Semi-Amateur Photographer and Filmmaker
Something I did at my day job. It got a better reception than I thought.
Fifi Fatale, “Siren”
I’ve been working on my first real film, doing the lighting, camera, editing and other post-production tasks for a burlesque performer Fifi Fatale’s new showreel. When Fifi first proposed the collaboration, I wondered whether I was ready to undertake something so comprehensive, but finally decided to go ahead with the project since Fifi seemed so confident that I would be able to produce what she needed.
If you don’t have much experience in a particular area, informed consent is the best path forward when looking for people to work with. Unlike some people who may be entirely new to photography, I have the advantage of a stills portfolio that demonstrates a certain level of skill. In all honesty, I wasn’t feeling particularly shaky about the production aspects like camera work and lighting because I know what my limitations are.
Mitigating circumstances aside, the one area where I am least experienced is editing film, and the number of motion photographers who have referred to the editor’s work as a kind of black art did not improve my anxiety in tackling this area. As it turns out, film editing is, like many areas of photography, both an art and a craft.in those areas are and my still photography experience really helps. My photographic post-production skills also help with colour correction, grading and general control of the look of the final motion picture.
As photographers, we learn our craft by learning the abilities and limitations of our photographic equipment (what can be done) and the rules of composition (what should be done) and by studying great photography (what has been done), which also includes exceptions to the rules. The art of photography is also known “the eye”, an apparently innate sense of what makes a great photo beyond the simple application of the rules. Photographers with this artistic sensibility are capable of creating singular works of art that break out of the confines of mere craftsmanship. However, much of the canon of “great” photographic works is made up of well-crafted images, but not necessarily ones that transcend the rules.Like photography, film editing has certain rules about when to cut from one frame to the next. The rules cover things like perspective shifts to avoid creating sequences that jar the viewer, and there are rules for continuity that require the cooperation of the crew doing the filming. For example, food/travel presenter and chef Anthony Bourdain was forced to wear the same smelly shirt all day in his show The Layover because changing it would have made it difficult for the editor to cut between footage that had not been shot sequentially. There are lots of little rules that most introductions to film editing will explain.
It appears that the perceived hand-waving involved in getting a good edit has a lot to do with confronting a radical simplification of film coverage. Walter Murch writes about the 95:1 reduction of footage in Apocalypse Now through 18 months of editing by three different editors, working for the most part concurrently. Although that’s an extreme case, editing involves an awareness of the total available footage, the ability to act on guidance from the director and a very strong sense of the story that needs to be told in addition to the technical proficiency required to operate an editing station.
It turns out that much of the editing process itself can be interpreted and explained as rhythm. Karen Pearlman researched this notion for her doctoral dissertation, which evolved into her book Cutting Rhythms. The things we often perceive as intuition can be analysed—broken down into smaller constituents which she identifies using an extended spatial metaphor with chapers on “timing, pacing, and trajectory phrasing” as well as “tension, release, and synchronisation”. I’ll wait until I finish her book before saying anything more on the topic, but seeing the craft of the editor as the establishment of rhythm and movement within a metaphorical space does make some sense of why an editing guru like Walter Murch is also such an amazing sound designer.
After a long, never quite hot summer and an autumn in name only, this winter in London has hit me quite hard. It turns out that creative projects are a great way to chase the blues away, so I jumped at the chance to collaborate with Fifi Fatale on her new showreel. With the cooperation of the lovely people at Proud Cabaret (special thanks to Charlotte and Matteo) who let us use their stage, we got off to a great start on the footage that will become Ms Fatale’s new showreel.
With studied reference to the age-old elegance of the last century’s silver screen stars, Fifi Fatale girds herself in grace and glamour. Her well-developed sense of the dramatic inspired me to take advantage of the existing stage lighting while bending my own lights towards the creation of a veil of shadow into which Ms Fatale could disappear—and then reappear. This will hopefully draw in the viewer since we often focus our greatest attention on the beauty we know is there but hasn’t yet revealed itself.
The Bust Magazine Christmas Craftacular took place at York Hall in Bethnal Green, London on 27 November 2011.
Photography and editing by Damon - damonallendavison.com
Inspired by Savage Pink - savagepink.net
The soundtrack “Fear of Tall Giraffes, Fear of Some Birds” is by Tartufi from their album Nests of Waves and Wires (Southern Records, southern.com)
Thanks to all the lovely people who put on and attended the fair.
Video Copyright ©2011 Damon Allen Davison
Audio Copyright ©2009 Southern Records
Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina at the Luminaire, Kilburn, London on 27 November 2010.