 11:38am

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