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Blog Early morning filming in the snow

We meet Craig from Apeuro Freerunning at 6am on one of the labyrinthine roads of Fellgate Estate to film him running a Parkour line across a series of garages.

As with all the other locations where we have filmed so far the intention is to capture the Parkour movements in long continuous takes, almost in counter-pose to how Parkour is most often filmed as very short, fast-cut series of stunts. The long takes allow us to consider Parkour as a means to physically draw a line across a given space and for the Parkourist to perform a series of interactions with the materiality of this space 

The snow and the ice on this early morning give an edge and strange beauty to this estate, yet make it all the more difficult for Parkour as every movement carries a heightened danger. Pulling yourself up onto a wall is one thing in the summer – when the rim is crusted thick with frozen snow it is much harder.

Craig has been a Parkour runner for six years or more. For him this is far more than a passion or a hobby; he teaches the practice and is hoping to establish a permanent home for Parkour in the North East. He speaks with real clarity about what Parkour stands for, both as a physical and a mental discipline, a code of conduct that is guided by efficiency of movement.


 A couple of essays on Parkour are informing my understanding of the practice recently and are contributing to making decisions on how to film. One way of thinking about Parkour is in terms of a dialogue between gestures and urban configurations. In his essay 'Nice looking obstacles: parkour as urban practice of deterritorialisation', Christoph Brunner talks about Parkour as a physical practice based on a philosophy of pure movement, the oscillation between motion and rest. Brunner speaks of a "relational model for movement to shape our everyday encounters with matter. (…) Obstacles, built structures and often abandoned or useless architectural configurations become sites for movement to activate the endless potential of these places."

Alongside the longer take tableaux shots we are filming a lot of close ups, of the runners – their faces, hands, feet, sections of their bodies while climbing – and of the material surfaces they engage with. Perhaps it is this very dialogue between person and inert material that will become central to this project – as if they set each other in motion, the runner activating the structures he engages with and the materials and surfaces calling forth particular movements, physical behaviour.

Later that same day we film Craig performing a side flip in a small wooden area that feels like a glade in the middle of this large estate where one house mirrors the other.

As we set up for the shot, a woman appears on her garden fence adjacent to where we are filming and calls me over. I expect questions as to what we are up to and the first question she asks is, "Would you all like a cup of coffee, you must be freezing?" Minutes later she returns with four steaming cups and a large plate filled with cake and shortbread.


Winner of our 2013 Moving Image Commission, artist Melanie Manchot will be blogging about making her film, Tracer which features ten North East parkour runners, or traceurs, making their way along the course of the Bupa Great North Run.
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