Archive – production blog

Here are the archives of our production blog, kept rather intermittently from about 2007 onwards.  The posts have been migrated from a Tumblr site. Originally the site was also the repository for photos and clips, but the majority have been put elsewhere in the current website.

Because it was migrated from Tumblr, and everyone used the same password, it looks like I’ve written all the posts.  However, I’m gradually editing this so that the posts are correctly authored.  Some of the hyperlinks may no longer work but as this is now an archive document I am not planning on restoring active links.

Performances – preview of Eventbrite site

Samo is using the event-brite site in order to gain us some understanding of how people will visit. As I’m working, I’ll be able to come across to the Riverfront and run the show if I know there are bookings.

We will be running scheduled performances in the Mornings (11:00), Afternoons (14:00) & Evenings (18:00), but can arrange unscheduled performances, if you wish to book tickets for our scheduled performances please visit:, alternatively please go along to The Riverfront between Friday 2nd & Sunday 11th November to inquire about performances on that day. Updates on Performances will be posted on this page.

For more information on getting to The Riverfront, please go here.

The Ambassadors

This blog is being highjacked by a few thoughts that at first didn’t seem strictly relevant to Echo and Narcissus, but I now think they really are.   When I went to Wirad with the pilot, it was very well received, partly because not many other people showed work.  What they mostly did was talk theory.   Although this was coherent, it wasn’t perhaps enjoyable, or maybe even relevant to people’s experience of art.  This is because art is a synthesising experience, and I believe that the practise as research of art, or perhaps of film, should also be a synthesising process.  It’s no use taking some small element of film and trying to analyse it through practice if it can be analysed through a theoretical framework.  For example, the use of sound has been analysed endlessly through looking at the variety of ways it has been used.  If a practice work is going to work, then it has to be used differently, and for something.  Meaning is important, and that meaning has to have a form.

I therefore think that art as a methodology is also vital, we mustn’t piggy back on other methodologies, such as the humanities or social sciences.  Yes, it is fine to use the humanities or social sciences as sources for adaptation, and this is good research led practice, but I need to do practice led research, as a film maker in order to have good enough practice.   The practice does have to be ground breaking, it also has to be historicised and contextualised.  I can’t just put it out there to stand up for itself, but the method for doing it has to be a complex multifaceted one.

The analogy I came up with doesn’t really work, but let’s think about Holbein’s picture of the Ambassadors.   He does various things, he uses the new sciences, lens based technology, he puts in hidden codes about Thomas More, for example, and plays with perspective, but this is all in service of stuff about mortality.  Further although he is not doing practice as research as it wasn’t invented, he did have to please all sorts of patrons, just as we do, and this was no mean feat.  Originally, I wanted to write a spoof about this, because certainly Holbein was not responding to one particular theory, eg. Lacan’s about the gaze, or putting in some crass response to the spectator, but a highly artistic and polysemic one and this is what makes the work come together, as well as the various coincidences of the time.  Since film is about coincidence and I have argued, trauma, I think this argues well.  – a bit truncated, but I’ll expand later.


We’ve been having some technological problems with cutting.  We needed to “re-up” our cut (a term I’ve copied from THE WIRE where the drug dealers get progressively more ambitious).  We needed to migrate from our small 500gbyte USB drives which we had outgrown to something quicker and bigger.  We were recommended 2Terrabyte ganged drives by Trevor at AVID (this means effectively a fast running Networked 1 Terrabyte drive), but it’s taken us 6 months to make this happen and meanwhile for a time we were left running the cut on 3 drives simultaneously, and with no backup.  This was frightening.  Eventually, I took all the drives to Mwnci, the post-production company in Cardiff, and they have diagnosed that the new super fast disk was faulty.  However, having bought a new 1 Tbyte firewire disk we should now be operating properly again.  Mynci copies our material to their Unity drive and then back to our hard drive, and back up drives.

This has brought me back to several thoughts about practice as research and project support.  On the whole, the project hasn’t been part of a studio system that has been supported, and that has been why it has taken so long.  Each bit of it has taken a very long time, but particularly post production.  If (PhD) projects are to be supported then they need this kind of support and both technical and human support needs to be working in some kind of studio system.  Given that Derek the Dean also wants a studio system to be operating we need to decide what this is.  It’s not just finding money from outside and doing outside projects.  It must be a kernel of something inside the filmschool.

