Making the Film (documentation)

In this section, documentation of the production of The Elders will be posted by Lisa throughout its development. This includes original synopsis, ideas and production plans for the film, photographs of work in progress, audio recordings made with The Elders and video footage in progress.

(click on thumbnails below to view larger images)

Principal phtography (posted Tue 23 Aug)

The film was shot over four days, two days spent at some of The Elders' homes and in locations around Bristol and two days at the Malcolm X centre in St Pauls.

We (the crew), went into the homes of Ena, Princess, Flo & Alfie. Each was a different experience and each Elder had a unique story to tell. We explored material we had previously worked on in the development sessions (songs, stories, rhythms and movement sequences) and experimented with new ideas inspired by how The Elders responded in their home environments.

The two days held at the MX centre (see photos documenting this) were a completely different kettle of fish! I had 20 Elders to direct through several sequences of song, dance and rhythm. The sequences were shot both around a long wooden table and in the surrounding space. There was a lot of 'setting up' and 'taking down' to do at both ends of the days, and a lot of material to shoot in the middle! A few of the group organised a 'home-cooked' lunch, very much appreciated by members of the cast and crew.

So, filming in tow, I will take the next few weeks to log the rushes and visualise my edit before cutting the film next month.

Original notes with images and audio (posted Wed 27July)

Synopsis

We see snapshots of different women, their subtle movements and unique rhythms make us aware of each individual, each with a story. The movements and the stories begin to intertwine, almost like threads
weaving a tapestry.  It is as if they are painting a picture for us, a picture of what binds them together.

As the pace increases the women start to move together.  As they shift their bodies around the space, new and more complex rhythms are created.

Their swirling bodies move as one body, empowered they dance and bring to life their memories.

Concept and key themes

I am interested in working with the concept that the physical body holds memory.  The idea that moving particular muscles can trigger past moments, emotions and other sensations.  I am concerned with sensations occuring in the body when speaking or thinking of a particular memory, how is the body moving, expressing itself?

The cast - The Malcolm X Elders - is a group with whom I have been working closely with over the past year as a movement tutor.  The group is made up of approximately 30 African-Caribbean and Jamaican women and men (mostly women).

Listen to The Elders introducing themselves (quicktime audio files):

Alfred:

Florence:

Ina:

Princess:

What strikes me about the group is the collective sense of community they possess and their desire to work together as a whole and as a number of individuals with very significant stories to tell and emotions to be felt.

In the development of this film, I have researched my ideas with regards to the reminiscence of experiences and emotions sensed through movement both individually and as a group, collectively.  I am very much struck by the way this group move and interact together, their unique rhythms and ways of moving and distinctly individual experiences combined with a sense of them as a whole and their shared generational memories and experiences. There is no pre-conceived socio-political message in the development of this film, just an overwhelming interest in the groups powerful presence and a desire to express this. Their stories will, of course, come through throughout the process and are the most  significant element in the development of movement, dialogue and music through the filmic score.

Through my work with older people, I have noticed a real sense of love for dance, of pure enjoyment with no inhibitions.  This feeling of 'being in the moment' dance can create contrasts my earlier notion of it‚s power to bring back our pasts.

I am aware of this when I regard The Elders, their joy and utter belonging to the moment and the rhythm of the music and their movement contrasts the occasional facial expression, gesture or quirky movement bringing back a haunted or happy time. 

In the production of this film and through filming the group with a sensitivity to reveal both their strengths and vulnerabilities, my intention is to capture both states of being.

Listen to The Elders singing:

Song 1

Song 2

Production Sessions and Tasks

A lot of the work in terms of the development of a set storyboard and/ or shot sequences for the film, will come during in production. Once I begin to work with the group and the process has begun, their stories will unfold and the filmic score will become apparent, it is at this time that I want the musician and camera operator to be available. In preparation for this, I have developed some ideas for shots and sequences and spent a significant
amount of time throughout the r&d period with the group, including interviewing some of the members.  I have also met with all crew and they have all met and observed the group.

I will work with the group over 6 sessions with the musician to develop movement and musical scores, then shoot the group over a further 2 sessions with both the musician and camera operator. The camera operator will also be present at points during the 6 development sessions.  All the sessions will be held at the Malcolm X community centre.  There will be a further 2 sessions where we will shoot individuals on location in Bristol.

Development of Ideas - brainstorming

Group:

One of my initial inspirations in setting upon this film was watching the group in meeting.  The dynamic shifts in their voices, movement, gestures occurring around the long table held me transfixed.  Through their presence,
the group held a core togetherness yet enabled a freedom of expression from every individual.  It is this that I want to capture in the production of the film.

Also, when I watch the group dancing, my thoughts are;

interlocking bodies, arms, heads, sense of coming together

the beauty of unison, the dynamic of the group, community, culture, unity of all parts

energy between bodies, space

patterns and formations, bodies moving across the frame

individuals adding their colours and shapes to a group composition

gradual build up of bodies, accumulation of energy and warmth. moving together

unison of energy not form

like a river, a flock of birds

Individuals:

In working with individuals, I want to communicate snapshots, portraits of them.  To discover personal and unique movement and rhythms through journeying further into their lives.  To hear the clarity of individual stories, spoken from places of familiarity.

Like glimpses of  people in a situation, pace is slower, almost real-time, more thoughtful / thought provoking, awareness of aesthetic, sensation of imagery in frame, subtlety, hints at something but not obvious.

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