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We Cannot Unsee ending

We Cannot Unsee is over. I feel a bit weird about that, because on the one hand it was a great process to be part of - and on the other, the sense of shared elation after finishing and presenting our work was amazing. We had a fun screening in the BFI, mainly a chance to finally see everyone else's work, but also an interesting Q&A with some of the scientists we'd been working with present.

My film changed quite a lot since I last wrote about it here. Developing themes meant I became more interested in colour, and the way slight chemical imbalances can produce dramatic colour change (colour film is significantly more sensitive than B&W, which can be quite heavily mistreated and still produce a good image). I used a fair bit of my budget to buy colour film, though I stuck to the guiding principle of using no more than the equivalent of the B&W stock we'd been provided. There's something important about the constraints that had been put in place, which I didn't want to break. That also means I have 800' of UN54 to do something nice with soon.

My finished film is called Emotion Out, and is full of bad puns. There were a few things I tried to do in that vein: it is experimental for sure, but developed a definite structure and, like things I make often do, took on some of the tropes of other film forms. It has a definite beginning and end; sync sound dialogue; makes a comprehensible 'point' rather than 'exploring ideas around...' (though I hope it does that too). I experimented a lot throughout the process, and like any good scientist, I think it's important to keep some things pretty straight - both so it's clear where the experiments are, and so that the work is accessible to people beyond my immediate circle of friends and colleagues. I've never met anyone who couldn't engage with experimental or artists' film, as long as there was something - some central, expected part of the structure - they already understood.


-I spent a long time playing around with the ways in which visual phenomena could be replicated on film, though I decided in the end that this did not have conceptual strength. I worked instead to mistreat film in a controlled way, drawing an analogy with the brain's fragile chemical state, and letting the resulting visual aberrations appear naturally.

-I played around with different exposures and stocks, and took a lot of test shots on 35mm.

-I recorded sync sound with a MOS camera, hoping to capture some of the camera noise in the dialogue as this was important to the film.

-I developed three different ways of in-camera bipacking (that term is probably an exaggeration - some of them were pretty basic!) allowing me to create white through the overlay of red, green and blue channels in the animation sections.

-I worked quite intensively in the last few days of making the film, and a lot of my experiments were in the processing. I had to process a certain amount of film 'straight', and then damage the rest. A broken Jobo tank helpfully damaged one roll for me. I played around with temperature and timings; reticulation during processing; scratching the film in different ways that mimicked poor film handling, but were controllable.

-The general structure and narrative were experiments for me too, though they might not have been for others.

-I processed colour neg by hand on 100' spirals for the first time (I've done both of these things before but separately).

Finally, it seems important to state the obvious: we were making artists' films, a chance to experiment within a structure and to develop our own practice and thinking. I'm not sure how I feel about my film yet, or whether it's even finished or not. But I know that even here, in an environment structured around individual expression, it's not possible to make a film alone. Mine would have been considerably weaker without the wonderful Saabeah Aforo-Addo and Prem Modgil, both of whom were generous and thoughtful collaborators; Sam Lewis, who was the most talented sound designer, stepping down from his usual role of artist to make my film a better thing; Nye, who gave up a Saturday to do a friend a huge favour; Seth, who got me into a studio when I couldn't afford one; James, who did so many things for all of us that it seems silly to list them; David Edgar, for bending over backwards more times than was reasonable to make sure we all had the opportunity to make good work; and the other artists who worked together to create a mutually supportive environment.

Oh yeah - and no.w.here, the BFI, Wellcome Trust, King's College London, and public arts funding in general, without which such small good wouldn't even be possible.