On the technical front, at Mwnci Richard Moss suggested the school pays a retainer to a company, (he recommended one to me) to scope what the school needs on a regular basis in order to run smoothly (e.g. the correct cameras, sound equipment etc.).   Whilst at the moment, each department has very good technicians, there’s a certain amount of empire building between departments and therefore things don’t speak across departments.  Then lecturers have their own wish lists, and people leave and so on.  A company which handles this from year to year would be able to look across the provision and make it work.

On the person/academic front, there’s more difficulty.  The need to have a studio, and the need to have a set of courses with the bureaucracy and standards that this requires, QAA, room bookings etc., plus the reified way we do things at Newport means that there’s almost no chance of things working across courses at the moment, even if Derek has tried to make 20 credit modules.  Therefore I can only talk about some kind of utopian film school.  By starting with that, we could work back to what we have and find a way to mix it in.

We need a portfolio school.  No separate years, but projects.  First years work at a lower level than upper years etc, and tutors support in much more personal ways but also more craft ways.   Tutors, external industry, internal PaR, small undergraduate teaching projects, and student generated projects are the projects. Theory and context is worked around projects, but also the projects stop for a short time for context and theory breaks.  Technical education is also worked in through streamed seminars (theory could also be streamed or stranded).  The work of the tutors would therefore be much more towards developing the students portfolios and actually more in line with educational thinking, but also very difficult because the planning of the year portfolio would be hard.   However, this way there would be space for proper cross platform development and also individual work and single disciplinary work in a portfolio.  Essentially, we would be developing the school as a new media conservatoire.  However, theory cannot be hived off and taught as cheap chalk and talk, but must be part of this and taught as practice based exercises.

Notes on pick ups.

Very good summer session on pick ups.  Shot drama sequence.  Lost my metaphorical cherry on shooting sex scene between Zeus and nymph.  Original scene was missing conceptually.   Because I thought of it as just comic sex, in the distance, and only thought about it as Hera’s point of view, something she saw in the distance, it was not directed sufficiently well (also rushed in production) and we had unusable shots of Vitti’s leg shooting up without motivation.  What we needed to do was to think things through narratively.  After all, what is sex but the urtext of drama, especially of the aristotelian sort, with its foreplay and climax and pov’s.  So we broke it down in pre-production, with the help of all the team, including Brendan, and sorted it into actions and shots.  Keith storyboarded it.  We rehearsed it in situ (as Vitti could only make the shoot day) in front of the ferns, and then the shooting was very easy, apart from biting ants, and rain.  We were luxuriously provided time wise, and everyone, including make up, was extremely skilled and helpful and it was good fun apart from the intermittent rain.

The other days shooting were just myself, Keith, Humphry and Emma farting around in Merthyr Mawr with the camera getting the shots to fill the vacant screens for the landscape shots.  This was great fun and we even managed to get to the pub sometimes.   Landscape shooting was both fun and exacting as nature is disobedient – it’s never the weather you want, and never really the landscape, yet everything is wonderfully productive and available if you can only capture it.  A completely different theme of landscape arose, and I was only worried that it wouldn’t make it to the final film and would then be a wasted effort!

We also shot a small section of King Lear in the studio with Roger and Paul acting.  I shot this with my camcorder and was amazed at how easy it was to get a really professional result – a tribute to the quality of the actors!  Set against black, and just paying attention to the words and the situation, they did Lear really proud.

Simon has been cutting the landscapes in, and I’ve been surprised at the pacing he’s been using, and the film-like quality of the results.  The use of the landscape to mirror the emotions of the characters is really successful, but I’m not sure how it affects the pacing.  It has raised the questions again of multi-platform and whether the same cut should be used for a film as for the installation.  Simon thinks it should be the same, and I’m not sure, as I think it might not be contemplative enough for the installation.  Also whether the beginning sets the scene enough.  Nevertheless, technical problems are making the cutting difficult as we can usually only have one go as rendering makes life slow and difficult (see other posting).  Nevertheless, this makes having more test screenings with handouts imperative, and we will continue to need to do this.

The Installation Demo of Echo and Narcissus

The Installation Demo of Echo and Narcissus


Showed Echo at Ffloc on multiscreens on Tuesday, also to a very nice lady from a gallery (won’t use real names.)

Very interesting discussion because mixture of photographers and film people. Beginning to be a real dialogue about spectatorship. All the issues of what happens when people are not in a cinema beginning to be raised again. Why should people hang around for a story?

