Film Festivals..

Over the past three years, I think I’ve sent considerably more screening DVDs than I have Christmas cards. Running, now autonomously, in the background of my life is the seemingly endless process of filling out submission forms for film festivals and sending off the relevant screening media for them. In fact, since White Caps was finished in 2010, the 3-minute extract “Stronger” has been screened and broadcast at over 50 different festivals in 20 different countries. But for all the air-miles it’s clocked up, I’ve never once been able to be there to see it being screened. This week, though, I’ve finally got the chance. Invited as “guest of honor” to the Tanz Film Festival, in Luzern, Switzerland, I went to present an evening of films – some of the early short films I made and a specially-edited version of White Caps – the first time all the film segments had been shown together as a film work.


As I sat in the cinema, I realised just how difficult it is actually to sit through an hour of your own films in the company of others. Every edit that feels slightly too long, that shot which we never could get quite right, or the ‘salvation cut’, which makes the best of a badly filmed section, all passing before your eyes accompanied by reams of sweat and heart palpitations. When we watch a film, as the audience we’re used to perfection, and we expect it, too. The organic faults that make live theatre ‘alive’ don’t find such easy acceptance with a cinema audience, and everything that falls shy of perfection seems to stand out. I think the other thing which makes it even harder, sitting there as the director, is the knowledge that I’ve personally subjected the entire audience to my viewpoint on the whole story. In film, every shot and cut makes a decision for the audience, showing them exactly what to look at and for precisely how long – a choice which is normally left to the audience in a theatre. All in all, it made me feel quite responsible for everyone’s experience whilst sitting amongst them.


After what seemed like eons, it was all over and I had a chance to speak with the festival organizers and some audience members about the work. It was great to talk with them about the process, and to hear their responses to the films. It informed me, and reaffirmed some of the errors and shortfalls of my earlier work, whilst also inspiring and instilling in me the confidence to move forward. It was useful and rewarding to go and see my films, but it certainly wasn’t quite as easy as it might at first sound: to just fly in and sit through a few films…


Film Festival

Post-tour reflections

BLW tour van


I’m just back from a UK tour of my latest live work, Be Like Water. As I’ve mentioned before it has been the most demanding project I have ever worked on. Reflections on this are ongoing but below are initial ones that I’m finding useful to write down, both to clear my head a bit, and to start to confront or give shape to some of the possibilities for the next step:


  • We had a 2 month gap between the premiere and this national tour – because of this we needed to find a different momentum and excitement to the one provided by the premiere. I have to admit, because of the physically demanding and precarious nature of the tech-heavy set-up, I wasn’t short of anxiety. I was worried about how this would affect my creative and performance energy.


  • Once things got underway I was reminded why I do actually enjoy touring live work – as the touring team got to know each other better, the piece became more fluid and we were able to make changes to it in a satisfyingly collaborative way that felt like an extension of what the piece is about. Audience response everywhere has been incredibly positive. Some of this touching feedback really does make the graft worthwhile. I know art is important but as we all know, sometimes this is hidden under admin and fighting for money/support-  its great to strongly feel it’s benefits sometimes.


  • I think the reason this project has felt like so much hard work is because of the numbers of people involved. We got management and producer support very late into the process so the stress of managing a team of 10 logistically/financially was initially on my shoulders with support from Eva Martinez.


  • I’m thinking now about the different shapes the support model for my practice could take. It might be an ongoing obvious thing to say but I want to change the weighting between being an artist and a business, spending more time researching and making work. The challenge I suppose is that it isn’t always easy to identify what it is that you need. I am starting to get there. More to follow…

Workaholic Wishes You Happy Chinese New Year!