A further collection of images from my latest short film – The Lighthouse Keeper. One of the most difficult shots to film was the boat scene, I went through a few different iterations of cutouts with varying levels of successes and failures. I originally tried to use the same cutout of the man from the previous scenes but I wanted this scene to be fairly wide angled to show a lot of the landscape as the man moves towards the lighthouse. I had to make a new cutout of our hero about one thirds the size of the original and get it just right as the weight from the LED light and lantern on the right meant that it was heavier and in previous attempts warped the paper and flopped the boat downwards – making it difficult to move across the screen. A nice surprise that happened with this scene is when the cutout was slightly further away from the stage, the blue LED lights lit below bled onto the boats undercarriage and helped allude to water. Another scene that was difficult was the pinnacle moment when the Hero lights the lighthouse with his lantern… the amount of times I filmed this because the characters arm was ripped off because of the weight of the LED is something I don’t want to mention – it actually was disemboweled a few frames after what is shown, but you would never know that.
The first group of stills from my latest short film – The Lighthouse Keeper. Originally the colour of this film was going to be all warming sepia tones coupled with inky blacks, I found this lovely textured brown packing paper thrown amongst the pile of amazon boxes and discarded clothes in the store room of our house, after sticking the packing paper onto the picture frame that would become the stage and lighting it from behind – I soon realised that the paper was too thick and the resulting black silhouettes were not as prominent as I liked, I needed the paper to be thin enough and the light to be strong enough that you could see some elements within the distance of the protagonist, to show more depth but also show that he is moving from a variety of different landscapes. I ended up using white grease paper and as for the colour changes I bought a strip of LED lights for previous long exposure experiments that ended up working well with the grease paper so a lot of the colours chosen for pinnacle parts in the film are meant to bring the viewer deeper into the psyche of the protagonist using colour theory.
Truth be told when I decided I wanted to make a short film for this kick about regarding the strange landscape of Dungeness and Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage and garden I was feeling rather blue when the idea came to me. I don’t know why I sometimes torture myself when I feel sad, but the melancholy song that brings tears to my eyes entitled Twice by one Swedish group I admire called Little Dragon was playing in my head on a loop. A lot of the scenes from The Lighthouse Keeper are inspired by the gorgeous music video which can be seen here. The original story for The Lighthouse Keeper was a lot more melancholy, coinciding with how shit I felt, but I couldn’t accomplish it with just two hands and would have needed an assistant to help me with puppeteering the characters. While sitting on the idea for a while I decided to change the story to a more uplifting one so that I could accomplish it, and I think it turned out a better one.
I then abandoned this project for some time. The stage has been looming behind me for far too long as focusing in on perfectionism of the sets, lights, and movements of the characters felt relentless, trying to delve into a different medium one that is hands on and one that I can’t delete away mistakes was at times really testing. I really wanted the film to be as analogue as possible and for everything to be shot in camera, but realising it was an impossible approach and that I would have to rely on trickery done right to look like it was all in camera was the right methodology and ended up as a far more enjoyable experience. I leaned on newer technology as well as predeceasing technology that old films did so well.
A lot of behind the scenes footage has been filmed of what went into the making of this short film but I think I would rather let it be and not ruin the magic by showing how it is done… or showing the many instances where the stage toppled off the table, or when the characters arm flew off, or when my fan for the weather scene took everything along with it. Dismantling the stage, folding the grease paper, popping the many tools and props into jars and putting the little characters to rest in neat folders feels nice but in an odd way as there is something so unique and cherishing about finishing a film that you made with your hands, my bedroom certainly feels a lot roomier now that the stage is no longer.
When viewing Howard Sooley’s Prospect Cottage for the most recent Kick About I was instantly drawn to the opening images of the lighthouse and the water, the way those clips moved – like old pixelation animation. I wanted to create a moving story revolving around the landscape of Dungeness and all its quirky unique characteristics, I also just really wanted to make something with my hands. I have fashioned a shadow puppet theatre out of old cardboard, a large picture less frame and some grease proof paper so that I can bring to life cuttings of the characters and all the little things that make Dungeness so intriguing. While I don’t have the film to show just yet, I do have the storyboard.