The issue of post cinema raising its head. Interestingly I think it really is true that the piece is nostalgic for the cinema and is saying that the cinema experience is dead, yet the gallery may not be the place for post cinema because although it has a communal aspect, this is fragmented in a way more than the cinematic audience, who at least are together although separate. Maybe Echo is also post dramatic, because it’s nostalgic for theatre too, and what theatre offers. Maybe, as one contributor said, it’s fine if it is a ruin, and empty, and it speaks if no one is there and people just come and go. However, this is definitely an unintentional meaning and one which does come from discourse, not from speech.

The other issues raised were a) why is it in costume – and I think this relates to the use of allegory to tell modern stories – if you reduce the distance, you no longer have the allegorical ability, although this may be a cheap effect, it does allow compression of time, and b) can you have Brechtian effect and immersion at the same time. Whilst this needed a lot more time than the discussion allowed, and I think I did bandy the Brecht term around a bit, I would go with Brecht’s own thoughts that with time, the tools of the V effect must change because they themselves get tired, and what must be aimed for is the politicisation which makes the individual aware of their alienation and educated about how to change that situation. Whilst I feel that this is one of the failings of E & N because I come from a hystericised and not deeply politicised position, at least it is proto political and does challenge the audience in a kind of deus ex machina way, to think about what they should do, and to go away and wonder about politics, so I think in some ways the mixture between engagement/emmersion/empathy, even, and interaction and defamiliarisation, is Brechtian, (especially early Brechtian) and I would compare it a bit with the allegory in The Life of Galileo where Galileo’s relationship with the inquisition stands for the modern scientist’s relationship with the state, and Echo’s relationship with Hera stands for our relationships to a technocratic state who doesn’t seem to hear us. However, I’m less politicised, and a criticism would be that it’s more like Mrs Dalloway having her party whilst the 1st world war goes on. We might feel better, but the war goes on…

I did find it a bit astonishing that there is such hostility to narrative from those who seem to have it. This seems to go back to some kind of puritanism from way back. I’m not sure whether I’ve guaged this right. It probably means I’ve framed something wrong, but it’s really weird how narrative and visuality seem to fight each other. Anyway, it maybe something about spectatorship and choice again, and be a Brechtian element.

ISEA, and also Ffloc.

Thought about sending Echo to ISEA for this year, but perhaps not yet ready. Next year it will be much more complete and therefore much more likely to be a satisfying showing, even if it never gets finished. Showing next week at Ffloc. Simon has done a great job although bits missing where Gods aren’t yet watching etc., but 5 screens do run through all the scenes. Interactive media students now on board and running to five separate screens. Thing now gathering momentum and moss. Can see it becoming a proper production. Simon’s remark, got from famous multiscreen director Mike Figgis that multiscreen refreshes spectator interest because they are always looking to see where the interaction is happening so they are no longer bored with what they’ve got accustomed to with what is on the screen. Also, although 5 screen is murder because you’ve no way of keeping sync or assigning sync because cutaways no longer work, does work because modern technology allows small semi-invisible slow mo effects which are invisible or semi invisible and enable the spectator not to notice and therefore combine the effects of theatre and film. Thus multiscreen could be a medium of the future, not just a technological backwater.

Pilot editing day 6

Barry and Humphry viewed cut, and all are rather optimistic.  Improvement on single cut.  Some new rules/truths we’ve observed for multiscreen:

  1. Obvious in a way, but realised that multiscreen doesn’t just lead to real time/vision mix type of editing, but to expanded time.  This is causing real problems.   How do cutaways work when they are used to expand time rather than to highlight a particular emotion.   Have to use fades to black and back.
  2. Need to draw attention of viewer to other screens by sight and sound.  Humphry viewed the cut and noticed that we were being a bit literal.  What we need to do is to set the mood and emotions more through the screens and then use the dialogue to explain what’s going on, rather than using a master shot and filling up the other screens.
  3. Even more problematic when master shots from different locations but same scene (e.g. Hera in heaven looking at Echo crying on earth) have different timing and performance issues.   Performances great but sometimes order of things different in one version than the other and have to cut around the original order.

Scene with mirroring doesn’t have enough mirroring in it.  Could be director error, or maybe we can solve with optical effect of seeing Echo in Narcissus’s eye and him in hers.

Coral Houtman © 2012-2024