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Blog Notes from the editing room...

Filming on Tracer came to a close at the very end of April, during a week of intense weather: amazing sunrises - at the coast and on the roof of the Sage, stormy skies, hail and sparkling light after massive downpours. Ideal for filming - there is a lot of drama in this North Eastern weather and these big, expansive skies.

Now all the material sits on various hard drives and I sit in front of the computer, making sense of many months of filming, shaping the work. Editing is the closest one comes to composing, or of course sculpting – sculpting in time as Andrei Tarkovsky famously called it.

When a series of editing decisions starts to gel, you feel your material come alive. It is here in the editing process that I get to know and to understand the footage, to find what the material can deliver, what you can make it do.

It is also here and now that I begin to align my original filming intentions with what was actually recorded – to weigh my desires and projections for a work against the reality of how the days spent on locations have produced a set of moving image propositions.

From first thinking about this work I have always wanted the camera’s movements to be the guiding principle for the dynamic of the work - rather than the movement of the parkour runners in the shot.

Alan Clarke’s 1989 film Elephant has long been an inspiration, especially in its use of very long uncut tracking shots, filmed on an early steadicam. The camera here is unrelenting and creates an intensity of vision that seems most poignant as the film presents a series of violent killings in Northern Ireland without any explanation or context.

Clarke’s film has inspired many others since, not least Gus van Sant’s film of the same name, which again I return to regularly to look at the camera movements.

One question I posed myself from the beginning is whether or not in the edit I would adhere to the logic of the Great North Run, its course from Newcastle to South Shields in its factual order, or whether I would manage to break that and let the film develop its own logic. And here again I return to the material itself, look at the clips and try and find the keys in how the camera progresses. Spending lots of time with the footage certain sequences start to naturally segue into each other, find correlations in gesture and in their visual spaces. Other clips become unexpectedly problematic, they are so individual in character that it is harder to find their place.

And then there’ll be the sound.

I greatly enjoy editing sound, using lots of wild tracks from the locations where we filmed, playing with how sound can create rhythm and atmosphere for images.

So that comes next…


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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